PPNA at Nahal Oren

The site of Nahal Oren is located in an ecotone at the foot of the western escarpment of Mt. Carmel, Israel within the Mediterranean climatic zone. Nahal Oren is situated on the north side of the Wadi Fallah and consists of a small cave with a terrace (measuring some 21 x 18 m) in front of it which slopes steeply down to the Wadi floor. The cave was initially excavated in the 1940’s by M. Stekelis with only sparse results. Subsequently two series of more extensive were conducted.

M. Stekelis and coworkers during the years between 1954-1957 and 1959-1960, centered on the terrace below the cave opening. The archaeological remains represent a long sequence starting from a late Upper Paleolithic, through the Kebaran, the Natufian and the Neolithic (PPNA and PPNB).  The second, more limited series of excavations were conducted by T. Noy, E. Higgs and A. Legge (1969-1971) and widely confirmed the earlier results. Layers IX and VII yielded abundant Kebaran artifacts (18, 2- 15, 8 k.a. BP). Layer IIIA and VIIB are Geometric Kebaran with mainly triangular microlits. Layers VI and V are Late Natufian.  Layer II and VI are assigned to the PPNA and PPNB. Stone axes with tranchet edges (Tahunian axes / adzes), similar to the small axe that is shown here, are confined to the PPNA.The lithic industry shows an overall decline in microliths, corresponding with an increase in ground stone axes, sickles, and a number of new types of projectile points.

The PPNA ( the Khiamian followed by the Sultanian) of the Levant emerges quite abruptly from the Final Natufian at around 9.7 K.a.BC. The PPNA is clearly an indigenous development, as there are strong elements of continuity from the Natufian into the PPNA. The PPNA is largely found in areas in and around the Jordan Valley, as the deserts remained the territory of highly mobile hunter-gatherers. Anyhow the settlement distribution had a much greater extension compared to the area covered during the Natufuian and extended beyond Israel, central and southern Jordan into Syria and the “hilly Flanks” of the Taurus-Zagros.

PPNA sites vary considerably in size and function: Jericho, Netiv Hagdud, and Gilgal I cover a hectare or more and are up to eight times larger than any settlements in the preceding Natufian. These villages likely housed hundred of peoples. In contrast small sites like Nahal Oren encompass at most only a few hundred square meters.

Southern Levantine PPNA architecture is almost all domestic, with the exception of a wall and tower at Jericho. The houses are circular or oval, 3–8 meters in diameter, and have only few internal features. Most houses are semi-subterranean, although some are free-standing, and while some were made into two-room units most houses consist of only a single room.

The Neolithic is commonly defined as the period of the earliest food production and according this definition the PPNA is a clearly Neolithic culture. At southern Levantine PPNA sites, there are clear indications for cultivation of emmer and einkorn wheats and barley. The abundance of peas and lentils at Tell Aswad and Yiftahel suggests domestication of pulses as well. However, many Levantines continued to depend heavily or entirely on gathering wild plants and therefore PPNA cultivation might best be viewed as a complement or even a supplement to gathering. With the exception of the dog, domesticated in the Epipalaeolithic, no animals were yet domesticated. PPNA people continued to hunt h primarily gazelle; other prey included wild sheep, goats and boar.

There was a pronounced change in ritual behaviors and ideological beliefs during the PPNA, reflected by the change from zoomorphic representations during the Natufian to human female figurines. Also cattle sculls were incooperated into some domestic structures. Burials are common in most PPNA sites. With the exception of the multiple burials from inside the Jericho tower, PPNA adults were interred singly, flexed and on their sides, without grave goods. After their soft tissues had decayed away, their graves were reopened and their crania retrieved.

During the PPNA, people in the Near East made important decisions, that finaly led to a radical change of their lifestyles , which later spread and were rapidly adopted in large parts of the old world. Once introduced, an agricultural lifestile became allmost irreversible in most of the societies that had been transformed.

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One Response to PPNA at Nahal Oren

  1. Pingback: Jericho and the changing ideology of a Neolithic Society | Aggsbach's Paleolithic Blog

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