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«Item type text; Dissertation-Reproduction (electronic) Authors Munro, Natalie Dawn Publisher The University of Arizona. Rights Copyright © is held ...»

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temperatures were at their post-glacial peak. Interestingly, the dramatic climatic changes of the Younger Dryas correspond to the begirming of the Late Natufian phase (ca. 11,500 B.P.). Populations living in the core Natufian area were faced with shrinking habitats, and probably associated declines in resource productivity per unit land area. The end of the Younger Dryas ca. 10,000 years ago correlates with the disappearance of the Natufian adaptation. Subsequent re-expansion of the Mediterranean forest and the return to warmer and wetter conditions coincides with the appearance of the first agricultural settlements in the Jordan valley, where rich alluvial soils provided a suitable setting for early agriculture.

The transitions, first from the Early to the Late Natufian, and then to the Neolithic period, both correspond to broad-scale climatic change. Although I do not imply that climate played the determining role in Natufian adaptations, it certainly had the potential to reshape habitats, redistribute resources, and alter productivity in the Mediterranean zone and surrounding regions. Fluctuating paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental conditions undoubtedly contributed to the conditions selecting for cultural change.

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Geographically and ecologically the southern Levant is strikingly diverse, despite its small size. Topographic complexity in the region has created a rich mosaic of climatic and ecological zones (Zohary 1982). Today, the southern Levant occupies a strip along the Mediterranean coast south of Damascus. It includes much of modem-day day Israel,

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Geographically, it represents the southwestern reaches of the so-called Fertile Crescent (Braidwood 1960), a great arc of rich habitats extending from the Levant to the Zagros mountains and the birth place of the earliest agriculture and animal husbandry.

Ecological diversity also results from the region's geographic location at a major crossroads between two continental land masses ~ Eurasia and Africa. Throughout prehistory, the Levant has been a "suture zone" for the Palearctic plant and animal communities of Eurasia and the tropical biotas of Africa, which shifted across the Levant in tandem with climatic change (Tchemov 1988).

Geographic and Vegetation Zones of the Southern Levant The southern Levant is characterized by four distinct but narrow geographic belts which run in north/south bands paralleling the Mediterranean Sea. From east to west these include the coastal plain, the hilly zone, the rift valley, and the Jordanian plateau.

Each of these zones was occupied with varying intensity by Natufian foragers between ca. 12,800 and 10,200 years ago. Temperature, humidity, and precipitation vary markedly between zones, tending to be highest in the west and declining to the east.

Resulting variation in vegetation cover and resource availability had significant influence on food supplies of local foraging groups.

Three major vegetative communities occupy the undeveloped areas of the Levant today (Horowitz 1979; Zohary 1982), and their compositions appear to have changed very little since the Natufian period. The distribution of the three communities depends primarily on available moisture, and secondarily on elevation. Saharo-Arabian

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communities in areas with progressively higher precipitation. During the Natufian period these habitats were all occupied by human foragers, though patterns of use shifted over time.

The Coastal Plain The coastal plain is a narrow strip of flat land adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea.

It is widest at its southernmost point near Gaza and narrows as it extends north to the Israel/Lebanon border, where the coastal hills descend directly into the Mediterranean Sea. The coastal plain is characterized by interlocking areas of fertile soil, marshes, and sand dunes. A series of calcareous sandstone ridges or kurkars run north south along the coast; these mark former beach transgressions created by fluctuating sea levels during the Pleistocene period (Klein 1988). In several periods, the kurkars blocked the flow of water from the wadis to the Mediterranean and created marshlands between the hills and the sea. These habitats were exploited by Late Pleistocene humans for resources such as fish and waterfowl. Humidity and precipitation are high on the coastal plain due to its proximity to the sea. Moisture is greatest in the north and diminishes to the south. North of Gaza the vegetation of the coastal plain is largely Mediterranean-type scrub forest (Zohary 1982), but the region is also home to a variety of small shrubs and grasses that thrive in dune and marshy environments. Saharo-Arabian communities characterize the southern half of the coastal sand dunes (Horowitz 1979).

