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Excavations at th e Late Epipalaeolithic Site of S hubayqa 1: Preliminary Report on the First Season



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Field Reports
Richter, Bode, House, Iversen, Arranz Otaegui,
Saehle, Thaarup, Tvede, Yeomans
Shubayqa 1
 
Monjukli Depe
Tapeh Baluch
 
‘Ain Ghazal
Michiels, al-Souliman, Gebel
Ba‘ja LPPNB Sandstone Rings
New Publication/Masthead
The Newsletter of
Southwest Asian Neolithic Research
2Neo-Lithics 2/12
Editorial 2
Field Reports
Tobias Richter, 
Excavations at the Late Epipalaeolithic Site of Shubayqa 1: Preliminary Report on the First Season 3
 
Renewed Excavations at Monjukli Depe, Turkmenistan 15
Omran Garazhian
Recent Excavations at Tapeh Baluch (Baluch Mound): a Neolithic Site in Neyshabur Plain, NE Iran 20
 
‘Ain Ghazal Revisited: Rescue Excavations October and December-January, 2011-2012 32
Tristan Michiels, Amer Salah Abdo al-Souliman, and Hans Georg K. Gebel
Stage 3 Manufacturing Traces of the Ba‘ja LPPNB Sandstone Rings 41
New Publication 51
Masthead 52
The sky is falling, still. In his Introduction chapter of the 1998 book The Prehistoric Archaeology of Jordan, Don
Henry noted that the number of publications in all venues pertaining to all periods of Jordanian prehistory had
zoomed to an average of 14 per year between 1980-1986, noting that this was “a nearly four-fold increase … over the
whole decade of the 1970’s” (Henry 1998: 1). Over the past couple of decades the pace of research and publication
for the entire Levant has started to reach unmanageable proportions for authors attempting to make sense of newly
  
tagged with keywords, but how such an institution could be developed and maintained is a daunting problem.
Geneviève Dollfus of Paléorient has foreseen these needs; in recent years, she has laid the foundations for such a
data base, and we should think about supporting its implementation.
Gary O. Rollefson and Hans Georg K. Gebel
Henry D.
1998 The Prehistoric Archaeology of Jordan. BAR International Series 705. Oxford, Archaeopress.
Richter et al., Shubayqa 1
Neo-Lithics 2/12 3
uated in the northern Badia region of eastern Jordan
 
1993 (Betts 1993; 1998: 25-26) followed by a brief ex-
cavation in 1996. This initial test excavation revealed
          in
situ deposits teeming with lithic artefacts and faunal
remains (Fig. 2). In October and November 2012 a
team from the University of Copenhagen returned to
Shubayqa 1 to carry out larger scale excavations as part
- and the Epipalaeolithic Foragers in
One of the key aims of the Shubayqa Archaeolog-
the Younger Dryas event (ca. 12,800-11,500 BP) and
cultural developments during the Late Epipalaeolithic
occupation in the semi-arid to arid ‘marginal zone’ in
the southern Levant. The cooler and drier conditions
that marked the beginning of the Younger Dryas have
     
     
zone’ into the marginal, more arid fringe (Bar-Yosef
1995; Bar-Yosef and Belfer-Cohen 2000, 2002; Bar-
       
Hillman 1992). At the same time, it has been suggested
      
groups into the cultivation of cereals to compensate
settlements (Hillman 1996; Hillman et al. 1989, 2001;
Fieldwork at Shubayqa 1 was conceptualized to test
these ideas through the examination of a seemingly well
Fig. 1 Topographic map of the Qa’ Shubayqa showing the locations of Shubayqa 1, 3 and 6.
Field Reports
Neo-Lithics 2/12
      
wider Shubayqa area aims to provide a more detailed
reconstruction of local environmental conditions during
the Younger Dryas to better understand the effects of
global climatic change on the local scale. Finally, Shu-
bayqa 1 offers an opportunity to provide other evidence
for the character of late Epipalaeolithic societies in the
Azraq Basin that are known from only two excavated
sites so far (Betts 1991, 1998; Garrard 1991).
focused primarily on Shubayqa 1, we also carried out a
brief reconnaissance survey of the surrounding area to
situate the site within its local landscape.
The Site
Shubayqa 1 is situated in the northwestern part of
the Jordanian Badia. It lies to the immediate north of
the Qa’ Shubayqa, a 12 km2 large dry lake fed by the
     
