New fossil remains of Elephas from the southern Levant: implications for the evolutionary history of the Asian elephant
We describe new fossil remains of elephant (Elephas cf. hysudricus) from archaeological sites in the Levant: Ma'ayan Baruch (Israel) and 'Ain Soda (Jordan). Both sites date to the Middle Pleistocene based on stone artefacts typical of Levantine Late Acheulian assemblages. The elephant remains show 'primitive' dental features reminiscent of E. hysudricus from the Plio-Pleistocene of the Siwaliks (northern India), the species thought to be ancestral to Asian elephant E. maximus. Regionally, the new fossils are chronologically intermediate between an earlier (ca. 1 Ma) record of Elephas sp. from Evron Quarry (Israel), and Holocene remains of E. maximus from archaeological sites in NW Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran. It is unclear at present whether this represents continuity of occupation or, more plausibly, independent westward expansions.