On Seasonal Mobility and Agriculture in the Levant

by A. M. T. Moore
On Seasonal Mobility and Agriculture in the Levant
A. M. T. Moore
Current Anthropology
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the peerage as Lord Avebury (an audacious choice of ti- tle!), obscured Wilson's major contribution to the inven- tion of prehistory as a scientific discipline in Britain and America. The facts remain that Wilson was the first to use the word "prehistory" in English, that Lubbock read Wilson's Prehistoric Man as well as his 1851 Archaeology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland before preparing the 1865 Pre-historic Times (with its title suggestively similar to Prehistoric Man), and that thousands and thousands of copies of the many editions of Chambers's Vestiges and of the three editions of Wilson's Prehistoric Man were bought, by libraries as well as by the educated public, and read. The priority of Wilson's two major books on prehistory and the accolade given him in his own time by the invitation to prepare the major article on archaeology for the Encyclopedia Britannica's ninth edition strongly support my contention that Wilson's foundational contribution should be recognized.

I do want to mention a typographical omission in my paper that I did not catch: on p. 469, col. 2, lines 25-26, the quotation should read ". . . a people probably closely resembling those of Scotlands primitive eras, which con- stitutes one of the favourite themes on which I used to bore you."
On Seasonal Mobility and Agriculture in the Levant


Graduate School, Yale University, P.O. Box 1jo4A, New Haven, Conn. 06120, U.S.A. 8 IX 93

One of the most difficult tasks in archaeology is to deter- mine the seasons in which a prehistoric site was occu- pied. The most useful sources of evidence are the plant and animal remains recovered from such sites, but these may be either represented in quantities too modest for firm conclusions or subject to conflicting interpreta- tions. Lieberman's application of tooth cementum anal- ysis (1991) has enabled him to determine winter and/or summer occupation on Paleolithic sites where few other organic remains have been preserved. Caution is still in order, however. Ideally, a substantial number of teeth should be examined to confirm that the patterns ob- served on the first few specimens are representative of the sample as a whole, and it should always be remem- bered that, even when a good sample of teeth is available for study, it will be difficult to determine more precisely in which months a site was occupied. Information from other sources of evidence will still be needed to refine interpretation.

In the study reported in CA (34:599-63), the sample of gazelle teeth that proved suitable for consideration is uncomfortably small, but Lieberman's observation of similar patterns at sites of broadly comparable age in- creases one's confidence in his results. His uniformitar- ian assumptions should, however, be made more ex- plicit. He has assumed that through ~oo,ooo years of the Upper Pleistocene the patterns of growth, development, and behavior of the gazelle have remained the same and that the species itself has not evolved. Given the major fluctuations in climate and vegetation that occurred in the region and the changes in the human occupants, in their behavior, and in the composition of the fauna doc- umented at Tabiin itself (Bate 1937) and at Ksar Akil (Hooijer 1961)) these are large assumptions. One won- ders, for example, whether the gazelle might have adopted more or less migratory patterns of behavior in response to climatic oscillations that might explain the shifting patterns of seasonal exploitation by their human predators that Lieberman observes.

Lieberman concludes that for much of the time people used their campsites for one period of the year only. He believes, further, that they preferred the lowlands in one season and the uplands in another. This conclusion is not confirmed by the evidence he presents in table I, where, for example, sites adjacent to each other such as Mugharet el-Wad and Kebara were inhabited at different seasons in the Upper Palaeolithic. The same seems to have been the case at two Jordan Valley sites, Ohalo I1 and Fazael VII, in the Kebaran. One of the richest sources of food for the hunters and gatherers of the re- gion would have been marshes and the fringes of lakes and rivers, especially in autumn and spring, when migra- tory birds passed through, and in winter, when the rhi- zomes of reeds and rushes would have provided a nutri- tious and abundant source of food when other edible plants were in short supply. This is confirmed by Lieber- man's evidence that sites at the foot of the Mt. Carmel massif overlooking the marshes of the adjacent coastal plain, around the Sea of Galilee, and in the Jordan Valley were usually occupied during one or more of those seasons.

Lieberman's second main conclusion, that Neander- thals in the later Middle Palaeolithic and modern hu- mans in the Natufian occupied their sites for much of the year, calls for further reflection given their known differences in behavior. The Neanderthal occupation may have corresponded to oxygen-isotope stage 4, when the climate of the region was cool and dry, while the Natufians who inhabited the sites studied bv Lieberman lived from about ~z,ooo to II,OOO B.P. in radiocarbon years, during a relatively warm and moist episode. The Natufian pattern may indeed indicate a shift to a more


1993. The rise and fall of seasonal mobility among

sedentary mode of life, as Lieberman proposes, but the

apparent year-round occupation by Neanderthals is

hunter-gatherers: The case of the southern Levant. CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY 34:599-631.

probably the result of a different pattern of debris deposi-

tion. The later Middle Palaeolithic sites are in ecotones.

as he observes, and so would have been attractive to

MOORE,A. M. T. 1991. "Abu Hureyra I and the antecedents of

agriculture on the Middle Euphrates," in The Natufian culture

in the Levant. Edited by Ofer Bar-Yosef and Fran~ois Valla, pp.

27-94. Ann Arbor: International Monographs in Prehistory.

such groups in more than one season. Neanderthals may have used the sites for short periods of a few days or weeks at various times of the year and have repeated their visits intermittently over several millennia. Ga- zelle remains brought back to a site during such infre- quent stays would have been obtained in different sea- sons, thus mimicking year-round occupations.

