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Natufian Settlement in Wadi Al-Hammeh - article ; n°2 ; vol.14, pg 309-315


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Paléorient - Année 1988 - Volume 14 - Numéro 2 - Pages 309-315
Wadi Hammeh 27 is an Early Natufian residential settlement, dated ca. 12,000 b.p., located on the eastern margins of the central Jordan Valley. The site has produced a wide variety of cultural and environmental data. This report briefly describes its settlement plan and architecture ; artefacts in basalt, limestone, bone and chert, incised and carved art pieces, and botanical, faunal and human skeletal remains.
Wadi Hammeh 27 est un établissement attribué au Natoufien ancien et daté ca. 12 000 b.p.; il est situé sur le flanc oriental de la moyenne vallée du Jourdain. Le site a produit une grande quantité de données culturelles ou ayant trait au paléoenvironnement. Ce rapport décrit brièvement le mode d'occupation et les types d'architecture, les objets en basalte, calcaire, os et silex, les pièces incisées et les blocs sculptés, les restes végétaux, animaux et humains.
7 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.


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Phillip C. Edwards
Natufian Settlement in Wadi Al-Hammeh
In: Paléorient. 1988, Vol. 14 N°2. pp. 309-315.
Wadi Hammeh 27 is an Early Natufian residential settlement, dated ca. 12,000 b.p., located on the eastern margins of the central
Jordan Valley. The site has produced a wide variety of cultural and environmental data. This report briefly describes its settlement
plan and architecture ; artefacts in basalt, limestone, bone and chert, incised and carved art pieces, and botanical, faunal and
human skeletal remains.
Wadi Hammeh 27 est un établissement attribué au Natoufien ancien et daté ca. 12 000 b.p.; il est situé sur le flanc oriental de la
moyenne vallée du Jourdain. Le site a produit une grande quantité de données culturelles ou ayant trait au paléoenvironnement.
Ce rapport décrit brièvement le mode d'occupation et les types d'architecture, les objets en basalte, calcaire, os et silex, les
pièces incisées et les blocs sculptés, les restes végétaux, animaux et humains.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Edwards Phillip C. Natufian Settlement in Wadi Al-Hammeh. In: Paléorient. 1988, Vol. 14 N°2. pp. 309-315.
doi : 10.3406/paleo.1988.4477
vol. 14/2-1988 PALÉORIENT,
of ABSTRACT. the central Jordan — Wadi Valley. Hammeh The 27 site is has an Early produced Natufian a wide residential variety of settlement, cultural and dated environmental ca. 12,000 b.p., data. located This report on the briefly eastern describes margins
its settlement plan and architecture ; artefacts in basalt, limestone, bone and chert, incised and carved art pieces, and botanical,
faunal and human skeletal remains.
RÉSUMÉ. — Wadi Hammeh 27 est un établissement attribué au Natoufien ancien et daté ca. 12 000 b.p.; il est situé sur le flanc
oriental de la moyenne vallée du Jourdain. Le site a produit une grande quantité de données culturelles ou ayant trait au
paléoenvironnement. Ce rapport décrit brièvement le mode d'occupation et les types d'architecture, les objets en basalte, calcaire, os
et silex, les pièces incisées et les blocs sculptés, les restes végétaux, animaux et humains.
SITE LOCATION AND CONTEXT Numerous freshwater Melanopsis praemorsa
(Marsh Snail) shells, scattered at this level throu
ghout the Natufian deposits and final phases of
Wadi Hammeh 27 is located near the mouth of aggraded silts, indicate the former existence of
Wadi al-Hammeh, a westward-flowing tributary of extensive nearby springheads feeding through a
the Jordan River which enters the Rift opposite the flat-bottomed valley. The situation during the Nat
Marj ibn al-Amr Plain (map ref. 453 394 on Deir ufian occupation probably resembled the present
Abu Sa'id 1 :50,000 sheet 3154 IV). The deposits are Wadi Jirm springs and valley floor two kilometres
located at the northerly end of a remnant, flat- to the south at the site of ancient Pella, where
topped, interfluvial ridge known as the Plateau, Melanopsis praemorsa colonies still cluster around
carved out through deep incision by the perennial the freshwater outlets.
