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Concept: Pre-Pottery Neolithic A


For many, climate change is no longer recognized as the primary cause of cultural changes in the Near East. Instead, human landscape degradation, population growth, socioeconomic adjustments, and conflict have been proposed as the mechanisms that shaped the Neolithic Revolution. However, as Bar-Yosef noted, even if there is chronological correlation between climate changes and cultural developments, what is important is to understand how Neolithic societies dealt with these improving or deteriorating environments. Changes in bifacial stone tools provide a framework for examining some of these interactions by focusing on changing land use practices during the Neolithization process. The results of microwear analysis of 40 bifacial artifacts from early Pre-Pottery Neolithic (EPPNB) levels at Motza in the Judean hills document changes during the PPNA-PPNB transition at the onset of the Levantine Moist Period (ca. 8000 cal B.C.) when conditions for agriculture improved. EPPNB villagers added heavy-duty axes to a toolkit they had used for carpentry and began to clear forests for fields and grazing lands. Sustainable forest management continued for the duration of the PPN until the cumulative effects of tree-felling and overgrazing seem to have led to landscape degradation at end of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic C (PPNC), when a cold, dry climatic anomaly (6600-6000 cal B.C.) may have accelerated the reduction of woodlands. Early PPNB components at sites like Motza, with data from nearly five millennia of Neolithic occupations, show how complex hunter-gatherers and early food producers were able to establish sustainable resource management systems even as climate changed, population increased, and social relations were redefined.

Concepts: Climate change, Change, Neolithic, Fertile Crescent, Stone Age, Levant, Göbekli Tepe, Pre-Pottery Neolithic A


We present the results of the microstratigraphic, phytolith and wood charcoal study of the remains of a 10.5 ka roof. The roof is part of a building excavated at Tell Qarassa (South Syria), assigned to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period (PPNB). The Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) period in the Levant coincides with the emergence of farming. This fundamental change in subsistence strategy implied the shift from mobile to settled aggregated life, and from tents and huts to hard buildings. As settled life spread across the Levant, a generalised transition from round to square buildings occurred, that is a trademark of the PPNB period. The study of these buildings is fundamental for the understanding of the ever-stronger reciprocal socio-ecological relationship humans developed with the local environment since the introduction of sedentism and domestication. Descriptions of buildings in PPN archaeological contexts are usually restricted to the macroscopic observation of wooden elements (posts and beams) and mineral components (daub, plaster and stone elements). Reconstructions of microscopic and organic components are frequently based on ethnographic analogy. The direct study of macroscopic and microscopic, organic and mineral, building components performed at Tell Qarassa provides new insights on building conception, maintenance, use and destruction. These elements reflect new emerging paradigms in the relationship between Neolithic societies and the environment. A square building was possibly covered here with a radial roof, providing a glance into a topologic shift in the conception and understanding of volumes, from round-based to square-based geometries. Macroscopic and microscopic roof components indicate buildings were conceived for year-round residence rather than seasonal mobility. This implied performing maintenance and restoration of partially damaged buildings, as well as their adaptation to seasonal variability.

Concepts: Neolithic, Fertile Crescent, Building, Syria, Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, Jericho, Pre-Pottery Neolithic B, History of pottery in the Southern Levant


The Natufian culture is of great importance as a starting point to investigate the dynamics of the transition to agriculture. Given its chronological position at the threshold of the Neolithic (ca. 12,000 years ago) and its geographic setting in the productive Jordan Valley, the site of Nahal Ein Gev II (NEG II) reveals aspects of the Late Natufian adaptations and its implications for the transition to agriculture. The size of the site, the thick archaeological deposits, invested architecture and multiple occupation sub-phases reveal a large, sedentary community at least on par with Early Natufian camps in the Mediterranean zone. Although the NEG II lithic tool kit completely lacks attributes typical of succeeding Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) assemblages, the artistic style is more closely related to the early PPNA world, despite clear roots in Early Natufian tradition. The site does not conform to current perceptions of the Late Natufians as a largely mobile population coping with reduced resource productivity caused by the Younger Dryas. Instead, the faunal and architectural data suggest that the sedentary populations of the Early Natufian did not revert back to a nomadic way of life in the Late Natufian in the Jordan Valley. NEG II encapsulates cultural characteristics typical of both Natufian and PPNA traditions and thus bridges the crossroads between Late Paleolithic foragers and Neolithic farmers.

