HK19A and 19B, Har Karkom, Israel, c. 128,000 to 50,000 BP

Har Karkom site HK19 includes the remains of 2 circular hut floors located east of a prominent trail crossing the hamada. The site has numerous flints of "Levallois" type from the Middle Palaeolithic. The area around the floors is covered with flint with many worked pieces (E. Anati at

Levallois is characteristic of Middle Paleolithic Yabrudian (c. 190.000 to 110,000 BP at Yabrud, Tabun and Abri Zumoffen) and the Levantine Mousterian (c. 128,000 to 50,000 BP at numerous sites, and possibly earliest in Negev c. 80,000 BP). The latter culture(s) has documented 'artistic' artefacts, including

  1. Qafzeh, layer 17(TL 92±5K), square B16, in proximity to burial Qafzeh 8, triangular Levallois core incised with lines, associated with scraped lump of ochre, and some flint tools and cores smeared with ochre [Hovers, E., Vandermeersch, B., and Ofer Bar-Yosef. 1997. A Middle Palaeolithic engraved artefact from Qafzeh Cave, Israel. Rock Art Research 14,2:79-87; Hovers, E., Ilani, S., Bar-Yosef, O., and Bernard Vandermersch. 2003. An early case of color symbolism: Ochre use by modern humans in Qafzeh Cave. Current Anthropology 44,4:491-522.]
  2. Quneitra (54K), flint cortex plaque incised with nested semicircles [Marshack, A. 1996. A Middle Paleolithic symbolic composition from the Golen Heights: The earliest known depictive image. Current Anthropology 37,2:357-365].
  3. Kebara (60-50K), deer or gazelle long bone shaft incised with chevrons and strokes from Mousterian [Davis, S. 1974. Incised bones from the Mousterian of Kebara Cave (Mount Carmel) and the Aurignacian of Ha-Yonim Cave (Western Gallilee), Israel. Palaeorient 2:181-182.]

Compare this Neanderthal Levallois Mousterian site, with its triangular 'heart' flint.

  1. Dederiyeh, Syria (Tabun B, Useries 50K), Neanderthal infant burial, flexed position, sub-rectangular limestone slab--limestone a rarity in cave deposits--at top of head and small piece of triangular flint on infant's heart area [Akazawa, T., Muhesen, S., Dodo, Y., Kondo, O., and Yuji Mizoguchi. 1995. Nature 377,19 October:585-586.

At both of the two HK 19 hutfloors, A and B, I identified at least 9 flint artifacts that appeared to be intentionally flaked to indicate zoomorphic characteristics, as well as 2 flakes. I suggest possible interpretations of the zoomorphic sculptures.

In the entryway of hutfloor HK19A I found two artifacts, one that appears to represent a horsehead, the other a triangular geometric, with possible horsehead along one side. At HK19B in a small circle of limestone blocks I found what appears to be a cache of artifacts apparently flaked to represent an array of species associated with the hunt: a predator cat (leopard-like), a scavenger (hyena or wild dog), and four prey animals, horse, elephant (two times), warthog, and waterbird.

These are mixed large and small game typical of a Middle Paleolithic hunter. All these species have been identified in the faunal remains of Levantine Mousterien sites, with exception of elephant [see e.g., Wymer, J., (1982). The Palaeolithic Age. New York: St. Martin's Press; Table 5.1 citing Garrod and Bate's fauna list for Tabun C and D, Mt. Carmel, Israel.

These tentatively identified zoomorphic sculptures were all found in a circle of limestone cobbles, like a microcosm of spirit animals. The circle also contained three flakes, one retouched, and one pentagonal and one point-like, as shown. The association of the geometric flakes with the animal sculptures suggests 'hunting magic' in the pursuit of spirit animals, as in vision questing, and perhaps some sort of abstract notion of a divinity, such as a mother or master of animals, which is typical of historic and recent gatherer-hunter groups.

Note that this geometric-plus-zoomorphic artifact association occurs at both HK19A and HK19B. Contrast this style with the triangular figurine from HK190b, a Mousterian of Acheulian Tradition site, which combines geometic, zoomorph and female symbolism in a single artifact.

Photo © James Harrod unless otherwise noted. All James Harrod site photos taken on Emmanuel Anati Har Karkom Expedition, April 1996.

a) hk19a b)hk19a equid head in situ c) hk19a hutfl annotated d) hk19a two sculptures e) hk19a geometric sideview
a) hk19a.jpg b)hk19a equid he... c) hk19a hutfl a... d) hk19a two scu... e) hk19a geometr...
f) hk19b stone circle site g) hk19b circle content h) hk19b contents v2 i) hk19b #1 equidhead j) hk19a+b equidheads
f) hk19b stone c... g) hk19b circle ... h) hk19b content... i) hk19b #1 equi... j) hk19a+b equid...
k) hk19b #2 elephant l) hk19b #2 180 elephant m) hk19b #3 elephant n) hk19b #4 feline on ledge o) hk19b #5 preengwaterbird
k) hk19b #2 elep... l) hk19b #2 180 ... m) hk19b #3 elep... n) hk19b #4 feli... o) hk19b #5 pree...
p) hk19b #6 warthog q) suids illus r) warthog illus s) hk19b#7 turning bear? t) hk19b #7 obv hyena dog?
p) hk19b #6 wart... q) suids illus.jpg r) warthog illus... s) hk19b#7 turni... t) hk19b #7 obv ...

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