Archaeobotany of el-Wad Terrace, Mount Carmel (Israel): insights into plant exploitation along the Natufian sequence

Chiara Belli*, Valentina Caracuta, Dani Nadel, Elisabetta Boaretto, Reuven Yeshurun, Mina Weinstein-Evron

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The Epipalaeolithic Natufian Culture (latest Pleistocene Levant, ca. 15,000–11,500 cal bp) represents relatively sedentary and complex foraging societies, but the plant communities near their most intensively occupied hamlets (in the Mediterranean region of the southern Levant) are not well known. Here we present the charcoal and seed assemblages, and direct radiocarbon dating of select specimens, from el-Wad Terrace, Mount Carmel, Israel, a thick and multi-layered Early to Late Natufian sequence. Wood remains indicate an East Mediterranean oak forest/maquis, with varying ratios of evergreen and deciduous oak types as primary components of the local environment, as well as almond and buckthorn. The highest density of remains is in the architectural phase of the Early Natufian, when the site was very intensively inhabited (15,000–13,800 cal bp). In this phase, wood and seed remains are distributed all over the residential area, conforming to patterns of other finds that show primary discard and no rigid partitioning of space. Comparison of the seed assemblages to Kebara Cave, a Middle Palaeolithic site in the same geographic setting, points to an elevated use of cereals in the Natufian. Our data provide insights into several chronological, spatial and behavioural patterns, which emerge along the Natufian sequence at the site.

Original languageEnglish
JournalVegetation History and Archaeobotany
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper is part of CB’s Doctoral Research at the University of Haifa, supervised by DN, MW-E, and VC and funded by the Graduate Studies Authority Scholarship for PhD students. The excavation at EWT, located in the Nahal Meʿarot Nature Reserve, managed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, was sponsored by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Irene Levi Sala CARE Archaeological Foundation, the Carmel Drainage Authority and the Faculty of Humanities, University of Haifa, under permission from the Israel Antiquities Authority, Licenses G-3/2007, G-2/2008, G-4/2009, G-5/2010, G-6/2012, G-4/2015, G-3/2016, G-7/2017, G-22/2019 and G-18/2020. The archaeobotanical study was funded in part by the Irene Levi Sala CARE Archaeological Foundation. The Radiocarbon and stable Isotope research was supported by the Exilarch Foundation for the Dangoor Research Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (D-REAMS) Laboratory. We wish to thank the Kimmel Center for Archaeological Science and George Schwartzman Fund for the laboratory and funding support for the material analysis. We thank Amots Dafni and Assaf Distelfeld (Institute of Evolution and the Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, University of Haifa) and Dafna Langgut (Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, and the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures, Tel Aviv University) for their advice. Special thanks are due to Avi Shmida (Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem) for insightful discussions on the botanical aspects of the research. We thank Sapir Haad for her skillful work on Figs. and .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Plant Science
  • Palaeontology


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