hilltop site about 0.5 km east of Tell ῾Ubeidiya and west of the Jordan River, on a mound whose slopes range from 160 to 205 m below sea level. Geologically, this formation was originally named Melanopsis stuffe (Picard, 1943) and later as the ῾Ubeidiya Formation (Picard and Baida, 1966). Excavation of the prehistoric site of ῾Ubeidiya was sponsored by the Israel Academy of Sciences, under the direction of Moshe Stekelis (1960–1966) Ofer Bar-Yosef and Eitan Tchernov (1967–1974), and more recently with Claude Guérin of the University of Lyon (1988–1994).

The site's numerous angled and folded layers, excavated with heavy machinery, contained animal bones and worked stone artifacts. The formation reflects the depositional history of a Lower Pleistocene freshwater lake and its immediate environment. The lake occupied the area now covered by the Sea of Galilee and an additional 30 km (18 mi.) to its south. More winter rain was experienced then, so that oak forests at times covered the valley slopes of the central Jordan Valley. Stratigraphically, the excavations exposed a sequence of expansion and retreat for the ῾Ubeidiya lake. Its final regression, caused by tectonic movement, may also have been responsible for its disappearance (Picard and Baida, 1966). [See Jordan Valley.]

A series of trenches revealed more than sixty layers on both sides of a small anticline. Many of the archaeological horizons exposed may have been continuous on the other side of the anticline before the top was completely eroded. Numerous artifacts were recovered from the different layers, including core-choppers, polyhedrons, spheroids and subspheroids, handaxes, picks, and abundant retouched and unretouched flakes. Those artifacts that had originated in the gravelly beach contexts tended to be abraded, whereas the least frequently abraded items were recovered from clayey layers.

The site's main tool groups can be grouped according to the raw materials used: core choppers, polyhedrons, and many flakes were made of flint; spheroids from limestone; and handaxes from basalt, with a few from limestone and flint. The size of the desired shape probably dictated the choice of the raw material. The site's lithic assemblages resemble those of the lithic industries of the Developed Oldowan and Early Acheulean in East Africa's Olduvai Gorge, specifically Upper Bed II (Bar-Yosef and Goren-Inbar, 1993).

Faunal correlations and the paleomagnetic reversed position of most of its sequence provide a date for ῾Ubeidiya of 1.0–1.4 million years ago. The extensive faunal collection is primarily Eurasian in origin, with only a few species from Africa. It includes more than one hundred species of mammals, reptiles, and birds, among them hippopotamus, horse, deer hedgehog, leopard, wild camel, lemming, bear, fox, rhinoceros, elephant, gazelle, oryx, and hamster. Those fauna originating in Africa include giraffe, a few species of rats, hippopotamus, warthog, and a species of wild sheep.

These varied fauna would have encouraged scavenging, and the Mediterranean flora made available leaves, fruit, and seeds to supplement the diet of early hominids. Although no human remains were found in situ, the worked-stone artifacts are presumably the work of Homo erectus. The rich archaeological and zoological information from ῾Ubeidiya for the early Lower Paleolithic constitutes the best evidence for the movement of Homo erectus out of Africa.

[See also Paleobotany; Paleoenvironmental Reconstruction; and Paleozoology.]

Bibliography

  • Bar-Yosef, Ofer, and Eitan Tchernov. On the Paleo-Ecological History of the Site of ῾Ubeidiya. Jerusalem, 1972.
  • Bar-Yosef, Ofer. “The Excavations in ῾Ubeidiya in Retrospect.” In Investigations in South Levantine Prehistory, edited by Ofer Bar-Yosef and Bernard Vandermeersch, pp. 101–111. Oxford, 1989.
  • Bar-Yosef, Ofer, and Na'ama Goren-Inbar. The Lithic Assemblages of ῾Ubeidiya: A Lower Palaeolithic Site in the Jordan Valley. Qedem, vol. 34. Jerusalem, 1993.
  • Haas, Georg. On the Vertebrate Fauna of the Lower Pleistocene Site of ῾Ubeidiya. Jerusalem, 1966.
  • Picard, Leo, and U. Baida. Geological Report on the Lower Pleistocene Deposits of the ῾Ubeidiya Excavations. Jerusalem, 1966.
  • Stekelis, Moshe, Ofer Bar-Yosef, and Tamar Schick. Archaeological Excavations at ῾Ubeidiya, 1964–1966. Jerusalem, 1969.
  • Tchernov, Eitan, ed. Les mammifères du pléistocène inférieur de la Vallée du Jourdain à Oubeidiyeh. Mémoires et Travaux du Centre de Recherche Préhistoriques Français de Jérusalem, no. 5. Paris, 1986.
  • Tchernov, Eitan. “The Age of the ῾Ubeidiya Formation: An Early Pleistocene Hominid Site in the Jordan Valley, Israel.” Israel Journal of Earth Sciences 36.1–2 (1987): 3–30.

Ofer Bar-Yosef