Other Archaeological Sites / The Neolithic of the Levant (500 Page Book Online)
Chapter 3: Neolithic 1 Economy (Pages 136-149)
Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:
Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:
Some evidence for economy has been recovered from recent excavations of Neolithic 1 sites although the record is still very uneven. Far more animal bones than plant remains have been found mainly because until recently there were no special methods available by which seeds could be separated from the soil. There is some indirect evidence from artifacts which contributes a little more information on the economy.
The economy of Jericho is of special interest because the settlement is so much bigger than other Neolithic 1 sites. The earliest plant remains found at the site were recovered from PPNA levels. These were two grains of emmer (Triticum dicoccum), six of two-row hulled barley (Hordeum distichon), 46 fig pips (Ficus) and three fragments of a legume (See Page 357 in *1 Below). Wild apple or pear (Pyrus), pomegranate (Punica), fig and olive (Olea) charcoals have also been identified from these levels (See Page 36 in *2 Below). It is thought that the pomegranate charcoal may have been intrusive as it is not certain that the species was present in the region at this early date.
The two species of cereals are both cultivated types so cereal agriculture was being practised at Jericho. The barley grains were smaller than those found in later phases of the Neolithic and had a fragile rachis which may indicate that the species was in the process of being domesticated although other explanations are possible (See Page 358 in *1 Below). Several questions may be asked about the cultivation of these cereals. Were the emmer and barley domesticated locally? How were they grown and what contribution did they make to the food supply?
Cultivated emmer is believed to have been developed from wild emmer (Triticum dicoccoides); the two types are closely related and interfertile but wild emmer has a brittle rachis (See Page 49 in *3 Below). Triticum dicoccoides is itself thought to be a hybrid of wild einkorn (Triticum boeoticum) and a variety of goat-face grass (Aegilops speltoides) (See Page 44 in *4 Below). Wild emmer may have originated in central southern Turkey where both wild einkorn and goat-face grass grow together in the wild today. Wild emmer itself grows in only a few places in the Near East now. One area is in the Levant and comprises southern Lebanon, the Hauran, Palestine and Trans-Jordan; another is southern Turkey and northern Iraq (See Page 49 Number 17 in *3 Below). It is assumed that cultivated emmer originated in these areas (See Page 1079 in *5 Below) which would imply that the cultivated emmer grown at Jericho had been domesticated in the neighbourhood.
This is the standard explanation for the origin of cultivated emmer which is accepted by most archaeobotanists today. It assumes however that the distribution of wild emmer is almost the same now as when it was first domesticated because little climatic change has taken place in the Levant since then (See Page 59 in *3 Below). As we have seen the most recent evidence indicates that the climate and vegetation of the Levant in the 9th millennium B.C. were significantly different from now. Wild emmer today grows on limestone and basaltic soils and is found from 100 metres below to 1600 metres above sea level in northern Palestine (See Page 52 ibid). It thus tolerates both warm and cool winters. The species is typical of the Mediterranean forest and intermediate open forest of the areas in which it occurs today. These zones were much more extensive in the 9th millennium B.C. than they are now, stretching in a wide belt from Sinai north and then east into Mesopotamia. The principal soils of this enormous area are derived from limestones and basalts so if its preferred habitat was the same then as now, another questionable assumption, it would have flourished throughout these forest zones. Domestication of wild emmer could thus have taken place anywhere in the broad forested zone west and north of the steppe of the Syrian interior.
It has frequently been remarked that wild cereals when found today often grow in dense stands from which a rich harvest may be gathered (See Page 1078 in *5 and Page 198 in *6 Below). These cereals are abundant now because they grow in areas that formerly were forested but from which much of the tree cover has been removed. Even though the upper Jordan Valley, one of the areas cited, has been preserved from grazing for a generation the trees have not yet re-established themselves and consequently the climax vegetation typical of the region in earlier periods does not exist. At the time when cereals were domesticated the tree cover was extensive and so dense stands of wild wheat would have been found only rarely. Once wild wheats became a major source of food man would have had an incentive to clear more open ground for them, itself an agricultural technique, and also to transfer them to open country where they could grow freely. Herein lies an important reason why man may have first manipulated and then domesticated these wheats.