Many Natufian sites, including those of interest here, are located at the edge of the Mediterranean zone within a few kilometers of the coastal plain. Few Natufian sites have

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Period. Mediterranean shells and sandstone beads in Natufian deposits indicate that these populations exploited marine resources for ornaments, though at fairly low intensities (Bar-Yosef and Belfer-Cohen 1989, 1991; D. Bar-Yosef 1991; Reese 1991; WeinsteinEvron 1998). There is no evidence to suggest that the Natufians used marine mollusks for food.

The Hill Zone Moving east, the hill zone rises from the coastal plain in a series of low but steep limestone ridges that reach a maximum elevation of 1,208 m in the Galilee and 1,010 m in the Negev. Running south to north, the Levant's hilly backbone stretches from the Sinai, through the Negev Desert into Samaria and Judea, and finally the Galilee and Lebanon where it joins with the Lebanon Mountains. Precipitation in the hill zone is partly determined by local elevation but generally declines from north to south. This dine in available moisture corresponds to a gradient in plant and animal community composition.

In the Levant, the amount of precipitation is most strongly determined by storm tracks originating over the Mediterranean Sea that send precipitation across the region in a dine that decreases from north to south (Margaritz and Goodfriend 1987). Precipitation is trapped according to elevation and local topography. Mediterranean summers tend to be hot and dry, averaging 28°C in August. Winters are cool and wet with an average January temperature of 12°C (Katsnelson 1966). Precipitation falls almost exclusively in winter, creating a sharp contrast between the winter and summer seasons. Mediterranean

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receiving between 400 and 1200 mm of rain each year. In the southern Levant, Mediterranean communities are located primarily in the hilly regions north of the Beer Sheva Basin, as well as in the Jordan Valley north of the Kinneret and the Mediterranean coast north of Caesarea.

The Mediterranean hills are composed of hard Upper Cretaceous limestones and dolomites as well as soft chalky limestones formed from Eocene and Senonian marls (Zohary 1982). The hard limestones produce terra rossa soils with high clay components, while the chalky limestones break down into brownish-grey rendzina soils that favor the growth of cereal grasses and forbs. The climax vegetation of the southern Levantine Mediterranean community is dominated by a maquis forest composed of trees and shrubs, including several species of oak (i.e., Querciis calliprinos, Q. infectoria and Q.

ithaburensis), pistachio {Pistachio palestina), arbutus {Arbutus andrachne), Syrian maple (Acer syriacum), Cercis siliquastnim and Platanus orientalis. Pines, most notably Pinus halepensis, also grow at the highest elevations but only on rendzina soils (Horowitz 1979). Common shrubs include Poterium spinosum. Salvia triloba, Phlomis viscosa, Teucrium divaricatum and Majorana syriaca.

South of modem-day Beer Sheva, Irano-Turanian type vegetative communities occupy the hill zone. In the southern Levant the Irano-Turanian community thrives primarily in semi-arid steppic regions that receive between 200 and 400 mm of precipitation annually. Extreme temperatures and low moisture restricts the growing season to the spring and early summer months. Classic Irano-Turanian communities are

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Finally, like the southern coastal plain, the hilly regions of the southern Negev are occupied by Saharo-Arabian type communities. This zone is characterized by arid desert and limited by low precipitation which rarely exceeds 200 mm per annum. The seasonal cycle oscillates between hot dry summers and mild winters with all precipitation falling during the winter. Plants are arid-adapted and seed only in response to moisture, growing rapidly when conditions are wet enough for germination. Vegetation is extremely sparse and in some areas grows only in drainages. Dominant flora include Zygophylliim dumosiim and Anabasis articulata.

The Jordan Rift Valley East of the hills is the Jordan Valley, a fault system that is part of the northern extension of the Great Rift Valley, which originates in sub-Saharan Africa. In the Levant, the Rift Valley extends from the Gulf of Aqaba northward through the Arava to the Dead Sea, where plate tectonics have created the lowest elevation on earth (396 m below sea level). North of the Dead Sea, the Rift passes through the Jordan Valley to the Kirmeret (Sea of Galilee), and finally into the Hula Valley at 200m above sea level. From there the Rift extends north to the Orontes Valley in Syria.