Wadis Salma, Ghaysan and al-Hamra al Shamali from
the east. The temporary lake that forms during the rain-
fall season in the Qa’ Shubayqa is a continuation of
       
Shubayqa is still an attractive grazing area for Bedouin
groups during the spring (according to local infor-
mants). It seems likely that the area may have been
a more stable or even permanent body of water under
more favourable climatic conditions. The availability
of water in the area under past environmental condi-
tions is an area of future research. Today the Shubayqa
area is situated at the edge of the Irano-Turanian vege-
tation zone which rings Jebel Druze. Average mean an-
nual rainfall is between 80-100 mm with most rainfall
occurring in the winter.
The site of Shubayqa 1 sits in the southwestern
corner of the abandoned Islamic village of Khirbet
Shubayqa. It lies at an elevation of 740 meters above
sea level and consists of a ca. 2000 m2 roughly circular
mound that rises 2.5-3 meters above the surrounding
area (Figs. 3 and 4). Basalt blocks of various sizes are
strewn across the surface and there are various historic
walls and structures associated with the mound. An
Islamic burial cairn was built on the summit of the
mound (local informants have told us that this is ca. 70
east-west terminus that partially encloses the burial
cairn was presumably constructed at the same time. To
the southwest and west lie two rectangular, collapsed
buildings, which probably form part of the main oc-
cupation phase of Khirbet Shubayqa. The surface of
the mound is littered with chipped stone artefacts and
small bone fragments. Six mortars – two double and
four single mortars – made on large basalt mortars are
the most obvious of a large number of ground stone
Fig. 2 
Richter et al., Shubayqa 1
Neo-Lithics 2/12 5
artefacts spread across the same area (Fig. 5). Traces
of possible buried, semi-circular walls can be seen on
the surface in various locations.
Area A
The initial aim of the excavation was to relocate and de-
lineate the 1996 excavation trench using archive photo-
graphs and observations on the ground. Using the pho-
laid out accordingly. The original trench had collapsed
a loose, soft deposit that contained abundant chipped
stone, ground stone and faunal remains. We considered
therefore removed it relatively swiftly to establish the
Fig. 3 
Fig. 4 View of the Shubayqa 1 site looking southwest. Fig. 5 One of the six surface ground stone mortars recorded at
Shubayqa 1.
Field Reports
Neo-Lithics 2/12
  
revealed features visible on the 1996 photographs: part
of a semi-circular wall constructed of basalt uprights
2 and 6a). Since the end of the 1996 excavation and
before the collapse of the trench, this pavement was
partially disturbed. At least one large pavement stone
had been pulled up and moved aside and remained at
an inclined angle at the bottom of the trench (Fig. 6a
bottom left).
Having delineated the 1996 limit of excavation
the next task was to expand Area A to further reveal
the remains of the semi-circular structure. This neces-
sitated the removal of large quantities of loose basalt
boulders to the east of the 1996 excavation trench, not
only to allow for the continuation of excavation, but
also to prevent them from collapsing into the deeper,
old trench. Following the removal of these blocks
       
      
L26-27. It was however unclear whether this repre-
alignment of stones, given that the area exposed was
quite small. Recording and removal of this structure
allowed further excavation of in situ deposits. These
consisted of a series of dark grayish brown deposits
that contained abundant chipped stone, faunal remains
and ground stone, as well as other items of material
culture. Further excavations revealed the top of the
return wall of the already partially exposed structure,
a semi-circular building. This structure measures 4 m
in diameter with walls constructed of upright-standing
basalt stones (Fig. 6b).
A circular, stone-lined pit of as yet unknown func-
tion was exposed at the northern limit of excavation
    
burnt stones at the top and abundant charred plant re-
mains in an ash-rich sedimentary matrix throughout.
The circular stone lining was rebuilt at least once in the
same position, suggesting continuity of function. This
would seem to rule out accidental burning of a storage
pit, suggesting instead that burning was an integral part
of the feature’s function. While the feature could be a
hearth, it is also possible that it may have been used
as a roasting pit. Further work on the archaeobotanical
material should provide us with a better idea of this
feature’s function.
Excavations in Area A concluded ca. 30 cm above
This will be the focus of renewed excavations in the
next season.
Area B
This area was opened up to the north of Area A, sepa-
rated from it by a 1 m wide baulk (Fig. 3). It initially
measured 4 x 3 m and targeted in situ archaeological
deposits. Surface artefacts, in particular chipped and
ground stone, were encountered in large numbers
already on the surface and in the topsoil. They were
closely associated with three boulder-mortars situated
timeters of topsoil contained occasional pieces of early
Islamic ceramics, as well as some isolated early and late
       
assemblage however had a distinct late Epipalaeolithic
character. Chipped and ground stone artefacts, as well as
animal bones, continued to be recovered in abundance
as the area was further reduced. Beneath two midden
deposits, 50 cm below modern surface, excavations re-
prompted the expansion of the excavation area by two
meters to the east, enlarging the total area to 6 x 3 m.
Eventually the stone pavement was exposed across the
entire eastern half of the area (covering squares J-L 22-
One mortar and several grinding stones were incor-
porated into the pavement. A hearth was also exposed
in K22 (Fig. 7d). Strewn across the pavement were
numerous smaller ground stone artefacts and several
pavement stones and worked ground stones showed
traces of ochre pigment. In addition, three disarticu-
were the highly fragmented and isolated remains of an
adult individual consisting of a fragmented upper seg-
ment of cranium, part of one clavicle and two broken
parts of an ulna and radius, as well as other not yet
excavation area the disarticulated remains of one infant
and one adult were found concentrated in one area.
A medium sized basalt slab had either been placed or
dropped on top of these individuals. The infant remains
      
and teeth buds. The remains of the adult consist of skull
fragments. Towards the end of the excavation season
the articulated remains of another infant were found
after cleaning the south section of the baulk between
Area A and B (Fig. 7b). This necessitated the cutting
back of the section to fully expose and recover these
remains. The dentition suggests that these are the re-
mains of a less than 6 month old infant, which lay on its
right side in a crouched position. A lump of ochre was
found in close association with the left hand. For an in-
fant burial it appeared very well preserved with cranial
fragments, ribs, vertebrae and most upper and lower
limb elements present. The burial was found beneath
were lifted at times and burials placed beneath them.
Indeed, this burial was cut into an earlier infant burial,
which we were unable to excavate this season due to
time constraints.
Area C
The presence of a suspected semi-circular wall visible
on the surface in the northern part of the site prompted
the opening of a small sondage here to investigate the
full extent of the site. Excavations revealed a 50 cm
deep sequence of deposits and showed that the align-
Richter et al., Shubayqa 1
Neo-Lithics 2/12 7
Fig. 6 
Field Reports
Neo-Lithics 2/12
Fig. 7 
 
Richter et al., Shubayqa 1
Neo-Lithics 2/12 9
ment of stones observed on the surface is indeed part of
of the sondage a compact earthen surface was ex-
posed. This was covered by a soft brown silt (possibly
    
contained dense concentrations of charcoal. Chipped
stone artefacts suggest that this area also forms part
    
compacted occupation deposits were situated above
this midden deposit. Excavations in Area C showed
that archaeological deposits and features are present
in this area, warranting further investigations in this
northern part of the site. The sondage also showed that
Shubayqa 1 is considerably larger and potentially more
complex than hitherto assumed, with occupation depo-
sits and architecture extending this far to the north.
A wide range of material culture, fauna and botanical
remains were recovered from the excavations (Fig. 9).
 -
rity of the remains. The raw material used for chipping
that are commonly found in the limestone areas of the
Azraq Basin further south. There are also some red and
pinkish varieties, which are known from sources to the
south, southwest and west. A somewhat rarer category
     
        
chalcedony, sources of which exist to the east of the
Azraq Oasis (Betts 1998: 34). No obsidian was found.
The chipped stone appears to be a predominantly
      