This discussion has been based on the assumption that Triticum dicoccum was derived from Triticum dicocoides but this has now been questioned by Dennell. He has argued (See Page 329ff in *7 Below) that since Triticum dicoccum has so far been found on several archaeological sites at an earlier date than Triticum dicoccoides the latter may be in fact a feral offshoot rather than the progenitor of cultivated emmer. Triticum dicoccum may have originated well before the 8th millennium and he cites the grains of this type found in Kebaran levels at Nahal Oren as possible support for this. These differences of opinion concerning the origin of cultivated emmer do not greatly affect its archaeological implications; however it was derived it seems that the Levant was one of the areas in which it originated.
It is thought that all cultivated barleys are derived from a single wild type Hordeum spontaneum (See Page 69 in *4 Below). This species also grows in the Mediterranean and open forest zones today (See Page 53 in *3 Below). It prefers somewhat drier conditions and is less tolerant of cold than the wild wheats so can be found encroaching on the steppe. It is found now in a great arc from the Wadi Arabah north through the Levant to the foothills of the Taurus then east and south-east along the mountain fringe almost to the Persian Gulf. This zone would have been much broader in the 9th millennium B.C. and wild barley would consequently have been more widespread. It was probably domesticated at many places in this area including the vicinity of Jericho at about the same time.
The population of Jericho multiplied rapidly in the Proto-Neolithic and PPNA. Kenyon has suggested that between 2000 and 3000 people may have lived there during the PPNA (See Page 155 in *8 Below), an estimate that is probably of the right order of magnitude. The population was at least semi-sedentary and so a considerable bulk of food would have been required to feed it. Pack animals had not yet been domesticated so no means of transport existed to carry heavy loads to the site from elsewhere. The inhabitants must therefore have obtained their food from the vicinity of the site. Chisholm has found that the inhabitants of agricultural settlements obtain the highest returns within a radius of 1 kilometre from the site (See Page 66 in *9 Below) but that at a distance of 3 or 4 kilometres the time taken to travel to the fields seriously hinders production. Higgs and Vita-Finzi have estimated that the inhabitants of most sedentary settlements will subsist on the produce of a territory within a radius of 5 kilometres of their homes (See Page 31 in *10 Below). We know that the inhabitants of Jericho were planting crops from which they derived at least part of their subsistence and it follows that these crops must have been planted near the site.
The area around Jericho today is too warm and dry for cereals to grow there although even now wild barley grows in the hills immediately to the west of the site (See Page 37 in *2). This area was both cooler and moister about 8000 B.C. and so the climate would have been more favourable for early agriculture. The soil in the immediate vicinity of Jericho has been washed down by the Wadi Makkuk from the hills behind (See Page 35 ibid); it overlies the salty marls characteristic of the floor of the Jordan Valley and is particularly fertile. Jericho would thus have enjoyed quite favourable natural conditions for early agriculture. Even so it is unlikely that the rainfall was quite high enough for cereal crops to grow regularly. At this time the Dead Sea was at a higher level than now and its shore lay not far south of Jericho. The proximity of this large body of water would have kept the water table in the lower Jordan Valley high during this period. The Wadi Makkuk certainly would have flowed for longer each year than it does today and the great spring of Ain es-Sultan would also have had a greater discharge. There would thus have been much more surface and sub-surface water around the site than now. Kenyon has suggested that the PPNA inhabitants irrigated their crops (See Page 45 in *11 Below) but this may not have been necessary at this stage. Emmer and barley may have been cultivated on the relatively moist land around the site at first without irrigation. Although a change in climate took place during the 7th millennium B.C. this need not have affected cultivation at Jericho during the life of the PPNA settlement.
