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The Beginning of the Neolithic : searching for meaning in material culture change. - article ; n°1 ; vol.18, pg 63-75

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Paléorient - Année 1992 - Volume 18 - Numéro 1 - Pages 63-75
L'intérêt porté aux maisons sur le site proto-néolithique de Qermez Dere — Nord de l'Iraq — ainsi que les changements survenus relativement rapidement dans la culture matérielle semblent indiquer une évolution importante du mode de vie de la communauté, particulièrement vis-à-vis du «foyer», les activités symboliques étant centrées sur les maisons. Ces changements culturels semblent liés au stress social qui arriva jusqu'au point de conflits inter-communautaires et jusqu'à la guerre. L'objet que cet essai s'est fixé est de lier ces marques de changements culturels, survenus au tout début du néolithique, à l'activité économique et aux récents travaux anthropologiques portant sur les sociétés de sédentaires ou de « chasseurs-cueilleurs », et leurs moyens de résoudre le « stress » lié à l'obtention de ressources.
The elaborate concern for houses at the proto-neolithic site of Qermez Dere in N Iraq and the relatively rapid changes in material culture suggest that an important change was in progress in the community's way of life, and in particular in its attitude to the concept of 'home' as signified by the symbolic activities focused on the houses. These cultural changes seem to be associated with social stress which reached to the point of inter-communal conflict and warfare. The main purpose of the essay is to attempt to relate these culturally indicated changes occurring at the very beginning of the neolithic period to the economic evidence and to recent anthropological work on sedentary or complex hunter-gatherer societies and their handling of 'resource-stress'.
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Trevor Watkins
The Beginning of the Neolithic : searching for meaning in
material culture change.
In: Paléorient. 1992, Vol. 18 N°1. pp. 63-75.
Abstract
The elaborate concern for houses at the proto-neolithic site of Qermez Dere in N Iraq and the relatively rapid changes in material
culture suggest that an important change was in progress in the community's way of life, and in particular in its attitude to the
concept of 'home' as signified by the symbolic activities focused on the houses. These cultural changes seem to be associated
with social stress which reached to the point of inter-communal conflict and warfare. The main purpose of the essay is to attempt
to relate these culturally indicated changes occurring at the very beginning of the neolithic period to the economic evidence and
to recent anthropological work on sedentary or complex hunter-gatherer societies and their handling of 'resource-stress'.
Résumé
L'intérêt porté aux maisons sur le site proto-néolithique de Qermez Dere — Nord de l'Iraq — ainsi que les changements survenus
relativement rapidement dans la culture matérielle semblent indiquer une évolution importante du mode de vie de la
communauté, particulièrement vis-à-vis du «foyer», les activités symboliques étant centrées sur les maisons. Ces changements
culturels semblent liés au stress social qui arriva jusqu'au point de conflits inter-communautaires et jusqu'à la guerre. L'objet que
cet essai s'est fixé est de lier ces marques de changements culturels, survenus au tout début du néolithique, à l'activité
économique et aux récents travaux anthropologiques portant sur les sociétés de sédentaires ou de « chasseurs-cueilleurs », et
leurs moyens de résoudre le « stress » lié à l'obtention de ressources.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Watkins Trevor. The Beginning of the Neolithic : searching for meaning in material culture change. In: Paléorient. 1992, Vol. 18
N°1. pp. 63-75.
doi : 10.3406/paleo.1992.4563
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/paleo_0153-9345_1992_num_18_1_4563vol. 18/1 - 1992 PALEORIENT,
THE BEGINNING OF THE NEOLITHIC :
SEARCHING FOR MEANING IN MATERIAL
CULTURE CHANGE
T. WATKINS
ABSTRACT. - The elaborate concern for houses at the proto-neolithic site of Qermez Dere in N Iraq and the relatively rapid
changes in material culture suggest that an important change was in progress in the community's way of life, and in particular
in its attitude to the concept of 'home' as signified by the symbolic activities focused on the houses. These cultural changes seem
to be associated with social stress which reached to the point of inter-communal conflict and warfare. The main purpose of the
essay is to attempt to relate these culturally indicated changes occurring at the very beginning of the neolithic period to the
economic evidence and to recent anthropological work on sedentary or complex hunter-gatherer societies and their handling of
'resource-stress'.
RESUMÉ. - L'intérêt porté aux maisons sur le site proto-néolithique de Qermez Dere - Nord de l'Iraq — ainsi que les changements
survenus relativement rapidement dans la culture matérielle semblent indiquer une évolution importante du mode de vie de la commun
auté, particulièrement vis-à-vis du «foyer», les activités symboliques étant centrées sur les maisons. Ces changements culturels
semblent liés au stress social qui arriva jusqu'au point de conflits inter-communautaires et jusqu'à la guerre. L'objet que cet essai
s'est fixé est de lier ces marques de changements culturels, survenus au tout début du néolithique, à l'activité économique et aux
récents travaux anthropologiques portant sur les sociétés de sédentaires ou de « chasseurs-cueilleurs », et leurs moyens de résoudre
le « stress » lié à Г obtention de ressources.
