In July–August 2018–2019, the third and fourth excavation seasons were conducted in Tinshemet Cave (License Nos. G-68/2018, G-71/2019; map ref. 197122/656269; Fig. 1). The excavation, conducted under the auspices of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and funded by the Israel Science Foundation and the Leakey Foundation, was conducted by Y. Zaidner (field photography) and O. Varoner with the assistance of H. Zeigen, A. Levy, M. Prévost (area supervision), Y. Zaidner and O. Varoner (flint-assemblage analyses), R. Yeshurun (archaeozoology), R. Shahack-Gross (geoarchaeology), S. Alon (surveying and drafting), N. Porat (OSL) and N. Mercier (TL).
Tinshemet Cave, located on a hill’s western face east of Shoham, was first documented by Stekelis (1942), who identified Middle and Upper Palaeolithic layers at the site. From 2016 onwards, excavations have concentrated on three areas: the inner chamber, the breccia layer, and the terrace (Fig. 2). All excavation areas yielded flint tools dated exclusively to the Middle Paleolithic period.
The Inner Chamber. In the eastern part of the chamber, dark brown fills were excavated down to the natural bedrock (Fig. 3). The find densities are low, and the soil samples indicate that these are natural fills. Archaeological layers in the western part of the chamber yielded flint items and animal bones.
The Breccia Layer. The layer, located between the inner chamber and the terrace (Fig. 4), is characterized by a high density of flint items, animal bones and chunks of ochre in various sizes and colors. A trial trench was opened in the breccia layer in order to understand its depositional sequence and determine the stratigraphic relationship between the inner chamber and the terrace.
The Terrace. This is actually a chamber whose roof collapsed. It has been excavated since the first season at the cave and, to date, produced a rich layer of flint items, animal bones and ochre chunks (Fig. 5).
Flint Assemblage. Levallois flake production is the dominant flint knapping technology. Although the flint-tool analysis is in its early stages, initial examination indicates that centripetal scar patterns are predominant and that the assemblage contains few tools and cores. In contrast with Stekelis’s conclusions, no Upper Paleolithic flint items have been found to date.
Faunal Assemblage. As with the flint assemblage, analysis of the animal bones is in its early stages. Initial examination indicates that most bones are of large animals such as aurochs and Mesopotamian fallow deer.
Dating. Between the 2018 and 2019 excavation seasons, some twenty dosimeters were placed in the cave to TL-based (thermoluminescence-based) dates. During the 2018 season, several samples were collected for OSL (optically stimulated luminescence) dating. The initial results are anticipated in the near future.
Tinshemet Cave is dated to the Middle Palaeolithic period. Based on the scar patterns of the Levallois items, the cave can be dated to the mid-Middle Paleolithic period. Assemblages resembling those from Tinshemet Cave have been found at an open-air Mousterian site in Nesher-Ramla (Zaidner et al. 2016; Prévost and Zaidner 2020) and in Qafzeh Cave (Hovers 2009).
Hovers E. 2009. The Lithic Assemblages of Qafzeh Cave. New York.
Prévost M. and Zaidner Y. 2020. New Insights into Early MIS 5 Lithic Technological Behavior in the Levant: Nesher Ramla, Israel as a Case Study. PLoS ONE 15:e0231109.
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Zaidner Y., Frumkin A., Friesem D., Tsatskin A. and Shahack-Gross R. 2016. Landscapes, Depositional Environments and Human Occupation at Middle Paleolithic Open-Air Sites in the Southern Levant, with New Insights from Nesher Ramla, Israel. Quaternary Science Reviews 138:76–86.