It is not possible to describe in detail how plants were used as food at Jericho as few remains were recovered. The legume fragments may have been gathered in the wild although given the size of the settlement it is more likely that they were cultivated. The fig pips and charcoal indicate that fruits were gathered from the wild in the hills to the west of the site. No doubt many other species were gathered from the wild as in Mesolithic 2 and a few others cultivated (See Page 357 in *1 Below) but their remains have not been found. The hollow querns from the PPNA levels would have been suitable for grinding grains and also acorns which may still have contributed to the diet. Although wild foods may have been an important supplement, particularly in what was still a rich environment, the inhabitants must have depended upon agriculture for food (See Page 155 in *8 Below). Such a large concentration of people could not have subsisted alone on the wild resources known to have been available to them.
The cereals, legumes and fruits would have provided a balanced diet but the abundant animal bones found on the site indicate that meat was an important protein supplement. The most numerous ruminant bones in the Proto-Neolithic and PPNA levels were of gazelle, probably Gazella dorcas. This species accounted for 36.91% of the total meat available from the animal remains in the PPNA and was the principal source of meat in this period (See Page 48 in *12 Below). Both males and females were represented but far more males were killed than females.
Some goat bones were found in PPNA levels but not in the Proto-Neolithic. Many of the horn cores were large and so may have belonged to Capra aegagrus; a few were large enough to have been Capra ibex nubiana (See Page 50ff ibid). Some of the horn cores were much smaller and these were ascribed to young or female goats. Sheep were also present in the PPNA but in very small quantities (See Page 273 in *13 Below).
Large pig bones of the wild Sus scrofa were quite common in these levels (See Page 43 in *12 Below). This species would have abounded in the marshy thickets along the banks of the Jordan. Some cattle bones were also found, all of Bos primigenius (See Page 45 ibid). A few onager (Equus hemionus), deer and antelope bones were recovered in the excavation and some of these may have belonged to the Proto-Neolithic and PPNA levels.
Carnivore bones were abundant in these Neolithic 1 levels, foxes (Vulpes vulpes) being the most common of all the mammals found (See Page 341 in *14). This species flourished in Palestine during the Mesolithic (See Page 64 in *15) and may have been a common constituent of the fauna in the Jordan valley. Fox bones were found all over the site and so they were regularly caught. Clutton-Brock believes that they were hunted for their skins and for food which may well have been the case. Their presence at Jericho in such large numbers is striking as they are not very common on other contemporary sites. It may be that the inhabitants of Jericho specialised in the preparation of fox pelts which were then exchanged with other communities.
The remaining carnivore bones consisted of Canis species which may have been either dogs or wolves, almost certainly wild, and several Felidae (See Page 339 and 343 in *14 Below). The latter included marten (Martes martes), lynx and the small Libyan cat (Felis lybica).
There is nothing in the morphology of the bones to indicate that any of these animals were domesticated but there are indications that they were at least hunted selectively. Gazelles were killed much more frequently than other ruminants and male gazelles more often than females. Foxes too were trapped in great numbers compared with other species. The large population of Jericho would soon have killed off or frightened away most of the gazelles and perhaps even the foxes had they hunted these species indiscriminately. Yet there always seems to have been enough for them to take throughout the Proto-Neolithic and PPNA. It would seem probable that some sort of game conservation was practised now which may have taken the form of the protection or control of gazelle herds envisaged by Legge (See Page 123 in *18 Below). The inhabitants of Jericho in Neolithic 1 would thus have been manipulating the gazelle more thoroughly than anyone seems to have done in the Mesolithic.
Like their Mesolithic predecessors the people of Jericho hunted the other animals in the vicinity from time to time. These were taken often enough to be an important constituent of the diet; one Bos primigenius after all would have fed many families for several days.
The economy of Jericho in the Proto-Neolithic and PPNA thus depended upon the cultivation of cereals and perhaps other crops. The vegetable diet was supplemented by collecting from the wild. Meat was obtained principally by the selective hunting and culling of gazelle herds but other species were still killed quite often for variety. The agricultural aspect of the economy ensured that the population was at least semi-sedentary but parties would still have spent time away from the settlement on hunting and collecting expeditions. These may have been family groups which would have been able to leave the settlement for a time in the winter after sowing the cereals and also in the late summer after the harvest. Nevertheless enough people probably remained at the site throughout the year for Jericho to be described as a sedentary settlement in Neolithic 1.