INTRODUCTION A generation ago it would not have been neces
sary to point to the beginning of the neolithic period
as the focus for a significant transformation in the
way of life of Near Eastern communities. However,
This essay derives from points raised in an ear recent evidence and interpretations have moved the
lier one (1), in which the architectural innovations beginnings of farming and particularly the inception
at Qermez Dere, Tel Afar, in N Iraq were discussed. of pastoralism, later in the neolithic. The extent to
The site was an early aceramic neolithic settlement which cultivation was practised in the early centuries
site, whose surviving remains were excavated be of the aceramic neolithic period is a matter of debate
tween 1986 and 1990. The peculiar and unexpected among archaeo-botanists. There is now unanimity
domestic architecture suggested that the beginning archaeo-zoologists that full-scale domesticat
of the neolithic period in the Levant and as far east ion and pastoralism began only in the seventh
as N Mesopotamia was marked by more than just millennium ВС. At the same time it has become
formal changes in the chipped stone industry or other clearer that sedentary village life originated a couple
aspects of the material culture repertoire. Various of millennia before the end of the epi-palaeolithic
recurrent and striking features about the houses were period. Thus the beginning of the neolithic period
in the Near East is no longer marked in the techno- noted and the conclusion was drawn that these sig
nified the growth of a new concept, namely that of economic sense by the beginning of village-farming.
the house as home. Some of the ideas voiced there Except for the possible association between the
very briefly are here developed more fully. That beginning of cultivation of legumes and cereals and
article's thinking had at its foundations a deep re the of the neolithic, the distinction be
spect for the ideas of Jacques Cauvin (2). In the tween the neolithic period and the preceding epi-
meantime, since the publication of that article, Hod- palaeolithic period is in danger of becoming once
der has taken up the same theme much more fully, again, as in the early days of archaeology, based on
equating domestication with 'a concept of "home" formal criteria relating to the material culture rep
- the domus - [which] was used as a metaphor for ertoires, such as types of flint tool, techniques of
the domestication of society' and as a dramatic op flint production, architectural traditions and the like.
position to the wild world whose taming (domesticat This essay is concerned with those material culture
ion) was symbolised within the house (3). changes. It seeks to interpret a nexus of new material
culture traits which appear at the beginning of the
neolithic period in terms of a change in social ide(1) WATKINS, 1990. ology and practice at the core of the neolithic tran(2) CAUVIN, 1972a; 1977; 1987. sformation - or neolithisation process. (3) HODDER, 1990, 39-43.
63 ;
In contrasting cultural practices of the earliest THE DOMESTIC REVOLUTION
neolithic with those of the epi-palaeolithic the writer OF THE KHIAMIAN PERIOD
has a problem. The most recent, detailed and rele
vant evidence concerning the earliest aceramic
neolithic phase comes from Qermez Dere in N Iraq, Earlier in this essay it was said that the epi-
but there are no fully investigated epi-palaeolithic palaeolithic and aceramic neolithic periods were in
settlements closer than the Mediterranean zone in danger of being distinguished from one another only
the Levant (4). For the present, therefore, it is nec on old-fashioned formal grounds of flint types and
essary to lump together the whole area from the other aspects of material culture. Within the huge
southern Levant to NE Mesopotamia and to assume time-span from the eleventh to the seventh millennia
that the neolithisation process during the later epi- ВС one would hope for more significant markers of
palaeolithic and early aceramic neolithic phases the social and economic transformation which was
proceeded in tandem throughout that area. This nec in progress. The rest of this essay is concerned with
essary procedure of long-range contrasting of the the reading of the material culture remains of the aceramic neolithic of N Mesopotamia with the epi- beginning of the aceramic neolithic period, the Khipalaeolithic of the Mediterranean Levant also falls amian phase as we may call it, in an attempt to foul of a model of neolithisation which argues that identify a nexus of interrelated social, economic, the Natufian communities of the south Levant were cultural, ideological and political traits which mark the important originators of the neolithisation a significant moment in that progress. Jacques Cau-
process (5). According to this reading of the process vin (7) has already identified a change of ideology
NE Syria, SE Turkey and N Iraq were secondary at this period boundary, which he has called 'la
zones where local neolithic communities adopted naissance des dieux'. He has pointed to two new
practices learned from neighbours or Mediterranean icons, the female human form and the bull, which
immigrants. This is not the place to argue the case begin to occur in the Levant at the beginning of the
against such a neolithisation model. Suffice it to say neolithic period and thereafter pervade the period
that that model is not universally ac over a very wide area. Hodder, in the first chapters
cepted, and other scholars besides the present writer of his book on The Domestication of Europe (8), has
