ChapterPDF Available

The 2000 excavation at Baaz Rockshelter.

  • Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften


Content may be subject to copyright.
Nicholas J. Conard
Tübingen 2006
Published by the
Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte
und Archäologie des Mittelalters
Universität Tübingen, Germany
In cooperation with
Kerns Verlag
Tübingen Publications in Prehistory reflects the work of a cooperative project
between the Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology of the
University of Tübingen’s Institute for Pre- and Protohistory and Medieval
Archaeology and Kerns Verlag to provide the results of current research in
prehistoric archaeology and all its allied fields to a broad international audience.
Inquiries about publications or orders can be directed to:
Kerns Verlag
Postfach 210516, 72028 Tübingen, Germany
Fax: 49-7071-367641 Tel: 49-7071-367768
All rights reserved. Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte
und Archäologie des Mittelalters, Universität Tübingen, Germany.
Layout & Design: Knut Bretzke & Andrew W. Kandel.
Cover design by Kerns Verlag
© Nicholas J. Conard
ISBN: 3-935751-08-7
Printed in Germany
Chapter 5 The 2000 Excavation
at Baaz Rockshelter
N. J. Conard, A. W. Kandel, A. Abdulrachman
The 2000 excavation at Baaz Rockshelter is part of the Tübinger Damaskus Ausgrabungs- und Survey
Projekt (TDASP) and is a continuation of the work done at the site in 1999 (Chapter 4, this volume).
The site was discovered in May 1999 and excavated for six weeks in October and November of the
same year. This small rockshelter comprises an area of roughly 6 x 10 m and is well protected from
rain and wind. It opens to the southwest, making it sunny and warm. The shelter stands 1529 m above
sea level at the base of the Oligocene cliffs running between Ma’aloula and Jaba’deen, ca. 50 km
north-northeast of Damascus. The site provides easy access to the highlands and lowlands and is
located near springs in the Jaba’deen drainage that provide permanent water sources. This strategic
location is immediately northeast of the Jaba’deen Pass, where it overlooks the surrounding lowlands
(Photo 1).
Photo 1. Rockshelter. View of the site and Wadi Jaba’deen
looking to the southwest, September 2000 (Photo A.
W. Kandel).
The main goal of the five-week 2000 season, running from the middle of September to the middle of
October, was to document the Epipaleolithic architecture encountered during the 1999 season.
Additionally, further chronostratigraphic observations and as broad an array of artifacts and ecological
data as possible were to be collected. Given the brevity of the field season and the small size of the
N. J. Conard, A. W. Kandel, A. Abdulrachman
crew, which typically included five people in the field and two people in the field laboratory,
considerable progress was made toward these goals.
The excavation at Baaz was carried out employing a Leica laser theodolite in combination with a
Husky field computer to piece-plot all of the more significant finds. The excavation data were
recovered using a modified version of H. Dibble and S. McPherron’s EDM program, which was
developed for use on Paleolithic sites. This system allows the efficient documentation of large numbers
of finds. On a typical day, three excavators would plot 150-300 finds, while one crew member would
operate the total station and one person would screen the excavated sediments through 15-, 5- and 2.5-
mm mesh. Flotation samples were taken from most strata and were processed using a large basin to
separate the light and the heavy fractions. The excavation day ran from 6 am to 2 pm, with additional
lab work in the afternoon and evening.
In all, approximately 3400 objects and samples were piece-plotted. Flint artifacts and faunal and
botanical remains represented the most common finds. Lesser quantities of pottery, shell beads, painted
plaster, and ground stone tools were also recovered. Typically all lithics over 2 cm, all faunal remains
over 5 cm and charcoal pieces larger than 1 cm3 were piece-plotted. Tools and identifiable fauna were
plotted regardless of their size. Tables 1 and 2 present the combined finds from the 1999 and 2000 field
seasons and give an impression of the piece-plotted materials recovered from Baaz Rockshelter.
Tab le 1. Baaz Rockshelter. Summary of total number of piece-plotted lithic artifacts from
the main stratigraphic units found during the 1999 and 2000 excavations (GH =
geological horizon, AH = archaeological horizon).
Tab le 2. Baaz Rockshelter. Summary of total number of piece-plotted faunal, botanical,
and ceramic finds and beads from the main stratigraphic units found during the
1999 and 2000 excavations (GH = geological horizon, AH = archaeological
GH AH Cores Flakes &
Blades Angular
Debris Tools TOTAL %
Surf. - 39 427 76 56
598 19
1 I 59 1409 291 285
2044 18
2 II 47 1180 136 180
1543 9
3 III 12 284 52 60 408 16
4 IV - 17 1 5
23 22
5 V 1 44 1 5
51 0
6 VI 1 42 2 -
45 0
TOTAL 159 3403 559 591 4712 12
GH AH Bones Teeth Burnt
Bones Charcoal Ceramics Beads
Surf. - 3 2 - - 3 -
1 I 282 21 28 247 11 8
2 II 567 16 58 210 - 19
3 III 118 3 4 225 1 6
4 IV - - 1 5 - 1
5 V 12 - 1 - - -
6 VI 10 - - - - -
TOTAL 992 42 92 687 15 34
The 2000 Excavation at Baaz Rockshelter
Stratigraphic Units
The stratigraphic units were excavated on the basis of visible strata rather than arbitrary levels. The
main units are referred to as archaeological horizons, which are subdivided by using numbers and
letters to define features or facies within the main units. Archaeological horizons, AH I-VI, have been
defined at Baaz, with AH I-III being further divided into several sub-units. Generally, the stratigraphy
is clear, except when digging anthropogenic, midden-like features with little stratification. Each bucket
of sediment that was removed from the site was measured, which provided precise provenience for any
material recovered while screening. In individual cases where stratigraphic assessments in the field
