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Atlas of Jordan

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Myriam Ababsa

Chapter two - From the First Men’s Steps to the Hellenistic Age (-1.5 mya – 323 BC)

The Refining of Tools. The Epipalaeolithic Period (c 23,000 - 11,600 years ago)

Lisa A. Maher

Texte intégral

1The Epipalaeolithic (EP) period (ca. 23,000 - 11,600 years ago) in Jordan documents a remarkable series of transitions from mobile hunter-gatherers in the Upper Palaeolithic to sedentary food-producing villagers in the Neolithic. Throughout the EP, societies undergo dramatic changes in social organization, technology, economy and ideology. Most notably, we find the first domestic animals (dogs), formalised cemeteries, early semi-sedentary sites, and the appearance of mega-sites where large groups congregated repeatedly. These mega-sites became significant places in the landscape foundational to the establishment of later Neolithic farming villages.

2EP groups are known for producing small (microlithic) stone tools formed into a variety of shapes and hafted into multi-purpose composite tools (fig. II.3). They subsisted on hunted game, wild plants and, more rarely, aquatic resources. The period can be divided roughly into three phases; Early, Middle and Late. However, within each phase several localised industries are known. The most well-known of these are the Kebaran (early), characterised by narrow micropoints and obliquely truncated bladelets; the Geometric Kebaran (middle) with a shift towards the production of geometric microliths, especially trapeze/rectangles; and the Natufian (late) identified by high frequencies of lunates, along with arched and straight-backed bladelets and microburins (specialised by-products of bladelet segmentation).

Plate II.2  —  Photograph of pierced marine shell beads from Kharaneh IV.

Plate II.2  —  Photograph of pierced marine shell beads from Kharaneh IV.

Figure II.3  ­—  The location of select Early Epipalaeolithic sites in the Middle East and East of the Jordan River.

Figure II.3  ­—  The location of select Early Epipalaeolithic sites in the Middle East and East of the Jordan River.

3EP sites are found throughout Jordan (fig. II.4); however, the nature and density of occupation changes over time. Our knowledge of settlement and society during this period in Jordan comes from two primary sources: intensive regional surveys in Wadi al-Hasa, the Azraq Basin and Black Desert, Wadi Ziqlab, Wadi al-Hamma, and southern Jordan, as well as excavation at several sites within these study areas (fig. II.6).

Figure II.4  —  The location of select Middle Epipalaeolithic sites in the Middle East and East of the Jordan River.

Figure II.4  —  The location of select Middle Epipalaeolithic sites in the Middle East and East of the Jordan River.

4In the Early EP small sites are found in caves or rockshelters and in open-air settings of western Jordan and the Azraq Basin. Sites such as Tor al-Tareeq and Ayn Qasiyya were likely tied to large permanent lakes supported by the wet climate of the Last Glacial Maximum and groups took advantage of the varied wildlife that flourished at these ‘oases’. In addition, the region’s first mega-sites appear in Jordan in the early EP. Kharana IV (plate II.2) and Jilat 6 are anomalous because of their size –each covers ~20,000 m2– and their incredibly high densities of lithics, fauna, groundstone and pierced marine shells (plate II.3). They also document hut structures, hearths, living floors and burials. At Kharana IV, differences in tool technology between phases indicates that several groups occupied the site over thousands of years; while cementum analyses of gazelle teeth from layers within the same phases indicates that site occupations likely extended over multiple seasons.

Plate II.3  —  Photograph of the Early / Middle Epipalaeolithic aggregation site of Kharana IV.

Plate II.3  —  Photograph of the Early / Middle Epipalaeolithic aggregation site of Kharana IV.

5In the Middle EP sites are found throughout the country as groups expanded territory and density of occupation. The first burial grounds with complex mortuary treatments, such as at Uyun al-Hammam (plate II.4), hint at the growing symbolic role of animals in social life as seen at later Natufian and Neolithic sites. The mega-sites continued to be occupied and base camps were also established in the west. In the Late EP (Natufian) the mega-sites are abandoned, probably due to increasing dry and hot conditions; however, groups establish more permanent settlements throughout the region, with stone-built structures (plate II.5) and toolkits suggestive of much more intensive exploitation of particular plant resources such as cereals, tying groups to particular locations. At sites such as Wadi al-Hamma 27 we see all the hallmarks of large Natufian base camps, including circular stone structures, high densities of ground stone and plant remains, symbolic and decorative objects (such as a large basalt monolith carved with a geometric motif), toolkit caches, organisation of site activities, and human burials.

Plate II.4  —  Photograph of a human burial at the Middle EP site of Uyun al-Hammam.

Plate II.4  —  Photograph of a human burial at the Middle EP site of Uyun al-Hammam.

6The EP period is of interest to those studying the origins of social complexity as it exhibits many early instances of features integral to understanding the development of hierarchical societies yet to come; the first domestic dog, extensive long-distance trade networks, exchange of non-local goods, sedentary base camps with storage facilities and stone architecture, thick deposits with multi-seasonal occupation, non-portable ground stone, also a rich bone tool and art industry, intensified plant use, and formal cemeteries. Although these features appear individually throughout the EP and don’t culminate until the Natufian, their presence emphasizes that the practices of the Neolithic have their origins much earlier.

Figure II.5  — EP microliths showing: (A) an obliquely trun- cated and backed form of the early EP, (B) a trapeze/rectangle of the Middle EP, and (C) a lunate of the Natufian.

Figure II.5  — EP microliths showing: (A) an obliquely trun- cated and backed form of the early EP, (B) a trapeze/rectangle of the Middle EP, and (C) a lunate of the Natufian.

Plate II.5  — Photograph of the Natufian site of Shubayqa 3 showing stone-built and stone-paved dwellings.

Plate II.5  — Photograph of the Natufian site of Shubayqa 3 showing stone-built and stone-paved dwellings.

Figure II.6  — The location of select Late Epipalaeolithic sites in the Middle East and East of the Jordan River.

Figure II.6  — The location of select Late Epipalaeolithic sites in the Middle East and East of the Jordan River.

Table des illustrations

Titre Plate II.2  —  Photograph of pierced marine shell beads from Kharaneh IV.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/4879/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 64k
Titre Figure II.3  ­—  The location of select Early Epipalaeolithic sites in the Middle East and East of the Jordan River.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/4879/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 192k
Titre Figure II.4  —  The location of select Middle Epipalaeolithic sites in the Middle East and East of the Jordan River.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/4879/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 180k
Titre Plate II.3  —  Photograph of the Early / Middle Epipalaeolithic aggregation site of Kharana IV.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/4879/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 148k
Titre Plate II.4  —  Photograph of a human burial at the Middle EP site of Uyun al-Hammam.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/4879/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Titre Figure II.5  — EP microliths showing: (A) an obliquely trun- cated and backed form of the early EP, (B) a trapeze/rectangle of the Middle EP, and (C) a lunate of the Natufian.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/4879/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 28k
Titre Plate II.5  — Photograph of the Natufian site of Shubayqa 3 showing stone-built and stone-paved dwellings.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/4879/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 192k
Titre Figure II.6  — The location of select Late Epipalaeolithic sites in the Middle East and East of the Jordan River.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/4879/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 190k

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© Presses de l’Ifpo, 2013

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