Located in Israel, on the SW shore of the Sea of Galilee (also known as Lake Kinneret). Ohalo II is renowned for its role in providing valuable insights into prehistoric human life. As hunter gatherers, and during the late upper Paleolithic period. It is estimated to be around 23,000 years old, making it one of the oldest archaeological sites in the region.
The significance of Ohalo II lies in its well-preserved remnants of a prehistoric hunter-gatherer settlement. The site was discovered in 1989 during excavations led by archaeologist Dani Nadel. The exceptional preservation of organic materials at Ohalo II is attributed to the site’s unique environmental conditions. The remains include wooden structures, plant remains, animal bones, and various artifacts.
At the time hunter-gatherers settled down at Ohalo II. The sea of Galilee was newly formed. It must have been attractive to many groups of people.
It is possible that the rise in sea level. Was made possible by either an increase in global temperature. At the end of the last glacial period. Or, by an earthquake. Though, after a few generations the site burned to the ground. Which actually wasn’t that bad. Because not long after. The sea of Galilee kept rising. And, deep water covered the site. Because of this. Immediate depositation of fine clay and silt now covered the site. Preserving it. The charred combined with the sedimentation. Likely slowed the growth of bacteria. Helping preserve the site. So we could better understand it today.
Evidence of Plant Cultivation: Ohalo II provides some of the earliest evidence of plant cultivation, including the harvesting and processing of wild cereals, such as barley and wheat. This suggests that early humans at the site were transitioning from purely hunting and gathering to more complex subsistence strategies.
Early grinding stones were found at the site
Indicate the processing of plant materials for food, and medicine. Marking an important development and transition into food and health preparation techniques.
Dietary analysis of animal bones reveals information
Fish from the nearby Sea of Galilee were a significant part of their diet. And, other animals were hunted nearby.
It is believed to have been a seasonal camp
Evidence suggests people returned to the site during specific times of the year, likely in response to the availability of resources.
Artifacts found at the site, including tools and personal items, provide valuable insights into the cultural practices and daily lives of the prehistoric people who lived there.
The site is significant for two findings which are the world’s oldest: the earliest brushwood dwellings; and earliest small scale plant cultivation
Believed to be some 11,000 years before the onset of the neolithic age and agriculture.
Buildings and architecture
At the site are remains of six charcoal rings. Where brushwood dwellings were. Huts are oval in shape and average between 9 and 16 feet long. They were simple. And, were constructed of tree branches and brushwood. Hearths were located outside the huts. Its believed they didn’t take long to make.
In addition to the huts, the site also contains a dump
Littered with flints, animal bones, and remnants of fruit and cereal grains. Hundreds of species of birds, fish, fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, and large animals have been identified at the site. Not just for the scientists. The find was totally mind expanding.
Up and down excavations
Upon the water level changes. University of Haifa and Daniel Nadel excavated. Though, not long after. Waters rose again. And, the site became inaccessible. Work at Ohalo II was halted for 10 years. The water receded again in 1999.
The site spanned 2000 square meters, revealing well-preserved materials.
Archaeologists discovered the small dwellings, with hearths outside. A human burial and stone tools. And, a few surprises. Being one the cooler time periods, we know humans lived on earth. Scientists discovered what they believe to be the earliest form of bedding.
One of the huts also revealed over 90,000 seeds
It accounted for more than 100 species of barley and fruits. Making it likely they were deposited there by someone. In combination with a well used grinding stone found at the site. It further indicates extensive preparation and livability of the site.
Flint found at the site. Represents all stages of harvesting
Flint including blades, flakes, and micrographs of primary elements. And, cores, plus there trimming elements. In the hundreds. Are found at the site. One corner of the site. Has a large concentration of bladelets and flakes. Indicating flint knapping took place here.
Use-wear analysis of some of the glossed blades shows evidence of the earliest cereal harvesting tools. The wear indicate tools were used for harvesting near ripe semi green wild cereals. And, reflecting two harvesting modes. Flint knives held by hand; and, inserts hafted in a handle. It sheds light on techniques some 8000 years before natufian culture. And, 12,000 before others in Mesopotamia and the near east.
Ohalo II is important not only for its archaeological significance but also for what it tells us about the transition from nomadic hunting and gathering to more settled, agricultural societies. It sheds light on the early stages of human civilization and the development of agriculture in the Levant region.
Krause, L. (2001). Galilee’s Receding Waters Reveal Stone Age Camp. National Geographic. 1–4. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/01/0102galilee.html
Nadel, D., Weiss, E., Simchoni, O., Tsatskin, A., Danin, A., Kislev, M. (2004) From the Cover:Stone Age Hut in Israel Yields World’s Oldest Evidence of Bedding. The National Academyof Sciences.101, 6821
Mithen, Steven (2006). After the ice : a global human history, 20.000–5.000 BC (https://archive.org/details/aftericeglobalhu00mith/page/21) (1. paperback ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Univ. Press. pp. 21, 22 (https://archive.org/details/aftericeglobalhu00mith/page/21). ISBN 0-674-01570-3.
Nadel, Dani; Weiss, Ehud; Groman-Yaroslavski, Iris (23 November 2016). “Composite Sickles and Cereal Harvesting Methods at 23,000-Years-Old Ohalo II, Israel” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5120854). PLOS ONE. 11 (11): e0167151.Bibcode:2016PLoSO..1167151G (https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2016PLoSO..1167151
G). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0167151 (https://doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0167151).
ISSN 1932-6203 (https://www.worldcat.org/issn/1932-6203). PMC 5120854 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5120854). PMID 27880839 (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27880839).