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Chapter 3: Neolithic 1 Jericho (Pages 87-99)

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:

The Natufian settlement at Jericho was found at the bottom of Trench E alone of the five trenches (I-II-III-M-E) that were excavated to bedrock by Kathleen Kenyon. This settlement was therefore confined to the northeast corner of the mound. Thin deposits of the next phase - the ProtoNeolithic - were found in Trench I (DI-DII-F) and Trench II on the bedrock and in E (I-II-V) overlying the Natufian. A much greater accumulation of Proto-Neolithic debris some 4 metres deep was found above the bedrock in Square MI (See Page 99 in *1 Below). It appears that the focus of the settlement at Jericho had moved away from the north-east corner of the tell. The maximum extent of the Proto-Neolithic settlement was quite considerable covering perhaps one third of the area of the mound; but only part of the site in the vicinity of MI was occupied for any length of time. Thus for much of the period of occupation the Proto-Neolithic settlement was perhaps about the same size as the Natufian site.

The deposit in MI was made up of very many floor surfaces on which had been constructed shelters or huts. These huts had walls made of clay lumps probably supported by a timber frame. The rest of the deposit seems to have consisted of occupational debris so its considerable depth here implies that the settlement was inhabited for a long period. The Proto-Neolithic occupation sequence in MI was uninterrupted suggesting continuous or at least repeated occupation of the site. Likewise there was no marked stratigraphic break between the Proto-Neolithic and PPNA deposits. Although the centre of the settlement shifted between the Natufian and Proto-Neolithic phases there seems to have been no great interval of time between them. This stratigraphic evidence is corroborated by the appearance of the flint industries in these levels as we shall see.

A very rapid growth of the site seems to have taken place after the Proto-Neolithic for the PPNA settlement was from its inception much larger than its predecessors. Very early PPNA deposits have been found above the Proto-Neolithic in Trench I (DI-DII-F) and at the northern end of the mound in Trench II. They have also been found on the bedrock in Trench III at the southern extremity of the site (See Page 98 ibid). Elsewhere there were PPNA levels above the Proto-Neolithic in every trench that was excavated to a sufficient depth; in E (I-II-V) - M - 0. It is estimated that the settlement was about 4 hectares (10 acres) in area.

The early PPNA settlement was open but soon after the initial expansion a wall was built around it. The settlement continued to be occupied for a long period but the considerable depth of debris that accumulated was contained within the confines of this wall at least on the evidence from Trenches I-II-III. We do not know exactly how far the settlement extended to the east nor if it subsequently expanded on that side.

The typical buildings of this phase were subcircular structures constructed of plano-convex or hog-backed mud bricks. They seem to have been free-standing but were set close together. When replaced they were not always rebuilt on the same alignment (See Page 102 in *2). Most of these structures which have been interpreted as houses seem to have had a single room although one example had at least three (See Page 106 ibid); none was excavated in its entirety so one cannot be certain of the exact number. The rooms were from 4 to 6 metres in diameter and their floors were sunk below the level of the surrounding ground as much as 0.8 metres in one instance. The houses were entered through a timber-framed projecting doorway or porch and down a flight of several steps with stone or wooden treads (See Page 102 ibid). Inside they were simply finished with mud floors and plain walls although in one instance the latter were lined with reeds or bamboo covered with mud (See Page 72 in *3 Below). The walls were strengthened with timber or wattle and enough debris was found in some of these houses to suggest that they stood quite high originally (See Page 6 in *4 Below). They also sloped inward which shortened the roof span. The roofs themselves may have been conical or domed and were probably made of timber - branches - reeds and mud. A depression was found in the floor of one hut in Trench M indicating that its roof had been supported on a central post.

The houses seem to have contained few domestic structures although in a yard adjoining one building a grinding stone and possible oven were found (See Page 106 in *2 Below). These were surrounded by an expanse of charcoal indicating that fires had been lit in the area - possibly for preparing food-stuffs.

