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Updated May 5th 2019

Environmental Adaptations at Neolithic Ghwair I as seen from a Zooarchaeological Perspective
by Doss F. Powell (2012)

Wadi Faynan 16 (WF16) is a PPNA site located in the juncture between Wadi Faynan and Wadi Ghwair in southern Jordan (Finlayson and Mithen et al 2007). The site was initially recorded during a field survey of the Dana-Faynan-Ghuwayr Early Prehistory project and subsequently excavated by Steven Mithen and Bill Finlayson during the 1996-2002 field seasons (Mithen 2003; Mithen et al 2000). WF16 lies about 60 km southwest of the current southern most tip of the Dead Sea and about 500 meters west of the PPNB site Ghwair I.

Three trenches were excavated as a means of evaluating the site and to secure material to address the questions with regards to the paleoenvironment. Surface features consisted of a dense chipped and coarse stone artifact scatter and several stone features. Mithen and Finlayson’s excavations have documented typical PPNA characteristics at WF16 such as the presence of circular dwellings -- lithic assemblages defined by microliths and the large frequency of Khiam points -- and burials similar in type to those found at Jericho (Mithen et al 2000). Calibrated radiocarbon dating suggests an occupation of WF16 spanned from 10,190 ~ 9,400 BP.

The material remains include a rich array of shell and stone beads -- carved objects and pieces of worked bone. Floral remains suggest a wide range of plant foods and environments were exploited ranging from upland coniferous woodlands, to broad leaf and gallery forest, and steppe. A few of the seeds were identifiable and belong to the Brassicaceae family -- legumes (Astragalus/Trigonelly type) and a few pulses from the Vicieae tribe (Mithen et al 2000). During the analysis it was not possible for them to ascertain whether the pulses were wild or domestic peas -- lentils or vetches. The assemblage also contained evidence of wild fruits such as Pastacia (pistachio) and Ficus (fig) (Mithen et al 2000).

The faunal assemblage from WF16 contained teeth -- distal limb bones and long bone fragments of aurochs or Bos primigenius and equids of Equis species (Carruthers and Dennis 2007). Other wild mammals identified were foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and cats (Felis species). The analyses of the bird bones suggest a relatively open habitat surrounding the site. Interestingly there are no butchery marks on the bird bones and the highest frequency of birds in the assemblage is raptors, especially buzzard represented by a large number of phalanges. Game birds have a low frequency in the assemblage and appear to be slightly exploited (Rielly 2007).

Significantly the WF 16 faunal assemblage is dominated by the Capra species remains -- 78% Number of Identified Specimens (NISP) (Carruthers and Dennis 2007) instead of gazelle that typically dominate other PPNA sites (Davis 1985; Clutton-Brock 1979; Tchernov 1980, 1994). Since the local environment surrounding WF 16 and Ghwair I is relatively rocky terrain and the habitat preference for gazelle is typically steppe environments, it is perhaps not surprising that the inhabitants were exploiting locally available resources resulting in a higher frequency of caprines over gazelle (Mithen 2003; Carruthers and Dennis 2007). Based on the low frequency of recovery of elements such as the skulls -- vertebrae and hoofs in the assemblage, Mithen and Finlayson (Mithen et al 2000) have concluded that the initial butchery was conducted off site and meat-bearing elements were transported back to WF16.

... While not all zooarchaeologists would necessarily agree, Carruthers and Dennis (2007) suggest that the data may be indicative of a herding economy rather than a hunting economy. This has led to the conclusion that the inhabitants at WF 16 were practicing some level of herding or at least cultural manipulation of goats during the PPNA period (Carruthers and Dennis 2007; Mithen et al 2000).

WF16 is also significant for the patterns of breakage -- damage and wear identified on the lithic points that suggest a reduced emphasis on hunting activities (Mithen et al 2000). Less than a third of the Khiam projectile points displayed evidence of being utilized as projectiles. The majority of the points were used as perforators and drill-bites. Mithen and Finlayson (Mithen 2003) propose that the PPNA inhabitants focused on intensive manufacturing activities such as the working of reeds -- woods -- hides -- stone and other materials. Combining such intensive activities with the substantial quantity of ground stone recorded at the site, WF16 emerges as a sedentary village possibly inhabited year round ...

WF16: Excavations at an Early Neolithic Settlement in Southern Jordan
Council for British Research in the Levant (2018)

Stratigraphy -- Chronology -- Architecture and Burials

Steven Mithen -- Bill Finlayson --Darko Maričević
Sam Smith -- Emma Jenkins and Mohammad Najjar

contributions from Karen Wicks -- Sam Allcock -- Sarah Elliott and Pascal Flohr

1. This volume

During the course of a 1996 archaeological survey in Wadi Faynan in Southern Jordan a scatter of chipped and ground stone artefacts was discovered on the surface of a knoll close to the juncture of Wadis Faynan and Ghuwayr (Finlayson and Mithen 1998). This was designated as the archaeological site of WF16. A test excavation in 1997 identified WF16 as having type artefacts of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, notably Khiam points. That led to an archaeological evaluation between 1998 and 2003 that established WF16 as having the potential to contribute towards our understanding of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, a critical phase in the long-term process of Neolithisation in the Levant (Finlayson and Mithen 2007). As a result an open area excavation was undertaken during the course of three field seasons; spring 2008 -- 2009 and 2010 (Mithen et al 2010; 2011; Finlayson et al 2011).

2. Neolithisation in the Levant: the archaeological context for the WF16 excavation

The Levant is the region covering modern day southern Turkey -- Syria -- Lebanon -- Jordan -- Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories ... This region had been first colonised by Homo at least 1.5 million years ago and by Homo sapiens soon after 50,000 years ago. While domesticated plants and animals had appeared by the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B at 10,200 cal BP, human communities may not have become entirely dependent on these until the start of the Pottery Neolithic at 8400 cal BP.

42. The chronology and cultural phases of WF16

The radiocarbon dating suggests that activity at WF16 is likely to have started by 11.84 ka cal BP. We cannot discount the possibility of earlier activity because the excavation did not reach the base of the cultural deposits but we assume that any such activity would most probably simply push the start of the PPNA occupation earlier. A substantial Epipalaeolithic presence is unlikely given the absence of clearly Epipalaeolithic tool forms at the site. Similarly no charcoal from Epipalaeolithic activity is represented within our radiocarbon sample. The size and diversity of microlith forms within the WF16 PPNA chipped stone assemblage are not typical of a Late Natufian assemblage (Grosman et al 2016) and microlithic tool forms are a recognised component of several Southern Levantine PPNA assemblages (Gopher and Barkai 1997; Nadel 1997; Pirie 2007). Nevertheless our assumption is that the PPNA at WF16 derived from a local Late Natufian without a sharp Epipalaeolithic–Neolithic division.

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium