by Aaron Jonas Stutz
Mughr el-Hamamah is a small cave overlooking the Jordan River Valley, opposite the Nablus mountains. It is located in the Jordanian governate of Ajloun. When our first major set of results were published–involving radiocarbon dates on wood charcoal fragments from the Early Upper Paleolithic campfire features we excavated–I reported on our collaborative research. Liv Nilsson Stutz and I work with an extraordinary team, including Chantel White of the University of Pennsylvania. Chantel is an archaeobotanist who specializes in identifying fragments of seeds, nuts and other plant food traces. We are further working with wood charcoal specialist Elenia Asouti (U. Liverpool) and plant phytolith specialists Rosa Albert and Monica Alonso-Eguiluz (U. Barcelona), as Mughr el-Hamamah joins one of a very small handful of Paleolithic sites in the Levant to preserve significant plant remains. Quite conveniently, the other sites come from different time periods. Gesher Benot Ya’akov (Israel) dates to the Lower Paleolithic (ca. 780,00 years ago). Kebara Cave (Israel) dates to the Middle Paleolithic (ca. 60,000 years ago). Ohalo II (Israel) dates to the Late Upper Paleolithic (ca. 23,000 years ago). Kharaneh IV (Jordan) dates mainly to the Early Epipaleolithic, ca. 19,000 years ago. And the Late Epipaleolithic sites of Abu Hureyra and Mureybet (Syria) date to ca. 13,000-12,000 years ago. Mughr el-Hamamah (Jordan) fits in, adding the Early Upper Paleolithic to this seqeuence. Because plant remains–used variously for food, tools, shelter, clothing, and fuel–are so rarely preserved in Paleolithic deposits, all of these sites are important for understanding how the omnivorous and technological dimensions of human environment and adaptive system evolved, over 100s of thousands of years.
I just posted a new labnote on our crowdfunding site to support our 2017 field campaign at Mughr el-Hamamah. The work that Liv, Chantel, and I are planning–with support from Rosa, Monica, and Eleni–will take place in late June and July this summer. Thanks to our collaboration with Chantel, we have tailored our field methods to carefully recover the charred plant remains from the site. You can view the lab note, which explains a bit about the site’s name (Caves of the Doves), here: http://www.experiment.com/u/CeZOVg. You can visit our crowdfunding page here: http://experiment.com/paleoplants. Please consider backing our project and sharing.