The stone walls surrounding the PPNA settlement were best preserved in Trench I. The sequence of construction here was complex indicating that the walls had been modified several times during the life of the settlement. The first perimeter wall - designated TW I - was built on sterile soil; it was freestanding and aligned approximately north-south. The wall was 1.5 metres wide (See Page 102 ibid) and still stood 3.9 metres high when excavated (See Page 93 in *1 Below). Behind this wall to the east and above an earlier PPNA structure a solid stone tower was built; this tower was semicircular at the bottom where it was joined to the wall and circular at the top. The tower survived to a height of a little over 8 metres but may have been slightly taller originally. Its shape suggests that it was built higher than the perimeter wall in front. To reach the top one entered a passage at the foot of the tower and climbed a staircase up through the centre. From the top one would have commanded a view over the roofs of the houses within the settlement and the Jordan Valley beyond.

The function of these structures is not entirely clear. The wall which apparently surrounded the whole settlement seems to have been too tall for a simple enclosure wall to protect stock and humans at night from predatory animals and so may have been intended as a defensive curtain wall against other human groups. As the tower and the wall were built together they probably had a combined function. The tower is altogether too massive to have served simply as a buttress although it would have afforded a good lookout. Even this seems inadequate as a functional explanation for a structure as large as this which took much time and labour to build and would presumably have been constructed in response to some compelling need. Yet it is hard to see what essential purpose it might have served in a defensive system beyond functioning as some sort of observation post and fighting tower.

The area around the foot of the tower seems to have been open at first but later it was completely built over. A series of curved stone walls thickly coated with mud plaster was constructed around the foot of the tower forming at least five enclosures (See Page 103ff in *2 and Page 93ff in *1 Below). These walls originally stood at least 3.12 metres high without any connecting doors between the enclosures with only a small window or porthole high up in one wall. It is possible that these structures were covered over and approached through an opening in the roof. The entrance at the foot of the tower was now almost closed in and could only have been reached across the roofs of the surrounding rooms. Two suggestions have been put forward to explain the purpose of the enclosures; one that they were water storage tanks (See Page 95 in *1 Below) and the other that at least some were for storing grain (See Page 153 in *5 Below). Large quantities of water would soon have washed away the mud plaster of these structures so the latter explanation seems more probable especially as possible burned vegetable deposits were found within one of the enclosures. If these enclosures were used as granaries they would have held enough grain to feed many households. Such indications of communal storage combined with the evidence for large-scale structures such as the tower and wall would suggest that PPNA Jericho had a system of community organization.

Eventually these enclosures ceased to be used and the area around the tower was remodelled. First the walls of the enclosures began to collapse and their interiors were filled with coarse rubble (See Page 104 in *2 Below). Then a new stone face was built around the outer surface of the tower. Part of the new face of the tower and the open area around its foot were plastered over completely burying the old entrance to the stairway which now passed out of use. The old town wall was replaced by a new one (TW II) on a slightly different alignment. This wall ran 3.75 metres to the west of wall TW I and was joined to the new outer face of the tower. At about this time a ditch 8.5 metres wide and 2.10 metres deep was cut in the bedrock to the west of the new wall (See Page 97 in *1 Below) and the chippings from the ditch were used to fill the gap between the old and the new town walls.

The area around the tower remained open for a while and some layers of washed-out debris accumulated on the plastered surface. Then a new series of enclosures was built behind the town wall around the tower (See Page 104 in *2 Below). These structures which were made of stone and mud-brick and plaster were built in at least three stages. There was a doorway between two of the enclosures with a sill raised 0.35 metres high above the floor. This doorway did not survive intact but it is similar in size and type to the complete doorway found at Abu Hureyra in a later context (See Page 60 in *6 Below). The raised sill would have helped to keep the floors free of rubbish from outside. Like the earlier enclosures this series may have been used for storage.

In the next stage the wall and tower were modified further. Another stone face was added to the west side of the tower (See Page 71 in *3 Below) which now stood only a few metres above the surrounding structures. The stone wall of the settlement was considerably heightened though the new face was set back slightly from the old one below. This wall was joined to the new face of the tower which probably served as an additional support. The wall itself was set on a slight batter and presented a formidable exterior rising above the ditch which continued in use. It would appear to have still been a defensive structure but the tower probably played little part in such a scheme now. As the interior of the settlement built up this perimeter wall also served as a terrace wall supporting the considerable depth of deposit within.

