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The Neolithic of the Near East (1975)
James Mellaart (LC# GN 776.33 N4 M44)

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:

The Natufian Culture probably descended from and at a number of sites succeeds Geometric Kebaran A. It is dated between circa 10000 and circa 8000 BC; in other words it belongs to the very end of the Pleistocene Period .....

The distribution of the main Natufian sites or the base camps shows a deliberate change of settlement pattern compared to that of the previous Kebaran Culture. Instead of concentrating on the open forest and sand dunes of the coastal plain of Palestine the Natufians preferred the terra rosa limestone uplands. This region with a rainfall even higher than today enjoyed the most favourable climate; it was covered at that time by Mediterranean Pistacieto quercetum - a belt of oak and pistaccio woodlands among which grew the wild ancestors of emmer wheat and two-rowed barley. The main area of Natufian occupation - seemingly chosen for its environment - was bordered by the Mediterranean coast to the west and to the east by the arid zones in which a number of Natufian seasonal camps were situated. The latter are marked by the absence of permanent structures - by implements for the preparation for plant food and art objects. Their equipment is that of hunters and gatherers and is predominantly microlithic. These Natufian hunting camps cover on the average 200 square meters ......

In certain areas the Natufians shared the land's resources with other less advanced groups of hunters of the Kebaran tradition or the so called desert Natufian or Geometric Kebaran B. The latter continued to live in the marginal areas especially in the Negev - Trans-Jordan and Lebanon ......

As the Natufians chose the zone in which wild cereals were available for their base camps it is hardly a coincidence that agricultural tools such as querns, mortars, pestles and sickle blades should occupy a prominent place in the economy. The existence of these tools points very clearly to a new approach in the exploitation of wild plant foods including wheat and barley, acorns from the hills, perhaps already seeds of legumes from grassland and steppe as well as the old gathered items; fruit, berries and nuts .....

There is some evidence from the size of the base camps or settlements that in the Natufian we are dealing with larger and better organized groups than were found in the Kebaran. By the end of the period there numbers would have increased as a result of a greatly improved economy .....

Climatic fluctuations do not appear to have seriously affected the Levant until the end of the Natufian Period. The dry cold climate of the Upper Paleolithic and the less cold conditions during the Kebaran (when it was wetter than today) were followed by a gradual increase in dryness during the Natufian although it was not until the end of the Natufian towards circa 8000 BC that the Mediterranean forests retreated northwards. The sudden changes at the beginning of the Natufian cannot therefore be ascribed to climatic deterioration and resulting demographic pressure. On the contrary they seem to be due to man's awareness of new opportunities of food conservation and exploitation already tentatively explored during the preceding Kebaran .....

In this period we have not yet reached a continuous and permanent occupation of sites. To this day permanent settlements in the Near East tend to be tempered by the change of seasons and transhumance is generally practised for one reason or another. Animals need food that is to be found in midsummer only on higher ground and humans flee oppressive heat and humidity for part of the year .....

The stone industry of the Natufian consists of chipped flint tools and pecked and ground limestone and basalt implements. Characteristic of the period are abundant micoliths but as in the Kebaran tools of larger size also occur .....

Natufian man appears to be a descendant from an Upper Paleolithic Cro Magnon ancestor. They were of rugged Eurafrican (Robust Mediterranean - Linear Basic White) stock with a doliochocephalic skull and of rather short stature ...

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium