Bioarchaeology of the Near East, 16:29-49 (2022)

Alone in a cave: Examination of a 5200 BCE skeleton from the Judean Desert, Israel

Yossi Nagar* (1), Ianir Milevski (1), Hagay Hamer (1), Oriya Amichai (1), Eitan Klein (1), Elisabetta Boaretto (2), Atalya Fadida (1), Hila May (3)

(1) Israel Antiquities Authority, P.O.B. 586 Jerusalem, 91003 Israel
email: (corresponding author)
(2) D-REAMS Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory, Weizmann Institute of Science,
760001 Rehovot, Israel
(3) Department of Anatomy and Anthropology;
The Shmunis Family Anthropology Institute,
The Dan-David Center for Human Evolution and Biohistory Research,
Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, 6997801, Ramat Aviv, Israel

Abstract: The remains of a >50-years-old male, thus far representing the only complete skeleton dated to the Early Chalcolithic (Wadi Rabah) period in Israel, were recovered in a cave in the Judaean desert (Nahal Mishmar, F1-003). The old male suffered abscesses in the maxilla following tooth caries, and a well-healed trauma in the left tibial midshaft. Skull and mandibular morphology were described using plain measurements, indices and angles, and compared with similarly taken Chalcolithic data. In addition, mandibular morphology was captured using a landmark-based geometric morphometrics method and compared to Natufian hunter-gatherers, Pre-Pottery Neolithic early farmers, and Late Chalcolithic populations. The results, although cautionary, reveal similarity to the succeeding Ghassulian Chalcolithic period populations and suggest population continuity from the Early to the Late (Ghassulian) Chalcolithic period. Future ancient DNA study may clarify this hypothesis and further reveal population affinity in this period in Israel.

Key words: Early Chalcolithic period; biological anthropology; Judean Desert; skeletal morphology | Received 17 October 2021; accepted 13 October 2022; published online 20 April 2023.

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