Wadi al-Hammeh and the parallel but ephemeral Following the abandonment of the Natufian site al-Himar. after 12,000 years ago, a massive drop in base level
occurred in Wadi al Hammeh, following the reces
sion of Lake Lisan, giving rise to the various rem
nant outcrops in the craggy modern landscape. GEOMORPHOLOGY AND
The Plateau is composed of some fifty metres of STRATIGRAPHY
superimposed fluviatile and paludal Late Pleisto
cene pebbly conglomerates, silty clays and traverti
Presently excavations are proceeding in the upnes, infilling a more ancient Upper Cretaceous-
permost occupation phase (Natufian Phase I, fig. 1), Tertiary valley (1). Both in situ sites and rolled stone
over an area of more than 340 square metres. The tools, dating from at least early Levantine Mouste-
excavations have been designed to investigate the rian to Natufian periods are scattered up through the
layout of the uppermost phase by broad horizontal Plateau sections. The Plateau and adjacent deposits
clearance, combined with investigations into the aggraded through this time in response to the
duration of occupation at the site by sondage. presence of the adjacent Lake Lisan in the Rift
Valley and a subsequently heightened water ta Three successive constructional phases have been
ble (2). The site of Wadi Hammeh 27 is embedded isolated in a limited sounding made in plot XX F.
in a dark humic silty clay, overlaying the travertine In each of the three phases a stone feature was
which caps the Plateau deposits (3). It lies at an rebuilt in approximately the same position, and a
altitude of — 83.5 metres. small section of curvilinear stone wall discovered in
the middle phase (Natufian Phase II) was rebuilt
along the same arc in the uppermost Phase I.
The XX F sondage shows stratigraphie confor(1) MACUMBER, 1981 ; MACUMBER, 1984 : 81-86. mity between the three occupation phases and shows (2) 1986 :156-157 ; MACUMBER, 1988
continuity in the spatial arrangement of built featu526-532.
(3) MACUMBER, 1981 ; 1986 156-157. res through successive phases.
309 Colloque Préhistoire Levant II Maison de l'Orient-Lyon
30 mai-4 juin 1988 Editions du CNRS, Paris, 1989 J д :
SETTLEMENT PLAN lunates are associated with Early Natufian sites, for
the frequency is 80 % in a sample of 350 lunates
from Natufian Phase I.
The Natufian Phase I occupation surfaces have
been cleared to their full extent in Plots XX D, E,
F and G ; and partially exposed in plots XX H and
ARTEFACT DISTRIBUTIONS J (fig. 1). A large horseshoe-shaped structure (the
'XX F structure') has been isolated in the northern
part of the excavations. It consists of a curvilinear
Even though post-occupational degradations wall (represented by wall 1, Plot XX F ; Feature 2
(mainly the burrowing efforts of rodents) have [F.2] in Plot XX G and F.10 in Plot XX E) mostly
disrupted a proportion of the deposits at Wadi dry-built of limestone rubble while clay packing was
Hammeh 27, there remain many good in situ associaincorporated in short stretches. To the south-west an
tions of artefacts. A basalt cache, located on the open margin was left (Plot XX E), demarcated only
perimeter of the XX F structure near F.17 in Plot by a dip in the ground surface along a curve
XX E, had apparently not moved at all since its extrapolated from Plot XX F's wall 1. This is also
original deposition. It consisted of a basalt pestle marked in several places by stone-ringed postholes
pair stacked near two mortars, with a further basalt (F.ll, F.12, F.13 & F.17 in Plot XX E).
pair carefully placed over the mouth of the larger A further extension of the outermost wall of the mortar. A metre away was a bunched cluster of concentric XX D complex (4) has been uncovered in tools, including a sickle haft carved from a caprid Plot XX H. Whether the entire structure is elliptical, horn core, inset with a double row of Helwan or an extremely large circle associated with the bladelets. This was surrounded by several other architectural elements in plot XX J awaits further items : a single platform bladelet core; 21 Helwan clearance. and inverse bladelets which appear to have been
A wide variety of stone features occur across the derived from the translucent, caramel core ; seven
site. Several stone features are positioned on the polished agates ; and five gazelle podial bones.
