Stone, Water, and Elephants: Survival Secrets and techniques of Early People

Tel-Aviv College

Archaeologists from Tel Aviv College have uncovered the thriller surrounding in depth Paleolithic stone quarrying and tool-making websites: Why did Homo erectus repeatedly revisit the exact same places for a whole lot of hundreds of years? The reply lies within the migration routes of elephants, which they hunted and dismembered utilizing flint instruments crafted at these quarrying websites.

All the things They Wanted

The analysis, printed within the journal Archaeologies, was led by Dr. Meir Finkel and Prof. Ran Barkai of Tel Aviv College’s Jacob M. Alkow Division of Archaeology and Historic Close to Japanese Cultures

Prof. Ran Barkai explains:

“Historic people required three issues: water, meals, and stone. Whereas water and meals are requirements for all creatures, people relied on stone instruments to hunt and butcher animals, as they lacked the sharp claws or fangs of different predators. The query is, why do we discover rock outcrops that have been used for the manufacturing of flint instruments surrounded by hundreds of stone instruments, and subsequent to them, rock outcrops containing flint that was not used for the manufacturing of instruments?”

Areas of quarries and stone instruments present in (Meir Finkel/Archaeologies)

“A research of indigenous teams that lived till just lately (with some nonetheless alive at present) exhibits that hunter-gatherers attribute nice significance to the supply of the stone—the quarry itself—imbuing it with efficiency and sanctity, and therefore additionally religious worship.”

“Individuals have been making pilgrimages to such websites for generations upon generations, leaving choices on the rock outcrop whereas adjoining outcrops, equally appropriate for stone instrument manufacturing, stay untouched. We sought to grasp why; what’s particular about these websites?”

Looking for the Cause for the Reputation of These Websites

For practically 20 years, Prof. Barkai and his colleagues have been researching flint quarrying and tool-making websites within the Higher Galilee. These websites are characterised by massive nodules of flint handy for crafting and are positioned inside strolling distance of the main Paleolithic websites of the Hula Valley—Gesher Benot Ya’akov and Ma’ayan Baruch.

These websites boast hundreds of quarrying and extraction websites the place, till half one million years in the past, within the Decrease Paleolithic interval, prehistoric people usual instruments and left choices regardless of the presence of flint in different geological formations in varied locations.

Chopping instruments constituted of Revadim, used to crack elephant bones for his or her marrow (Ran Barkai/Archaeologies)

As a result of elephants have been the first dietary element for these early people, the Tel Aviv College researchers cross-referenced the database of the websites’ distribution with the database of the elephants’ migration routes and found that the flint quarrying and knapping websites have been located in rock outcrops close to the elephants’ migration paths.

“An elephant consumes 400 liters of water a day on common, and that is why it has fastened motion paths,” says Dr. Finkel. “These are animals that depend on a every day provide of water, and due to this fact on water sources—the banks of lakes, rivers, and streams.”

“In lots of situations, we uncover elephant searching and processing websites at ‘crucial crossings’—the place a stream or river passes by way of a steep mountain go or when a path alongside a lakeshore is proscribed to the house between the shore and a mountain vary.”

“On the identical time, given the absence of obtainable technique of preservation and the presence of predatory animals within the space, the window of alternative for a gaggle of hunter-gatherers to exhaust their elephant prey was restricted. Due to this fact, it was crucial to arrange appropriate chopping instruments in massive portions upfront and close by.”

“Because of this, we discover quarrying and knapping websites within the Higher Galilee positioned a brief distance from elephant butchering websites, that are positioned alongside the elephants’ motion paths.”

A World Tactic

Subsequently, the researchers sought to use an tailored mannequin from the one they developed in Israel to a number of websites from the Decrease Paleolithic interval in Asia, Europe and Africa, the place such a “triad” exists. These included each websites the place the hunted animals have been elephants or mammoths, in addition to later websites the place different animals, akin to hippos, camels, and horses, have been the prey.

“It seems that the Paleolithic holy trinity holds true universally: Wherever there was water, there have been elephants, and wherever there have been elephants, people needed to discover appropriate rock outcrops to quarry stone and make instruments so as to hunt and butcher their favourite megaherbivores,” says Prof. Barkai.

“It was a convention: For a whole lot of hundreds of years, the elephants wandered alongside the identical route whereas people produced stone instruments close by. Finally, these elephants turned extinct, and the world modified without end.”

This text is a press launch initially titled, “Elephant searching by early people could clarify proximity between in depth Paleolithic stone quarries and water sources” by Tel Aviv College, printed on

Prime picture: Illustration of Paleolithic elephant searching utilizing spears.     Supply: Dana Ackerfeld/Tel Aviv College


Meir Finkel et al, Quarries as Locations of Significance within the Decrease Paleolithic Holy Triad of Elephants, Water, and Stone,  Archaeologies (2024). DOI: 10.1007/s11759-024-09491-y

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