take a wider view. That particular model is actually expanded very considerably on his earlier essay on
based on the geographically very biased evidence the symbolism of Çatal Hoyiik (9), laying out a
available till recently; now that prehistoric archae structuralist model for interpreting the symbolic op
ologists have worked in N Iraq and are beginning positions of Çatal Hoyiik and Hacilar. He has very to operate in SE Turkey east of Çayônii it is known little to say about the earlier neolithic in the Near
that there are local epi-palaeolithic and early ace East, however, beyond pointing out that the symbolic
ramic neolithic inhabitants whose way of life was 'domestication' of the wild world within the context
not markedly different from those of their contemp of the newly generated antithetical construct of oraries in the southern Levant (6). 'domus', the home, antedates the economic domest
ication of plants and animals. Having the advantage
of having worked with some of the earliest neolithic
houses, I wish to draw attention to some further
aspects of ideology and symbolic behaviour, articu(4) The Japanese team working in the Saddam Dam Salvage lated in the material culture, which I believe emphasArchaeology Project found a late epi-palaeolithic basal layer at ise the differentiation of the two periods and Der Hall, but only at the base of a sounding. Together with the
indicate the nature of the major changes which took residual microlithic tendency in the earliest levels at Qermez Dere,
Der Hall shows the existence of an epi-palaeolithic to neolithic place at the end of the ninth millennium ВС.
sequence in Iraq, but not enough is known at this stage. See FUJII, My evidence, of course, comes mainly from 1986; OHNUMA and MATSUMOTO, 1988.
Qermez Dere (fig. 1), but there are so very few other (5) For example CAUVIN, 1988; CAUVIN, 1989 (but note
that CAUVIN has changed his position in 1990). See sites of this crucial period. The arguments are, I
also GILEAD, 1990; McCORRISTON and HOLE, 1991; BAR- acknowledge, poised on an information base of far YOSEF and BELFER-COHEN, 1989. too narrow proportions, but there is no greater (6) For N Iraq :- Dcr Hall basal epi-palaeolithic (FUJII, stimulus to research effort than the belief that some1986 OHNUMA and MATSUMOTO, 1988), Khiamian phase ace one else is wrong ; if these interpretations spur others ramic neolithic at Qermez Dere (WATKINS and BAIRD, 1987;
WATKINS, BAIRD, and BETTS, 1990); WATKINS, BETTS, in horror, it will at least bring more minds into focus
DOBNEY, and NESBITT, 1991 ; WATKINS, 1990), a long acera on what has been a surprisingly poorly represented
mic neolithic occupation at Nemrik (KOZLOWSKI, 1990a; KOZ- and little studied phase. It is only necessary here to LOWSKI, 1990b; KOZLOWSKI, 1990 and KEMPISTY, 1990; remark that Qermez Dere was a single period, relaKOZLOWSKI and SZYMCZAK, 1990), later aceramic neolithic tively short-lived settlement on the southern flanks at Maghzaliyeh (BADER, 1989), and Ginnig, where an aceramic
neolithic occupation underlay a very early ceramic phase (CAMP
BELL and BAIRD, 1990). In SE Turkey ALGAZE and ROSEN
BERG have located epi-palaeolithic and very early aceramic (7) CAUVIN, 1987.
neolithic sites on tributaries of the Tigris (ROSENBERG, pers. (8) HODDER, 1990.
comm.). (9)1988.
64 FIG. 1. - Qermez Dere, Tel Afar, N. Iraq. Plan of the excavations. Only two small areas of the site survived for excavation. At
the base of the stratigraphy in Area С was a large, circular, semi-subterranean structure, cut into the clay subsoil. CAB in Area
С was the last of a series of rough, circular stone structures. On the south side of the site, in Area R, there was a series of
semi-subterranean structures cut into the accumulated debris of earlier occupation.
of the Jebel Sinjar hills in NW Iraq. It existed for differences are not superficial or arbitrary variations
two or three centuries between the end of the epi- due to difference of time or place, but rather that
palaeolithic and the full, early aceramic neolithic they are significant, symbolic differences which
period, around 8250 to 7900 ВС. The closest mater were intended to mark the Qermez Dere houses as
ial culture parallels are with the earliest strata after 'homes'. A house is a building, but home is a con
the end of the epi-palaeolithic at Tell Mureybet in cept, and one which we can appreciate from our own
western Syria (10). More generally, the site can be cultural upbringing. Other cultures, contemporary
attributed to the Khiamian phase through the chipped and historic, have a similar symbolic, indeed sacred,
stone industry and especially the remarkably close equation between hearth and home (for example, in
parallels in the numerous Khiamian projectile the world of the Homeric epic, and for that matter
points (11). as a resonant phrase in English), or between the
house and the fundamental social unit which lives The first element in the equation is that of a there and which the house represents (for example, new concept, that of 'home'. I believe that there are the ancient Mesopotamian concept of bitum as a features of the architecture of the houses at Qermez house but also as the social unit, family, dependents Dere (fig. 2-3) which mark these out from and slaves, for whom it was the focus of social the superficially similar buildings of the epi-palaeo identity ; the bel bitim was both owner of the house lithic of the Levant. And I would suggest that these and master of the household).