exterior of the XX F structure (eg. F.3 in Plot XX Other groups of this nature include chert picks, F ; and F.I and F.6 in Plot XX G). Smaller arcs (F.8 clusters of bone tools, dentalium shells and several in Plot XX F ; F.4 in Plot XX E) or enclosed circles articulated gazelle hoofs and piles of gazelle podials. (F.6 and F.9 in Plot XX F ; F. 15 in Plot XX E ; and Though analysis is incomplete, it is also already F.2 la in Plot XX D) are also found within the clear that a vast majority of flaked stone and other structures. In contrast to the excavated postholes in debris is deposited inside, rather than outside the Plot XX E, an irregular collection of stones in Plot two oval structures. XX J (F.I) surrounds a raised area of tamped earth.
Additionally, each of the two structures contains an
arrangement of stones. In Plot XX F this takes the
form of an oblong construction of limestone pieces GROUND AND INCISED STONE ARTEFACTS set into a slightly raised base of mud, with some of
the border stones set on edge (F.7). In Plot XX D
there is a looser arrangement of larger boulders Fine-grained basalt, limestone and siltstone were
(F.I 8), which may yet prove to be the focal point of pecked, ground, grooved, drilled and engraved at
the structure formed by walls 1 to 3. Wadi Hammeh 27 into a variety of vessels, milling
equipment, art mobilier and parietal art features. The
following brief descriptions proceed by frequency of
use of the various materials. DATING
Basalt artefacts Three AMS dates (5) were run on carbonized
seeds from debris on the uppermost (Phase I) The pestle is the most common type. The many Natufian occupation surface in plot XX D, locus undecorated examples are shaped into a variety of 8.1 : different profiles and terminations ; either pointed,
11,920 ± 150 b.p. flat, knob-like or zoomorphic. Other than the
(Humic acids from seeds) OxA-393 mortars found in the cache mentioned above, several
12,200 ± 160 b.p. (Charred seeds) OxA-394 basalt sherds are derived from large mortars or
11,950 ± 160 b.p. OxA-507 containers, and a large base fragment worn through
at the bottom has been recovered. The next most The radiocarbon dates provide corroborative
common basalt type is an oval muller, then several evidence that high frequencies of Helwan-retouched
basalt trapezoids or cone sections which may have
functioned as hammerstones, and several grooved (4) EDWARDS, 1986 160-162.
(5) GOWLETT et al., 1986 : 217. plaquettes which probably served as shaft straighte-
311 :
ners. Smaller items include miniature basalt bowls shaped like a broad scimitar, and another short
and plates. The whole assemblage shows marked version rather like a razor. A haft carved from a
similarities to the Ain Mallaha repertoire (6). caprid horncore was found with a double row of
Helwan bladelets still intact.
Limestone artefacts
Less frequently these artefact-types are reprodu
Dentalium vulgare fragments (derived from the ced in limestone. Another class of limestone arte
Mediterranean Sea) are frequently found littered facts may be referred to as art mobilier, comprising
pebbles and fragments grooved and incised in a throughout the occupation fill of the Phase I structur
es. Twenty-seven fragments were also bunched variety of ways. These extend from simple scratches
to more formal geometric arrangements such as under the mandible of an individual in the XX J
series of concentric lines. One pebble has a deep burial (infra), apparently having been strung toge
central groove flanked by lighter vertical incisions, ther as a necklace.
the whole being framed by rows of short horizontal
strokes. Worthy of note is a surface find, a limestone
fragment, which features three rows of five hori
ARTEFACTS IN VARIOUS MATERIALS zontal strokes on a plane face divided by cross-
hatching into several panels.
