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Evidence of Early Man at Bethlehem

    Naturevolume 140pages186187 (1937) | Download Citation



    To the antiquities from Tell Duweir on view at the Wellcome Research Institution (see NATURE, July 17, p. 99) have been added, since the opening of the exhibition, finds from the Bethlehem Bone Beds, which are being excavated by the Wellcome Marston Archæological Research Expedition to the Near East. The work of investigation is being carried out by Miss D. Bate and Miss E. Gardner. The great pit, from the clays of which these finds are derived, appears to be a swallow hole. Rock has been reached on two sides, while on the third side what appears to be only a thin sheet of sloping deposits remains ; but until bottom has been reached the exact form cannot be determined. There are indications that the cavity may fork as deposits are followed further. Among the animal remains found in 1937, the most striking is the hinder part of the carapace of a gigantic tortoise, together with some detached plates and a bone of the same species. By way of contrast is the fossilized bone of a diminutive species of tortoise. There are also shown part of the tooth of an elephant—the first identification of an elephant in Palestine was from this site—the upper cheek-teeth of a rhinoceros and evidence of a very small form of horse, new to the fauna of Bethlehem. Although there has not yet been opportunity to identify the species with certainty, the indications point to a probably Lower Pleistocene horizon, or even possibly Pliocene. With the animal remains are shown flints selected from a larger number which were found in the bone beds and associated with the fossil fauna. Of these, one is apparently a core, while the others are of characteristic Eolithic or pre-Palæolithic forms. Both the character of the flaking and the forms would seem to place their human origin beyond question. Their association with the animal remains in a definite geological horizon constitutes them the earliest evidence of man's existence yet discovered in Palestine. The exhibition will close on August 7.

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