      
  
be very common. Cores are very small and exhibit
signs of extensive reduction. Bladelet cores appear
to be rare. Burins and splintered pieces are common
and can be miniature-sized. Primary pieces of debi-
tage are very rare and there are few crested blades or
other initial core preparation pieces that would suggest
blade or bladelet production. Retouched artefacts in-
clude scrapers, backed bladelets, truncations, notches
expected, geometric microliths are common and are
dominated by lunates. Lunates are generally short –
even very short – and are backed using abrupt, bipolar
and Helwan retouch. The smallest variety of lunates
appear to be usually backed using bipolar or abrupt
retouch, but not Helwan. The lunates suggest a late
chipped stone assemblage appears to be comparable
to the Khallat ‘Anaza material (Betts 1998: 16-19),
  
and bladelets were equally represented, and the toolkit
was dominated by Helwan and abruptly / bipolar ba-
Fig. 8 
Field Reports
Neo-Lithics 2/12
cked, short lunates. The main difference appears to
        
cores, splintered pieces and burins. Two key factors
contributed to the character of the Shubayqa 1 assemb-
lage. One is the distance between the site to the nearest
Shubayqa 1 is located between 70-90 km to the south
and southwest, while chalcedony can be found east
of Azraq, 80 km south of Shubayqa. Transporting
material over these considerable distances to the Qa’
Shubayqa clearly affected the size and amounts of ma-
terial that people were able to transport and resulted
in maximal reuse of any available raw material. The
  -
semblage was settlement pattern. With architecture,
burials and heavy-duty ground stone tools (see below)
Shubayqa 1 appears to have been occupied intensively
and for prolonged periods. The prolonged occupation
of this one locality, coupled with the scarcity of locally
       
of exploiting whatever raw material was at hand. The
Shubayqa 1 raw material economy therefore appears
to be an interesting aspect that requires further careful
Ground stone was found in abundance at Shu-
bayqa 1. In addition to seven basalt-boulder mortars
the excavations recovered more than 300 individual
pieces of worked basalt. The mortars, six of which
were found on the surface, consist of two double mor-
ground stone assemblage consists of grinding slabs,
slabs with cupholes, numerous vessel fragments,
pestles, handstones, pounders, one grooved stone and
various fragments and miscellaneous pieces (Fig. 9:
Fig. 9 
Richter et al., Shubayqa 1
Neo-Lithics 2/12 11
  
 
1-4, 12-15). All the ground stone was made using ba-
salt, which is hardly surprising given its abundance
in the local environment. Instances of ochre staining
were observed on some pieces, suggesting that some
were used to process pigments. Similar to other sites it
is likely that the ground stone was employed in many
different tasks, ranging from hide working and mineral
grinding to processing plant foods (Dubreuil 2004).
Further, more intensive study of the assemblage is ne-
cessary to investigate the frequency of different uses.
     -
cluding stone rings (made from both basalt and limes-
 
11-15). The latter include one polished pebble incised
with two crossed lines and a hammerstone with a
       
include a number of beads made from stone, bone
and marine shell. All the shell beads recovered to date
were made from dentalium shells, indicating that the
site was linked into long-distance exchange networks.
A small number of bone tools were also recovered.
These include several points (Fig. 9: 5-10), as well as
an incised piece of bone, possibly the fragment of a
handle (Fig. 9: 10).
Faunal preservation is generally good and the as-
semblage is considerable in size, especially in com-
parison to other late Epipalaeolithic sites in the Azraq
Basin. It consists of many small, highly fragmented
pieces, suggesting intensive carcass processing for
       
include gazelle, caprines and small equids, hare, fox,
tortoise and a wide range of birds. Gazelle is parti-
cularly abundant and dominates the assemblage. The
presence of caprines is intriguing, as these have rarely
Field Reports
Neo-Lithics 2/12
been documented in such early assemblages in eastern
Jordan, having previously been thought to be intro-
duced as domestic livestock during the early Neolithic
(Garrard et al. 1996).
Charred plant remains were recovered from mul-
tiple contexts at the site. By far the densest concent-
ration was found in the circular stone-lined feature in
       
