Ain Ghazal

'Ain Ghazal, at 12-13ha, is one ofthe largest spreads of PPNB in the Levant. Situatedjust outside Amman,Jordan, the site has been bifurcated by a major highway and irreparably damaged by agriculture, housing developments, and a sewage treatment plant. Working around these intrusions, Rollefson has demonstrated that the site was occupied and continued growing in size throughout the PPNB and into the PPNC (ca. 9,200-8,000bp) (Rollefson 1992; Rollefson et al. 1992). These excavations have revealed large numbers of burials, many decapitated, but so far no structures like those in Anatolia have been recovered. However, in the Late PPNB (8,400-8,000bp), two nearly identical, successively built "shrines"have been recovered (Kafafi and Rollefson 1995; Rollefson and Kafafi 1996). One is a circular structure, 2.5 m in diameter, with eight successive red-painted lime-plaster floors. In the center of this floor is a circular hole from which two pairs of subfloor channels radiate. The second example is some 4 x 5 m with oblique-angle room corners. In the center are three stelae-like stones standing in a line, behind which is a possibly anthropomorphic orthostat. Also in the room are a stone bench and a circular hearth of red-painted plaster surrounded by seven flat stones. Clearly "ceremonial" in nature, these structures may parallel the off-site building at Beidha (see below), but their size would seem to preclude community-wide public ceremonies. Again, it may be just a matter of luck that larger, more evidently public facilities have not been discovered in this, the largest of the Levantine sites. Rollefson sees these shrines as centers of "a lineage or clan cult with periodic religions rites." No clue to the nature of either the rites or these structures is given by the most spectacular of remains from the site, the plastered statues. Unfortunately these were buried in caches under the floors of abandoned houses, as were similar statues at contemporary Nahal Hemar and Jericho, thus depriving us of potentially fruitful insight into PPNB ritual practices.

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