What do we do in the International Prehistoric Archaeology Program?
Throughout the course of our one-year MA program in Prehistoric Archaeology, we will explore the anatomical and cultural evolution of hominids over the last five million years. The University of Haifa is situated in the Southern Levant, one of the most important regions in the world to study human evolution. With archaeological sites dating back nearly two million years, many major evolutionary processes first took place in the Southern Levant including the dispersion of spread of hominid species out of Africa and the emergence of farming and sedentary life.
Our students gain valuable hands-on experience in the program by participating in excavations and analyzing material culture from prehistoric Mount Carmel. Throughout the program, students will intensively study Mount Carmel as a case study. Mount Carmel is among the world's most intensively studied regions and rich in important prehistoric sites. For over 80 years, Mount Carmel has been the focus of research regarding ancient human lifeways and adaptations to changing environments. The concentration of prehistoric sites in Nahal Me’arot, four caves comprising over 500,000 years of human occupation, was rightly declared a World Heritage Site in 2012. Our students have the opportunity to participate in the on-going excavation of the el-Wad terrace, part of Nahal Me’arot, during the second semester of the program.
Why study Prehistoric Mount Carmel?
The Mount Carmel ecosystem is a UNESCO biosphere reserve (since 1996) and is also famous for its contrasting landscape and unique prehistoric sites. The range is ecologically diverse, encompassing a complex mosaic of habitats. A great variety of plant and animal resources would have been available to prehistoric groups of hunter-gatherers in this area. This unique ecotonal background provides an excellent opportunity to study prehistoric occupations in their particular environmental and ecological settings.
Numerous caves dot the mountain escarpments and hold a detailed record of palaeo-environmental fluctuations in both geological and anthropogenic contexts. An exceptionally long cultural sequence extending from the Lower Palaeolithic through the Neolithic representing at least 500,000 years of human evolution is exposed in the caves, rock-shelters and open-air sites of the region. Hundreds of prehistoric sites have been discovered on the Mount Carmel ridge and its surroundings. Some of these sites were excavated in the past by world renowned scholars including the late Dorothy Garrod and Ofer Bar-Yosef of Harvard University. Others continue to be excavated today by leading prehistorians of the University of Haifa whereas many more sites await discovery. Sites such as the caves of Tabun and Skhul preserve some of the oldest burials known to us including remains of both Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, providing key evidence for the study of human evolution and interactions between these species. A number of sites in Mount Carmel such as the caves of el-Wad, Nahal Oren and Raqefet have also yielded evidence for the shift from hunting-gathering to agriculture and the emergence of some of the earliest sedentary villages in the world.
Why Study Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Haifa?
The University of Haifa is a center of excellence in prehistoric research. The department is widely acknowledged worldwide for its long history of accomplishments in the investigating prehistoric Mount Carmel. Several multidisciplinary projects including surveys, excavations and laboratory studies are currently being conducted by members of the department on Mount Carmel. These include a wide variety of studies in biological evolution, palaeo-ecology, geomorphology, geology, archaeobotany, archaeozoology and lithic analysis. These studies are based on close cooperation among scholars from diverse disciplines and the University’s departments of archaeology, geography and biology.
Prehistorians at the University of Haifa have a track record of over 40 years of experience in excavating prehistoric sites in Mount Carmel and reconstructing aspects of palaeo-ecology. As a close knit research group, we emphasize continual contribution to regional and global knowledge and make it our duty to keep up to date on the most recent developments in method and theory within our discipline discipline. Our main goal is to provide opportunities for students to acquire hands-on experience with the fundamentals of prehistoric archaeology and to specialize in the varied subject matters of this discipline. We, therefore, strive to incorporate undergraduate and graduate students in our ongoing projects. Thus, we return to some of the important sites excavated generations ago, armed with revised research questions and applying new and sophisticated techniques, with our students participating in all aspects of the planning and day-to-day running of the field expeditions and laboratory studies.