amounts. Both seeds and charred wood were found.
The former include wild barley (Hordeum spon-
taneum) and sedges (Cyperaceae), while the latter
include tamarisk (Tamarix sp.), Chenopodiaceae and
ash (Fraxinus sp.). This assemblage, which is cur-
    
eastern Jordan. It promises outstanding insights into
the palaeoenvironment and plant economy of the Late
Epipalaeolithic in the Badia and beyond.
In addition to excavations we carried out a brief re-
connaissance survey in the area surrounding the site.
This focused in particular on the early Islamic village
of Khirbet Shubayqa. The preliminary results of the
village survey will be reported elsewhere (Richter and
attention to two additional prehistoric sites visited du-
ring the reconnaissance work.
at the southeastern edge of the Qa’ Shubayqa over-
         
relocated this site during this season and carried out a
brief surface collection. Shubayqa 3 consists of a sur-
face scatter of chipped stone artefacts, faunal remains,
and ground stone artefacts that spreads over an area
of 5000-6000 m2. To the west the site is delineated
by later enclosures and two burial cairns (of which
one was robbed recently) while the lithic scatter pe-
ters out gradually in all other directions. The site is
slightly disturbed by modern tracks to the north, south
and east. One possible circular structure was noted
during the walkover. Surface material was collected
from a single north-south transect, 80 meters long and
2 m wide. This resulted in a collection of 395 chipped
stone artefacts (see Table 1, Fig. 10). Ground stone
artefacts were also ubiquitous on the surface but were
not collected at this stage. Although bladelets were
were present. Betts (1998) suggested that the site was
surface collection. The 2012 surface collection pro-
duced a number of long and wide Helwan lunates (Fig.
for the occupation.
As part of the survey of Khirbet Shubayqa we
also located a hitherto unknown prehistoric site. It is
situated at the southeastern corner of the abandoned
early Islamic village on a low mound at the edge of
the Qa’ Shubayqa, ca. 1 km east of Shubayqa 1. It is
comparable in size and appearance to Shubayqa 1. A
rectangular building, probably dating to the early Is-
lamic occupation, and a burial cairn were built on top
of the mound. Chipped stone artefacts spread across an
area of ca. 2000 m2. In places it seems to be retained
by a semi-circular stone alignment, which could repre-
sent part of a buried structure. Although one grinding
stone was seen lying ca. 50 m to the west of the site,
there was no ground stone visible on the surface of the
mound itself. A surface collection at the site yielded
244 pieces of chipped stone (Table 2, Fig. 10) and 6
fragments of greenstone. The collection contained a
      
only few cores were found. Amongst the retouched
pieces was one broken el-Khiam point (Fig. 10: 18)
Cores 3 1,22%
Chips & Chunks 31 
Debitage 113 46,31%
Retouched Pieces 97 39,75%
Total 244 
Scrapers 2 
Perforators  
  
Notches 13 5,32%
 2
 39 15,98%
Projectile Points 1 
 1
Splintered Pieces 2 
 17 6,96%
Chips & Chunks 63 15,94%
Cores 13 3,29%
Debitage 144 36,45%
Retouched 175 44,3%
Total 395
Scrapers 8 4,57%
Perforator 1 
 9 5,14%
 6 3,42%
Notched  11,42%
Truncations 4 6,28%
 32 18,28%
 6 3,42%
 2 1,14%
 2 1,14%
 86 49,14%
Table 1 
Table 2 
Richter et al., Shubayqa 1
Neo-Lithics 2/12 13
and ten perforators (Fig. 10: 12-17), together with
bladelets. On the basis of the overall technology and
the single el-Khiam point it can be tentatively sugge-
sted that this site may date to the PPNA. The presence
of many drills and greenstone fragments suggests that
greenstone bead production may have been important
at this site. The nearest greenstone source is located ca.
150 km southwest of the Qa Shubayqa to the west of
of the Qa Shubayqa we have labeled this site Shu-
bayqa 6. Further excavations at this site are necessary
a site with interesting research potential. Excavations
have shown that it is a multi-phased, complex Late
      -
tures that are more commonly associated with Natu-
   
architecture, heavy-duty ground stone tools, plant
exploitation and human burials. Shubayqa 1 today
sits at the edge of the Irano-Turanian vegetation zone
and the 100 mm annual average annual precipitation
   
       
zone ‘island’ poking out of sea of steppe and desert.
        
