Galilee is one of the most interesting areas of Israel. From a naturalistic, but also archaeological and palaeontological point of view. In addition to the spiritual tradition, this region is truly unique in the world precisely for the extraordinary history of prehistoric man and for the evidence left here.
It is a recent discovery that is nothing short of sensational. Near the lake of Galilee, the remains of a settlement that dates back to 23 thousand years have been found. The analysis of the animal remains found shows that the ancient inhabitants prospered in an extraordinary way here.
The extraordinary discovery
A study published at the end of January in the journal Plos One by the team of the Institute of Archeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in fact, highlighted the findings of the remains of a previously submerged fishermen-hunter-gatherer camp on the shores of Lake Galilee. Through careful analysis of the variety and use of animal remains, the team concluded that these last ice age survivors thrived, while most of their contemporaries, in other parts of the world, were nearly starving, due to extremely cold temperatures.
Excavations were carried out between 1989-1991 and between 1998-2001. The site extends for 2,000 meters and is located near the southern tip of the modern area of the Lake of Galilee, about 9 kilometers south of Tiberias. The site contains the remains of six oval-shaped bush huts, open-air hearths, the grave of an adult male, as well as various installations and heaps of waste. Abundant organic and inorganic materials provide a wealth of information on the lifestyle of the fishermen-hunter-gatherers who inhabited this area
A discovery that changes history
From a careful analysis of 22,000 animal bones found at the site, including gazelles, deer, hares and foxes, as well as previous documentation on the number of charred plant remains, flint tools and cereal grains, the team concluded that Ohalo II presents a different subsistence picture than most of the other sites of the Mesolithic period.
The climatic fluctuations during the last period of the maximum glaciation had minimal effects on the Upper Jordan Valley, particularly near Ohalo II, allowing those people to utilize a large ecological niche made up of various edible plants, mammals, reptiles, birds and fish.
“Despite their ability to hunt even large animals, these inhabitants hunted a wide range of prey and had enough tools and time to take full advantage of animal carcasses to the core,” Steiner explained. Similarly, it can be noticed that “the turtles were apparently selected according to a specific line, which could suggest that their shells to be used as bowls, and not their meat, were the main target. The hare and the fox were probably hunted for their skins,” concluded the researcher.
Current studies have focused on the remains of reptiles, birds and mammals found in one of the huts during its three consecutive occupations. As part of the study, the identification and quantification of the different animal species were carried out: the bone dimensions were measured and the bone surfaces were subjected to spectroscopic examination to identify signs of cuts and wear.
Additionally, a postdoctoral student at Hebrew University and an expert in herpetology, Dr. Rebecca Biton, found that the turtles were all uniform in size, which could indicate a conscious selection by hunters of one size-turtle specification for the use of their shell.
According to the team of researchers, Ohalo II is a wonderful example of a true broad-spectrum economy during the last ice age, right at the beginning of the Epipaleolithic period. In short, a sensational discovery.