The second series of enclosures behind the wall was partly filled in and then rebuilt on much the same alignment (See Page 104 in *2 Below). These were then in their turn filled with debris and no more buildings of this type were built here. The character of the area now changed. The wall and ditch were no longer maintained - the top of the wall began to collapse and the ditch gradually filled with silt and debris. The area over the tower reverted to domestic use and several phases of typical PPNA houses were built on top (See Page 105 ibid). These houses were built out over the wall and down the slope of the mound. This enlarged settlement now covered the top and part of the slope of a steep-sided mound. Then the site was abandoned and the surface of the tell was considerably eroded (See Page 73 in *3 Below).

The dead of the PPNA settlement were buried in a contracted position in graves about 1 metre deep beneath the floors of the houses (See Page 106 in *2 Below). The inhabitants were thus continuing a burial tradition that typified Mesolithic 2 and which had been practised at least as early as Mesolithic 1. One interesting modification of the burial rite was the custom of treating skulls separately from the rest of the skeleton. This rite began quite late in the PPNA sequence when two elaborate instances of it were found: in one seven skulls had been set upright around an eighth and in another several groups of three skulls each were buried close together (See Page 75 in *3 Below). A third group consisted of several infants' skulls and a complete infant skeleton. This preoccupation with skulls had a long history in subsequent cultural stages throughout the Levant and further afield.

Flint and bone tools were the most common artifacts in the PPNA settlement but a range of other tools and ornamental objects was also made. A number of hollow querns and many rubbing stones were found as well as grooved stones and rough stone bowls. The inhabitants also manufactured stone axes with ground and polished cutting edges. The ornamental artifacts consisted of a variety of beads.

The bone tools were numerous and included several different types (See Page 72 ibid). These consisted principally of points - none of which was very large - and spatulae. Some of the latter are better described as scoops and these seem to have been characteristic of the assemblage. There were some pins and scrapers made of rib bones as well as a few tiny toothed combs too small for an adult's personal use.

Both Proto-Neolithic and PPNA flint too1s [NOTE 5] were made from the same kind of very varied raw material. Most of this came from small pebbles presumably collected from the beds of wadis running down from the Judean hills to the west of the site. Almost all of the material was carefully selected fine-grained flint although some coarse flint was used. The flint was of many different colours and shades both opaque and translucent including grey - brown - veined purple and pink; the latter two in particular are usually thought of as being distinctive of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) in Palestine but they were used throughout the Jericho Natufian and Neolithic sequence. A few fragments of obsidian - usually from small blades - were found in the Proto-Neolithic and PPNA layers. This was the first time that this material had been used in Palestine. Six pieces from the PPNA layers were analysed by Renfrew and his collaborators in the first major programme of analyses of Near Eastern obsidian ever undertaken. All of then proved to have come from Ciftlik (source 2b) in Anatolia (See Table I in *8 Below). I am conducting another programme of obsidian analyses in association with Bradford University in which we have analysed three more pieces from Neolithic 1 levels at Jericho - one from the Proto-Neolithic and two from the PPNA. These three pieces likewise came from Ciftlik. Obsidian from the Ciftlik source reached the Levant more regularly than that from any other locality throughout the Neolithic on present evidence.

Tools in the Proto-Neolithic were fashioned on flakes and blades struck from small prismatic or pyramidal cores. Crested blades were a regular by-product. Flakes and blades usually had tiny prepared platforms and probably were struck off with a punch. Blades were short and irregular with most being between 3 and 5 centimetres long though a few were as much as 6 to 7.5 centimetres long.

All the flake and blade tools were small like the waste material. The most numerous retouched tools were burins and scrapers while nibbled blades were also common. Retouched blades and flakes of no specific type occurred quite frequently. Although burins were abundant there were very few types for apart from some single and multiple blow burins most were angle burins on preparation or truncation. The scrapers were a little more varied and consisted of flake - side and steep-scrapers and end and nosed scrapers on blades. There were some borers on flakes and blades with a short point defined by a little retouch. Sickle blades - that is blades with silica sheen - were also found though these do not appear to have been very common. They were made on irregular flakes and blades and usually had some retouch particularly an the back. All were quite small so several must have been hafted together to make a composite cutting tool. These tools were all finished with abrupt retouch or nibbling.

One new tool was the axe or adze. These had a straight or convex flaked cutting edge with a rounded or pointed butt. They were oval or circular in cross-section and were flaked all over. These tools were almost certainly hafted and were probably used for woodworking. Most were too small to have been used to cut large pieces of timber so it is likely that trees were felled and split by other means.