The most naturalistic representation is a zoomor- Analogues to the bone pendants occur in both
phic limestone head. A raised strip extends a short rock crystal and schist. An apparently zoomorphic
way down each side of the face, apparently indica figurine is made of a finegrained, homogeneous
ting the eyes. Between this band and the snout a pair material which may be calcite. Red and yellow
of furrowed bands are marked on the cheeks. The ochre, and fragments of red and mauve ferruginous
squat head, broad snout and protruding tongue limestone are commonly scattered throughout the
suggest a bovid as the subject. deposits. Several polished agates occur, probably
A unique limestone piece is a pillow-shaped anvil derived from a source on nearby Tell Abu Ramleh.
with over 65 holes drilled in one face, up to a Fossil gastropods and other shells were also occa
centimetre deep. Judging by the conical cross-sec sionally collected by the inhabitants of the site.
tion of the holes and the regular concentric striae on Nearly all of the inorganic materials discussed
the lips, high rotational energies were achieved in above are to be found immediately in the Wadi
their production, perhaps with the aid of a bow-drill. al-Hammeh drainage basin. The nearest possible
sources of basalt are Neogene to Quaternary out
crops located almost directly opposite Wadi al- Siltstone artefacts Hammeh on Jabal al-Fuqqua'.
Three engraved siltstone slabs were placed
end-to-end, and survived as the most westerly part
of wall 3 in Plot XX D (F.2, in fig. 1). The south face FLAKED CHERT ARTEFACTS of each was carved with repetitions of a quadro-
centric motif, consisting of two to three rectangular
or sub-circular lines surrounding a central node. This summary of the Wadi Hammeh 27 flaked
Several other incised limestone and siltstone frag stone assemblage is based on a sample of over
ments were found near wall 3 in plot XX D. 71,000 lithics from plot XX D (phase I), and a
sample of over 4,000 retouched lithics from phase I
as a whole (7). The average density of lithics is so BONE ARTEFACTS far calculated at 4,711 lithics/cubic metre, though
lithic frequencies vary markedly according to Over half of all the bone tools are simple points, context.
mostly surviving in fragmentary condition. There are
many drilled beads made on gazelle phalanges, and
Debris and debitage broad fragments of long bone are also drilled and
fashioned into pendants. A unique type is shaped in
the form of a stylized bird with outstretched wings. More than half of the pieces consist of chunks
and chips. The large debitage sample is dominated Possibly the major artefactual finds among the
by flakes and blades to the virtual exclusion of core bone tools are a series of six virtually complete rejuvenation products. All debitage categories dis- sickle hafts, along with several fragments. They
range in style from a narrow, straight type to one
(7) Further details In EDWARDS, 1984 56-63 ; EDWARDS
in POTTS et al, 1985 182-187 ; EDWARDS, 1986 158-166 ;
(6) DOLLFUS, n.d. 1987 143-154 ; EDWARDS et al, 1988 532-545.
312 :
consistent evidence of burning. It is noticeable scrapers. The characteristic Helwan retouch is aplay
lmost exclusively restricted to the formation of that while cores have the lowest burning frequency
(which renders chert useless for flaking), experiment Helwan bladelets and lunates, although a few rec
al evidence (8) indicates that some cores were tangles and trapezes are made likewise.
heat-treated to ca. 250-300° Celsius. The most frequent scraper is an endscraper on
Over 99% of the Natufian Phase I core sample flake. The invasive retouch used to form scrapers
are bladelet core remnants. These invariably small varies from crude, apparently hard-hammer retouch,
pieces have a mean maximum dimension of three sometimes carried around an edge to form an oval
centimetres. By far the most common type is the or circular scraper, to fine, overlapping scalar re
single platform type, the next most frequent category touch.
is the change of orientation core, followed by Dihedral burins, and simple burins on a primary
multiple platform cores. surface, snap break or previous flake scar are
Together flakes and blades constitute the over common. Together the most numerous and character
whelming majority (96.4 %) of debitage products. istic types at this site are the truncation varieties :
Nearly three-quarters of the sample were identified including convex, concave, oblique and straight.
as flakes, although metrically there is little to Similarly there are a variety of convex, concave, distinguish flakes from blades. By definition, blades oblique and straight-truncated flakes, leading to the
are generally more slender (mean. max. impression that these artefacts were intended as
length = 34.7 mm, range = 22.0 — 59.0 mm; mean pre-forms for truncation burins. max. width = 13.5 mm, range = 8.00 — 13.5 mm ; Blade tools, Helwan or inverse-retouched as a N = 148) than flakes (mean max. length = 25.0 mm, rule, occur infrequently. range = 9.00 — 56.00 mm; mean max. width
Microliths are the predominant tool class, with = 20.3 mm, range = 8.5 - 68.5 mm; N = 400).