The construction of houses and the use of per
manent villages had begun earlier, of course, during (10) CAUVIN, 1972a, b.
(11) See CAUVIN M.-C, 1974; GOPHER, 1990. the epi-palaeolithic period. I am seeking to differ-
65 :
FIG. 2. - Structure RAF, one of the semi-subterranean, plastered structures of the southern area of Qermez Dere. Some flat
stones were set into the plaster of the floor. Between the two plastered clay pillars was a slight platform. The two pillars had
stood approximately 1 metre tall, but their tops were found eroded by exposure.
entiate epi-palaeolithic houses of the Levant from frequent patching and replacement of the plaster, and
early aceramic neolithic such as those of re-shaping and replacement of internal fixtures. The
Qermez Dere. Superficially they are similar : the rebuilding of a new subterranean house in the re
tradition of semi-subterranean construction and of cently filled up chamber of the former house, when
approximately circular shape is shared. Granted the there was no apparent pressure on space within the
general similarities and the generic relationship be settlement, suggests that some significance was a
tween the Natufian and related cultures and their ttached to retaining the site of the house.
successors of the early PPNA period, the differences The second feature is the scrupulous attention are particularly instructive. There are several innovat to the cleanliness of the house. It is remarkable that ions in practice in the early aceramic neolithic in the careful excavation of a number of house floors houses, which I believe can be seen as indicators of at Qermez Dere not a single artefact was found a very significant change in attitude to the building. which could be associated with those floors, and Almost everything which has impressed itself there was not even any ash in the hearths or carthrough our experience at Qermez Dere can be par bonised seed remains in the lowest deposits on the alleled at its longer-lived, larger and more elaborate floors. This is in sharp contrast with recently resister-site, Nemrik(12), and is much better known ported excavation experience with Natufian houses in the Levantine PPNB period. of the epi-palaeolithic period. Edwards (14) reports
very high densities of domestic and industrial debris The first feature is the care and effort given to on the floors at Wadi Hammeh; Valla (15) conthe house in terms of its maintenance, re-modelling tributes a whole essay analysing the spatial organisaand especially in its elaborate replacement by a new tion of artefacts and debris from one particular house construction. By contrast with epi-palaeolithic at Eynan. Henry (16) specifically notes the lack of houses of the Natufian tradition, those of the ace 'house-cleaning' at the late Natufian site of Rosh ramic neolithic have plastered walls and floors, Zin. which require a good deal of investment of effort
both in preparation and in maintenance. The evi The third feature is the segregation of activities,
dence of the Qermez Dere houses (13), and of other in which certain activities were apparently deemed
sites of the aceramic neolithic period, points to to be inappropriate for the house. Although the
(14) EDWARDS, 1990.
(12) KOZLOWSKI and KEMPISTY, 1990. (15) VALLA, 1990.
(13) WATKINS, 1990. (16) HENRY, 1973, cited by GORING-MORRIS, 1990 244.
66 FIG. 3. - Structure RAD, the earliest of a series of three houses to stand in virtually the same position in Area R at Qermez
Dere. It had two pairs of plastered clay pillars ; one pair was tall - more than 1 metre - while the other pair was apparently
very small. A ridge of plaster linked the larger pair of pillars, and there were two strange circular features in the plaster floor
on the axis of the building.
houses were kept clean, there are some artefacts were excavated into the accumulated midden
which might have been left with the house when it deposits, but it is not known where the domestic and
was abandoned. Perhaps the use of heavy equipment industrial rubbish was disposed of at that time, ex
on the plaster floor might have damaged it, but it cept that it was not allowed to remain in the houses.
would have been easy to build querns and mortars In particular these last two characteristics of Qermez
into the plaster floor, as there were flat stones set Dere are quite different from the situation in a typi
in the plaster. In epi-palaeolithic houses mortars and cal Natufian house, as I understand it. A Natufian
querns are common in the houses : on the contrary, house is usually characterised by an archaeologically
finds of discarded or broken mortars, pestles, querns very productive floor deposit, and is typically
or rubbers were almost completely absent from the equipped with all sorts of non-portable equipment
domestic part of the Qermez Dere settlement. Such such as mortars, pestles and grinding stones.
stone implements for food preparation were notably
The integral construction of stelae and standing concentrated in another part of the site and as
stones within the houses at Qermez Dere is the most sociated with quite a different kind of stone struc
obvious indication of symbolic significance within ture. It is hard to argue with conviction from the
the house. In the light of the final, 1990, season of negative evidence of the absence of artefacts from
excavation at Qermez Dere it is now possible to add the houses, but there is nevertheless considerable
to the picture already published (17), and say that circumstantial evidence, for example in the absence
each house had one or two pairs of plastered clay of carbonised food-processing debris, for a highly
pillars or stelae with modelled tops. Another house structured view of life within the settlement and the
(fig. 2), found in 1990 about 10 metres from those segregation of activities involving the exclusion of
already published, revealed the same phenomenon certain activities from the domestic arena. When
of a pair of modelled clay pillars set symmetrically Qermez Dere was first inhabited, its houses were
excavated into a marl-like clay in the northern part
of the settlement, while the occupation debris was
disposed of in middens to the south. Later, houses (17) WATKINS, 1990.
67 :
:
:
:
on either side of the chamber's axis. Plastered clay From the beginning of the neolithic period we
pillars were remodelled and even replaced. In one find a significantly closer identification; the dead
example a pair of pillars was replaced by another are associated with the house, or at least the
pair in a different position within the chamber, but detached skulls of the dead begin to be found on or
the sites of the first pair were marked in the new under the floors of houses. Particularly from the
plaster floor. These stelae were not structural ; PPNB period, we are familiar with this practice of
indeed, some of them were probably less than half burying the dead close to the house, followed by the
a metre tall. Their presence was meaningful in other secondary removal of the skulls, which are then
terms, but that symbolism cannot be defined. There placed inside the buildings, on or under floors or in
are many parallels in different cultures for the in reserved spaces within the room. The same ritual,
clusion of symbolic or religious features or religious linking the dead with the house, is found in the
preceding PPNA period at Jericho. And now at Qeractivity within the domestic arena; it would be a
mistake for us to assume that activities are usually mez Dere, from the very beginning of the aceramic
differentiated and 'zoned' into segregated areas, and neolithic period, we have a similar ritual, in which
we should not be surprised or puzzled by the pre skulls, which have been separated from the rest of
sence of overtly symbolic elements within the con the skeleton, were placed in a house when it was
text of the home, for we have them in our own being finally abandoned and obliterated (21). All
these traits, associated with the Qermez Dere houses homes.
(and most of them similarly associated with the near Stea (18) has very appropriately remarked that contemporary houses at Nemrik) are widely attested 'it is not always recognised that there is an element and more diversely elaborated in the succeeding of the sacred in much mundane architecture'. Indeed, centuries of the PPNB period in the Levant. in the case of the Qermez Dere houses, which con
tained non-structural stelae and no obviously domest
ic internal fittings or domestic occupational debris,
there was doubt as to whether the succession of NEOLITHIC PROJECTILE POINTS structures found were houses rather than special, AND CONFLICT religious structures. It was only in the last season
of excavations that the same form was found to be
repeated, and was the only structural form in that Another culture trait which appears at this pepart of the site, thus allowing the reasonable infer riod throughout the Levant, and now also in Iraq at ence that it was the normal type of domestic house. Qermez Dere, Nemrik (22) and M'lefaat (23), is the
spectacular development of projectile points. During
the full aceramic neolithic period projectile points
become more common, larger and typologically
THE DEAD AND THE HOUSE elaborated into more and more forms (24), but there
is no reason to think that one form was more effec
tive than another in its task as a projectile. The
typological evolution cannot be explained in terms At the beginning of the neolithic period the of technical improvement, but rather it is one of treatment of the dead is closely linked with the group changing style and increasing popularity. It must of concerns with the house as home. Natufian com also be remembered that the projectile point was not munities concentrated the burial of their dead close a new concept points which were functionally and to or within their residential areas in some of the dimensionally similar had existed from at least the major settlement sites (19). However, burials are not middle palaeolithic period. What is different about strictly associated with houses. It could be said that the neolithic projectile points is their elaborate and the dead are associated with the village, that is the highly stylised forms. The Khiam point, for example, community, but not specifically with the house, that is completely identical in form and is made to exis the household unit. In this context it is worth actly the same formula at Qermez Dere in Iraq, at noting that the now famous Eynan burials have been Tell Mureybet in Syria, and at sites in the distant reinterpreted in the final publication (20) and are no south Levant. longer believed to have been made below the floor
We do not know of a change in hunting practice of the house or in the abandoned house, turning it
or projectile technology at this time which would from a to a house of the dead.
(18) STEA, 1990 22.
(19) For example, el-Wad: GARROD and BATE, 1937; (21) WATKINS, BETTS, DOBNEY and NESBITT, 1991 14.
WRIGHT, 1978; Hayonim BELFER-COHEN, 1990; Eynan: (22) KOZLOWSKI and SZYMCZAK, 1990.
PERROT, LADIRAY and SOLIVÈRES-MASSEI, 1988. (23)BAIRD and BETTS, 1990.
(20) PERROT, LADIRAY and 1988. (24) GOPHER, 1990.
68 :
:
:
:
:
enable us to explain the advent of the projectile and Jordan, that we have the detailed archaeological
point in those terms. Instead, it has to be supposed evidence to see something of what was happening
that there was an additional purpose for the project during the long epi-palaeolithic period. This is not
iles which came into existence at this time, a pur to say that these processes were exclusive to the
pose required a new and different attitude to Kebaran, Natufian and related groups, but only that
projectiles : and the suggestion made here is that the eisewhere in me Middle East we as yei lack the
new concern with missiles was occasioned by conf ability to see with comparable quality of detail. The
lict which was resolved in warfare. first stage is to draw attention to the archaeological
evidence for change in the epi-palaeolithic. Then we The evidence for the beginnings of warfare at can draw on anthropological observations in order the beginning of the neolithic is thin at present, at
to flesh out the bare archaeological bones. Finally least in the Near East (25). There are, of course, the
we may be able to discern something of the process massive wall and ditch around the PPNA settlement indicated by the material culture changes at the at Jericho (26), and several of the many bodies re
beginning of the neolithic. There is nothing new in cently excavated at Nemrik have been found to have
what is written here, except that, for the first time, projectile points embedded in them (27). At Qermez
we now have sufficiently sharply articulated eviDere a small number of spherical or piriform mace-
dence for the immediately post epi-palaeolithic Khi- heads was recovered, some of which were made of
amian phase, which is the context within which we very fine-grained stones and polished. While maces
may attempt to identify key indicators of the process may have been used in hunting, it is again worth
between sedentism and village-farming. noting that maces begin to appear at a time when
there is no known change in hunting practice. It is Eminent scholars have devoted their most pro
also perhaps significant that quite a number of the ductive research energies over many years to the
points from Qermez Dere have their tips missing, Levantine epi-palaeolithic cultures, particularly the
and Dr Betts, who is studying the chipped stone, Natufian (28). It is pointless to offer an over-con
believes that the breaks in many cases seem likely densed review here; it will suffice to indicate four
to be impact fractures. It might be expected that a features of the Natufian life-style as the significant
few projectile points, if they were used for hunting, innovations of the period, giving general references
would find their way back to the settlement in the only to the latest and fullest review (29). The four
bodies of the hunted animals ; but it seems rather interlocked innovations are increased sedentism (30),
improbable that many points with impact fractures increased community size (31), an increase in the
should occur in that way. Surely, the majority of density of occupation sites and increased interest in
broken projectiles would be abandoned on the hunt, storable plant foods (32). Not all Natufian sites are
and very few projectile points would break on imlarger or more permanent than their predecessors, of
pact, and at the same time separate from their shafts. course, but there is a notable tendency towards
It is simpler to propose that the broken projectile greater size and more sedentary occupations with
points were discarded where they were broken, and permanent, built structures (33), whether in and
that implies that they impacted within the settlement. around traditional rock-shelter locations or in open,
village sites. There are certainly more sites of the
later epi-palaeolithic than the earlier part of the
period, which cannot be explained by archaeological
CONTEXT AND PROCESS sampling bias. While the direct and indirect evidence
for the utilisation of cereals is thin, there is plenty
of solid evidence for the processing of foods such
as acorns and nuts, as well as legumes and grass- In order to make some sense of this varied
evidence relating to the design and use of domestic seeds. These four factors suggest that by the middle
structures within the settlement and changes in the of the Levantine epi-palaeolithic period (around
artefact assemblage, it is necessary to place these 12,500 radiocarbon years ago) Natufians and related
cultural changes in the context of the preceding groups were becoming sedentary, were living in
epi-palaeolithic period. At the present time it is only larger communities, which relied a good deal more
within the Levant, and more particularly from Israel than their predecessors on hard, storable, highly
nutritious plant foods, and were living at an i
ncreased population density in their particular habit
ats.
(25) Here I am referring to warfare, that is inter-communal
conflict resolved in group fighting, as distinct from homicide.
There is increasingly pressing evidence for stress and warfare in (28) Notably BAR-YOSEF, 1970, 1981, 1983 and HENRY,
the early neolithic in western Europe ; see for example MERCER, 1973, 1981, 1989.
1989. (29) HENRY, 1989: 179-219.
