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School of Social Sciences
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Digging Up Jericho: Past Present and Future, arising from a conference exploring the heritage, archaeology and history of the Jericho Oasis, includes contributions by 21 internationally significant scholars.
This is the first volume to offer a holistic perspective on the research and public value of the site of Jericho – an iconic site with a long and impressive history stretching from the Epipalaeolithic to the present day. Once dubbed the ‘Oldest City in the World’, it has been the focus of intense archaeological activity and media interest in the 150 years since its discovery. From early investigations in the 19th century, through Kathleen Kenyon’s work at the site in the 1950s, to the recent Italian-Palestinian Expedition and Khirbat al-Mafjar Archaeological Project, Jericho and its surrounding landscape has always played a key role in our understanding of this fascinating region. Current efforts to get the site placed on the World Heritage List only enhance its appeal.
Covering all aspects of work at the site, from past to present and beyond, this volume offers a unique opportunity to re-evaluate and assess the legacy of this important site. In doing so, it helps to increase our understanding of the wider archaeology and history of the Southern Levant.
Recent excavations in Jordan have demonstrated a long sequence of development from the late Pleistocene Epipalaeolithic through the early Holocene Pre-Pottery Neolithic. Superficially, the growing body of social and subsistence evidence suggests Neolithic communities emerged from traditions rooted in the early Epipalaeolithic. However, while developments such as the construction of shelters, population aggregation, and subsistence intensification may be essential for the emergence of a southwest Asian Neolithic, they are typical of contemporary hunter-gatherer societies and not inherently Neolithic. Notably, the Neolithic in Southwest Asia was not a homogenous entity, but instead supported diverse expressions of subsistence, symbolic behaviors, and cultural trajectories across the region. To understand the emergence and development of the Neolithic, we need to examine this richly diverse history and its many constituent pathways.
There is evidence that early Neolithic societies in Southwest Asia promoted egalitarian behavior, through mechanisms such as mortuary practices which concealed individual identity, and sharing of food resources, for example in communal granaries. It has often been assumed that this egalitarian behavior continues traditional huntergatherer practices, designed to resist the potential for individual, or household wealthdifferentiation permitted by innovative food production and storage practices. However, there is little, or no evidence that the preceding Natufian culture was representative of what we identify as a typical hunter-gatherer society. Equality may have been just one of the innovations developed by early Neolithic societies, subsequently replaced in the later Neolithic and the development of a more hierarchical social system. = Имеются данные, что ранненеолитические общества Юго-Западной Азии поощряли эгалитарное поведение, используя для этого, в частности, погребальную обрядность, маскирующую индивидуальные различия, и совместное распределение пищевых ресурсов, которые могли, например, храниться в общественных закромах. Долгое время подразумевалось, что такое эгалитарное поведение продолжает традиционные практики охотников-собирателей, имевшие целью препятствовать появлению имущественного неравенства среди индивидов или домохозяйств, возможности для чего создавали новые способы производства пищи и её хранения. Однако ничто или почти ничто не говорит о том, что предшествовавшая неолиту натуфийская культура представляла собой типичное охотничье-собирательское общество. Равенство могло быть просто одной из инноваций, появившихся в ранненеолитических обществах. В позднем неолите ему на смену пришла более иерархическая социальная система.
The Deep Past as a Social Asset in the Levant (DEEPSAL) project, conducted in 2015–16 by the Council for British Research in the Levant, examined two communities in southern Jordan, Beidha and Basta, who live near significant Neolithic archaeological sites. The project collected information on the communities’ current socioeconomic conditions, their relationship with local cultural heritage and how that cultural heritage currently benefits or hinders them. The information was used to inform nascent strategies to utilize the sites sustainably as development assets and suggest alternative strategies as necessary. The results showed that a tourism-based strategy is suitable for Beidha but there was a need to focus on basic business skills. For Basta a tourism-based strategy is currently unsuitable, and efforts should rather focus on supporting educational activities. The results of the project are presented here within the context of archaeology’s increasing interest to use archaeological resource to benefit local communities, and outlines lessons for that effort.
