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ARCH 21908: Archaeology of the Ancient Near East : Epipaleolithic

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Also called the Mesolithic, this period roughly dates to 20–10,000 BCE.  The Epipaleolithic begins following the end of the Last Glacial Maximum and a general period of warming. Although people continued to be nomadic hunter-gatherers, the better climate resulted in an unprecedented population growth that put a lot of pressure on the naturally available wild plants and animals, particularly during a brief period of climatic cooling and drying, known as the Younger Dryas. This provided the background for the domestication of animals and cultivation of wild cereals. The Epipaleolithic people are known for producing fine microlithis from chipped stone material. The dominant Epipaleolithic cultures of the Levant are the Kebaran and Natufian cultures. The Zarzian culture was more dominant in western Iran and eastern Iraq.

Key Sites

Hayonim Cave (Israel)

Hilazon Tachtit (Israel)

Kharaneh IV (Jordan)

Nahal Ein Gev II (Israel)

Ohalo II (Israel)

Palegawra Cave (Iraq)

Warwasi (Iran)

Key Citations

Boyd, Brian

2006 On ‘sedentism’ in the Later Epipalaeolithic (Natufian) Levant. World Archaeology 38(2):164–178.  DOI:10.1080/00438240600688398.

Byrd, Brian F.

1989 The Natufian: Settlement variability and economic adaptations in the Levant at the end of the Pleistocene. Journal of World Prehistory 3(2):159–197. DOI:10.1007/BF00975760.

Byrd, Brian F., and Christopher M. Monahan

1995 Death, Mortuary Ritual, and Natufian Social Structure. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 14(3):251–287. DOI:10.1006/jaar.1995.1014.

Maher, Lisa A., Tobias Richter, and Jay T. Stock

2012 The Pre-Natufian Epipaleolithic: Long-term Behavioral Trends in the Levant. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews 21(2):69–81. DOI:10.1002/evan.21307.

Munro, Natalie

2009  Epipaleolithic Subsistence Intensification in the Southern Levant: The Faunal Evidence. In The Evolution of Hominin Diets: Integrating Approaches to the Study of Palaeolithic Subsistence, edited by Jean-Jacques Hublin and Michael P. Richards, pp. 141–155. Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology. Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht.

Peasnall, Brian L

2000  The Round House Horizon Along the Taurus-Zagros arc: A Synthesis of Recent Excavations of lLte Epipaleolithic and Early Aceramic Sites in Southeastern Anatolia and Northern Iraq. Dissertations available from ProQuest:1–671.

Rosen, Arlene M., and Isabel Rivera-Collazo

2012  Climate change, adaptive cycles, and the persistence of foraging economies during the late Pleistocene/Holocene transition in the Levant. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109(10):3640–3645. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1113931109.

Stiner, Mary C., Natalie D. Munro, and Todd A. Surovell

2000  The Tortoise and the Hare: Small‐Game Use, the Broad‐Spectrum Revolution, and Paleolithic Demography. Current Anthropology 41(1):39–79. DOI:10.1086/300102.

Yeomans, Lisa, Tobias Richter, and Louise Martin

2017  Environment, seasonality and hunting strategies as influences on Natufian food procurement: The faunal remains from Shubayqa 1. Levant 49(2):85–104. DOI:10.1080/00758914.2017.1368820.

Olszewski, Deborah

2012  The Zarzian in the Context of the Epipaleolithic Middle East. International Journal of the Humanities 19(3): 1-20

Nadel, Dani 

2004  Continuity and Change: the Ohalo II and the Natufian Dwelling Structures (Jordan Valley, Isreal). In The Last Hunter-Gatherer Societies in the Near East, edited by C. Delage, pp. 95-117. BAR International Series 1320, Oxford.