Helwan retouched bladelets alone making up apMore significant in distinguishing flakes from proximately half the number of this category. Inblades was the nature of residual striking platforms. verse-retouched bladelets are the second-most comThe frequency of punctiform platforms is nearly mon type. forty percent higher for blades than for flakes which
Lunates are the only numerous geometries also have a number of plain and cortical
(97.2 %). Additional geometries occur at very low platforms. Strictly speaking the blade sample is
levels, appearing in this sample in the form of some composed almost entirely of bladelets (92 %).
trapezes, two triangles and a rectangle. Concentration on bladelet use is manifest in the
tenfold higher utilization of bladelets (54.0 %) than Notches are effected on a variety of flakes and
blades (5.5 %) for retouched tools. bladelets and a small number of blades. Most
common are sets of irregularly spaced notches Microburins are present in very low levels (0.14 %
nibbled from both edges of a bladelet. A row of of the total sample), and the restricted microburin
denticulate retouch on one edge of a bladelet also index is only 7.0. While microburin technique was
occurs. thus unimportant in the consistent production of
microliths, the presence of some microburins oppos Bilaterally- backed, alternately retouched or
ite notches, and the characteristic microburin scars Helwan retouched drills are found, usually as
retained on the ends of some incompletely retouched broken bit sections.
lunates (9) betrays that the technique was occasio A small but conspicuous part of the tool assem
nally used. blage are the choppers, picks, invasively-retouched
bifaces, and chisel-shaped tools made on chunks and
cobbles. Retouched tools
Tools are predominantly made on either
large,sturdy flake blanks (especially burins), or small FAUNAL REMAINS
bladelet blanks (microliths and geometric microl
iths). Burin blow is the single-most important form
Wadi Hammeh 27 has produced the most taxo- of secondary retouch. For the remainder, marginal
nomically diverse assemblage of faunal remains of retouch was used almost exclusively. Within this
any Natufian site in Jordan (10). The diversity of category, the most frequent mode was semi-steep
obverse retouch employed for edge trimming of large herbivores, including cattle, pig, equids, deer,
goat, and most commonly gazelle, is probably a bladelets and forming compound notches. Backing
consequence of the juxtaposition of riverine, crag, was also used for shaping some microliths, for
open-forest and open steppic habitats in close truncating flakes, and for making some high-angled
(8) EDWARDS, 1987 196-204.
(9) HENRY, 1974. (10) EDWARDS et al. 1988 547.
313 :
to the site ; all centred on abundant ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS proximity
freshwater reserves. Many of the smaller animals :
This research was completed while the author was supported fox, hare, freshwater crab and tortoise occur around
by a Department of Science post-doctoral research fellowship Tabaqat Fahl to this day. The freshwater mollusc granted by the Australian Federal Government. Melanopsis praemorsa is found in all deposits in low
frequencies. At least seven bird species have been Phillip C. EDWARDS
recovered, which contribute just over ten per cent by Mungo, Department MacCallum, of Archaeology Bldg A17 identified bone fragments. In spite of the fine mesh University of Sydney used in the flotation unit (0.5 mm), no rodents or fish New South Wales, 2006 Australia
remains have yet been recovered.
Several taxa have been identified from fragments
of seeds and wood charcoal. These include aggre
BIBLIOGRAPHY gates of Chenopodium seeds apparently fused during
carbonization (11). Also included are small but BOURKE S.J.
widespread amounts of grasses such as Stipa sp. 1988 Early Natufian skeletal remains from Wadi Ham-
meh 27. In Edwards et al„ 1988 op. cit. 558-559. (Steppe Grass), several legume specimens, Crucifers,
Trifolium sp. (Clover), a number of small, round COLLEDGE S.M. seeds including those of the parasitic Cuscuta sp. 1988 Wadi Hammeh 27 plant remains. In EDWARDS (Dodder), and several as yet unequivocally identi et al, 1988 op. cit. 547-558.
fied taxa resembling Aegilops sp. and Avena sp. Wild DOLLFUS G. barley (Hordeum spontaneum) is as yet the sole n.d. Le matériel en pierre de Mallaha. M.T.J.; positively attributed cereal (12). ming.
1984 Two Epi-palaeolithic sites in the Wadi Hammeh.
BURIALS AND HUMAN SKELETAL REMAINS In McNicoll et al, op. cit. 56-63.
1986 The excavations in the Wadi Hammeh. In McNicAlong with large amounts of debris, human bones oll et al, op. cit. 158-169. have been noticed eroding out of the site's westerly
EDWARDS P.C. face in several places. In 1984/5 a salvage operation
succeeded in recovering the contents of a partially 1987 Late Pleistocene occupation in Wadi al-Hammeh,
Jordan Valley. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Dept of eroded pit burial (Plot XX J). The pit was dug into Archaeology, University of Sydney. the travertine underlying the site's earliest phase.
EDWARDS P.C., BOURKE S.J., COLLEDGE S.M., HEAD J. Bone scatters representing at least three mature and MACUMBER P.G. individuals were present (13), associated with grave
1988 Late Pleistocene prehistory in Wadi al-Hammeh, goods which included large chunks of red ochre and Jordan Valley. In GARRARD, A.N. and GEBEL twenty-seven Dentalium fragments (apparently the H.G. (eds) The of Jordan : the state of
remains of a necklace), bunched under the mandible research in 1986. BAR Int. Ser. 396 525-565.
Oxford. of one of the adults.
The lower half of a young male skeleton, also GOWLETT J.A.J., HEDGES R.E.M., LAW LA.
and PERRY С buried in a pit dug in the travertine, was uncovered
1986 Radiocarbon dates from the Oxford AMS system under the Phase III levels in the plot XX F sondage.
Archaeometry datelist 4. Archaeometry, 28(2) 206- An unusual pathological feature was a bony spur 221. which had developed on the upper part of the right
HENRY D.O. tibia (14).
1974 The utilization of the microburin technique in the
Levant. Paléorient, 2. 2 389-398.
1981 Geology of the Tabaqat Fahl/ Wadi Hammeh region,
northern Jordan. Typescript held in the Department
of Archaeology, University of Sydney, 14 pp. (11) WILLCOX, n.d. 1984 Geology and geomorphology of the lower Wadi (12) COLLEDGE, In POTTS et al, 1985 188-196 ; COL- Hammeh sites. In : McNicoll et al, op. cit. 81-86. LEDGE, 1988 : 547-558.
(13) BOURKE, 1988 558-559. 1988 Geomorphology. In: EDWARDS et al, op. cit.:
(14) pers. comm. S.J. BOURKE 1988. 526-532.
314 :
McNICOLL A.W., BALL W., BASSETT S., EDWARDS P., Fahl) in 1985. Annual of the Department of Anti
MACUMBER P., PETOCZ D., POTTS T., RANDLE L., quities of Jordan, XXX : 155-198.
VILLIERS L. and WATSON P. POTTS T.F., COLLEDGE S.M. and EDWARDS P.C.. 1984 Preliminary report on the University of Sydney's 1985 Preliminary report on the sixth season of fifth season of excavation at Pella in Jordan. Annual tions at Pella, Jordan. Annual of the Department of of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, XXVIII Antiquities of Jordan, XXIX : 181-210. 55-86.
MACUMBER P.G., WALMSLEY A.G. and WATSON P.M.. 1988 Preliminary report on plant remains from Pella. In
1986 Preliminary report on the University of Sydney's McNICOLL, A., SMITH, R.H., WATSON P.M. and
seventh season of excavations at Pella (Tabaqat GORDON S. (eds) Pella in Jordan 2, forthcoming.