The use of stone at Ohalo II, a 23,000 year old site in the Jordan Valley, Israel

  • Polina Spivak Israel Antiquities Authority
  • Dani Nadel The University of Haifa
Keywords: Ohalo II, ground stone tools, Late Upper Palaeolithic, submerged site, preservation


A wide range of stones were found at the 22,000-24,000 year old lakeshore camp of Ohalo II, the Sea of Galilee, Israel. The well-preserved camp includes the floors of six brush huts, several open-air hearths, a grave, a midden, and small installations. Stones were found in all excavated loci. These include a small assemblage of basalt and limestone tools, among which bowls, grinding implements and weights are the most common. Use-wear analysis supports the identification of the grinding tools, suggesting that cereals were indeed processed with them, but not in an intensive manner. The presence of thousands of cereal grains as well as several sickle blades accord well these finds. Bowls were all shallow and only their fragments were found. Weights were likely used as fishing net sinkers. Limestone and basalt flakes indicate local knapping. Basalt and limestone fragments, shattered from heat, were abundant in all the excavated loci. Their original use is yet to be verified, but their shattering from heat was affirmed by a series of experiments. Stones were also used as wall supports. The range of types, contexts and activities reflected by stone tools and natural stones is unprecedented in other contemporaneous sites in the southern Levant.

Author Biography

Dani Nadel, The University of Haifa

The Zinman Institute of Archaeology
The University of Haifa


Adams, J. L. 1999, Refocusing the role of food-grinding tools as correlates for subsistence strategies in the U. S. Southwest. American Antiquity, 64(3): 475-498. doi:10.2307/2694147
Adams, J. L. 2002, Ground Stone Analysis: A Technological Approach. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 336 p.
Adams, J. L. 2008, Beyond the broken. In: New Approaches to Old Stones, (Rowan, Y., & Ebeling, J., Eds.), Equinox Publishing, London: p. 213-229.
Aranguren, B., Becattini, R., Lippi, M.M., & Revedin, A. 2007, Grinding flour in Upper Palaeolithic Europe (25000 years bp). Antiquity, 81: 845-855. doi:10.1017/s0003598x00095946
Bar-Yosef, O. 1970, The Epipalaeolithic Cultures of Palestine. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Archaeology Department, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, 260 p.
Bar-Yosef, O. 1975, Les gisements "Kébarien Géométrique A" d'Haon, Vallée du Jourdain, Israël. Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française, 72(1): 10-14. (in French) (“The Geometric Kebaran A site of Haon III, the Jordan Valley, Israel”). doi:10.3406/bspf.1975.4392
Bocquentin, F., Crevecoeur, I., Arensburg, B., Kaufman, D. & Ronen, A., 2011, Les hommes du Kébarien géométrique de Neve David, Mont Carmel (Israël). Bulletin et Mémoires de la Société d’Anthropolgie de Paris, 23: 38-51. (in French) (“Geometric Kebaran Site of Neve David, Mount Carmel (Israel)”). doi:10.1007/s13219-010-0032-9
Cane, S. 1989, Australian aboriginal seed grinding and its archaeological record: a case study from the Western Desert. In: Foraging and Farming: the Evolution of Plant Exploitation, (Harris, D. R., & Hillman, G. C., Eds.), Unwin Hyman, London: p. 99-119.
Chapman, J. 2000, Fragmentation in archaeology. London, UK, Routledge, 264 p. doi:10.4324/9780203759431
Chapman, J., & Gaydarska, B. 2007, Part and Wholes. Fragmentation in Prehistoric Context. Oxford, UK, Oxbow Books, 233 p.
Dubreuil, L., & Nadel, D. 2015. The development of plant food processing in the Levant: insights from use-wear analysis of Early Epipalaeolithic ground stone tools. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 370: 20140357. doi:10.1098/rstb.2014.0357.
Goring-Morris, A.N., & Belfer-Cohen, A. 2008, A roof over one’s head: Developments in Near Eastern residential architecture across the Epipalaeolithic-Neolithic transition. In: The Neolithic Demographic Transition and its Consequences, (Bocquet-Appel, J.P., & Bar-Yosef, O., Eds.), Springer Netherlands: p. 239-286. doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-8539-0_10
Grosman, L., & Munro, N.D. 2007. The sacred and the mundane: Domestic activities at a Late Natufian burial site in the Levant. Before Farming, 4: 1-14. doi:10.3828/bfarm.2007.4.4
Kaufman, D. 1989, Observations on the Geometric Kebaran: A view from Neve David. In: Investigations in South Levantine Prehistory, (Bar-Yosef, O., & Vandermeersch, B., Eds.), BAR International Series Vol. 497, Archaeopress, Oxford: p. 275-285.
Kraybill, N. 1977, Pre-agricultural tools for the preparation of foods in the Old World. In: Origins of Agriculture, (Reed, C., Ed.), Mouton, The Hague: p. 485-522. doi:10.1515/9783110813487.485
Marks, A.E. 1976, Ein Aqev: a late Levantine Upper Palaeolithic site in the Nahal Aqev. In: Prehistory and Palaeoenvironments in the Central Negev, Israel, Vol. 1, The Avdat/Aqev Area, Part 1, (Marks, A.E., Ed.), SMU Press, Dallas: p. 227-291.
Nadel, D., (Ed.), 2002, Ohalo II - a 23,000 Year-Old Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers’ Camp on the Shore of the Sea of Galilee. Hecht Museum, Haifa, 64 p.
Nadel, D. 2003, A long continuity: the Ohalo II brush huts (19.5 ky) and the dwelling structures in the Natufian and PPNA sites in the Jordan Valley. Archaeology, Anthropology and Ethnology in Euroasia, 13(1): 34-48.
Nadel, D. 2006, Residence ownership and continuity: from the Early Epipalaeolithic unto the Neolithic. In: Domesticating Space, Construction, Community, and Cosmology in the Late Prehistoric Near East, (Banning E.B., & Chazan, M., Eds.), Studies in Early Near Eastern Production, Subsistence and Environment Vol. 6. Ex-oriente, Berlin: p. 25-34.
Nadel, D. 2011, Stones in their symbolic context: Epipalaeolithic - Pre-Pottery Neolithic continuity in the Jordan Valley. In: The State of the Stone. Terminologies, Continuities and Contexts in Near Eastern Lithics, (Healey, E., Campbell, S., & Maeda, O., Eds.), Studies in Early Near Eastern Production, Subsistence, and Environment Vol. 13, Ex-oriente, Berlin: p. 481-490.
Nadel, D., Belitzky, S., Boaretto, E., Carmi, I., Heinemeier, J., Werker E., & Marco, S. 2001, New dates from submerged late Pleistocene sediments in the Sea of Galilee, Israel. Radiocarbon, 43(3): 1167-1178. URL:
Nadel, D., Carmi, I., & Segal, D. 1995, Radiocarbon dating of Ohalo II: archaeological and methodological implications. Journal of Archaeological Science, 22(6): 811-822. doi:1016/0305-4403(95)90010-1
Nadel, D., Danin, A., Werker, E., Schick, T., Kislev, M.E., & Stewart, K. 1994, 19,000 years-old twisted fibers from Ohalo II. Current Anthropology, 35(4): 451-458. doi:10.1086/204303
Nadel, D., Grinberg, U., Boaretto, E., & Werker, E. 2006, Wooden objects from Ohalo II (23,000 cal BP), Jordan Valley, Israel. Journal of Human Evolution, 50(6): 644-662. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2005.12.010
Nadel, D., Piperno, D.R., Holst, I., Snir, A., & Weiss, E. 2012, New evidence of processing wild cereal grains at Ohalo II, a 23,000 year-old campsite on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Israel. Antiquity, 86: 990-1003. doi:10.1017/s0003598x00048201
Nadel, D., Weiss, E., Simchoni, O., Tsatskin, A., Danin, A., & Kislev, M.E. 2004, Stone age hut in Israel yields world’s oldest evidence of bedding. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 101(17): 6821-6826. doi:10.1073/pnas.0308557101