hypothesized how the climatic and environmental
change of the Younger Dryas affected the size and
distribution of these vegetation zones. Shubayqa 1
can shed further light on these issues and also help us
to better understand the impact of the Younger Dryas
climatic episode in relation to changing settlement pat-
terns, subsistence practices and cultural dynamics of
the terminal Pleistocene in southwest Asia.
The Younger Dryas has been seen by many scho-
lars as a key climatic event that forced Late Epipalaeo-
lithic societies to lower dense population numbers in
 
and marginal areas, and by taking up the cultivation
of cereals and other plants to compensate for the loss
of natural habitats (Bar-Yosef 1995; Bar-Yosef and
     
site (Shuabyqa 3) and a PPNA site (Shubayqa 6) af-
fords us an opportunity to examine the transition from
gathering and hunting to the early aceramic Neolithic
in the Harra in much better detail. We hope that further
surveys in the Qa Shubayqa area and excavations at all
of the sites discovered so far will shed some new light
on this crucial time frame.
Acknowledgements. We would like to thank the De-
partment of Antiquities of Jordan for permission to
are grateful to the assistance of our departmental re-
  
also like to acknowledge the kind help of the Royal
Bedouin Police Safawi, the Badia Research and De-
velopment Centre and the British Institute in Amman.
         
Ali Shkreitir and our local workmen from Safawi. This
dent Research (Culture and Communication) grant
Tobias Richter
Department for Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies
University of Copenhagen (corresponding author)
Department of Archaeology
University of Nottingham
Michael House
Department for Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies
University of Copenhagen
Rune Iversen
SAXO Institute
University of Copenhagen
Amaia Arranz Otaegui
Universidad del País Vasco-Euskal Herriko
Unibertsitatea (UPV-EHU)
Departamento de Geografía, Prehistoria y Arqueología
Ingeborg Saehle
SAXO Institute
University of Copenhagen
Guenever Thaarup
Department for Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies
University of Copenhagen
SAXO Institute
University of Copenhagen
Department for Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies
University of Copenhagen
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Neo-Lithics 2/12
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Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan.
New Publications
Neo-Lithics 2/12 51
Culture and History of the Ancient Near East, Volume 59. Brill, Leiden.
ISSN: 1566-2055; ISBN13: 9789004236097; hardback, Pages: xxvi, 410 pp.
           is a detailed report on one of the most
  past thirty years and an integrated analysis and interpretation of
subsistence strategies, settlement patterns and ritual life in one of the world’s earliest village communities. The
14,000-year-old settlement of Wadi Hammeh 27 is one of the most spectacular sites of its kind, featuring one of the
largest, most complex pre-Neolithic buildings yet 
caches and activity areas, and a rich corpus of late Ice Age art pieces.
List of Contributors
Chapter 1. ‘Springs, sweet and clear’: Wadi Hammeh 27 and its environs
Chapter 2. The Pella region: environment and resources in the terminal Pleistocene
Chapter 3. Stratigraphy, taphonomy and chronology
Chapter 4. Architecture and settlement plan
Chapter 5. Artefact distributions and activity areas
  
 
 
Zvonkica Stanin
Chapter 8. The basaltic artefacts and their origins
Chapter 9. Limestone artefacts
Chapter 10. Tools and ornaments of bone
Chapter 11. Artefacts and manuports of various materials
  
Chapter 12 Visual representations in stone and bone
Chapter 13. Animal bones and archaeozoological analysis
Yvonne H. Edwards and Louise Martin
Chapter 14. Plant remains and archaeobotanical analysis
  