Jericho stands out from contemporary sites because of its great size and the tower and walls which surrounded it, yet the houses and artifacts are like those found elsewhere. The principal difference is one of scale. This may be accounted for by the situation of the site which at this period was unusually favourable. The population could have supported themselves perfectly well on the products of the economy suggested by the evidence; this economy was after all not very different from the Mesolithic 2 one which preceded it. There is no need therefore to invent a unique economy for the site as Anati has done which ignores the possibility that the environment may have been more favourable at the time the site was first occupied than it is now. He believes that the econony was based on the collection and export of salt, bitumen and sulphur (See Page 31 in *16). Salt and bitumen are widespread in the Levant and were locally exchanged but sulphur does not seem to have been used elsewhere. Jericho was not the major distribution centre of these commodities which could not have been exported in bulk and without pack animals.
Even fewer plant remains were found in the Neolithic 1 levels at Nahal Oren than at Jericho so although one presumes that plants were important in the diet one cannot ascertain much about how they were exploited. Emmer was present (See Table 6 in *17) as at Jericho so the inhabitants may well have been growing cereals. Vetch seeds were also found which is an indication that the plant diet was well-balanced.
The animal bones give a fairly clear picture of which species were exploited for food. Gazelle was the single species preferred above all others, accounting for 87.65% of the fauna (See Table 3 ibid). This was a slightly higher percentage than in the Natufian layers but the relative weight of meat of gazelle was even greater because very few cattle and other large ruminants were killed now. A very high proportion of gazelle bones was also found in the first series of excavations so the pattern was true for the whole site. The only other species of any importance were goat (Capra aegagrus --- 4.95%) [Page 121 in *18 Below] and pig (3.4%). Fallow deer which had been so important in earlier times now only accounted for 1.75% of the animal bones.
This pattern of animal exploitation resembles that at Jericho. Most of the meat came from gazelle at both sites and pig and goat were important supplements. Gazelle exploitation reached its peak in this phase at Nahal Oren. As in the Natufian a high percentage (51.9%) of the gazelle killed were young animals (See Table 5 in *17) so the herds were being culled very selectively indeed. Apparently the animal was abundant in the neighbourhood and this provided the basis for a successful killing pattern. By now their dependence on gazelle was so great that it is reasonable to presume that the inhabitants at Nahal Oren were controlling the herds in the same way that their contemporaries at Jericho appear to have done. This hypothesis is reinforced by the size and appearance of the settlement. The huts at the site were built to be occupied for several months of the year at least. The population could not have lived there regularly for as long as this without a dependable food supply. While it appears that they now grew some crops the catchment was not particularly suitable for arable farming so they may have gathered more wild plants and eaten more meat than the inhabitants of Jericho. It is possible that the population was still practising transhumance as has been suggested for the earlier phases (See Page 96 ibid) in which case occupation would have been semi-sedentary rather than sedentary.
Very little more direct evidence for economy has been found on Neolithic 1 sites in the southern Levant. At El Khiam a few caprine and fox bones have been identified which accords with what we know of the environment of the site.
Not very much is known either about the fauna on Harifian sites. Apparently a wide range of species was killed at Abu Salem; gazelle and wild goat were particularly abundant and onager was also taken. No deer bones were found but bird bones were quite common (See Page 358 in *19 Below). Both terrestrial and marine molluscs were present some of which may have been eaten. There are some similarities here with the pattern of animal exploitation at Jericho and Nahal Oren. Plant foods were presumably important on Harifian sites as elsewhere but no remains have been recovered.
Abu Salem, G8 and K3 are all on top of the Har Harif plateau, an area that was covered with Mediterranean forest at the time they were occupied. The Harifian sites in the Halutza dunes are on the much lower ground of the coastal plain in more open forest. The catchments of these two groups of sites offered complementary seasonal resources which could be most satisfactorily exploited by transhumant groups. They may have spent the winter on the coastal plain which would have been much warmer than the Har Harif. The pasture on the lowlands would have supported large herds of gazelle which may have been controlled as seems to have been the case further north. Annual food plants, either cultivated or wild, would also have been available until the end of spring. Then these groups may have moved up to the plateau where there would be some pasture through the summer for gazelle and goats. The topography of this area provided a congenial habitat for goats and we have already seen that their remains are quite numerous at Abu Salem.
