Ostracod evidence for the Acheulian environment of the ancient Hula Lake (Levant) during the early-mid Pleistocene transition

Steffen Mischke, Shoshana Ashkenazi, Ahuva Almogi-Labin, Naama Goren-Inbar

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14 Scopus citations


Ostracod shells from the archaeological site Gesher Benot Ya'aqov (GBY) in the upper Jordan River Valley (Israel) were investigated to improve the understanding of the environmental conditions of the Acheulian occupation site during the early-mid Pleistocene transition (0.78 Ma). The diverse ostracod assemblage consists of 28 species. The distribution of most of the recorded species in the region today shows that the hydrological conditions at the early-mid Pleistocene transition were not fundamentally different from the modern ones. However, the predominance of Candona neglecta shells in the GBY sequence probably indicates cooler climatic conditions than today. Shells of Candona angulata in the artefact-richer upper half of the sequence suggest a slight salinity increase in the ancient Hula Lake from pure freshwater to slightly oligohaline conditions. This shift probably resulted from wetter conditions and a more stable lake environment with increased residence time of the lake water and stronger influence of evaporation. Shells of the brackish water ostracod Cyprideis torosa and the slightly halophilic Heterocypris salina and Plesiocypridopsis newtoni were recorded only rarely suggesting that the lake maintained an outlet through the entire period represented by the GBY sequence. Shells of Gomphocythere ortali in GBY cycles 1 and 2 imply that a permanent freshwater stream existed close to the site. Humphcypris subterranea shells in cycles 3-5 provide further evidence that a tributary entered the lake from the south in contrast to the modern setting with the north-south flowing Jordan River at GBY. Statistical analysis of the quantitative ostracod data from GBY identified a group of samples from layers containing more abundant stone artefacts and another group of samples from layers with scarce artefacts. Samples from layers containing more abundant artefacts have relatively high abundances of C. angulata, Darwinula stevensoni and Physocypria kraepelini shells and include rare shells of Ilyocypris hartmanni, Ilyocypris salebrosa, Heterocypris incongruens and Pseudocandona sp. 2 which do not occur in the other samples. The presence of P. kraepelini and H. incongruens shells in artefact-richer sediments possibly indicates poor bottom water oxygenation in the ancient Hula Lake sometimes during the periods of Acheulian occupation. However, more detailed studies are required to assess whether lower dissolved oxygen levels in the lake resulted from a slight lake level rise and possibly higher nutrient flux to the lake during wetter conditions or whether hominins already impacted lake's nutrient status by butchering at its shore or by burning of near-shore vegetation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-159
Number of pages12
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
StatePublished - 5 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank two anonymous reviewers and Ian Boomer for constructive comments. The GBY project was awarded with a grant from the ka and 700 ka ago as a Basis for Prediction of Future Scenarios’. Additional funding was provided by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 300/06 ) to the Center of Excellence Project Title: ‘The Effect of Climate Change on the Environment and Hominins of the Upper Jordan Valley between ca. 800 Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier B.V.


  • Acheulian
  • Israel
  • Levant
  • Lower Palaeolithic
  • Ostracods
  • Palaeoecology


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