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The Early Ahmarian site of Al-Ansab 1, Jordan

In the context of the CRC 808 „Our Way to Europe“, the Near East was one of the areas of particular interest to research. Among other locations, the site of Al-Ansab 1 was selected for investigation. This site was already discovered in 1983 during surveys by the TAVO project. With the beginning of the CRC 806 in 2009, first excavations began. Work was finalized in 2020. The site is located about 10 km south of the ancient town of Petra in the Wadi Sabra, Jordan. The wadi forms a natural corridor between the Transjordanian Highland and the Valley of the Wadi Araba.

Today, the site is situated about 20 m above the current valley floor on a sediment promontory. The current landscape morphology is the result of Holocene erosion. Large parts of the Pleistocene sediments were destroyed during these erosional events. Only the strata on the promontory were protected by a limestone ridge. During MIS 3, the wadi was filled almost horizontally, according to geomorphological investigations.

The site belongs to the so-called “Early Ahmarian”. This phase dates between c. 46 ka & 31 ka cal BP. It is the first Upper Palaeolithic cultural phenomenon, which is undoubtedly associated with anatomically modern humans in the region. This is not clear for the preceeding “Initial Upper Palaeolithic”. Typically, “Early Ahmarian“-sites show the production of regular blades and bladelets on “narrow fronted cores” and the production of so-called “El-Wad points”. These points are finely retouched in the point-section and probably were used as projectile implements. Beyond these points, typical Upper Palaeolithic tools such as endscrapers and burins are typical in “Early Ahmarian” assemblages.

Hunting for gazelles is an important part of “Early Ahmarian” subsistence strategies. This is shown by the repeated presence of gazelle bones in sites of this time as well as the strategical placement of sites. While gazelle dominate faunal assemblages in the arid south of the distribution area, this is somewhat different in the coastal strip along the Mediterranean where a more divers faunal spectrum prevails.

At the site of “Al-Ansab 1” more than 50.000 lithic artefacts were documented. They show the production process of lithic tools from the decortication of raw nodules to the production of final tools. The raw material, which was used, originates form an outcrop only few meters away from the settlement location. The structured use of silex raw material shows the intensive use of the settlement location

Besides the silex artefacts, also other traces of human presence could be documented. Such are traces of combustion features as well as bone concentrations. A geostatistical investigation oft he distribution pattern indicated a repated small-scale settlement of the site.

Hunting of gazelles around the site was supported by beneficial conditions around the site such as a perennial spring. Among other things, this probably was a driver for human presence at this location. The spring promoted year-round growth of vegetation, which in turn was pulling in gazelles and other fauna during their migration from the Transjordanian Highlands to the Wadi Arava.

The project was conducted by the CRC 806 in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Maysoon Al-Nahaar of the University of Jordan, Amman.



D. Schyle, & J. Richter (Hrsg.), Pleistocene Archaeology of the Petra Area in Jordan (Rahden/Westf. 2015).

J. Richter, Th. Litt, F. Lehmkuhl, A. Hense, Th. Hauck, D. Leder, A. Miebach, H. Parow-Souchon, F. Sauer, J. Schoenenberg, Al-Ansab and the Dead Sea: Mid-MIS 3 archaeology and environment of the early Ahmarian population of the Levantine corridor. PloS one, 15, 10, 2020.

H. Parow-Souchon, The Wadi Sabra (Jordan), (Rahden/Westf. 2020).

F. Sauer, J. Schoenenberg, Gazelle Hunting Strategies in the Early Ahmarian: Close‑Range Visuospatial Characteristics of Site Locations Indicate Spatially Focused Hunting Strategies on Gazella sp. During the Early Ahmarian. Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology, 2021.

J. Schoenenberg, F. Sauer,  Intra-Site Structure of the Early Ahmarian Site of Al-Ansab 1, AH 1 (Jordan). Journal of Palaeolithic Archaeology, 2022.