WF16, a New PPNA Site in Southern Jordan

By Mithen, Steven; Finlayson, Bill | Antiquity, March 2000 | Go to article overview

WF16, a New PPNA Site in Southern Jordan


Mithen, Steven, Finlayson, Bill, Antiquity


Wadi Faynan in southern Jordan has a remarkable archaeological landscape with the remains of a vast Roman/Byzantine settlement and field system, many later prehistoric sites and a Pre-Pottery Neolithic B village dating to c. 8700 radiocarbon years BP. Since 1996 we have been conducting survey and excavation within this Wadi, and especially at its confluence with Wadi Ghuwayr, to locate the precursor to the PPNB site and any earlier prehistoric activity. The most important site so far discovered has been called WF16 and is a well preserved Pre-Pottery Neolithic A settlement, dated to between 10,200 and 9400 radiocarbon years BP (FIGURE 1). Sites of this period are extremely rare in the Near East and of considerable importance for they lie right at the juncture between a hunting-gathering and farming lifestyle (Bar-Yosef & Belfer-Cohen 1989). WF16 is particularly well preserved for, unlike other PPNA settlements such as Jericho, it was not buried by a later PPNB settlement, this having been located approximately 100 m away in the lower reaches of Wadi Ghuwayr. Neither does there appear to be significant Natufian deposits at WF16 -- it appears to be a pristine PPNA site and for that reason is of considerable significance.

[FIGURE 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Excavations were carried out at WF16, and at an adjacent and contemporary site of WF328 (probably part of a single settlement), between 1997 and 1999. These have exposed two types of structures, one constructed rather crudely using large amorphous boulders, as in FIGURE 2, and one with more carefully constructed walls using orthostats. The former structures have stratified deposits from which a well-preserved faunal assemblage and plant remains have been recovered, as well as a diverse array of artefacts. The fauna, being studied by Denise Carruthers, is dominated by wild goat which is unique for a PPNA site -- the transition from gazelle to goat normally being associated with that from PPNA to PPNB. Bovids, equids, birds and carnivores are also represented in the fauna. The plant remains, studied by Amanda Kennedy contain a range of species, including wild cabbage and probably barley, while the wood charcoal, studied by Phil Austin, has shown that several different ecotypes were being exploited by the WF16 inhabitants, including riparian woodland with willow, alder and figs, and pine-clad uplands. …

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