This industry was based more on retouched flakes than on blades and so cannot be described as a blade industry. The typological range was restricted which suggests a fairly limited range of tool uses. Microliths and microburins were not found but this may be because the deposits were not sieved. Composite tools as such were certainly made and as the tools were so small many of them would have been hafted for use.

The raw material used in the PPNA industry was the same as in the Proto-Neolithic. The core technique was also similar in that most flakes and blades were struck from prismatic and pyramidal cores although discoid cores were now used as well. Blades were still irregular although some were longer than in the Proto-Neolithic and had parallel sides. These larger blades were used for sickle blades and knives. Some of them were struck from double-ended cores - a few of which were found for the first time. A further refinement in the choice of raw material was discernible: the larger blades were usually fashioned from fine-grained purple and honey-coloured flint while the smaller ones were made on coarser raw material.

Burins - scrapers and nibbled blades were still the most common tools. The same range of burin types was used as in the Proto-Neolithic with the addition of a number of dihedral burins but the scrapers now included a few discoids. Scrapers in general were perhaps less frequent than before. Borers appear to have been more common and now included drills and long awls. Sickle blades were also more common and somewhat different. Most were made on long blades with little retouch. Their form suggests that they were still probably hafted to make composite tools. Axes and adzes were similar to those found in the Proto-Neolithic. A few had such narrow ends that they are better described as picks. As before the tools were formed by flaking. Axe/adze rejuvenation flakes were common in the PPNA indicating that the cutting edges frequently broke and needed renewing. This was done by a blow from the side followed by further flaking. The true tranchet edge occurred rarely.

A few new tools were found in the PPNA levels the most important of which were Khiamian points. These were the first recognisable projectile points in the Levant although as many microliths and other retouched tools or even flint waste can be used to arm an arrow or lance (See Page 203 in *9 Below) there is no reason to suppose that the use of the bow did not begin much earlier. Another new type was a tanged knife retouched by squamous pressure-flaking. A lunate was also found in the PPNA levels but it is not known if it belonged to this industry or was derived from the Natufian by subsequent disturbance. A few of the obsidian blade segments were now retouched at both ends to form rectangles. Most tools were still finished by nibbling or abrupt retouch as in the Proto-Neolithic. The use of squamous pressure-flaking was new but it was not yet used on many tools.

The flint industry of the PPNA was similar to that of the Proto-Neolithic. The same raw material and techniques of preparation were used and the same tool types. Techniques were a little more varied in the PPNA; some new tools were introduced and the relative proportions of the main tool types were somewhat different but these changes were such as one would expect in a long-lived industry. Gradual changes would take place with the passage of time and new tool types would be developed in response to new needs. As the excavated material represented only some of the activities that were practised on the site differences were bound to occur from level to level which would effect the total sample we have of the industry.

This Neolithic flint industry had many similarities with the Natufian industry at Jericho. The same varieties of raw material and the same techniques of production of small blades and flakes from prismatic cores were used in the Natufian. The waste blades and flakes were similar and both this component and the tools were all small; neither could be described as a blade industry at least not before the evolved PPNA anyway. Some of the tool types such as the scrapers - sickle blades and borers were common to both industries. There were differences of course: microliths and the microburin technique appear to have been absent in the Neolithic industry for example but nevertheless the similarities are striking. Since the similarities embrace raw material - techniques of production and tool types it would appear that the Neolithic industry developed directly from the Natufian. One can go further and suggest that for such an industry to be continued in this way the population must have remained the same. Although other cultural and economic changes were taking place the earlier Neolithic population of Jericho was descended from the Natufian inhabitants of the area.