(26) Pace BAR-YOSEF's attempt to argue that the wall is (30) Ibid. 219.
not defensive (BAR-YOSEF, 1986). (31) Ibid. 218.
(27) KOZLOWSKI and KEMPISTY, 1990 349, plus KOZ- (32) Ibid. 217.
LOWSKI, pers. comm. (33) Ibid. 211-214.
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The next stage is to look at what anthropologists boundary defence economically worthwhile as an
tell us about their observations of sedentary as op interest in resources which are dense and predict
posed to non-sedentary hunter-gatherers and those able, plant food resources being in general more
who harvest and store plant foods. From a variety predictable than animal food resources. Layton,
of authors writing over the last decade or so it seems Foley and Williams (43) have also been concerned
clear that there is an interlocking set of features with territoriality. They emphasise that hunting and
characteristic of such hunter-gatherer societies. Fol gathering, herding and cultivation are alternative
lowing the ideas of Testart (34), Woodburn (35) and strategies appropriate to particular social or natural
environments : cultivation should not be seen as an Binford (36), there is an important difference be
tween mobile and sedentary hunter-gatherers, be advance on gathering or as required by evolutionary
cause sedentary hunter-gatherers invest in stored progress. However, Layton, Foley and Williams (44)
food supplies (Testart), or, in the terms used by conclude that groups who have chosen to be sedent
Woodburn, engage in delayed as opposed to immed ary, relying on a starch-rich, plant-food diet, will
iate return. become subject to consequential population growth,
for which increased productivity of their plant-food
These differences among hunter-gatherer societ resources and/or increased control or intensified ex
ies, then, are not only economic or concerned with traction from their accessible food sources are fairly
the permanence or mobility of settlement, but are obvious solutions.
much more deeply rooted in the value-systems and
We should listen to Binford (45) when he argues social organization of the different types of hunter-
that the sedentary, storage-based solution was one gatherers. Testart and others have linked such i
heavy with risks for hunter-gatherers, a solution only nvestment in storage or, in other circumstances,
adopted under pressure when tension between populinvestment in preparatory labour with the origins of
ation and available resources threatened. This stress social inequalities or social complexity. Testart has
does not have to be induced by population growth; pointed out that Childe may have been wrong to
it could equally be the consequence of environmental contrast farmers with hunter-gatherers, but that he
change or by human over-exploitation of the enwas right to contrast mobile, non-storing, immediate
vironment. While we cannot quantify rates of populreturn hunter-gatherers with farmers ; with the
ation growth or increases in population density, and farmers Testart would link the sedentary, storing,
while we cannot clearly distinguish ecological delayed return hunter-gatherers. Ingold (37) would
change from human over-exploitation, Hayden's add the further refinement that the hunter-gatherers
term 'resource-stress' is to be preferred (46). Binwho engage in the husbandry of resources prior to
ford (47) describes the broad spectrum economy, storage are even more like farmers. Further discus
typical of the epi-palaeolithic period, as a phenomsions of sedentism (38) and hunter-gatherer social
enon of depression, when hunter-gatherers were rcomplexity (39) show that there are disagreements
equired to move down the scale of rewarding animals about the direction and significance of the interre
to hunt and in compensation to broaden the spectrum lationships, but most contributors to the debate are
of species taken. Edwards (48), too, from the pergenerally agreed on the of the associa
spective of the prehistoric archaeological evidence tions among these various factors. Rafferty (40) and
from the Middle East, has recently criticised the others have also objected to the simple opposition
notion of the broad spectrum as one of increased proposed by authors such as Testart between mobile
opportunity and greater advantage. Looking at the and sedentary societies, pointing out that there is a
same shift from a different perspective, Hay den (49) spectrum between mobility and sedentism (41) ; but
has drawn on biological distinctions to make the these considerations do not affect the observation
point that the concentration on r-related species (usuthat fully or nearly fully sedentary societies tend to
ally small species, e.g. birds, small mammals or exhibit other, related factors, and that these factors
grasses, which reproduce prolifically and rapidly) as are interlocked.
opposed to K-related species (for the most part larger
The correlation between sedentism, dependence species, which are individually more productive to
on storable plant foods and increased territoriality the hunter, but are wide-ranging, slow-breeding and
has been explored by Dyson-Hudson and Smith (42). slow in maturing) implies innovation in hunting and
They identify the conditions which make territorial gathering and food-processing technology, and a
(34) TESTART, 1982a and 1982b.
(35) WOODBURN, 1980 and 1982.
(36) BINFORD, 1980 and 1983. 1991. (43) LAYTON, FOLEY and WILLIAMS,
(37) INGOLD, 1983. (44) Ibid., 260.
(38) RAFFERTY, 1985. (45) BINFORD, 1983 212.