Transhumance seems also to have been the pattern in the Anti-Lebanon for Nacharini can only have been occupied in the summer months. Some of the animal bones from the Neolithic 1 occupation at this site have been identified. They include gazelle, fallow deer (Dama Mesopotamica), equid, cattle and sheep/goat. These species would have fed on the high pastures in the mountains and some of the herds may have been controlled. In winter the small group which inhabited the site and probably many of the wild ruminants would have moved down to the floor of the Bekaa [Valley].
Samples of plant remains and animal bones were collected at Mureybat by both van Loon and Cauvin. In van Loon's excavation flotation was used to extract seeds from two baskets full of earth from every stratum (See Page 280 in *20 Below). Most of the samples came from strata of the Neolithic 1 occupation. A very mixed collection of seeds was found in each sample reflecting the different ways in which they were processed and used on the site. Two-seed wild-type einkorn (Triticum boeoticum variant thaoudar) was particularly common and may have been an important food plant (See Page 48 in *21 Below). Wild-type barley (Hordeum spontaneum) did occur but in much smaller quantities (See Page 174 in *22) so it is less likely that it was a major constituent of the diet. Of the legumes small wild lentils (Lens nigricans) and bitter vetch (Vicia ervilia) were collected for food (See Page 175 ibid) as they had been at Abu Hureyra in the Mesolithic. There were also a few fragments of pistachio nuts (Pistacia). Some Astragalus seeds were found but these may have been brought to the site with their parent plants for fodder. Among the other plant remains were Polygonum which may have been eaten, grasses and Chenopodiacae seeds. Charcoal from the site has also been identified. Most of it was poplar but there was some tamarisk and ash, all species which would have grown on the flood-plain of the river.
All these species except the wild-type einkorn would have certainly grown in the vicinity of Mureybat. Van Zeist has pointed out that wild-type einkorn is not found on the north Syrian plain today although it is found in southern Turkey. He thought it could have grown around Mureybat at the time the site was occupied only if it was cooler and moister then (See Page 52 in *21). He did not believe that the climatic evidence indicated this so he concluded that the wild-type einkorn must have been harvested in the hill country about 150 kilometres to the north. We have already seen that on the latest evidence the temperature was lower then, the rainfall was more regular and may even have been a little greater. This means that the conditions in this region were more suitable then for wild-type einkorn which anyway grows in a wide climatic range today (See Page 49 in *3 Below). As the transport of large quantities of grain to the site from so far away would have been almost impossibly difficult one may reasonably presume that wild-type einkorn grew around Mureybat and that all the food plants the inhabitants used were available locally. We do not know for certain if any of these plants was being cultivated but the evidence from the Mesolithic levels at Abu Hureyra indicates that wild-type einkorn and wild-type barley had already been used for a long period of time and that the wild-type einkorn was probably already being cultivated there. Cultivated einkorn and barley are found in the aceramic Neolithic levels at Abu Hureyra no more than a millennium later than the Neolithic 1 levels at Mureybat. It seems likely therefore that these cereals were being cultivated by the inhabitants of Mureybat even if there is no evidence that they changed their morphology. This would only occur when certain harvesting techniques such as reaping with sickles were introduced but cereals could have been harvested from planted fields for a long period before that without any morphological change taking place (See Page 72 in *23 Below).
