Prehistoric village discovered in Israel

Prehistoric village discovered in Israel

Archaeologists have discovered a prehistoric village in Israel, dating back to about 12,000 years, that sheds light on the historical shift of humans from foraging to agriculture.

The site, named NEG II, is located in Nahal (wadi) Ein-Gev, at the middle of the perennial stream that flows west to the Sea of Galilee in the fertile Jordan Valley.

Researchers excavated human burial remains, flint tools, art manifestations, faunal assemblage, ground stone and bone tools from the site.

The excavated area showed an extensive habitation with deep cultural deposits (2.5 to 3 metres deep) and the site is estimated as covering roughly 1,200 square metres.

The village differs markedly from others of its period in Israel. The findings encapsulate cultural characteristics typical of both the Old Stone Age - known as the Paleolithic period, and the New Stone Age - known as the Neolithic period.

"Although attributes of the lithic tool kit found at NEG II places the site chronologically in the Paleolithic period, other characteristics - such as its artistic tradition, size, thickness of archaeological deposits and investment in architecture - are more typical of early agricultural communities in the Neolithic period," said Leore Grosman, from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who led the excavations.

"Characterising this important period of potential overlap in the Jordan Valley is crucial for the understanding of the socioeconomic processes that marked the shift from Paleolithic mobile societies of hunter-gatherers to Neolithic agricultural communities," said Grosman.

The Paleolithic period is the earliest and the longest period in the history of humankind.

The end of this period is marked by the transition to settled villages and domestication of plants and animals as part of the agricultural life-ways in the Neolithic period.

The researchers described the village as one of the latest settlements in the Levant region of the Late Natufian - the last culture of the Paleolithic period.

NEG II was occupied in the midst of the cold and dry global climatic event known as the Younger Dryas where temperature declined sharply over most of the northern hemisphere.
Affected by climatic changes, Late Natufian groups in the Mediterranean zone became increasingly mobile and potentially smaller in size.

Excavations at NEG II show that groups in the Jordan Valley became more sedentary and potentially larger in size.

"The buildings represent at least four occupational stages and the various aspects of the faunal assemblage provide good indications for site permanence," said Grosman.

This shift in settlement pattern may be related to greater climatic stability due to a lesser effect of the Younger Dryas in the region, higher cereal biomass productivity and better conditions for small-scale cultivation, researchers said.

These factors had provided the ingredients necessary to taking the final steps towards agriculture in the southern Levant, they said.

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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