Spatial organization of Middle Paleolithic occupation X in Kebara Cave (Israel): Concentrations of animal bones
This paper examines the spatial distribution of faunal remains on the floor of Kebara Cave (Israel) during unit X (60,000 ± 3500 years), one of the densest occupation layers in the site's late Middle Paleolithic sequence. During unit X, the central floor area of the cave contained numerous hearths and associated ash lenses, surrounded by an area that was nearly devoid of macroscopic faunal remains, except for three densely packed oval to circular concentrations of bones (structures 1, 2, and 3), each of which was surrounded by a dark organic-rich aureole or ring, and whose shape, size, and spatial location remain virtually unchanged during the accumulation of over 60 cm of unit X deposits. Mineralogical analyses of the sediments from the décapage surface using "on-site Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometry" showed that the absence of visible bones outside of the three dense concentrations is not an artifact of differential preservation. Bones were also densely concentrated in a midden along the north wall of the cave adjacent to the occupation area. The composition of the faunal assemblage from structure 1, the best preserved of the three structures, is compared with the remains found in the midden, and the results of these comparisons used as a basis for hypothesizing how these curious bone concentrations may have formed. While no explanation can be offered with any degree of certainty, one viable possibility is that these structures are the remains of trash-filled pits. Further studies are suggested that may help clarify the nature of these unusual bone concentrations.