Nadel, D., & Werker, E. 1999, The oldest ever brush hut plant remains from Ohalo II, Jordan Valley, Israel (19 BP). Antiquity, 73(282): 755-764. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00065509
Nadel, D., & Zaidner, Y. 2002, Upper Pleistocene and Mid-Holocene net sinkers from the Sea of Galilee, Israel. Journal of the Israel Prehistoric Society, 32: 49-71.
Piperno, D. R., Weiss, E., Holset I., & Nadel, D. 2004, Processing of cereal grains in the Upper Palaeolithic revealed by starch grain analysis. Nature, 430: 670-673. doi:10.1038/nature02734
Rabinovich, R., & Nadel, D. 2005, Broken mammal bones: taphonomy and food sharing at the Ohalo II submerged prehistoric camp. In: Archaeozoology of the Near East VI, Proceedings of the Sixth International Symposium on the Archaeozoology of Southwestern Asia and Adjacent Areas, (Buitenhuis, H., Choyke, A.M., Martin, L., Bartosiewicz, L., & Mashkour, M., Eds.), ARC-Publicaties 123, Groningen: p. 34-50.
Revedin, A., Aranguren, B., Becattini, R., Longo, L., Marconi, E., Mariotti Lippie, M., Skakun, N., Sinitsyn, A., Spiridonova, E., & Svoboda, J.2010, Thirty thousand-year-old evidence of plant food processing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(4): 18815-18819. doi:10.1073/pnas.1006993107
Revedin, A., Longo, L., Marconi, E., Mariotti Lippie, M., Marconi, E., Ronchitelli, A., Svoboda, J., Anichini, E., Gennai, M., & Aranguren, B. 2014, New technologies for plant food processing in the Gravettian. Quaternary International, 359-360: 77-88. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2014.09.066
Rosenberg, D. 2013. Not ‘just another brick in the wall?’ the symbolism of groundstone tools in Natufian and Early Neolithic southern Levantine constructions. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 23(2): 1-17. doi:10.1017/s095977431300022x
Rosenberg, D., Agnon, M. and Kaufman, D. 2016. Conventions in fresh water fishing in the prehistoric southern Levant: The evidence from the study of Neolithic Beisamoun notched pebbles. Journal of Lithic Studies, 3(3): 22 p. doi:10.2218/jls.v3i3.1639
Santana, J., Velasco, J., Balbo, A., Iriarte, E., Zapata, L., Teira, L., Nicolle, C., Braemer, F., & Ibáñez, J.J. 2015. Interpreting a ritual funerary area at the Early Neolithic site of Tell Qarassa North (South Syria, Late 9th Millennium BC). Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 37: 112-127. doi:10.1016/j.jaa.2014.12.003
Snir, A., Nadel, D., Groman-Yaroslavski, I., Melamed, Y., Sternberg, M., Bar-Yosef, O., & Weiss, E. 2015(a), The origin of cultivation and proto-weeds, long before Neolithic farming. PlosOne, 10(7): e0131422. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0131422
Snir, A., Nadel, D., & Weiss, U. 2015(b), Plant-food preparation on two consecutive floors at Upper Paleolithic Ohalo II, Israel. Journal of Archaeological Science, 53: 61-71. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2014.09.023
Spivak, P. 2008, Limestone and Basalt Assemblage from the Epipaleolithic Site of Ohalo II, a 23,000 Years Old Fisher-hunter-gatherers' Camp. Unpublished MA thesis, Archaeology Department, University of Haifa, Haifa, 83 p.
Tsatskin, A., & Nadel, D. 2003, Formation processes at the Ohalo II submerged prehistoric campsite, Israel, deduced from soil micromorphology and magnetic susceptibility studies. Geoarchaeology, 18(4): 409-432. doi:10.1002/gea.10069
Valla, F.R., Bocquentin, F., Plisson, H., Khalaily, H., Delage, C., Rabinovitch, R., Samuelian, N., Valentin, B., & Belfer-Cohen, A. 1999, Le Natoufien final et les nouvelles fouilles à Mallaha (Eynan), Israel 1996-1997. Journal of the Israel Prehistoric Society, 28: 105-176. (in French) (“The Final Natufian and the renewed excavation at Mallaha (Eynan)”)
Vermeersch, P. M., Paulissen, E., Gijselings, G., Otte, M., Thoma, A., & van Peer, P. 1984, 33,000-yr old chert mining site and related Homo in the Egyptian Nile Valley. Nature, 309(5966): 342-344. doi:10.1038/309342a0
Vermeersch, P. M., Paulissen, E., & Van Peer, P. 1990, Palaeolithic chert exploitation in the limestone stretch of the Egyptian Nile Valley. African Archaeological Review, 8(1): 77-102. doi:10.1007/bf01116872
Weiss, E., Kislev, M. E., Simchoni, O., Nadel, D., & Tschauner, H. 2008, Plant-food preparation area on an Upper Paleolithic brush hut floor at Ohalo II, Israel. Journal of Archaeological Science, 35(8): 2400-2414. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2008.03.012
Wright, K. 1991, The origins and development of ground stone assemblages in Late Pleistocene Southwest Asia. Paléorient, 17(1): 19-43. doi:10.3406/paleo.1991.4537
Wright, K. 1992a, A classification system for ground stone tools from the prehistoric Levant. Paléorient , 18(2): 53-81. doi:10.3406/paleo.1992.4573
Wright, K. 1992b, Ground Stone Assemblage Variations and Subsistence Strategies in the Levant, 22,000 to 5,500 B.P. Ph.D. dissertation, Anthropology Department, Yale University, University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, 696 p.
Wright, K. 1994, Ground-stone tools and hunter-gatherer subsistence in Southwest Asia: Implications for the transition to farming. American Antiquity, 59(2): 238-263. doi:10.2307/281929
Wright, K. 2014, Domestication and inequality? Households, corporate groups and food processing tools at Neolithic Çatal Höyük, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 33: 1-33. doi:10.1016/j.jaa.2013.09.007
Zohar, I. 2002, Fish and fishing at Ohalo II, In: Ohalo II, a 23,000 year-old Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers’ Camp on the Shore of the Sea of Galilee, (Nadel, D., Ed.), Hecht Museum, Haifa: p. 28-31.
Zohar, I. 2003. Fish Exploitation at the Sea of Galilee (Israel) by Early Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers (23,000 B.P.): Ecological, Economical, and Cultural Implications. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, 222 p.
How to Cite
Spivak, P., & Nadel, D. (2016). The use of stone at Ohalo II, a 23,000 year old site in the Jordan Valley, Israel. Journal of Lithic Studies, 3(3), 523-552.
Papers Presented at the 1st Meeting of the Association for Ground Stone Tools Research