(39) ZVELEBIL, 1986; PRICE and BROWN, 1985. (46) HAYDEN, 1981 522-524.
(40)1985. (47)1983 212.
(41) Which BINFORD, 1991, documents. (48) EDWARDS, 1989.
(42) DYSON-HUDSON and SMITH, 1978. (49) HAYDEN, 1981 525-527.
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willingness to trade a degree of hunting productivity spread by some groups into new territory (making
in return for the greater resource reliability of r-re- the necessary adaptive changes, and quite possibly
lated species, which also offer year-round accessi displacing or at least impacting on the neighbouring,
bility to the hunter-gatherer, and a greater resistance lower density population), as suggested by Bin-
to population crises (such as might be brought about, ford (54), is at best a short-term option, since very
for example, through intensive prédation;. soon the adjaceni territories would be at cauying
capacity with populations resistant to further immigThe evidence of ethnographic observation also rants. In any case, whenever resource stress was seems to show that sedentary communities are less encountered, for whatever reason, sedentary populatfluid and flexible than more mobile hunter-gatherer ions with a major investment in territory and stored societies (50). There are many examples of the abil foodstuffs might be thought more likely to see iity of mobile hunter-gatherers to respond to seasonal ntensification of extraction as the culturally preferable (or longer term) resource failure by fragmenting into option, implying consequent emphasis on social and smaller groups which reassemble when the season cultural means of coping with the intensification of of shortage has been weathered. Similarly, anthro competition for resources. pologists tell us that such small-scale, highly mobile
groups respond to potential conflict within the group Ingold (55) distinguishes between practical and
by one party, whether an individual or a family social storage. He defines the delayed return of
group, leaving to join another group. Sedentary hunter-gatherers who engage in storage as practical
societies, which tend to live in larger numbers, at a storage, that is, the scheduling of resources in simple
practical terms - economic common sense, as we greater density in the landscape, with more explicitly
stated territorialism, and with the potential to engage westerners might say. On the other hand, once
in (differential) accumulation of economic or pres husbandry (artificial intensification) of the resources
tige goods, do not have these mechanisms of fluidity which are to be stored enters the equation, the social
and flexiblity to cope with stresses, whatever their implications of the investment of labour constitute
'appropriative labour' and define the storage as 'soorigin. They must use cultural means of constraining
cial' through the establishment of claims over rand resolving the internal stresses within the per
manently co-resident community, or sub-divide per esources (56). In their discussion of human
manently (as distinct from the fluidity of seasonal territoriality Dyson-Hudson and Smith (57) take as
or occasional adjustment of group size). one of their case-studies the variations in population
density, mobility/sedentism and social modes of exWe should here recall what a number of theorists ploitation of resources among aboriginal groups in
have suggested were the processual consequences of the Great Basin of the American Southwest, drawing
the adoption of sedentism, intensified territoriality on observations made originally by Steward (58) in
and increased dependence on storable, nutritious his classic study of social and political groups. They plant foods. The arguments relating sedentism and draw attention to the Paiute of Owens Valley, who a cereal diet to decreased infant mortality, earlier lived in permanent villages with explicitly delimited
weaning and more frequent child-bearing were first and defended territories, and who practised
worked through by Lee (51), and the case for i harvesting by family groups. They also note that, ncreased population growth was equally persuasively when resource stress impinged, groups would allo
made by Harris (52). Many others have discussed cate rights to resources in terms of family sub-territhe significance of population growth, and almost tories. Similarly, in another case-study the same without exception there is agreement that population authors relate how economic and settlement changes growth, whatever the cultural controls which might adopted by the Northern Ojibwa in the early be employed, follows the adoption of a sedentary nineteenth century produced a similar result in terms life-style and a diet more oriented to cereals and of allocation of family rights to specific hunting
legumes. If the tendency towards increased rates of territories (59).
population growth were not effectively countered by
The significance of these examples for our distighter bio-cultural controls, there was only one
route available to deal with higher population cussion here is that sedentary groups, intensively
levels : groups could accommodate the greater popul exploiting r-related species, and acknowledging ex
ation density (what Binford (53) has called packing) plicitly defined and defended territories, may con
by intensifying the rate of extraction of resources tinue to sub-allocate territories or rights to family
groups within the co-resident community. The term from the available territory. The alternative route of
'allocation' has been borrowed here from a very dispersing the population growth in terms of the
(54) BINFORD, 1968.
(55) INGOLD, 1983.
(50) E.g. HAYDEN, 1981 528. (56) Ibid., 569.
(57) DYSON-HUDSON and SMITH, 1978 29. (51) LEE, 1968.
(52) HARRIS, 1978. (58) STEWARD, 1938.
(53) BINFORD, 1983 211. (59)and SMITH, 1978 32-33.
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