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Chapter 5: Neolithic 3 ECONOMY (Pages 388-398)

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Many Neolithic 3 sites were excavated long ago and little evidence for their economies was recorded while few animal bones and plant remains have been found on others dug more recently. For these reasons we have much less information about the economies of Neolithic 3 than of Neolithic 2 sites. I will briefly review such evidence as there is region by region in order to present an outline of how the inhabitants of Neolithic 3 settlements supported themselves and in what ways the economies of these sites had changed since Neolithic 2.

The inhabitants of the Neolithic 3 settlement at Tell Abu Hureyra grew three principal kinds of domestic cereals; emmer, both one and two-grained einkorn and both naked and hulled six-rowed barley. Some oats were also grown. Lentils, chick-peas and common vetch were cultivated while capers and prosopis were collected in the neighbourhood. Study of the flotation samples from Abu Hureyra has shown that the inhabitants depended upon cultivated cereals for food to a greater extent in this phase than earlier and that they grew more of the relatively developed strains. More legumes were also grown in this phase and fewer plants collected from the wild. Agriculture now provided nearly all the plant foods that were eaten and wild plants were no longer important in the diet.

A faunal sample from the Neolithic 3 levels which has been analysed proved to contain several species in much the same proportions as the sample from the late Neolithic 2 levels. By far the largest number of bones was from sheep with some goat also present (69% together). Gazelle were the second most numerous species (22%) but cattle and pig were much less common. A few fallow and roe deer together with equid and hare were also killed. In addition to these ruminants the inhabitants continued to eat significant amounts of freshwater mussels and fish which they took from the Euphrates.

We believe that the sheep and goat were herded while the gazelle may also have been subject to some kind of control. The status of the cattle is difficult to determine but we know that both Bos primigenius and a smaller kind were being killed. The other animals eaten were probably all wild. It appears that this pattern of animal exploitation had stabilised several centuries earlier and then did not alter significantly before the settlement was abandoned.

Some information is available about the fauna of the Neolithic 3 settlement at Buqras though not enough for us to determine with certainty the pattern of animal exploitation there. Cattle bones both of a large animal thought to be Bos primigenius and a smaller one were found and since many of the bones of the smaller species came from juveniles this beast was probably domesticated. Sheep and goat bones were very common, sheep being three times more abundant than goat. It is not known if the sheep were domesticated but Hooijer believes that the goats were on the evidence of the horn cores found in these levels. Such morphological criteria are not always thought to be the best indications of domestication on early sites now and it is therefore of some interest that the outline pattern of animal exploitation at Buqras has much in common with that at Abu Hureyra. Sheep and to a much lesser extent goats seem to have been the important food animals at both sites with some cattle also being eaten. I have already suggested that ovicaprines were herded at Buqras in Neolithic 2 as we believe them to have been at Abu Hureyra and it seems this strategy was maintained until the settlement was abandoned.

Some animal bones were found at Tell Sukas, sufficient to enable us to deduce something of the economy of the Neolithic 3 site. Pig bones were particularly common while sheep, goats, gazelle and cattle seem to have been the other mainstays of the diet. Remains of dog and equid were also found together with red and fallow deer. This indicates that red deer had not quite disappeared from the Levant although their numbers are thought to have sharply diminished by this time. The principal food animals are those of other Neolithic 3 sites in the Levant though pigs seem to have been eaten here in greater quantity than was usual elsewhere. Presumably the sheep and goat were domesticated while the pig, gazelle and cattle may also have been controlled. Tell Sukas is beside the sea with good natural harbours which were already in existence in the 6th millennium so the inhabitants probably caught and ate fish even if fish remains were not found in the excavation.

Even less is known about the economy of Ras Shamra during Neolithic 3. The principal food animals were pig, cattle and sheep which are thought to have been domesticated. Presumably sea fish were also eaten. The inhabitants ate a greater proportion of meat from their herds later in Neolithic 3 than they had earlier. This pattern of exploitation resembles that from Tell Sukas more than Abu Hureyra further east. Both Tell Sukas and Ras Shamra are situated in areas of good arable land but flocks and herds could have been pastured on fallow land at a little distance from the main settlements.

Much the same pattern of animal exploitation seems to have been practised further north at Tell Judaidah. Here again the main food animals were pigs, sheep or goats and cattle. Some of the cattle may have been Bos primigenius since the horn cores found were particularly large. It is believed that these species were domesticated. Red and fallow deer were also killed as at Tell Sukas and there is indirect evidence that an equid was exploited. We know that gazelle were eaten at the Wadi Hammam so they were probably also killed by the inhabitants of Tell Judaidah. About one third of the surrounding catchment at Tell Judaidah consisted of limestone slopes which would have provided good grazing for sheep and goats and some pasture for cattle. The pigs could have foraged very well among the thickets bordering the streams of the Amuq plain. The catchment of the Wadi Hammam cave included a much higher proportion of the limesone slopes so presumably herding and perhaps hunting were more important to the inhabitants.

Helbaek found the impression of grains of several cereals in the tempering of sherds of coarse simple ware from Tell Judaidah. Two kinds, emmer and hulled barley, would have been the important food crops while two others, oats and rye grass, were present as weeds in the fields of cereals. It would seem from this scanty data that the main cereals cultivated at Tell Judaidah were similar to those at Abu Hureyra and other Neolithic 3 sites.

We know more about the economy of Byblos than of the other sites near the Levant coast since a wider range of plant and animal remains has been recovered from the excavations. The inhabitants cultivated wheat and barley and, it is thought, vetch, lentils and beans. They also used the fruits of the olive and the vine. Dunand has suggested that they cultivated almonds and pomegranates, figs and carob. If this were true then the agriculture of Neolithic 3 Byblos would already have been broadly-based.

About 60% of the animal bones studied were from domesticated species. The food animals were cattle, sheep, goat and pig while domesticated dogs were also kept. A wide range of wild animals was still hunted, deer in particular since red, fallow and roe deer bones were also found. Gazelle and wild boar were eaten and a few bear, hippopotamus and crocodile were also killed. No less than 7% of the identified bones came from fish. Fish bones decay before those of ruminants and so are always under-represented in faunal collections. Where such a large proportion of fish bones has been found one may presume that their numbers were originally much greater.

The economy of the Neolithic 3 Byblites was based upon cereal and legume agriculture, herding, fishing and hunting. The same species of plants and animals were domesticated as on other sites on or near the sea but at Byblos there are indications that a wide range of fruits and nuts was also being cultivated. Fishing was an important supplement and hunting still seems to have provided much of the meat that was eaten, more than at Abu Hureyra for example. The hinterland of Byblos beyond the arable of the narrow coastal plain was hilly with forest and abundant surface water. Wild ruminants would have found ample sustenance and good cover in such country which partly explains why they could still provide substantial quantities of meat. The Neolithic 3 settlement at Byblos was not very large so these species were not over exploited as may have happened in the area around Abu Hureyra.

During the investigation of Hagosherim in the upper Jordan Valley a small sample of animal bones was collected of which 197 were subsequently identified. 63.5% of these were from cattle mostly of moderate size and the rest from gazelle, sheep, goat, an equid and fallow and roe deer. Ducos was able to determine the age at death of the cattle and from this deduced that they had been culled from domesticated herds. Perrot preferred to interpret the age pattern as evidence of selective hunting of herds roaming freely in the enclosed basin of the upper Jordan Valley. We have seen that there is good reason to suppose that a similar species of cattle was domesticated at Sheikh Ali and Ras Shamra in Neolithic 2 so, allowing for the difficulty of interpreting such a small sample, I believe that Ducos is probably correct in his interpretation. The gazelle, sheep and goat eaten at Hagosherim may also have come from herds controlled by man.

At Tell Ramad the same species of cereals and legumes were cultivated in Neolithic 3 as in Neolithic 2. These were hulled two-rowed barley, emmer, einkorn, club wheat and lentils, emmer being more common than the other cereals. The principal food animals were sheep, goats, pigs, cattle and gazelle. It is thought that the first four together with the dog were domesticated. The inhabitants of Neolithic 3 Ramad thus depended upon their crops and herds for food supplemented a little by wild plants and game. This is a different system from that practiced by the inhabitants in Neolithic 2 since although they were growing the same plants they now obtained most of their meat from three new domesticates; sheep, goats and cattle.

There is even less evidence for the economies of the Palestinian sites than for those futher north; the faunal samples are modest at best and plant remains have been recovered only from Pottery Neolithic levels at Jericho. The seeds here included hulled two-rowed barley, einkorn and emmer all of which had been cultivated at the site in Neolithic 2. Few other plant remains were recovered from these levels. The position of most other sites suggests that their inhabitants needed well-watered fertile arable land for agriculture. Many grinding tools have been found at these sites which may have been used to process the crops. These are the only other indications we have of what the plant economy might have been.

The main food animals at Jericho were sheep and goats although some gazelle and cattle were also killed. The cattle bone were of a large animal which was probably Bos primigenius. The sheep and goats were almost certainly domesticated and the gazelle may still have been controlled. In addition to these animals bones of foxes and a canid were found as in the earlier settlements.

The inhabitants of Ashkelon ate both fish and shellfish as one would expect on a site so near the sea. They also killed cattle (Bos taurus), gazelle and goats. These three animals were probably herded or controlled. The same may be said of the caprinae, cattle and gazelle which were eaten at Nizzanim.

The evidence from sites in northern Palestine suggests that their economies depended on the same species. Cattle bones from medium-sized beasts have been identified from Megiddo. An examination of the catchment of the site permits us to enlarge on this meagre evidence. Although there is much good arable land north-east of the site on the Plain of Esdraelon almost half the catchment consists of limestone slopes on the south-west side best suited to pasture. The inhabitants must always have relied heavily upon their flocks and herds for food, cattle certainly but probably also sheep and goat.

The sample of animal bones which could be identified from Neolithic 3 Munhatta comprised only 121 bones but these came from six species. Cattle, pig, gazelle and sheep were present in approximately equal proportions but there were also a few goat and roe deer bones in the sample. Ducos believed that since many of the pigs were killed young they were domesticated. Perrot however thought that all these animals were subject to little or no human control. The evidence from other Neolithic 3 sites and nearby Sheikh Ali in Neolithic 2 would suggest the contrary; that the cattle, pigs, gazelle, sheep and goat were all herded.

Almost the same list of species has been identified from Shaar Hagolan as from Munhatta. The bones of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, gazelle and an equid as well as camels, dogs and birds were found here. Presumably the pattern of exploitation was similar at both sites.

Several general points may be made about the economies of Neolithic 3 sites. Agriculture and herding accounted for a greater proportion of the food supply than in Neolithic 2. The corollary of this is of course that hunting and the collecting of wild plants were less significant than before. The three main cereal groups grown were emmer, einkorn and barley while the most usual legumes were lentils and vetch.

There is a difference between the animal husbandry of the two Euphrates sites, Abu Hureyra and Buqras, still occupied early in Neolithic 3, and the other sites further west in Syria and Palestine. Sheep were the most numerous species on the Euphrates sites while goats, cattle and at Abu Hureyra gazelle, provided almost all the other meat. Elsewhere sheep, goats, cattle and pigs were all important sources of meat while gazelle still accounted for a significant proportion of the meat supply on several sites. At a few settlements much of the meat came from one species, cattle at Hagosherim and probably pigs at Tell Sukas but this pattern was unusual. Normally the inhabitants of the western sites satisfied their need for meat more evenly from their flocks and herds of the four main domesticated species. Hunting and on coastal sites, fishing, still provided some of the meat that was eaten although given the evidence we have it is difficult to assess its precise importance. Deer bones, particularly of fallow and roe deer, have been identified at half the sites from which faunal samples have been recovered. Their presence is more marked than in Neolithic 2 so it seems these species were hunted more than they had been before. This is in spite of the fact that red deer are thought to have been in full retreat as the temperature rose and the forests diminished and that the other cervids are also believed to have declined in number.

The evidence of site distribution, plant and animal remains and artifacts indicates that settlement types and their economies were less diverse than in Neolithic 2. The inhabitants of almost all the sites in the North and South Syrian groups depended upon agriculture and herding for their livelihood. The pattern of settlement once established was stable and the sites were usually occupied for relatively long periods. The economies of these settlements must therefore have provided an adequate food supply during their lifetime. The likely agricultural system was one of short fallow as I have postulated for Neolithic 2 setlements but since crops now provided more of the food it was probably more intensive. This could have been achieved by shortening the fallow period, manuring the fields more and rotating the crops more frequently. The second of these would have been partly achieved by pasturing the increased flocks and herds on the fields. The regular presence of vetches in the few samples of seed remains from Neolithic 3 sites is an indication that crop rotation continued to be practised.

The inhabitants of Neolithic 3 sites exploited fewer species of plants and animals largely because they hunted less game and collected fewer wild plants. On the other hand they grew a wide range of plants and herded a particularly varied selection of animals. Herding appears to have greatly increased in importance but was nearly always carried on by the inhabitants of settlement sites in conjunction with agriculture. The settlements of the steppes which were so numerous in Neolithic 2 had disappeared and with them the pastoral economy by which I believe they were sustained. Pastoralism in Neolithic 3 was largely restricted to the vicinity of each settlement. Only the few sites found in the hills like Janudiyeh, Tannur and Qat may have depended upon pastoralism for which their catchments would have been well-suited. These may, indeed, have been transhumance settlements to which groups from sites in the lowlands took their flocks and herds in the summer. There were very few of these sites from which one concludes that transhumance was not an important feature of the Neolithic economy. The absence of hunting stations at least in the area of the North and South Syrian sites, reinforces the faunal evidence from the settlements suggesting that hunting diminished further in Neolithic 3.

The pattern of existence in Palestine was different from that further north. A few sites were occupied for quite as long as those in Syria but most were not. The population also appears to have fallen markedly in Neolithic 3. The inhabitants of settlements in Palestine could thus provide all the food they needed with a less intensive system than that practised further north, indeed with a simpler system than that of Neolithic 2 settlement sites in the same area. The economy of the Palestinian settlements depended upon crop agriculture and the herding of a wide range of beasts as it did in Syria but I do not think the same short fallow system ws used. It will be useful here to remember that Boserup suggested that when the population of a region fell then in time the inhabitants would revert to a less intensive subsistence system. They probably practised what Boserup called bush fallow cultivation in which the land was left fallow for longer than in the short fallow system, perhaps for as many as eight years. The land would then be cleared of the vegetation which had grown up and crops planted. Under this system the settlement would be moved after a number of years since the land would gradually become exhausted. This seems to have happened to most of the Neolithic 3 sites in Palestine since few of them were long-lived.

Transhumance may have played a minor part in the Neolithic 3 economy of Palestine as it did in Syria. Abu Gosh could have served as a summer transhumance camp. Hunting still had its place here too. Small game and birds would have congregated around the meres and marshes of the coast, particularly in the migration seasons. Large numbers of small arrowheads which would have been appropriate for killing these species have been found on several of the coastal sites such as Givat Haparsa. Hunting thus appears to have provided a good deal of the meat that was eaten at some of these sites. The continuation of the hunting tradition is also linked with to the reversion to a less intensive farming system on the fully agricultural sites ...

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