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Chapter 3: Neolithic 1 Har Harif (Pages 113-117)

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:

All the sites discussed so far with the exception of Beidha were situated in central Palestine but another group of sites with a post-Mesolithic 2 industry has recently been found in the Negev and northern Sinai. The type-site is Abu Salem (G12) on the Har Harif plateau and there are two other sites -- G8 and K3 -- with similar remains less than 2 kilometres away (Marks et al 1972, 81ff).. The Har Harif plateau is the highest area in the Negev and these sites are all at an elevation of nearly 1000 meters.

G8 -- which was about 3000 square metres in area -- had been almost entirely deflated. K3 had a thin scatter of artifacts extending over 8000 square metres but it is believed that this was the result of considerable surface movement of material since the site was abandoned and that originally the occupied area would have been much smaller. This site had a number of bedrock mortars. Artifacts at Abu Salem were spread over 2500 square metres but it is believed that this was again partly due to natural slope wash and that occupation was confined to 1600 square metres of the present site. Abu Salem had some occupation deposit in situ - 234 square metres of which has been excavated.

The site consisted of a series of circular and oval stone-walled structures - the larger ones being from 3 to 4 metres and the smaller from 1 to 2 metres in diameter. The larger structures were presumably dwellings but the smaller ones probably served another purpose. Stone grinders were found in the excavation as well as slabs with cup-marks in them - several of which were stained with ochre. There were also nine bone points - dentalium and a variety of other marine shells from the Mediterranean and Red Sea. In contrast with this sparse inventory of artifacts the chipped stone industry was exceptionally abundant. The raw material was principally a very fine-grained translucent flint much used on Mesolithic 2 sites in the area although some of the larger tools were made on medium and coarse grained opaque flint. The industry was microlithic with tools being made on small flakes and blades struck from prismatic and pyramidal cores. Microliths comprised 40% of the flint artifacts. Many of these were lunates with abrupt backing - the remainder being triangles and trapezes. The type-fossil of the industry was the Harif point which comprised 8.4% of the tools. Harif points are diamond-shaped obliquely truncated blades with a stemmed base. The base is often prepared by the microburin technique and microburins are a common by-product of the Abu Salem industry. Harif points are very varied in shape and finish but all are quite small - usually between 1.75 centimetres and 3 centimetres in length, and so may be counted as microliths. The function of Harif points is uncertain but it may be that they were used to arm arrows as Khiamian points are presumed to have been. The other main classes of tools at Abu Salem were scrapers (10.7%) [usually end scrapers on flakes] - notched (12.2%) and truncated (8.4%) pieces - a wide variety of small backed blades (20.8%) and a few nibbled pieces. Burins (0.7%) and sickle blades (0.2%) were very rare.

Three samples from Abu Salem have now been dated - all from rubbish pits excavated in the settlement. One from a depth of 15 to 20 centimetres has given a date of 8020 150 B.C. I-5498 and another from 25 to 30 centimetres 8280 150 B.C. I-5499: a third sample from 50 to 55 centtimetres in depth has the same laboratory number and has been given the same date. These determinations are mutually consistent and indicate that the site was occupied towards the end of the 9th millennium - perhaps between 8300 and 8000 BC.

Several more Harifian sites have been found in recent surveys north of the Har Harif and in Sinai. One site is NL 110 near Nahal Lavan in the southern part of the Halutza sand dunes. Harif points made up 54% of the total number of tools at this site and microburins were quite common. Some related flints have been found at another site in Nahal Lavan - Nahal Lavan 108 - north-west of NL 110. These were triangles with straight or concave retouched bases and side notches. They would appear to be variants of Khiamian points so the site may have been contenporary with Harifian sites in the same area.

A few Harif points have been found on three other sites in the Halutza dunes. One of these - site 87 - which is at the northern end of the dunes near Nahal Besor - also had material from a later phase of the Neolithic. A fourth site with Harif points in this district has recently been reported - Halutza dunes 4.

Two more Harifian sites have been discovered in the Jebel Meghara in northern Sinai: one - site LIV - in the Wadi Masagid and another - M III - in the Wadi Moshabi. The material from LIV and M III was collected carefully so that it would be a representative sample of the assemblages at these sites; it can therefore be compared directly with the material from Abu Salem. The assemblages from LIV and M III included a number of Harif points and plentiful evidence of the use of the microburin technique; truncated pieces were also very common although burins were rare. These features are characteristic of the flint industry at Abu Salem but the collections from LIV and M III differed from Abu Salem in other respects. Lunates and other geometrics - backed pieces and end-scrapers - were all rare at LIV and M III in contrast with Abu Salem. It would thus appear that there is considerable variability in the flint assemblages from one Harifian site to another.

The structures and chipped stone industry at Abu Salem and other Harifian sites had much in common with Mesolithic 2 in the Negev at sites such as Rosh Zin and Rosh Horesha. The sub-circular structures at Abu Salem and the bedrock mortars at site K3 were very like those at Rosh Zin. The Harifian and Negev Mesolithic 2 flint industries were based on the production of small tools from prismatic and pyramidal cores. In both microliths - particularly lunates - usually predominated and microburins were a common by-product. Of the other tool types end-scrapers on flakes and notched pieces were often numerous in both industries. These similarities are sufficiently comprehensive to suggest that the Harifian was derived from Mesolithic 2 in the Negev although there are quite significant differences between the artifacts of these two complexes. Burins for instance were rare at Abu Salem and LIV and M III - though common at Rosh Zin and Rosh Horesha and the Harif point was of course an innovation found in quantity only on Harifian sites. One Harif point was found at Rosh Horesha which taken together with other traits in the industry and the C-14 dates from there suggests that this site may have been occupied towards the end of Mesolithic 2 in the Negev.

The Harifian complex also has some features in common with Neolithic I at Jericho and Nahal Oren. The structures at Abu Salem for instance resembled those at Nahal Oren. The flint industries shared the same core technique and small size of tools while scrapers and retouched blades were major tool types common to both. Sickle blades were rare in both industries. The Harif point may be taken to be the Harifian equivalent of the Khiamian point although it was much more numerous on Harifian sites than Khiamian points seem to have been further north. Harif points are known to occur in quantity only on sites in the Negev and Sinai but they have been found in small numbers elsewhere. They occurred at El Khiam in a variant form and in a later context at Beidha as arrowhead type A8 and even at Mureybat in phase IB. The type is so variable in morphology that it can resemble artifacts classed as tanged points elsewhere so these occurrences need not be very significant. They do lend a little weight however to the argument outlined above for equivalence between the Harifian and Neolithic 1 industries in Palestine.

Although the resemblances between the Harifian and the Proto-Neolithic/PPNA include structures - flint tool production and even certain tool type proportions there are still differences between the flint industries. The Harifian had far more microliths - particularly lunates and microburins - than the northern sites while borers and flaked axes appear to be absent; one also notes that obsidian is not found on Harifian sites although this may be simply due to the greater distance of the sites from the Anatolian sources and the fact that obsidian exchange was only just beginning.

The Harifian and Neolithic 1 in Palestine appear to have been contemporaneous and the distribution of sites of each group is mutually exclusive. They both developed from Mesolithic 2 in their respective areas and had many cultural features in common. This suggests that they are both variations of the same cultural complex - that is the first post-Mesolithic 2 culture in the southern Levant. The similarities in the material remains of the two groups would also indicate that their inhabitants were living in much the same way. We may thus include Harifian sites within Neolithic 1 of the Levant ...

Marks, A.E., Crew, H., Ferring, R., Phillips, J., 1972.   Prehistoric sites near Har Harif.   Israel Exploration Journal, 22, 73-85.

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