Concepts: Neolithic, Fertile Crescent, Stone Age, Younger Dryas, Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, Jericho, Natufian culture, Mesolithic


The archaeological documentation of the development of sedentary farming societies in Anatolia is not yet mirrored by a genetic understanding of the human populations involved, in contrast to the spread of farming in Europe [1-3]. Sedentary farming communities emerged in parts of the Fertile Crescent during the tenth millennium and early ninth millennium calibrated (cal) BC and had appeared in central Anatolia by 8300 cal BC [4]. Farming spread into west Anatolia by the early seventh millennium cal BC and quasi-synchronously into Europe, although the timing and process of this movement remain unclear. Using genome sequence data that we generated from nine central Anatolian Neolithic individuals, we studied the transition period from early Aceramic (Pre-Pottery) to the later Pottery Neolithic, when farming expanded west of the Fertile Crescent. We find that genetic diversity in the earliest farmers was conspicuously low, on a par with European foraging groups. With the advent of the Pottery Neolithic, genetic variation within societies reached levels later found in early European farmers. Our results confirm that the earliest Neolithic central Anatolians belonged to the same gene pool as the first Neolithic migrants spreading into Europe. Further, genetic affinities between later Anatolian farmers and fourth to third millennium BC Chalcolithic south Europeans suggest an additional wave of Anatolian migrants, after the initial Neolithic spread but before the Yamnaya-related migrations. We propose that the earliest farming societies demographically resembled foragers and that only after regional gene flow and rising heterogeneity did the farming population expansions into Europe occur.

Concepts: Europe, Population genetics, Neolithic, Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia, Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, Jericho, Natufian culture


This study focuses on Kaizer Hill, a quarry site located in the vicinity of the city of Modiin where remains of a single prehistoric cultural entity assigned to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A were discovered. A systematic survey revealed that large-scale quarrying activities have left damage markings on the bedrock of the Hilltop and its slopes. We aim to present here our findings from the Hilltop, which are concerned with the human impact on rock surfaces and the lithic artifacts retrieved during the survey. It is evident that the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A inhabitants of the area changed their landscape forever, “stripping” the caliche surface and penetrating it in search of flint bedded in the bedrock.

Concepts: Rock, Neolithic, Fertile Crescent, Stone Age, Göbekli Tepe, Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, Jericho, History of pottery in the Southern Levant


Aşıklı Höyük is the earliest known preceramic Neolithic mound site in Central Anatolia. The oldest Levels, 4 and 5, spanning 8,200 to approximately 9,000 cal B.C., associate with round-house architecture and arguably represent the birth of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic in the region. Results from upper Level 4, reported here, indicate a broad meat diet that consisted of diverse wild ungulate and small animal species. The meat diet shifted gradually over just a few centuries to an exceptional emphasis on caprines (mainly sheep). Age-sex distributions of the caprines in upper Level 4 indicate selective manipulation by humans by or before 8,200 cal B.C. Primary dung accumulations between the structures demonstrate that ruminants were held captive inside the settlement at this time. Taken together, the zooarchaeological and geoarchaeological evidence demonstrate an emergent process of caprine management that was highly experimental in nature and oriented to quick returns. Stabling was one of the early mechanisms of caprine population isolation, a precondition to domestication.

Concepts: Human, Cattle, Turkey, Domestication, Neolithic, Göbekli Tepe, Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, Jericho


Pre-Pottery Neolithic assemblages are best known from the fertile areas of the Mediterranean Levant. The archaeological site of Jebel Qattar 101 (JQ-101), at Jubbah in the southern part of the Nefud Desert of northern Saudi Arabia, contains a large collection of stone tools, adjacent to an Early Holocene palaeolake. The stone tool assemblage contains lithic types, including El-Khiam and Helwan projectile points, which are similar to those recorded in Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B assemblages in the Fertile Crescent. Jebel Qattar lies ∼500 kilometres outside the previously identified geographic range of Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures. Technological analysis of the typologically diagnostic Jebel Qattar 101 projectile points indicates a unique strategy to manufacture the final forms, thereby raising the possibility of either direct migration of Levantine groups or the acculturation of mobile communities in Arabia. The discovery of the Early Holocene site of Jebel Qattar suggests that our view of the geographic distribution and character of Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures may be in need of revision.

