5,000-Year-Old Leopard Trap Discovered in Israel’s Negev Desert


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It’s easy for us to think of modern humans as the sole destroyers of all things living, but ancient humans also competed with other predators, using traps. This includes nomadic people from what is now Israel’s Negev Desert. A 5,000 year-old leopard trap, made from piles of stone, was just identified in Israel.

Researchers with the Geological Survey of Israel discovered no fewer than 50 leopard traps scattered throughout the desert. In just about each case, they were positioned near areas where sheep and goat were kept.

Once ancient nomadic people began to herd sheep and goat, they developed ingenious methods to curtail leopard and other predators, such as foxes, wolves, hyenas, and caracal, from snapping up their carefully-tended livestock.

Most surprisingly, the same kind of traps were used for thousands of years, suggesting that the design was passed on through the generations.

“The most exciting thing is the antiquity of these carnivore traps, which is totally unexpected,” geochronologist Naomi Porat told Live Science.

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The leopard trap as seen from behind

A 1,600-year-old trap was unearthed besides the “nearly identical” 5,000 year old trap, which means predators have been a topic of conversation among desert dwellers in southern Israel for thousands of years.

“They look like a pile of stones, like a cairn, and you need a good eye and also some digging around to realize what it is,” Porat told Live Science.

A piece of meat on a piece of rope that is attached to a slab door lures the carnivore, which is then unable to escape the box trap.

This discovery was published in the September issue of the journal Antiquity based in the UK.

Today there are no more leopards left to hunt in the Negev desert. The last was seen one decade ago, and they are almost extinct in neighboring Jordan as well.

:: Live Science

Image of leopard on rocks, Shutterstock

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