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Mesolithic 1 Settlement Patterns

Chapter 2 (Pages 42-44)

Mesolithic 1 sites have been found over much of the Levant but their greatest density is in Palestine and Lebanon. Their known distribution is the result of survey and excavation, much of it quite recent, which may not necessarily accurately reflect the original pattern of occupation. This has been demonstrated in Syria where no Mesolithic 1 sites were known north of Yabrud until a few years ago when more were found following intensive survey of the Palmyra region and the Euphrates valley.

Sites have now been located in the Jebel Meghara in northern Sinai (Moshabi XIV) as well as in the Har Harif and in Nahal Lavan (Nahal Lavan II, VI, 105) in the Negev. Others have been found along the present coast of Palestine (Kiryath Aryeh, Kefar Darom), in the Judean hills (Khiam), on Mount Carmel (Kebara, Nahal Oren) and in Galilee (Hayonim, Ein Gev). At least three sites have been discovered in what is now the steppe zone of TransJordan east of the Rift valley (Wadi Dhobai K, Wadi Madamagh, Wadi Rum). In Lebanon almost all the known sites are on the western slopes of the Lebanon Mountains (Abri Bergy, Jiita II, Ksar Akil). Douara Cave near Palmyra and Nahr Homr on the Euphrates are proof that Mesolithic 1 communities inhabited central and northern Syria where there must be many other contemporary sites awaiting discovery.

Relatively few Mesolithic 1 sites have been found in the Judean hills or in the Mountains of Lebanon even though these areas have been carefully surveyed. This suggests that the people of Mesolithic 1 avoided the wooded highlands. The Kebaran occupation at Khiam and the related Nebekian/Falitian at Yabrud III show that they did penetrate the upland rain-shadow zone which carried thin woodland at most during this period. TransJordan and possibly Sinai and the Negev were all steppic yet Mesolithic 1 sites have been found in these regions so the steppe itself must have afforded resources which these people could exploit. They do not however appear to have deeply penetrated the steppic zone to the east. It may be that the very dry cool conditions of the interior inhibited further expansion in this direction. All known Mesolithic 1 sites were probably north and west of the contemporary 200 mm isohyet which may have been the effective boundary of occupation. It will be interesting to see if this observation still holds true once the interior of the Syrian desert has been more thoroughly surveyed.

The people of Mesolithic 1 used both rock shelters and open stations as habitation sites. The shelter sites, among them Ksar Akil, Jiita II, Hayonim, Kebara and Wadi Madamagh, were frequently situated in wadis on the fringes of the hill country. Not all the available rock shelters were occupied: Mugharet Wad, Shukbah and Erq Ahmar for instance remained empty throughout Mesolithic 1. This may indicate that shelters were now less attractive as habitation sites than they had been during the Aurignacian.

Most Mesolithic 1 sites were open stations. Again, some like the Nahal Oren terrace and the Wadi Malih and Wadi Fazael sites were situated in wadis while Ein Gev and others were found near springs. There were many more open stations along the present coast and in the Negev around the Har Harif and Jebel Meghara. Until recently the relative abundance of open sites in Mesolithic 1 compared with the Aurignacian lent weight to the suggestion that these were more preferred than in the past. This may still be true of the upland zones where shelters and caves were to be found. This observation does not apply to northern Sinai and the Negev where the recent survey work of Marks, Phillips and their collaborators has shown that these areas were inhabitated in both the Aurignacian and Mesolithic 1. All the sites of both stages found here have been open stations principally no doubt because shelters were a rare feature of the landscape in these regions ...

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