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Palaeontology Seminar


The mammal collections from Tabun cave Israel at Natural History Museum


Miss Spyridoula Pappa, Postgraduate research student, Royal Holloway University of London.

Thursday 21st June
Neil Chalmers Seminar Room, DC2, 16:00



It is 74 years since D. Garrod & D. Bate’s publication ‘The stone of Mount Carmel’, where they first described the fossil fauna from Tabun Cave. Tabun is one of the most important caves from Mount Carmel (Israel) with the longest and most complete archaeological sequence in South-western Asia. One of the lowest layers from this sequence, Tabun E (TE), has been dated ca. 208 Ka. These layers, which were excavated by Dorothy Garrod between 1929 and 1934, revealed lower & middle Palaeolithic artefacts, hominid remains, including one almost complete Neanderthal burial, and several fossil mammal remains.


A one year project (April 2011 to March 2012) re-boxing and digitisation the specimens from Tabun Cave housed at Natural History Museum revealed that there were 7096 mammal specimens and this enabled the collection to be thoroughly reviewed and systematic work carried out. Although storage space was limited, space issues were overcome by careful organisation of the specimens within acid free boxes according to size range (Fig.1). Small and fragile specimens were nested into Plastazote for additional protection. This project not only resulted in a more accessible collection but also demonstrated that this important collection represents 29 different mammal (herbivores & carnivores) and 33 micromammal species including 15 Holotypes.


This historical collection is also significant with regards to other potential scientific projects. I will present some examples of different methods that we applied including Dama’s (prefers moist environment) and Gazella’s (prefers dry environment) teeth analyses (LEO SEM, chemical condition and 3D reconstruction) and discuss some of the results (Fig. 2, 3). This novel work will hopefully shed light on the dietary habits, morphological teeth features and the impact of climatic changes on the fauna.




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