During recent excavations at Nesher Ramla in central Israel, a new open-air Middle Paleolithic site that flourished 170,000–80,000 years ago was discovered in a previously unrecorded context. The site was found in a 115-foot-deep surface depression formed by the sagging of the bedrock into underground karstic voids. Such a context is unique for early human sites, which are usually found in caves or on the banks of rivers, lakes and springs.

Excavations at the site yielded rich lithic and faunal assemblages—hearths, hammerstones, anvils and ochre—often arranged in vertically and spatially distinct concentrations representing areas of human activities. The major stone tool-types are side-scrapers and naturally backed knives. The lower deposits at Nesher Ramla contain amounts of faunal material that are unprecedented for an open-air site in the Levant and are dominated by the bones of numerous large aurochs (Bos primigenius)—the ancestor of domestic cattle. The aurochs at Nesher Ramla are considerably larger than modern domesticated cattle.

On the basis of specific characteristics of the stone tool-kit and faunal remains, we hypothesize that the site was used as a hunting destination, where initial stages of butchery and some consumption took place. The abundance of aurochs in the lower levels of the site possibly reflect extensive big-game hunting. This hypothesis will be tested in future studies of the lithics and faunal remains.