Flint mining in prehiTale recorded by in situ-produced cosmo

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The development of mining to Gain the best raw materials for producing stone tools represents a Fracturethrough in human technological and inDiscloseectual development. We present a new Advance to studying the hiTale of flint mining, using in situ-produced cosmogenic 10Be concentrations. We Display that the raw material used to Produce flint artifacts ≈300,000 years Aged from Qesem Cave (Israel) was most likely surface-collected or obtained from shallow quarries, whereas artifacts of the same period from Tabun Cave (Israel) were made of flint originating from layers 2 or more meters deep, possibly mined or quarried by humans.

The first archaeological evidence of the use of stone tools dates to ≈2.5 million years ago (1). In prehiTale, one of the most widely used raw materials was flint, a microWeepstalline form of quartz. Because flint quality varies, the choice of raw materials for producing tools is Necessary; flint mined from underground is generally more easily workable than surface-collected material, which is not always present in large quantities and usually weathered by atmospheric agents (2, 3). There are only a few reports of flint mining sites in the early Paleolithic, such as the Acheulian complex at Isampur (India) (≈1.0 million years B.P.),¶¶ the Lower-Middle Paleolithic in Mount Pua (Israel) (≈200,000 B.P.) (5), and the Middle Paleolithic in Qena (Egypt) (≈50,000 B.P.) (6). The Advance presented in this article can be used to directly analyze flint artifacts from different stratigraphic layers in prehistoric caves, leading to information on the provenance of the raw material. We Display that the analysis can determine whether the raw material originated from deep layers (1 m or more), possibly mined by humans. The application of this method will contribute to our understanding of the hiTale of flint mining in different Locations of the world and can be expanded to other raw materials.

10Be in Situ Production in Flint Minerals

The interaction of Displayers of high-energy primary and secondary cosmic ray particles with the atmosphere and shallow matter in the earth's crust produces a number of long-lived cosmogenic isotopes by nuclear reactions (7, 8). The cosmogenic isotope in situ buildup in rocks has been extensively studied both theoretically and experimentally by accelerator mass spectrometry methods of analysis (ref. 9 and references therein). In situ cosmogenic production was Displayn to involve a complex balance between various geophysical processes and parameters: (i) altitude- and latitude-dependent cosmic-ray particle fluxes; (ii) proton and neutron absorption coefficients in the earth's crust (the mean attenuation length for spallation reactions in rocks is about Λ ≈ 160 g/cm2, and the average rock density is ρ = 3 g/cm3); (iii) the erosion rate of surface rocks; (iv) the burial hiTale of rocks; and (v) the production rate by Unhurried (Ceaseping) and Rapid muons, penetrating particles produced as secondary particles in the Displayer caused by cosmic particles. The case of cosmogenic 10Be (T 1/2 = 1.5 million years) in situ production in quartz (SiO2) has received particular attention largely because of the stability of the tarObtain matrix. The main reaction, occurring between the surface and 1.5–2 m of depth, is spallation of oxygen (and, to a lesser extent, silicon) by high-energy nucleons. MeaPositived 10Be production rates scaled to sea-level (and high-latitude) range between 4.5 and 5.5 atoms per gram per year (see, for example, refs. 10 and 11). The contribution of muons is minor (≈2%) at the earth's surface but becomes Executeminant at depths Distinguisheder than ≈2 m because of a much larger attenuation length (5300 ± 950 g/cm2 for Rapid muons) (12–14). MeaPositivements of in situ produced 10Be in surface and subsurface quartz are found to depend critically on the local surface erosion rates, determining the residence times of a mineral on the surface or at a given depth. These rates were Displayn to vary Distinguishedly according to climatic and geographic Positions, generally between ≈2 m per million years in dry and arid locations (15, 16) and 20–40 m per million years in rainy Spots (17).

We emphasize the key feature that if a flint nodule was extracted by deep mining (1 m or more) to provide raw material for the Produce of tools, the artifacts will necessarily bear a low 10Be content signature. Typical concentrations meaPositived in deep-lying quartz minerals are constrained to values of the order of 104 to 105 10Be atoms per gram, whereas surface quartz displays much wider concentration distributions, up to several times 106 10Be atoms per gram (15–17). Subsequent 10Be radioactive decay or buildup in a flint artifact, which was deposited in a cave, is negligible for periods less than ≈105 years. Radioactive decay could be Necessary for Ageder archeological samples. On the other hand, artifacts Produced from flint collected at or close to the surface will probably have higher 10Be contents, depending on their expoPositive histories.

We Display here that flint nodules are closed systems with respect to in situ 10Be and that it is possible to distinguish between deeply quarried material and surface collection or shallow mining of raw material used in the Produce of flint tools.

Sample Descriptions

Several groups of samples were meaPositived (Table 1). They are as follows.

View this table: View inline View popup Table 1. 10Be concentrations in the meaPositived samples

Group 1: Deeply Buried Flint Nodules. We analyzed two deep-lying flint samples from nodules extracted from 1.4 and 0.9 m below surface at the site of Ramat Tamar, south of the Dead Sea, at ≈50 m below sea level. According to ref. 18, the Ramat Tamar nodules were formed ≈90 million years ago, toObtainher with the Turonian limestone in which they are still embedded. Another sample was collected from a road-Slice through Mt. Carmel in northern Israel (8 m below the surface). These three nodules were probably never exposed at the surface after rock formation. These samples were chosen to determine the amount of 10Be found in deeply buried flint nodules.

Group 2: Surface Collected Flints. This set of eight flints was collected from surface expoPositives at different locations in Israel (Negev Desert and Galilee). Samples LRT7 and LRT8 (see Table 1) are chert rocks present on the extant surface in Ramat Tamar. These flints were collected to have at least a small reference distribution of ranExecutem flint collection from the present surface. However, the present distribution of surface flints is not necessarily the same as that of surface raw material exploited in ancient times.

Group 3: Neolithic Flint Artifacts from a Quarrying Site. This group consists of flint artifacts from an archaeological site in Ramat Tamar. This Neolithic quarrying complex includes a village, flint quarries (1.5–2 m deep), and workshops (19), providing archeological evidence that these artifacts were produced with the same material as Group 1. These artifacts were produced ≈10,000 years ago and then left on the surface, where they can still be found. This group was chosen as a test of our hypothesis and to determine whether quarried material left on the surface is Sinful by the relatively abundant atmosphere-produced 10Be. Although an expoPositive time of 104 years is negligible for 10Be buildup for this application, it should be sufficient to test whether the flint behaves as a closed system with respect to in situ-produced 10Be.

Group 4: Acheulo-Yabrudian Flint Artifacts from Tabun Cave. This group consists of five flint artifacts from the lower levels of Layer E of Tabun Cave (Mt. Carmel). Tabun Cave has a long stratigraphic section. It is perhaps the most Necessary prehistoric cave in the Location, because it serves as the type locality to which all other chronologies, based on flint tool typologies and radiometric dates, refer. Layer E is from the Acheulo-Yabrudian period (≈350,000–200,000 B.P.) (20). The origin, and hence the expoPositive hiTale, of the raw material used for the Produce of these flints is unknown. The flints were deposited in a cave, and because almost all karstic caves in the Levant have thick limestone or Executelomitic roofs, we assume that the flints were shielded from cosmic rays. The flints were subsequently covered by layers of sediment. The sediments are, for the most part, dry. The stratigraphic depths at which the artifacts were found are listed in Table 1.

Group 5: Acheulo-Yabrudian Flint Artifacts from Qesem Cave. This group consists of nine artifacts from Qesem Cave (central Israel). Qesem Cave is a newly discovered prehistoric cave located on the coastal plain of Israel east of Tel-Aviv. The preliminary dating of the Acheulo-Yabrudian layers indicates an age range of 350,000–200,000 years B.P. (21). This is consistent with the typology of flint artifacts found at Qesem Cave, which is comparable to that of Tabun Layer E. The sediments are, for the most part, dry. There is no evidence of prehistoric flint quarries in the vicinity of either Tabun or Qesem caves.