Chapter 15. The human skeletal remains and their context
 
Chapter 17. Wadi Hammeh 27: Postscript and prospects
Neo-Lithics 2/12
Editorial Board Advisory Board
Gary O. Rollefson, Whitman College, Walla Walla
Hans Georg K. Gebel, Free University of Berlin
Dörte Rokitta-Krumnow, Free University of Berlin
Ofer Bar-Yosef, Harvard University
Didier Binder, C.N.R.S., Valbonne
Frank Hole, Yale University
Hans J. Nissen, Freie Universität Berlin
Danielle Stordeur, Archéorient, CNRS, Jalès
NEO-LITHICS, Dörte Rokitta-Krumnow/Dr. Hans Georg K. Gebel,
ex oriente, c/o Free University of Berlin, Hüttenweg 7, 14195 Berlin, Germany,
Emails: ·, Fax 0049 30 98 311 246.
NEO-LITHICS, Prof. Dr. Gary O. Rollefson, Department of Anthropology,
Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA 99362, USA, Email:
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... A number of Early Epipalaeolithic (ca 22 000–17 500 cal BP) sites excavated in the dry steppe and desert environments around the Azraq Basin yielded very occasional caprine bones (see below for more detail) hinting at a wider distribution of either wild sheep or goat in an area beyond the known range of these species in the Late Pleistocene. There has been a dearth of sites excavated in moister environments towards the foothills of the Jebel Druze and the excavation of sites at Shubayqa provide the first large and well-dated faunal assemblages in this region[31][32][33][34]creating a new window into past faunal distributions. ...
... Shubayqa 1 and Shubayqa 6 date to the Natufian and PPNA respectively and are both located on the northern side of the Qa' Shubayqa approximately 900 m apart. The stratigraphic sequence of Shubayqa 1 is divided into a number of phases that represent occupation in the Early Natufian and, after a hiatus, further occupation in the Late Natufian[31,32]. The sequence is dated by 22 Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) dates with 17 from the Early Natufian sequence (approx. ...
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Wild sheep (Ovis orientalis) bones recovered from the Natufian site of Shubayqa 1 demonstrate a wider distribution of mouflon in the Late Pleistocene of the Southern Levant than previously known. Early Epipalaeolithic sites are common in the limestone steppe region of eastern Jordan but have yielded only a handful of caprine bones that cannot be identified to species level and few faunal remains from excavated Late Epipalaeolithic sites have been reported. Analysis of animal bone from Shubayqa 1 suggests a significant population of wild sheep could be found concentrated in the basalt desert environment of eastern Jordan during the Late Pleistocene, especially where higher rainfall over the Jebel Druze provided more water. A population of wild sheep was still present in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A when the nearby site of Shubayqa 6 was occupied. Hunting of diverse, locally available resources including wild sheep at the end of the Pleistocene illustrates the flexible and adaptive exploitation strategies that hunter-forager groups engaged in. This provides further evidence to the increasing body of data showing the creative and opportunistic approach of terminal Pleistocene groups allowing continued occupation even in more marginal environments in a period of environmental change.
... Although on a smaller scale, substantial and repeatedly occupied EP sites are known from the Uwaynid area to the southwest of the oasis (Garrard and Byrd, 2013), and excavations at the Early and Late EP site of Ayn Qasiyya in the oasis itself indicate repeated and persistent use of this marsh environment, including for interring human remains (Richter et al., 2010a, b). Previous and current work at Late EP and early Neolithic sites in the Shubayqa area to the north document intensive use of these open spaces as well (Betts, 1998; Richter et al., 2012, 2014). If we step back even further to look at the southern Levant, we see a similar attachment to particular places. ...
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With a specific focus on eastern Jordan, the Epipalaeolithic Foragers in Azraq Project explores changing hunter-gatherer strategies, behaviours and adaptations to this vast area throughout the Late Pleistocene. In particular, we examine how lifeways here (may have) differed from surrounding areas and what circumstances drew human and animal populations to the region. Integrating multiple material cultural and environmental datasets, we explore some of the strategies of these eastern Jordanian groups that resulted in changes in settlement, subsistence and interaction and, in some areas, the occupation of substantial aggregation sites. Five years of excavation at the aggregation site of Kharaneh IV suggest some very intriguing technological and social on-site activities, as well as adaptations to a dynamic landscape unlike that of today. Here we discuss particular aspects of the Kharaneh IV material record within the context of ongoing palaeoenvironmental reconstructions and place these findings in the wider spatial and temporal narratives of the Azraq Basin.