Concepts: Jordan, Neolithic, Fertile Crescent, Lebanon, Iraq, Levant, Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, Jericho


The transition from mobile to sedentary life was one of the greatest social challenges of the human past. Yet little is known about the impact of this fundamental change on social interactions amongst early Neolithic communities, which are best recorded in the Near East. The importance of social processes associated with these economic and ecological changes has long been underestimated. However, ethnographic observations demonstrate that generalized reciprocity - such as open access to resources and land - had to be reduced to a circumscribed group before regular farming and herding could be successfully established. Our aim was thus to investigate the role of familial relationships as one possible factor within this process of segregation as recorded directly in the skeletal remains, rather than based on hypothetical correlations such as house types and social units. Here we present the revealing results of the systematically recorded epigenetic characteristics of teeth and skulls of the late Pre-Pottery Neolithic community of Basta in Southern Jordan (Figure S1). Additionally, mobility was reconstructed via a systematic strontium (Sr) isotope analysis of tooth enamel of the Basta individuals. The frequency of congenitally missing maxillary lateral incisors in the 9,000-year-old community of Basta is exceptionally high (35.7%). Genetic studies and a worldwide comparison of the general rate of this dental anomaly in modern and historic populations show that the enhanced frequency can only be explained by close familial relationships akin to endogamy. This is supported by strontium isotope analyses of teeth, indicating a local origin of almost all investigated individuals. Yet, the accompanying archaeological finds document far-reaching economic exchange with neighboring groups and a population density hitherto unparalleled. We thus conclude that endogamy in the early Neolithic village of Basta was not due to geographic isolation or a lack of exogamous mating partners but a socio-cultural choice.

Concepts: Population, Sociology, Teeth, Tooth enamel, Neolithic, Fertile Crescent, Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, Jericho


Recent studies have broadened our knowledge regarding the origins of agriculture in southwest Asia by highlighting the multiregional and protracted nature of plant domestication. However, there have been few archaeobotanical data to examine whether the early adoption of wild cereal cultivation and the subsequent appearance of domesticated-type cereals occurred in parallel across southwest Asia, or if chronological differences existed between regions. The evaluation of the available archaeobotanical evidence indicates that during Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultivation of wild cereal species was common in regions such as the southern-central Levant and the Upper Euphrates area, but the plant-based subsistence in the eastern Fertile Crescent (southeast Turkey, Iran, and Iraq) focused on the exploitation of plants such as legumes, goatgrass, fruits, and nuts. Around 10.7-10.2 ka Cal BP (early Pre-Pottery Neolithic B), the predominant exploitation of cereals continued in the southern-central Levant and is correlated with the appearance of significant proportions (∼30%) of domesticated-type cereal chaff in the archaeobotanical record. In the eastern Fertile Crescent exploitation of legumes, fruits, nuts, and grasses continued, and in the Euphrates legumes predominated. In these two regions domesticated-type cereal chaff (>10%) is not identified until the middle and late Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (10.2-8.3 ka Cal BP). We propose that the cultivation of wild and domesticated cereals developed at different times across southwest Asia and was conditioned by the regionally diverse plant-based subsistence strategies adopted by Pre-Pottery Neolithic groups.

Concepts: Agriculture, Domestication, Western Asia, Neolithic, Fertile Crescent, Iraq, Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, Jericho


The agricultural transition profoundly changed human societies. We sequenced and analysed the first genome (1.39x) of an early Neolithic woman from Ganj Dareh, in the Zagros Mountains of Iran, a site with early evidence for an economy based on goat herding, ca. 10,000 BP. We show that Western Iran was inhabited by a population genetically most similar to hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus, but distinct from the Neolithic Anatolian people who later brought food production into Europe. The inhabitants of Ganj Dareh made little direct genetic contribution to modern European populations, suggesting those of the Central Zagros were somewhat isolated from other populations of the Fertile Crescent. Runs of homozygosity are of a similar length to those from Neolithic farmers, and shorter than those of Caucasus and Western Hunter-Gatherers, suggesting that the inhabitants of Ganj Dareh did not undergo the large population bottleneck suffered by their northern neighbours. While some degree of cultural diffusion between Anatolia, Western Iran and other neighbouring regions is possible, the genetic dissimilarity between early Anatolian farmers and the inhabitants of Ganj Dareh supports a model in which Neolithic societies in these areas were distinct.

Concepts: Europe, Iran, Turkey, Neolithic, Fertile Crescent, Iraq, Mesopotamia, Pre-Pottery Neolithic A