Along the banks of an ancient lake, buried under tens of thousands of years of sediment, the remains of an ancient hunter-gatherer camp were recently unearthed in Israel.
The discovery was made at the Nahal Mahanayeem Outlet (NMO), a site along the left bank of the Jordan River, and consists of well-preserved animal remains and stone tools, according to a Jan. 31 news release from the Catalan Institue of Human Paleocology and Social Evolution. The findings date to the Middle Paleolithic era, roughly 60,000 years ago.
After a team of archaeologists worked to excavate the site, researchers carried out in-depth analysis of the stone tools to learn more about how they were used, the institute said.
The study — which was published Jan. 3 in Scientific Reports and was led by Juan Ignacio Martin-Viveros, a researcher with the institute — analyzed wear marks on the edges of the tools to determine how they were used.
The team of researchers concluded that unlike other remains that have been discovered from the same period, the tools found at NMO were uniquely made before the camp was set up and were not used for hunting, breaking from traditional understanding, according to the study.
Instead, early hunters used the cutting tools primarily for butchering large game, but also for “hide-processing, bone-scraping, and wood/plant processing,” the study said.
The creation of the tools before reaching NMO exemplifies a “high level of planning and anticipation,” offering a new and unique look into prehistoric life and suggesting that early humans had a great cognitive capacity, researchers said.
The Nahal Mahanayeem Outlet is located along the Jordan River near the Hula Valley in Israel’s northeast region.