have proved to be incorrect, corrections could easily be undertaken. While the dip of the surface
sediments slopes downward in a southerly direction toward the entrance of the shelter, the bedding of
the subsurface sediments at Baaz is roughly horizontal.
The best stratigraphic marker at the site is the packed earth living floor of AH IIIb. This floor
appears to belong to a Natufian house. The deposits above the floor are typically gray or yellow-brown
silts with much fine, medium and coarse limestone rubble. Ashy and charcoal-rich pockets are com-
mon, and in two cases, excavators encountered well-preserved hearths filled with dense accumulations
of charcoal and burnt limestone pieces.
Archaeological horizons IV, V and VI are very different from the cultural deposits above the
house floor. Here the sediments are markedly less anthropogenic in nature and are usually yellow-
brown deposits including various sizes of limestone rubble in layers showing a range of sorting and
compaction. Although the area of excavation is much smaller than in the higher horizons, hearths or
other features have yet to be documented below AH IIIb. Profiles have been drawn at intervals of every
one or two meters, and consolidated sediment samples have been collected for micromorphological
Archaeological Results
While only preliminary results are available, adequate samples of all of the key categories of finds
have been recovered. The 2000 season provided just under half of the sample. Lithic artifacts include
over 4700 measured finds and several times that number of screened finds. Nearly 600 tools and 160
cores have been recorded along with numerous flakes, blades and angular debris. While the nature of
the lithic artifacts varies among the upper three layers, the find density of these layers is of a similar
magnitude. Beneath the living floor (AH IIIb), the find density drops significantly.
Examples of the flints from the 2000 excavation are depicted in Fig. 1. Khiamian points and
Neolithic transverse arrowheads are most numerous in AH I, while lunates are present in AH I, II and
III in relatively high numbers. Many of the lunates and some of the transverse arrowheads are of very
small dimensions. Diverse end scrapers are also present in horizons I, II and III. The deeper deposits
have thus far yielded only very small laminar assemblages with backed bladelets. These layers appear
to date to earlier phases of the Epipaleolithic.
The preservation of organic material at Baaz is outstanding, and a large assemblage of charcoal has
been recovered. Over 1000 faunal remains have been recorded with sheep, goat, gazelle, fox, cattle,
ass, fallow deer, hare and tortoise represented. Fifteen ceramic fragments have been recovered, mainly
from the surface and AH I. Marine shell beads are present in AH I, II and III. Two portable limestone
mortars and one pestle have been recovered. from AH II and III, an example of which is documented in
Photo 2.
While the 12 m2 excavation is still too small to fully document the architecture of the house
associated with the floor of AH IIIb, many architectural details are beginning to emerge. The floor cov-
ers parts of 8 m2 , and appears to be surrounded by a circular wall constructed of large limestone
pieces. In square 19/33, the floor clearly abuts against a large limestone piece that forms part of the
wall. Similarly, the earth floor abuts against limestone hearth stones that surround the fireplace in the
north-central part of the house (Photo 3). About 50 cm south of the hearth, a deep limestone mortar has
N. J. Conard, A. W. Kandel, A. Abdulrachman
been built into the floor. Three small fragments of plaster with red-brown pigment were recovered
from AH I, but given the higher stratigraphic position of these finds, there is no reason to assume that
they belong to the Natufian house of AH IIIb.
Figure 1. Baaz Rockshelter. 1-7, flint artifacts from AH I; 8-10, flint artifacts
from AH II; and 11-14, flint artifacts from AH III.
Photo 2. Baaz Rockshelter. Portable limestone mortar and basalt pestle resting above the
floor of AH IIIb, September 2000 (Photo A. W. Kandel).
3 4
11 13
0 5cm
The 2000 Excavation at Baaz Rockshelter
Future Research
No excavations are planned for 2001 to allow time for the research team to study the materials
recovered during the first two seasons of excavation. A new phase of fieldwork is scheduled to start in
2002. These excavations will focus on Baaz Rockshelter, as well as other sites identified during the
Ma’aloula Paleolithic Survey. Results from these excavations and the survey of the area should allow
the first attempt to synthesize key aspects of Paleolithic history in the Ma’aloula region.
Photo 3. Baaz Rockshelter. Natufian floor with deep limestone mortar, hearth and round
limestone walls, October 2000 (Photo N. J. Conard).
Concluding Remarks
We wish to thank the General Director of Antiquities for supporting this research, Prof. J.-M. Le
Tensorer for scientific advice, and the nuns of the St. Takla Convent for providing the team with room
and board during the 2000 field season. Thanks are also due Nabila Bakru of the Deir Atieh Museum
for her support of the project and for exhibiting and storing the finds from Baaz Rockshelter. This
research was funded by the University of Tübingen.
... Confronted with difficulties in the classification of major UP sites from our study region, we turned to methods that allow the quantification of critical morphologies on lithic artifacts to build a framework for our UP assemblages from new excavations at Baaz Rock shelter (Conard et al., 2006b(Conard et al., , 2006c and survey (Bretzke et al., 2012;Conard et al., 2006a) in western Syria. In this context we compiled data from the UP of Rust's excavations at Yabroud II as a starting point with which we could compare the assemblages recovered by the Tübingen Damascus Excavation and Survey Project (TDASP) team (Conard, 2006). ...
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.