Photographs of deer bones found in a cave in the Galilee.
(photo credit: COURTESY HEBREW UNIVERSITY)
Deer bones found in a cave in the Galilee have pointed to a unique cultural group that may have arrived in the region from Europe between 35,000 and 38,000 years ago.
Newly published research regarding this group in the Levant (Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria), points toward distinct cultural entities with distinguishing characteristics already existing in the early stages of human history.
The research was a collaborative effort between Dr. Jose-Miguel Tejero of the French National Center for Scientific Research; Prof. Anna Belfer Cohen and Dr. Rivka Rabinovich of the Archeology Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; emeritus Harvard University Prof. Ofer Bar-Yosef; and Hebrew University’s Dr. Vitaly Gutkin.
The study examined remains of ancient Levantine deer bones, found in the Hayonim Cave in the Western Galilee, and discovered a cultural symbol: bones with specific grooves appearing in a fixed area. The study posits that this may have been a unique symbol of the local ancient culture that acted as a marker for the group – perhaps sewn into a garment or worn as a pendant to differentiate the group’s members from other groups living in the same area.
This is in contrast to other objects found in the area, used for everyday activities, such as hunting, preparing food or processing skins.
Other remains found, which included stone vessels, bone vessels and horns, are similar to remains found of an ancient culture in Western and Central Europe that existed during the years of the Levantine period. Thus, there is a working assumption that the group arrived here from Europe, lasted a relatively short time and then disappeared or merged with the local cultural entities.
“It was interesting to examine systematically the nature of these items which were created out of dissect- ed animals and to note how different they are,” Rabinovich explained.
“Microscopic observations, as well as data obtained with the help of the scanning electron microscope (which has become an important tool in archeological research), made us aware of the uniqueness of the symbols.”
“Likewise, at the end of each observation like this, the question remains: What were these items really used for? This is the most fascinating part – trying to understand behavior not necessarily tied to survival,” she said.