Archaeological investigations along Nahal Sekher on the eastern edge of Israel's northwestern Negev Desert dunefield revealed concentrations of Epipalaeolithic campsites associated respectively with ancient water bodies. This study, aimed at better understanding the connections between these camps and the water bodies, is concerned with a cluster of Natufian sites. A comprehensive geomorphological study integrating field mapping, stratigraphic sections, sedimentological analysis and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) ages was conducted in the vicinity of a recently excavated Natufian campsite of Nahal Sekher VI whose artifacts directly overlay aeolian sand dated by OSL to 12.4±0.7 and 11.7±0.5 ka.Residual sequences of diagnostic silty sediments, defined here as low-energy fluvial fine-grained deposits (LFFDs), were identified within the drainage system of central Nahal Sekher around the Nahal Sekher VI site. LFFD sections were found to represent both shoreline and mid-water deposits. The thicker mid-water LFFD deposits (15.7±0.7-10.7±0.5 ka) date within the range of the Epipalaeolithic campsites, while the upper and shoreline LFFD units that thin out into the sands adjacent to the Nahal Sekher VI site display slightly younger ages (10.8±0.4 ka-7.6±0.4 ka). LFFD sedimentation by low-energy concentrated flow and standing-water developed as a result of proximal downstream dune-damming. These water bodies developed as a result of encroaching sand that initially crossed central Nahal Sekher by 15.7±0.7 ka and probably intermittently blocked the course of the wadi. LFFD deposition was therefore a response to a unique combination of regional sand supply due to frequent powerful winds and does not represent climate change in the form of increased precipitation or temperature change.The chronostratigraphies affiliate the Natufian sites to the adjacent ancient water bodies. These relations reflect a rapid, but temporary anthropogenic response to a transient 'window' of improved local aeolian-fluvial palaeoenvironmental conditions during the Late Pleistocene-Holocene transition, but don't necessarily point to a wetter or drier palaeoclimate.
- Late Pleistocene-Holocene transition
- Low-energy fluvial fine-grained deposits (LFFDs)