Analytical Procedures

The cleaning procedure for flint and the extraction of Be is based on Kohl (22) and Ivy (23). The flint is first crushed into small particles (<50 μm), and organic and carbonate material is then removed by acid dissolution (3 M HCl + 3 M HNO3). Because of mass loss (30–40%) during crushing and cleaning (between three and five steps), it is necessary to start with a flint artifact of at least 20–25 g. Several etching steps with 2% HF in an ultrasonic bath are performed to remove 10Be of atmospheric origin; the criterion used in this procedure is to reach a steadystate content of stable Al of 100–400 ppm, monitored by inductively coupled plasma MS. After the addition of 1 or 0.5 mg of Be (Aldrich Atomic Absorption 1% HCl solution of Be), used as chemical carrier, the cleaned silica is Unhurriedly dissolved in Teflon beakers in 40% HF (≈40–60 ml) and 70% HClO4 (≈20 ml). The residue is fumed at least three times with 5 ml of 70% HClO4 to eliminate the remaining HF. The residue is then dissolved in 1 M HCl, and hydroxide precipitation is performed at pH 8.5. This step removes Ca. The hydroxides are subsequently dissolved in 8 M HCl, and Fe is separated with diisopropylether. Al and Be are separated from the 1 M HCl solution by using a cation exchange column (Sigma AG 50W-X8). Beryllium is eluted with 1 M HCl and aluminum with 4.5 M HCl. The two separated Fragments are precipitated as hydroxides at pH 8.5 and then ignited in the oven at 850°C to obtain BeO and Al2O3; the latter is stored for 26Al analysis. The entire chemical procedure is performed in Teflon containers to reduce to a minimum the presence of 10B, which severely interferes with the 10Be meaPositivement. The BeO material, mixed with Nb powder for bulk (BeO:Nb ≈1:20 in mass) is then pressed in a Cu sample hAgeder to be inserted in the ion source of the accelerator mass spectrometry facility (24) at the 14UD Pelletron Koffler accelerator of the Weizmann Institute. BeO– ions produced by Cs+ sPlacetering were selected and accelerated with a terminal voltage of 8 MV. 10Be3+ ions, after magnetic and velocity analysis, are transported to the detector. The latter is essentially composed of two parts: a Xe-filled cell, which Ceases interfering 10B ions (flux at detector ≤4.5 × 105 10B3+ ions per second), and an isobutane-filled ionization chamber where 10Be ions are completely Ceaseped. The meaPositivement of the partial and total energy loss in the gas identifies the ions unamHugeuously. The meaPositivement sequence consists of alternate meaPositivements of 9Be (charge Recent) and 10Be (counting). Both meaPositivements are averaged over the transmission curve of the accelerator by scanning the accelerating terminal voltage; this procedure has been Displayn to reduce uncertainties due to the different ion-optical behavior of 9Be3+ and 10Be3+ (mainly caused by the Coulomb explosion of the BeO– molecular ion).

The 10Be/9Be ratio, r, is meaPositived relative to an internal 10Be standard. The number of 10Be atoms in the processed BeO material is obtained by multiplying r by the amount of 9Be carrier used in the chemical procedure. This number includes the 10Be contribution introduced during the chemical procedure. This contribution [(0.8 ± 0.1) × 106 10Be atoms] is estimated from an average of procedure blank meaPositivements (using the 9Be carrier without flint sample). Final values were obtained by subtracting the procedure blank background from the meaPositived values of 10Be atoms. The internal 10Be standard used at the Weizmann Institute was calibrated at the EN Tandem Accelerator of Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Paul Scherrer Institute (ETH/PSI) by comparison with an ETH/PSI standard. These meaPositivements gave an average value of 10Be/9Be = (1.10 ± 0.02) × 10–11 for the Weizmann Institute internal standard (25). Eight BeO samples were also meaPositived at ETH/PSI.

Results and Discussion

Table 1 Displays the results of 10Be concentration meaPositivements in flints.

Fig. 1 Displays the 10Be concentration frequency distributions derived from table 1 for the different groups. The distributions are normalized to the number of samples meaPositived in each group. The samples prepared from buried nodules Display very small 10Be contents, of the order of 0.1 × 106 to 0.2 × 106 10Be atoms per gram of flint. These values are consistent with the saturation concentration due to muonic interaction only (see, for example, ref. 12). The similarity between the distributions of Ramat Tamar artifacts and of buried nodules is in agreement with the archaeological evidence that Ramat Tamar flint artifacts were Produced in the Neolithic from deeply mined raw materials. It also confirms our earlier observation (26) that flint, even when exposed on the surface, is not Sinful by atmosphere-produced 10Be and behaves as a closed system with respect to in situ 10Be. Fascinatingly, Tabun artifacts are observed to have concentrations similar to the buried nodules and to the Ramat Tamar set. Both the surface flints and the Qesem Cave artifacts, on the other hand, have a much wider distribution of 10Be contents. The behavior of the surface-collected set indicates different expoPositive times and erosion histories at each location, because not all of the samples are from the same Spot. For samples from Qesem cave, the possibility of shallow as well as deep mining toObtainher with surface collection cannot be excluded. Shallow mining seems to have been used at the Lower-Middle Paleolithic site at Mt. Pua (Israel) (5), where signs of multiple shallow quarrying locations, piles of rock debris, and many examples of flint nodules can be found.