The Jordan Valley formed from strong downward tectonic movement and simultaneous uplift of the shoulders that flank its east and west sides (Horowitz 1988).

The most recent episode of uplifting occurred 18,000 years ago. Despite being the southern Levant's primary water system, much of the Jordan River has a semi-arid to arid

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by Mediterranean habitats in the north, Irano-Turanian communities in the central Jordan Valley, and Saharo-Arabian habitats south of the Dead Sea.

During the Natufian period the eastern hills adjacent to the Jordan Valley were dotted with small sites which have been interpreted as seasonal camps for the exploitation of rich stands of wild grasses (Bar-Yosef 1996). The alluvium in the valley is rich and fertile due to frequent replenishment by the Jordan River, and many areas are in close proximity to permanent water sources suiting the area for cultivation. In the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) period that followed, a number of sites were established in the Jordan Valley. Not surprisingly, it is at two of these sites, Gilgal and Netiv Hagdud, that the earliest evidence for the cultivation of wheat and barley in the Levant was recovered (Bar-Yosef 1989).

The Jordanian Plateau The Jordanian Plateau was created by the uplifting of the Transjordanian block during the Oligocene and Miocene Eras (Henry 1989). The Plateau rises sharply from the Rift Valley and then levels off, sloping gradually eastward to the Syro-Arabian desert.

Today the region is semi-arid to arid. It is covered primarily by a steppic Irano-Turanian vegetation, which gradually gives way to a desertic Saharo-Arabian regime to the east, though patches of Mediterranean maquis are present along the northwestern plateau overlooking the Jordan Valley.

Throughout the Natufian period, communities were firmly established on the Jordanian Plateau. Numerous recent surveys and excavations in Jordan have uncovered

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2000; Byrd 1989a; Byrd and Rollefson 1984; Edwards et al. 1988; Garrard 1991;

Garrard and Gebel 1988; Henry and Tumbull 1985; Sellars 1998).


As stated earlier, the Mediterranean hill zone defines the boundaries of the region studied here. The Mediterranean hills zone is the richest of the Levantine habitats, particularly those areas receiving between 400 and 800 mm of annual rainfall. The region is home to the highest diversity of plant species and the greatest faunal biomass in the Levant, much of which is suited for human consumption (Bar-Yosef and Meadow 1995;

Mendelssohn and Yom-Tov 1999; Uerpmarm 1987). Potential food resources include a number of wild cereal grasses such as einkom (Triticum monococciim) and emmer wheat {T. dicocciim), and barley {Hordeum distichiim), which inhabit open areas within the forest. Legumes, such as lentils {Lens cidinaris) and vetches {Vicia saliva and V. ervilia), and fi^it- and nut-bearing trees including pistachio {Pisiacia sp.) and oaks {Quercus sp.), are also naturally abundant (Harlan 1967; Zohary 1982).

Prior to the historic period, the Mediterranean community provided lush browse for several ungulate species, particularly gazelle {Gazella gazella), fallow deer {Dama mesopotamica), roe deer {Capreolus capreolus), red deer {Cerviis elaphiis), wild boar {Siis scrofa), aurochs {Bos primigeniiis). and wild goat {Capra aegagnts), though the relative abundance of these ungulates differed with habitat, and some species were always more common than others (i.e., gazelle and fallow deer). The abundance of ungulates

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park forests also supported abundant, permanent populations of small animals such as the Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise {Testudo graeca), cape hare {Lepiis capensis), hedgehog {Erinaeceus europaeus), Persian squirrel (Sciunis anomalus), and game birds of the Phasinidae family (Mendelssohn and Yom-Tov 1999). The position of the Levant on a major flyway between Africa and Eurasia has created one of the most diverse avifaunas in the world. The region also provides a permanent home to many year-round resident species, in addition to summer and winter migrants (Yom-Tov 1988).

Resource productivity in the Mediterranean zone is seasonal, so the availability of consumable biomass fluctuates throughout the year. Most grasses ripen between April and June, and fruits and nuts are available between September and November, though a few species can be harvested during the winter months (Bar-Yosef and Meadow 1995;

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