Whereas many open-air settlements are thought to be short-lived and chosen for specialized tasks, 'Ein Qashish appears to be the site of repeated occupations each of which hosted a range of general activities, indicating a stable and consistent settlement system. The authors suggest that within a complex settlement system, open-air sites may have been more important for prehistoric humans than previously thought.
Ekshtain adds: "Ein Qashish is a 70-60 thousand years open-air site, with a series of stratified human occupations in a dynamic flood plain environment. The site stands out in the extensive excavated area and some unique finds for an open-air context, from which we deduce the diversity of human activities on the landscape. In contrast to other known open-air sites, the locality was not used for task-specific activities but rather served time and again as a habitation location. The stratigraphy, dates and finds from the site allow a reconstruction of a robust settlement system of the late Neanderthals in northern Israel slightly before their disappearance from the regional record, raising questions about the reasons for their disappearance and about their interactions with contemporaneous modern humans."
Ekshtain R, Malinsky-Buller A, Greenbaum N, Mitki N, Stahlschmidt MC, Shahack-Gross R, et al. (2019) Persistent Neanderthal occupation of the open-air site of 'Ein Qashish, Israel. PLoS ONE 14(6): e0215668.
Over the last two decades, much of the recent efforts dedicated to the Levantine Middle Paleolithic has concentrated on the role of open-air sites in the settlement system in the region. Here focus on the site of ‘Ein Qashish as a cases study. Located in present-day northern Israel, the area of this site is estimated to have been >1300 m2, of which ca. 670 were excavated. The site is located at the confluence of the Qishon stream with a small tributary running off the eastern flanks of the Mt. Carmel. At the area of this confluence, water channels and alluvial deposits created a dynamic depositional environment. Four Archaeological Units were identified in a 4.5-m thick stratigraphic sequence were dated by Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) to between—71 and 54 ka, and probably shorter time span–~70-~60 ka. Here we present the diverse material culture remains from the site (lithics, including refitted sequences; modified limestone pieces; molluscs; faunal remains) against their changing paleogeographic backdrop. Skeletal evidence suggests that these remains were associated with Neanderthals. The large-scale repeated accumulation of late Middle Paleolithic remains in the same place on the landscape provides a unique opportunity to address questions of occupation duration and intensity in open-air sites. We find that each occupation was of ephemeral nature, yet presents a range of activities, suggesting that the locale has been used as a generalized residential site rather than specialized task-specific ones. This role of ‘Ein Qashish did not change through time, suggesting that during the late Middle Paleolithic settlement system in this part of the southern Levant were stable.