Lieberman's claim that occupation of Natufian sites for much of the vear was linked to increased cereal con- sumption and the development of agriculture must be challenged. The direct evidence from plant remains for cereal consumption at the sites in the Natufian heart- land from which he obtained his samples is minimal (Olszewslzi I 993:425). The only contemporary Levantine site at which large quantities of cereals have been found is Abu Hureyra I (Hillman, Colledge, and Harris 1989)~ in the steppe, beyond the Mediterranean zone. Acorns may have been a staple plant food for the inhabitants of Natufian sites in the Mediterranean for- est, as Olszewski (1993:427), I (1991:289), and others have argued. The first unequivocal evidence for agricul- ture in the form of domesticated cereals and pulses oc- curs at Jericho (Hopf 1983) and Tell Aswad (van Zeist and Baklzer-Heeres 1982) about ~o,ooo B.P., a millen- nium later than the Natufian deposits studied by Lieber- man. This gap in time between his Natufian sites and the inception of farming corresponded to the Younger Dryas, an episode of cooler, drier climate that was partly responsible for the disruption of late Epipaleolithic hunting and gathering and that contributed to the devel- opment of farming (Moore and Hillman 1992). Jericho and Tell Aswad lie in semiarid country, suggesting that agriculture developed there and not in the Mediterra- nean forest.
References Cited

BATE,D. M. A. 1937 "Palaeontology: The fossil fauna of the

Wady el-Mughara caves,"in The Stone Age of Mount Carmel,

vol. I, by D. A. E. Garrod and D. M. A. Bate, pp. 135-233 Ox-


R. HARRIS. 1989 "Plant-food economy during the Epipalaeo- lithic period at Tell Abu Hureyra, Syria: Dietary diversity, sea- sonality, and modes of exploitation," in Foraging and farming. Edited by David R. Harris and Gordon C. Hillman, pp. 240-68. London: Unwin Hyman.

HOOITER, 1961. The fossil vertebrates of KsPr'Akil, a D. A.

MOORE,A. M. T., AND G. C. HILLMAN. 1992. The Pleistocene

to Holocene transition and human economy in Southwest

Asia: The impact of the Younger Dryas. American Antiquity

57:482-94. OLSZEWSKI, I. 1993. Subsistence ecology in the Med-


iterranean forest: Implications for the origins of cultivation in

the Epipaleolithic southern Levant. American Anthropologist


VAN ZEIST, w., AND 7. A. H. BAKKER-HEERES. 1982. Archaeo-

botanical studies in the Levant: Neolithic sites in the Damas-

cus Basin-Aswad, Ghoraife, Ramad. Palaeohistoria 24:165

On Subsistence Change at the Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition


Anthropology Department, Hartwick College, Oneonta, N.Y. 13820, U.S.A. 30 VI 93

The recent report by Jacobs (CA 34:311-24) on changes in subsistence detected in human bone at the Meso- lithic-Neolithic transition in Ukraine contains numer- ous errors. Jacobs's radiocarbon dates and other analyses of human bone suggest that food-producing economies were adopted north of the Black Sea in the Dnieper Rap- ids area by about 6500-7000 B.c., almost two millennia earlier than the generally accepted date of ca. 5000 B.C. (calibrated). Such an early date, Jacobs notes, further sug- gests that sedentary, cereal-based subsistence combined with cattle and sheep herding may have developed here independently or may have been somehow related to economic impulses that began in the Levant and passed northward through the Caucasus to the region north of the Black Sea (the North Pontic region). The standard view is that food production entered the North Pontic region primarily through diffusion from neighboring populations of Southeast European farmers. However, if Jacobs is correct, the North Pontic Neolithic began be- fore farming communities appeared in the Balkans, making the "out-of-Danubia" model impossible. In fact, Jacobs's revised chronology would make the North Pon- tic Neolithic the earliest food-producing economy in temperate Europe. Because the Neolithic cultures of the Caspian steppes, the middle Volga, and the southern and

Volume 35, Number I, February 1994 1 49

Palaeolithic rock shelter in the Lebanon. Zoologische Verhan- delingen, Uitgegeven door het Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie te Leiden 49:1-68.

HOPF,M. 1983 "Jericho plant remains," in Excavations at Ieri- cho, vol. 5, by K. M. Kenyon and T. A. Holland, appendix B, pp. 576-621. London: British School of Archaeology in Jerusa- lem.

LIEBERMAN,DANIEL E. 1991. Seasonality and gazelle hunting at Hayonim Cave: New evidence for "sedentism" during the Natufian. Paleorient 17:47-5 7.
References Cited


CARL. 1990. Wilson, Sir Daniel. Dictionary of Cana- dian Biography 12:1109-14. DESMOND, ADRIAN, AND JAMES MOORE. 1992. Darwin. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. KEHOE,ALICE. 1991. The invention of prehistory. CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY 321467-76, LUBBOCK,JOHN. 1863a. North American archaeology. The Nat- ural History Review, no. 9, pp. 1-30,

-. 1863b. North American archaeology. Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution . . . for the Year 1862, pp. 318-36.

1865. Pre-historic times. London: Williams and Norgate. MAISELS,CHARLES K. 1992. The Near East: Archaeology in the "cradle of civilization." London: Routledge. STOCKING, w., TR. 1987 Victorian anthropology.

GEORGE New York: Free Press. TRIGGER,BRUCE G. 1966. Sir Daniel Wilson: Canada's first an- thropologist. Anthropologica 8: 3-28. WILSON,DANIEL.1861. The presidential address. Canadian Iournal 6:1o1-20. -. 1862. Prehistoric man: Researches into the origin of civi- lisation in the Old and the New World. London: Macmillan. -. 1876. 3d edition. Prehistoric man. London: Macmillan.

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