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Experimental archaeology at a Natufian site in the Southern Levant documents for the first time the use of 12,500-year-old rock-cut mortars for producing wild barley flour, some 2,000 to 3,000 years before cereal cultivation. Our reconstruction involved processing wild barley on the prehistoric threshing floor, followed by use of the conical mortars (a common feature in Natufian sites), thereby demonstrating the efficient peeling and milling of hulled grains. This discovery complements nearly 80 years of investigations suggesting that the Natufians regularly harvested almost-ripe wild cereals using sickles hafted with flint blades. Sickles had been replicated in the past and tested in the field for harvesting cereals, thusly obtaining the characteristic sheen along the edge of the hafted flint blades as found in Natufian remnants. Here we report that Natufian wide and narrow conical mortars enabled the processing of wild barley for making the groats and fine flour that provided considerable quantities of nourishment. Dishes in the Early Natufian (15,000–13,500 CalBP) were groat meals and porridge and subsequently, in the Late Natufian (13,500–11,700 CalBP), we suggest that unleavened bread made from fine flour was added. These food preparing techniques widened the dietary breadth of the sedentary Natufian hunter-gatherers, paving the way to the emergence of farming communities, the hallmark of the Neolithic Revolution.
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This article reassesses the timing, context, and impetus for the onset of sedentary, complex hunter-gatherers, food production, and village life in the Near East during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene. Drawing on recent paleoclimatic and archaeological results, I argue that sedentism and then village life were rapid rather than gradual events that occurred during optimal climatic conditions and took place in resource-rich settings. These two social milestones included fundamental changes in economic strategies, social interaction, and ideology. Only by understanding the interplay between preexisting social institutions and human agency within communities prior to and during these periods of major social change will we be able to understand how and why food production began.
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The author studied intensification of plant use (including cereal consumption) during the Natufian period of the Levant, using microscopic analysis of use-wear on 166 basalt grinding stones from Natufian sites. These prehistoric grinding surfaces were compared to those created on an experimental collection of basalt stones used for known tasks. The Natufian tools were judged to have been used for a variety of purposes, including hide working, legume processing, cereal processing, and mineral grinding. There seemed, however, to be a clear increase over time in the use of grinding slabs with flat surfaces, suitable for reducing cereals and legumes to tinier particles, with a concomitant increase in the release of nutrients. This trend may help explain the appearance of agriculture at the end of the Natufian.
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Hitherto, the earliest archaeological finds of domestic cereals in southwestern Asia have involved wheats and barleys dating from the beginning of the Holocene, 11-12000 calendar years ago. New evidence from the site of Abu Hureyra suggests that systematic cultivation of cereals in fact started well before the end of the Pleistocene-by at least 13000 years ago, and that rye was among the first crops. The evidence also indicates that hunter-gatherers at Abu Hureyra first started cultivating crops in response to a steep decline in wild plants that had served as staple foods for at least the preceding four centuries. The decline in these wild staples is attributable to a sudden, dry, cold, climatic reversal equivalent to the 'Younger Dryas' period. At Abu Hureyra, therefore, it appears that the primary trigger for the occupants to start cultivating caloric staples was climate change. It is these beginnings of cultivation in the late Pleistocene that gave rise to the integrated grain-livestock Neolithic farming systems of the early Holocene.
The role of climate in the interpretation of human movements and cultural transformations in western Asia Paleoclimate and evolution with emphasis on human origins
  • O Ba R-Yo Sef
Ba r-Yo sef O. 1995 The role of climate in the interpretation of human movements and cultural transformations in western Asia. In E.S. Vrba (ed.), Paleoclimate and evolution with emphasis on human origins: 507-523 New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
Natuian settlement in the Azraq Basin
  • A N Garrard
Garrard A.N. 1991 Natuian settlement in the Azraq Basin, eastern Jordan.
  • G Hillman
  • R Hedges
  • A Moore
  • S Colledge
  • P Pettitt
Hillman G., Hedges R., Moore A., Colledge S., Pettitt P. 2001 New evidence of Lateglacial cereal cultivation at Abu Hureyra on the Euphrates. The Holocene, 11(4): 383-393.