In October 2013, an excavation was conducted at the Boqer Tahtit (Boker Tachtit) prehistoric site in the ‘En ‘Avdat Nature Reserve in the Negev (License No. G-53/2013; map ref.17855–65/52775–85). The excavation, on behalf of the Max Planck–Weizmann Joint Center for Integrative Archaeology and Anthropology and the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by O. Barzilai (field photography) and E. Boaretto (radiocarbon), with the assistance of M. Goder-Goldberger (area supervision and flint analysis), Y. Shmidov and A. Hajian (surveying and drafting), S. McPherron (GIS and scientific consultation), N. Doerschner (OSL), V. Aldeias and S. Weiner (micromorphology), V. Caracuta (archaeobotany), C. Amit (studio photography), L. Wienblum and L. Regev (excavation program), T. Tsuk and Y. Haimi (planning and consultation), A. Cohen (guidance and logistic assistance) and students of the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Ben-Gurion University.
The Boqer Tahtit site is located on the southeastern bank of Nahal Zin (Fig. 1), c. 1 km south of Midreshet Sede Boqer. During the 1970s, A. Marks (1983
) conducted at the site three seasons of excavations, yielding four archaeological levels (1–4). These included numerous flint artifacts and a series of hearths, several of which contained charcoal remains. The flint assemblages unearthed by Marks are characteristic of the transition phase, as they include artifacts typical of both the Mousterian culture of the Middle Paleolithic period (primarily points) and the Upper Paleolithic period (end scrapers and burins). A comprehensive refitting study has demonstrated that these artifacts were produced from the same knapping sequences, i.e., they are not mixed. The site was dated by an outdated 14C decay counting method. The results gave infinite ages or displayed wide standard deviation errors. Hence, it is difficult to estimate the exact timing for the transition from the Middle Palaeolithic to the Upper Paleolithic based on these dates. Boqer Tah
tit is a key site for understanding the cultural transition between these two periods in the Middle East. Comprehending this phase and better defining the chronological age of the site are of great importance for the research of modern human (Homo sapiens
) origins and the migration route from Africa to Eurasia.
The current excavation (Fig. 2) was conducted in order to determine the exact chronological age of the site with advanced 14C methods and luminescence (OSL). The excavation focused on two sections that were exposed in Marks’s excavation in the southern part of the site: Section D in the east and Section E in the south (c. 10 sq m; Figs. 3, 4). Two geological units were identified in the sections. The upper unit (thickness c. 4 m) included mainly pebbles and gravel that were deposited by a fast-flowing stream. This unit contained sub-units distinguished by the size and composition of their pebbles. The lower unit (thickness 1.5 m) included sand (silt) deposited by a slow-moving stream. Marks exposed four archaeological levels in this unit; however, only two of them (2 and 4; Fig. 5) were identified in the current excavation. Some 800 artifacts were collected in the new excavation, mostly from Level 4. The flint industry is similar to that exposed by Marks: it includes mainly blades produced from unipolar blade cores (Fig. 6) using a hard hammer. Levallois-like points were produced from the blades (Fig. 7), as well as tools, such as scrapers (Fig. 8:1), burins (Fig. 8:2) and notches. In addition, dozens of charcoal samples were collected, mainly from Levels 2 and 4. A preliminary analysis of the samples has revealed the dominance of Juniper (Juniperus phoenica) and Tamarisc (Tamarix cf. aphylla) species. The charcoal samples from the excavation will be analyzed and dated using advanced methods that will help determine the exact age of the site and the time of the transition between the Middle Palaeolithic and the Upper Paleolithic periods in the Levant.