A new look at the Berekhat Ram figurine: Implications for the origins of symbolism

F D'Errico, A Nowell, O Bar-Yosef, J Zilhao, S Mithen, T Wynn, A Marshack, A E Close

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

125 Citations (Scopus)


This article addresses the nature of the evidence for symbolling behaviour among hominids living in the Near east during the Middle and Upper Pleistocene. Traditionally, Palaeolithic art and symbolling have been synonymous with the Upper Palaeolithic of Europe. The Berekhat Ram figurine, a piece of volcanic material from a lower Palaeolithic site in Israel, Described as purposely modified to produce human features, challenges the view of a late emergence of symbolic behaviour. The anthropogenic nature of these modifications, however, is controversial. We address this problem through an examination of volcanic material from the Berekhat Ram site and from other sources, and by experimentally reproducing the modifications observed on the figurine. We also analyze this material nad the figurine itself through optical and SEM microscopy. Our conclusion is that this object was purposely modified by hominids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-167
Number of pages45
JournalCambridge Archaeological Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2000


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