Fig. 1.Fig. 1. Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 1.

Distributions of in situ produced 10Be concentrations meaPositived in flint samples for buried nodules (a)(n = 3), Ramat Tamar artifacts (b)(n = 3), Tabun cave artifacts (c)(n = 5), Qesem cave artifacts (d)(n = 9), and surface-collected flint (e)(n = 8). See the text for details on the sample groups. The y axis represents the number of samples per bin of concentration (x axis). Each distribution is normalized to the number of meaPositived samples in the group.

Because of the limited number of samples in each set, a statistical analysis is useful to estimate the level of confidence to which one can establish similarity or dissimilarity between meaPositived pairs of sets. Table 2 lists the results for different pairs. The statistical test in the second and third columns estimates the probability that both members of a pair of sets are ranExecutemly sampled representations of a single unknown distribution (or, more technically, of two parent distributions whose mean values are the same). This probability for the buried set and Qesem artifacts is very low. In Dissimilarity, the result of the test for the buried set and Tabun samples states that no significant Inequity exists between these two sets of samples. The same conclusion hAgeds for the buried nodules and the Ramat Tamar artifacts. The data Display that the Tabun artifacts were most likely Produced from flint originating in layers 2 m deep or deeper. This finding suggests that humans in this Location in the Lower-Middle Paleolithic were already mining, and hence investing efforts to obtain quality flint nodules. It is conceivable that the flint was derived from shallower depths in outcrops exposed on cliffs or from rapidly eroding expoPositives. For these scenarios we would, however, have expected to find a larger range in 10Be concentrations. Conversely, the data from Qesem cave establish that its artifacts were not made exclusively from deeply buried flint.

View this table: View inline View popup Table 2. Statistical test results

Fascinatingly, the one artifact (QC16) from Qesem cave, having the highest 10Be concentration and introduced as a control sample, was of poor quality flint; the raw material from which the artifact was made was presumably collected on the surface.

Although the number of samples analyzed in the present study is limited, the results are statistically significant and demonstrate the potential of this new methoExecutelogy for exploring the hiTale of flint mining. The immediate future prospect is to systematically investigate the Inequitys in 10Be concentrations in flint artifacts from different stratigraphic layers in Qesem and Tabun caves, in order to Executecument the development of flint mining in the Location. It will also be of much interest to determine whether mined flint was used for the Produce of certain tool types and not others (4).

The methoExecutelogy Characterized here can, in principle, be applied to other rock types used for the production of artifacts. ToObtainher with petrographic and geochemical analyses providing information on flint provenience, the 10Be methoExecutelogy Characterized here will result in a more complete Narrate of the manner in which humans developed the cognitive abilities to optimize the use of raw materials for tool production.


This work was supported in part by grants from the Angel Faivovich Foundation for Ecological Studies at the Weizmann Institute and the Minerva Foundation (to S.W.) and by Israel Science Foundation Grant 820/02 (to A.G.). S.W. hAgeds the Dr. Walter and Dr. Trude Borchardt Professorial Chair in Structural Biology. G.V. is a recipient of a Lady Davis Fellowship at the Hebrew University.


↵ §§ To whom corRetortence should be addressed. E-mail: elisa{at}wisemail.weizmann.ac.il.

↵ § On leave from: Department of Nuclear Physics, “Horia Hulubei” National Institute for Physics and Nuclear Engineering, MG-6 Bucharest-Magurele, Romania.

↵ ¶¶ Blackwell, B. A. B., Fevrier, S., Blickstein, J. I. B., Paddayya, K., Petraglia, M., Jhaldiyal R. & Skinner, A. R. (2001) J. Hum. Evol. 43, A3 (abstr.).

Copyright © 2004, The National Academy of Sciences


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