Les fouilles de Kirkbride à Beidha dans le sud de la Jordanie ont fourni des données essentielles sur l’occupation villageoise du Néolithique Pré-Céramique ancien, qui continuent à influencer profondément les recherches sur l’évolution de l’organisation sociale lors du passage d’une économie de prédation (chasse, ceuillette) à une économie de production (élevage, agriculture). Les recherches plus récentes sur le Néolithique permettent une nouvelle mise en contexte de ces premiers résultats, en particulier au regard des distinctions régionales et de la longue histoire de l’occupation villageoise et le développement d’une architecture communautaire dans le sud de la Jordanie au cours du Néolithique Pré-Céramique A. Les travaux de terrain effectués à Beidha en 2014 ont en particulier mis l’accent sur l’étude du premier bâtiment communautaire identifié sur le site, qui n’avait été jusqu’ici que partiellement fouillé par Kirkbride. Les résultats de ces nouvelles fouilles, complétés par des datations radiocarbone, nous permettent de resituer Beidha dans le contexte Néolithique local et de mieux comprendre comment s’est développée cette société du Néolithique ancien. = Kirkbride’s excavations at Beidha in southern Jordan provided foundational information on early Pre-Pottery Neolithic settlement that continues to heavily influence research investigating the evolution of social organization associated with the transition from foraging to farming. More recent research on the Neolithic has provided a rich context for her work, in particular regarding the regionally distinctive and long history of settlement and developments in communal architecture during the southern Jordanian Pre-Pottery Neolithic A. In 2014, additional fieldwork was conducted at Beidha targeting the earliest communal building identified, but only partially excavated by Kirkbride. The results of this new excavation, together with some additional radiocarbon dates, enable us to place Beidha within the local Neolithic historical context and to improve our interpretation of how early Neolithic society developed.
The emergence of food production during the earliest Neolithic of the Near East was accompanied by profound changes in the ways in which societies were organized. Elaborate and multi-stage mortuary practices involving the removal, caching, and plastering of symbolically charged skulls are thought to have played an important role in cross-cutting household lines to integrate communities and maintain social cohesion during the late tenth to ninth millennium cal BP, particularly in Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B settlements located in the southern Levant. While the ritual and mortuary activities associated with skull manipulation were dramatic and high impact occasions that drew people and households together, it is likely they were highly episodic and, consequently, attendant community cohesion susceptible to decay over time. Recent research in southern Jordan, where skull plastering was not practiced as seen elsewhere in the southern Levant, has revealed that non-residential building structures were a common feature of early Pre-Pottery Neolithic settlements. Renewed excavations at Beidha, a Middle PPNB settlement located in the Shara’a mountains, have revealed a large, easily accessible communal structure that provided a focal point in which mundane, informal daily activities could regularly take place. The routine and repeated interactions fostered by such non-domestic structures facilitated highly durable modes of community cohesion and was part of a temporally deep ethos of community that first emerged a thousand years earlier when people first began to experiment with plant cultivation. It appears that in southern Jordan, a distinctive social cohesion pathway developed that engaged community daily practice within non-residential buildings to maintain and strengthen social structures, rather than occasional and dramatic ritual and mortuary practices used elsewhere in the southern Levant.
Palynological archives dating from the Pleistocene–Holocene transition are scarce in the arid zone of the southern Levant. Anthracological remains (the carbonized residues of wood fuel use found in archaeological habitation sites) provide an alternative source of information about past vegetation. This paper discusses new and previously available anthracological datasets retrieved from excavated habitation sites in the southern Levant dating to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) period. The available evidence indicates the existence of distinct arboreal floras growing in different ecological niches, which occupied areas that today are either treeless or very sparsely wooded. The anthracological data provide independent confirmation of the hypothesis that early Holocene climate in the southern Levant was significantly moister than at present. Clear North–South and East–West precipitation and associated woodland composition gradients are evidenced. Far from deducing widespread anthropogenic degradation of the regional vegetation, it is suggested that woodland expansion in the semi-arid interiors of the Levant may be attributed to the intensive management of Pistacia woodlands for food, fuel and pasture.
The Neolithic represents a key period in human history, understood as the period when people first domesticated plants and animals, developed the social means to live together in large sedentary communities, and perhaps even laid the foundations of formal religion. The southern Levant is one of the best-known areas where this transition took place, and Jericho undoubtedly the most spectacular site of the period. It should be possible to capture the importance of this heritage in a way that appeals to the general public, and while this has been achieved elsewhere around the world, the presentation of the Neolithic has always seemed to struggle in the region that should lie at its heart. We are currently experimenting with a Neolithic Heritage Trail in southern Jordan, working on presentation, local engagement, and preservation of the sites. Ultimately, any Neolithic trail should lead to Jericho.