It is very difficult to determine when the Proto-Neolithic/PPNA at Jericho began and how long it lasted because although no less than eleven C-14 determinations have been made on samples from PPNA levels the dates do not form a consistent series. Two determinations made when C-14 dating was a new technique; 6850 160 B.C. F-39 (See Page 7 in *4 Below) and 6775 210 B.C. F-40 (See Page 37 in *10 Below) should probably be ignored from the outset as they give no more than a general indication of the age of the deposits. The remaining determinations were all carried out by the British Museum and Philadelphia laboratories often on samples from the same phases. Unfortunately these two series of dates differ by as much as 500 or 600 years with the British Museum dates being the older. The earliest dated phase is one immediately after the construction of the PPNA wall and tower. The two British Museum dates for this are 8350 500 B.C. BM-250 (See Page 290:11:1969 in *11 Below) and 8300 +/- 200 B.C. BM-105 (See Page 107:5:1963 ibid) but the Philadelphia date is 7825 +/- 110 B.C. P-378 (See Page 84:5:1963 ibid). There is another series of dates for phases late in the PPNA: 8350 200 B.C. BM-106 for a phase succeeding stage VI of the defences and 8230 200 B.C. BM-110 (See Page 107:5:1963 ibid) for the final destruction of the wall - both of which may be compared with 7705 84 B.C. P-379 (See Page 84:5:1963 ibid) which is also for a stage succeeding stage VI. The problem is made even more difficult by other dates obtained more recently; 7440 150 B.C. BM-251 for stage VI and 737O +/- 150 B.C. BM-252 (See Page 290:11:1969 ibid) for a phase succeeding stage VII - both are much later than the series above which may be aberrant. One other date should be mentioned here to give a complete picture: 7632 +/- 89 B.C. P-377; this is for the earliest PPNA occupation in Trench E (I-II-V) which is so unlike all the other determinations mentioned which were obtained from material in Trench I.

One of the difficulties with these determinations is that the charcoal from which they were obtained was excavated many years ago and most of the dating was done soon after the excavations were finished. This means that the dates are probably not very exact although it does not explain the discrepancies between dates from the two laboratories. This has to be accounted for by different sample preparation and counting procedures. If one considers the British Museum dates alone then it would appear that the PPNA at Jericho began about 8500 B.C. although from the Philadelphia dates 8000 B.C. would be more correct. In either case the Proto-Neolithic settlement must have been founded some time before. The end of the PPNA came about 8000 B.C. on the British Museum dates or 7500 B.C. on those from Philadelphia. From these determinations it is possible to argue for either a long duration of the PPNA from 8500 to 7500 B.C. or for a much shorter sequence of two or three hundred years. For the moment it is best to be cautious and to take an average of the dates recognising that this can only be an estimate. On this basis PPNA may have begun about 8200 or 8300 B.C. and ended about 7700 or 7800 B.C. The Proto-Neolithic may thus be dated to about 8500 B.C. and is an estimate that accords reasonably well with the date suggested earlier for the end of Mesolithic 2 in the Levant ...

NOTE 5: Description based on an examination of the unpublished flints and
report of Kirkbride in Page 114ff of *7 Below


*1 Excavations at Jericho (1957-58)
K. Kenyon (1960) [Pages 88-113]
Palestine Exploration Quarterly
Library of Congress # DS 111 A1 Q57

*2 Excavations at Jericho 1957
K. Kenyon (1957) [Pages 101-107]
Palestine Exploration Quarterly
Library of Congress # DS 111 A1 Q57

*3 Excavations at Jericho 1956
K. Kenyon (1956) [Pages 67-82]
Palestine Exploration Quarterly
Library of Congress # DS 111 A1 Q57

*4 Earliest Jericho [1959] K. Kenyon
Antiquity Volume 33 (Pages 5 - 9)
Library of Congres # CC 1 A7

*5 The Origins of the Neolithic (1969)
K. Kenyon : Number 128 (Pages 144 - 160)
in The Advancement of Science
Library of Congress # Q 41 B812

*6 The Excavation of Tell Abu Hureyra in Syria
A. M. T. Moore [1975] Volume 41 (Pages 50 - 77) in
Proceedings Brittish Academy LC # DA 670 E13 P8

*7 A Brief Report on the Pre-Pottery Flint Cultures of Jericho
D. Kirkbride (1960) [Pages 114-119] Palestine Exploration Quarterly
Library of Congress # DS 111 A1 Q57

*8 Obsidian and Early Cultural Contact in the Near East
C. Renfrew et al (1966) Volume 32 [Pages 30 - 72]
Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society
Library of Congress # DA 670 E13 P8

*9 The Stone-Tipped Arrow; Late Stone-Age
Hunters of the Tropical Old World
B. Allchin : LC # GN 422 A48

*10 Compendium of C-14 Determinations Derived
From Near Eastern PreHistoric Deposits

D. Henry and A. Servello (1974) in
Volume 2 (Pages 19-44) Paleorient
Library of Congress # DS 56 P34

*11 Radiocarbon: American Journal of Science Supplement
Library of Congress # QC 798 D3 A48

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium