In October–November 2015 and 2016, excavations were conducted at the prehistoric site of Nahal ‘Aqev, situated in the ‘En ‘Avedat nature reserve in the Negev (Licenses No. G-27/2015; G-88/2016; map ref. 18200–30/52440–50; Fig. 1). The excavations, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Weizmann Institute of Science, were directed by O. Barzilai and E. Boaretto, with the assistance of E. Heims (administration), M. Oron (area supervision and flint implements), S. Weiner (micromorphology), N. Porat (OSL dating), L. Weinblum and L. Regev (recording software), C. Amit (studio photography), T. Tsuk and Y. Haimi (planning and consultation) and students from the Weizmann Institute and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
The site extends along a fluvial terrace west of the streambed of Nahal ‘Aqev, approximately 500 m south of ‘En ‘Aqev spring. The site was excavated in the 1970s (Munday 1977), revealing three strata with finds characteristic of the Middle Paleolithic period. The site's age was estimated at c. 80,000 YBP, based on the dating of travertine sediments found nearby (Schwarcz et al. 1979).
The present excavation was undertaken in the framework of a project for dating the transition from the Middle to the Upper Paleolithic in the Negev, in order to examine the stratigraphic sequence and to determine the site's absolute age using Optically-Stimulated Luminescence method (OSL). The previous excavation area was extended to the south, and a geological trench was dug west from the excavation area, reaching down to the base of the fluvial terrace (Fig. 2).
Eighteen sedimentological units were exposed, of which three contained hitherto unrecognized in situ archaeological levels (Units 7, 9, 11; Fig. 3). The two lowermost levels (Units 9, 11) contained concentrations of lithic artifacts. These items were found stratified horizontally and in a good state of preservation. Unit 11 yielded ashes and burnt items, evidence of a hearth. The upper level (Unit 7) is at the base of the previous excavation area and yielded a concentration of flint artifacts, including cores, debitage and chips, indicating on-site knapping activity.
The flint industries from all three levels are characterized by the production of Levallois flakes from centripetal cores and unidirectional cores (Figs. 4, 5). All three levels yielded indicative tool types, such as side scrapers and Levallois points (Fig. 6).
OSL dating of the sediments above and below the archaeological levels is expected to aid in the understanding the chronology of the site, and its relationship to Middle Paleolithic desert sites as well as to sites in the Mediterranean zone.
Munday F.C. 1977. Nahal Aqev (D35): A Stratified, Open-air Mousterian Occupation in the Avdat/Aqev Area. In A.E. Marks ed. Prehistory and Paleoenvironments of the Central Negev, Israel II: The Avdat/Aqev Area, Part 2 and the Har Harif. Dallas. Pp. 35–60.
Schwarcz H.P., Blackwell B., Goldberg P. and Marks A.E. 1979. Uranium Series Dating of Travertine from Archaeological Sites, Nahal Zin, Israel. Nature 277:558–560.