None of the animal bones recovered at Mureybat can be ascribed to morphologically domestic types. The most numerous species found in both series of excavations were gazelle (Gazella species), aurochs (Bos Primigenius) and wild ass (Equus Asinus palestinae). It proved impossible to determine the type of gazelle. The equid bones were at first thought to be from an onager (See Page 279 in *20 Below) but Ducos now believes they belong to an ass, a species that was very common in north Syria (See Page 71 in *24 Below). Whichever name the species is given it is likely to be the same animal as the onager or ass which has been found in some quantity at Abu Hureyra and a number of other sites in the Levant. These three species appear to have been of approximately equal importance in the diet in the early phases of occupation at Mureybat. Then in phase III most of the meat was obtained from cattle and ass and far fewer gazelle were taken. It would seem that these three species were prolific in the open park-like environs of Mureybat. Animals of different ages were killed at random, there being no strong bias toward juveniles so it appears that they were hunted in the wild rather than herded. The fall in the number of gazelle taken in phase III may have been because they had been over-exploited without steps being taken to conserve numbers as was happening further south. Another factor may have been that cattle and ass were then considered to be more generally useful providing not only more meat, especially Bos primigenius, but also hides and other products.
Throughout Neolithic 1 at Mureybat a number of other animals were hunted among them fallow deer (Dama mesopotamica) in some quantity, a very few red deer (Cervus elaphus) which were apparently still in the area, a few sheep (Ovis orientalis), pigs (Sus scrofa libycus) and rabbits (Lepus species) [See Page 279 in *20]. Birds, especially pelicans, fish and shellfish (Melanopsis) were taken from the Euphrates and marshes of the valley floor. It now appears that fewer fish and shellfish were eaten in phase III than before but numerous birds were still being killed.
This pattern of exploitation is a little different from sites in Palestine. In part it reflects the different plants and animals that were available in the vicinity of Mureybat and also the more open vegetation. There is a presumption that cereals were now being deliberately planted even if they had not yet changed morphologically. All the animals eaten on the other hand were hunted or trapped. The rich grassland around the site may have maintained large herds which the relatively small population at Mureybat did not seriously diminish, except possibly those of gazelle. They may not have needed to herd these animals in the manner of their contemporaries in Palestine. Wildfowling and fishing were important supplements until quite late in the occupation of the site.
The one other Neolithic 1 site for which there is any evidence for economy is Tell Aswad. This site is in an unusual situation near lakes and marshes. No information is available yet on what plants were eaten but the area would have been quite rich in edible species which could have been collected. Some could also have been cultivated on the moist land around the site where the water table was high. Several species of animals were killed for food among them sheep/goat, cattle, deer and an equid. We do not know if any of the animals were herded but most were probably hunted. The bird bones and fish vertebrae found on this site indicate that the inhabitants also went wildfowling in the marshes and caught fish in the lakes.
The population of Tell Aswad lived somewhat differently from their contemporaries elsewhere. Their environment was rich in vegetation and there were abundant herds of ruminants on the floor of the Damascus basin. In addition migratory and other birds were attracted to the lakes which teemed with fish. The area probably carried a higher biomass than most other regions of the Levant which would have provided ample food for the large population of Tell Aswad. They need not have resorted to herding or deliberate cultivation to support themselves as the inhabitants of some Neolithic 1 sites were doing ...
(Only References in English are Included)
*1 Plant Remains and Early Farming in Jericho
*2 The Ecological Interpretation of
*3 The Progenitors of Wheat and Barley in Relation to
*4 Palaeoethnobotany  J. Renfrew
*5 Distribution of Wild Wheats and Barley 
*6 A Wild Wheat Harvest in Turkey 
*7 The Phylogenesis of Triticum dicoccum
*8 The Origins of the Neolithic by Dame K. Kenyon
*9 Rural Settlement and Land Use by M. Chisholm
*10 Pre-Historic Economies: a Territorial Approach
*11 Archeology in the Holy Land 
*12 The Primary Food Animals of the Jericho Tell
*13 The Sheep of Early Jericho 
*14 Carnivore Remains From the
*15 The Carnivora of the Palestine Caves
*16 Pre-Historic Trade and the Puzzle of Jericho
*17 Recent Excavations at Nahal Oren in Israel
*18 Pre-Historic Exploitation of the Gazelle in Palestine
*19 An Outline of Pre-Historic Occurrences
*20 The Oriental Institute Excavations at Mureybat
*21 Wild Einkorn Wheat and Barley From Tell Mureybat
*22 The Oriental Institute Excavations at Mureybat
*23 The Excavation of Tell Abu Hureyra
*24 A New Find of an Equid Metatarsal Bone From Mureybit