Through its membership in the American School of Prehistoric Research, Wesleyan received over 1500 lithic and bone artifacts from the cave sites of el-Wad, Tabun, Skhul and Kebara, located on the western slope of Mount Carmel in Israel. These sites were occupied by Neanderthals and early modern humans, with the oldest layers in the caves dating back to ca. 400,000 years ago. The artifacts originate from some of the earliest systematic excavations at these sites, carried out jointly by the American School and the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem in the late 1920s and 1930s.  Much of this work was done under the direction of pioneering prehistoric archaeologist Dorothy Garrod and her largely female-led excavation teams. Wesleyan's collection contains artifacts from successive layers of the deeply stratified deposits, allowing students to observe thousands of years of change in stone tool technology.

Paleolithic Tools from Mount Carmel

  • Acheulean Handaxe

    Accession lot 3220

    Mugharet et-Tabun (Cave of the Oven)
    Upper Acheulean layer
    ca. 300,000 - ca. 400,000 years ago
    13.5 cm long x 8.4 cm greatest width

    The term "Acheulean" derives from the site of Saint-Acheul in northern France, but refers to a recognizable type of stone tool technology that is found throughout Africa, Eurasia and Europe. Also known as "Mode 2" technology, Acheulean assemblages are characterized by such large bifacial (flaked on both sides) handaxes. This handaxe retains some of the original cortex, or outer covering of the flint cobble. This may have been left in place intentionally to serve as a handhold.

  • Acheulean Handaxe

    Accession lot 3221

    Mugharet et-Tabun (Cave of the Oven)
    Upper Acheulean layer
    ca. 300,000 - ca. 400,000 years ago
    13.5 cm long x 8.4 cm greatest width

    The term "Acheulean" derives from the site of Saint-Acheul in northern France, but refers to a recognizable type of stone tool technology that is found throughout Africa, Eurasia and Europe. Also known as "Mode 2" technology, Acheulean assemblages are characterized by such large bifacial (flaked on both sides) handaxes. This handaxe retains some of the original cortex, or outer covering of the flint cobble. This may have been left in place intentionally to serve as a handhold.

  • Acheulean Handaxe

    Accession lot 3221

    Mugharet et-Tabun (Cave of the Oven)
    Upper Acheulean layer
    ca. 300,000 - ca. 400,000 years ago

    This specimen clearly exhibits scars of both the broad primary flakes (in center of image) that provided the rough form of the tool, as well as the smaller secondary, or finishing, flakes used to refine the tool's shape and give it a sharper edge.

    Compared to Mode 1 technology, characterized by minimally modified cobbles and rock fragments, Mode 2 represented a real innovation. This technology not only produced a versatile tool with a greater amount of useable working edge, but also required the maker to have the cognitive ability to look at a lump of raw material and conceptualize the desired final form, as well as the technical ability to execute its production.

  • Convergent Scraper

    Accession lot 3223

    Mugharet et-Tabun (Cave of the Oven)
    Upper Acheulo-Mousterian layer
    ca. 200,000 - ca. 275,000 years ago

    The term "Mousterian" also derives from a specific site in France, but is used to refer to a recognizable stone tool technology found throughout portions of Europe, North Africa and the Near East. This technology is typically associated with Neanderthals, but it was also produced by anatomically modern humans. It is also known as "Mode 3" technology, and is characterized by an emphasis on tools made from stone flakes, like this scraper, that were struck from pre-shaped cores.

  • Mousterian Point

    Accession lot 3221 or 3222

    Mugharet et-Tabun (Cave of the Oven)
    Lower Mousterian layer
    ca. 120,000 - ca. 200,000 years ago

    This point shows clear evidence of having been produced via the prepared-core Levallois technique, as evidenced by the remains of previous flake scars on the striking platform (the little "bite marks" visible at top of image). This technique involved careful initial shaping of a stone cobble so that a large flake could be removed, pre-shaped into a specific tool form.

  • Backed Knife

    Accession lot 3226

    Mugharet es-Skhul (Cave of the Kids)
    Lower Mousterian layer
    ca. 100,000 - ca. 130,000 years ago

    This sharp flake knife was cleverly struck so that a layer of the original cortex serves as a natural "back," or blunted edge that could be held by the user. Archaeologists have done experiments with replicas of such knives to prove that they could be used to efficiently skin and butcher large animals.

  • Blade Core

    Accession lot 3227

    Mugharet el-Wad (Cave of the Valley)
    Upper Paleolithic layers
    ca. 30,000 - ca. 40,000 years ago

    Upper Paleolithic stone tool technology is characterized by a variety of implements made from blades (a specialized type of flake) produced from prepared cores like the one pictured here. Such "Mode 4" technology is part of the so-called "Great Leap Forward," which is when we first see prolific evidence of anatomically modern humans engaging in complex social behavior, including symbolic representation like the creation of cave paintings and carved figurines.

  • Blade Tools

    Accession lot 3186

    Mugharet el-Kebara (Kebara Cave)
    Upper Paleolithic layers
    ca. 32,000 - ca. 40,000 years ago

    Blades are defined as flakes that are at least twice as long as they are wide. They may be used, unmodified, as cutting or piercing tools. They can also be modified, via additional shaping, into tools used for scraping, grinding, notching, drilling and etching a variety of materials.

  • Serrated Blade

    Accession lot 3186

    Mugharet el-Kebara (Kebara Cave)
    Natufian layer
    ca. 11,500 - ca. 14,500 years ago

    Does this tool look familiar? Serrated blades have been a part of the human toolkit for over 12,000 years. The same technology that is now used to cut steaks and saw through bone and wood was probably originally used for processing fibrous plant stalks.

  • Microliths

    Accession lot 3185

    Mugharet el-Wad (Cave of the Valley)
    Natufian layers
    ca. 11,500 - ca. 14,500 years ago

    Small, razor-sharp tools like these could have been used individually as arrow tips or hafted on handles in groups to form spears, harpoons or saws.

  • Bone Beads

    Accession lot 3186

    Mugharet el-Kebara (Kebara Cave)
    Natufian layer
    ca. 11,500 - ca. 14,500 years ago

    These beads may look like they are carved from stone, but they are actually made from calcined (or burned) animal bone. Burning the bone reduces it largely to its mineral components, hence the bluish-grey to white color. Beads like this were used in personal adornments found buried with the people Garrod termed "Natufian." Natufian peoples were anatomically modern hunter-gatherers whose exploitation of wild cereals and other plant resources allowed them to be semi-sedentary before the development of formal agriculture.

  • Bone Tools

    Accession lots 3185 and 3186

    Mugharet el-Kebara (Kebara Cave) and Mugharet el-Wad (Cave of the Valley)
    Natufian layers
    ca. 11,500 - ca. 14,500 years ago

    From the Upper Paleolithic on, there is ample evidence that early humans used materials other than stone - such as bone, antler, and ivory - as part of their toolkit. The long bones  (limb bones) of animals could be split and shaped into tools like awls, picks and needles.