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Mammal remains at Rantis Cave, Israel, and Middle–Late Pleistocene human subsistence and ecology in the Southern Levant

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Abstract

Rantis Cave is a recently discovered filled cave in central Israel, displaying a rich faunal accumulation of micromammals, ungulates and carnivores. U–Th dating assigns the beginning of accumulation to ca. 140 ka. The accumulation is culturally assigned to the late half of the Middle Paleolithic (MP) period. Single-grain optically stimulated luminescence measurements attest to a complex sedimentological history. We present the cross-disciplinary results of taphonomic and geomorphological analyses, which point to the cave serving as a natural pitfall trap for the large fauna, with little human or carnivore activity. The fauna is dominated by Dama among the ungulates and by Microtus among the micromammals. These data in conjunction with ungulate tooth mesowear analysis suggest a xeric Mediterranean environment on the eastern margin of the southern Levantine foothills. The relative taxonomic abundance of ungulate taxa shows some differences from anthropogenic MP sites, possibly reflecting the prey choice patterns of MP hunters. Overall, the natural accumulation scenario for Rantis Cave provides a rare paleoenvironmental and paleoeconomic reference to the rich anthropogenic MP faunas of the Southern Levant, enabling the reconstruction of a rich and diverse environmental setting for this important human dispersal route. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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