Geoarchaeological Survey and the Epipalaeolithic in Northern Jordan. (News & Notes)

By Maher, Lisa; Banning, E. B. | Antiquity, June 2002 | Go to article overview
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Geoarchaeological Survey and the Epipalaeolithic in Northern Jordan. (News & Notes)


Maher, Lisa, Banning, E. B., Antiquity


The Wadi Ziqlab Project of University of Toronto conducted survey of river terraces in Wadi Ziqlab and Wadi Taiyiba, two adjacent, small drainage basins in northern Jordan, and made small test excavations at three Epipalaeolithic sites during the summers of 2000 and 2001. The goals of the survey were to reconstruct changes in late Pleistocene and early Holocene paleoenvironments and landscapes, and to relate them to the distributions of Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic sites (c. 18,000-5000 cal BC).

A key strategy of the survey was to focus on outcrops of a Late Pleistocene paleosol, wherever it was exposed by valley incision. This was especially successful at finding concentrations of stone tools and faunal remains belonging to the Kebaran and Geometric Kebaran cultures of the Epipalaeolithic. Prior to 2000, only one Epipalaeolithic site, Tabaqat al-Buma, was known in Wadi Ziqlab (Maher et al. in press), and very few in northern Transjordan (Edwards 2001). We now know of at least three in Wadi Ziqlab and at least four in Wadi Taiyiba, most of which have assemblages that appear similar to those documented at such sites as Neve David (Bar-Oz et al. 1999) and Ein Gev I (Bar-Yosef 1991).

Our team also did small test excavations at a Geometric Kebaran site (WZ 148) in Wadi Ziqlab in 2000, and in 2001 resumed these while also testing two additional Epipalaeolithic sites in Wadi Taiyiba (WT 1 and WT 6). The excavations at WZ 148 yielded stratified deposits containing many microlithic tools. Trapeze/rectangles and their `proto' forms dominated, as well as backed-bladelet fragments. Endscrapers and burins on blades and bladelets were also common. WT 1 consists of a dense surface scatter of lithics, but its subsurface deposits are thin. The deflated site sits on a steep west-facing slope about 500 m west of WT 6, a deep, stratified site against a natural rock-shelter. The lithic assemblages at these two sites, with small, narrow, obliquely truncated and backed bladelets common, are both very similar to that of WZ 200 (Maher et al. in press), and strikingly different from the classic Geometric Kebaran assemblage of WZ 148. WZ 148 and WT 6 have substantial amounts of faunal material belonging predominantly to red deer, tortoise, and gazelle species, along with smaller numbers of other antilopines, auroch, ibex, canids and wild caprines. The excavations at WZ 148 also uncovered a concentration of human bones, from two individuals, that might represent a double burial. Pre-Natufian burials in this region are very rare, and determining with greater certainty whether this is indeed a burial must await further excavations in 2002. Although we have submitted some bone samples for radiocarbon assay, no dates are yet available.

Block samples of soils and sediments from exposed cross-sections in the excavations and stream cuts are now being prepared as thin sections for micromorphological study.

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