The distribution and treatment of fire remains across Unit V of the Middle Paleolithic open-air site of Nesher Ramla, Israel

Alyssa Victoria Pietraszek, Yossi Zaidner, Ruth Shahack-Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


While abundant evidence for the use of fire has been identified for the Paleolithic period in the Levant, little evidence has come from open-air sites. This scarcity has brought into question the preservation potential of fragile fire remains at this type of site, which is normally exposed to wind deflation and fluvial erosion, and whether or not fire was used at all. A recently discovered site inside a karstic sinkhole at Nesher Ramla, Israel shows promise of filling this knowledge gap. With abundant evidence for well-preserved human activities, including the preservation of combustion features, this Middle Paleolithic site provides a glimpse into the use of fire at open-air sites. This study aims to provide a clearer picture of the spatial distribution of fire residues across the richest unit at Nesher Ramla, Unit V, and to identify possible behaviors associated with the use of fire. The presence of burned bones and ash pseudomorphs across this unit shows that fire activities were indeed prevalent at the site. However, the relatively low concentrations of ash pseudomorphs require an explanation. Two options are discussed: a short-term occupation (hours to a few days) or the partial preservation of the ash pseudomorphs. The presence of these fire remains in nearly every sample, with slightly higher concentrations coming from the eastern part of the unit, suggests more intensive occupation and their reworking across the site, potentially unintentionally by trampling or intentionally by sweeping and depositing the ash in a specified dump area. In addition to supporting previous research suggesting intensive occupation (e.g. via artifact densities) associated with combustion remains at Unit V of Nesher Ramla, the results of this study further shed light on behaviors associated with the treatment of fire remains and partitioned use of space at open-air sites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-116
Number of pages10
JournalQuaternary International
StatePublished - 30 Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes

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  • Ash
  • Hominin behavior
  • Middle Paleolithic
  • Spatial distribution
  • Use of fire


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