Conclusions

The general question is whether sites with unusually large spatial extent, and presumably large populations, hold "public"facilities that are similarly scaled. I have investigated this question with reference to the few sites whose excavations have revealed a class of nondomestic architecture ordinarily interpreted as "shrine," "temple,"or, more ambiguously, "public." Although the sample of sites is not large, it encompasses the full range of site sites and is sufficient to answer my initial question. Nevertheless, a number of caveats must be raised. In the first place, most excavations have not been extensive enough to reveal whether sites have special structures. Perhaps it was only chance that none were revealed at Bouqras or Abu Hureyra. Moreover, it is also possible that really large, central facilities at some sites have been missed entirely, or that they are off-site where large groups could gather. One should also reiterate that the size of most sites at any moment cannot be determined with accuracy and, to a great extent, the absolute size of a site in the PPNB must have more to do with availability of local resources than with regional political or economic interactions.

The evidence presented suggests that PPNB sites typically possess one or more nondomestic structures that could have functioned as places for ritual or cultic activities or just social events. The southwestern kiva, a structure that serves as mens' meeting house, storytelling lodge, repository of sacred material, and place where spirits emerge from the earth, models one possible analog. The ubiquitous sheik's house in the Near East today models a somewhat different set of functions, primarily secular: community reception hall, residence of the leader, and so on. Both of these alternatives are plausible for the PPNB, although the structures seem to lack any domestic function.

The buildings at Nevali Cori, at approximately 9 m on a side, with perimeter benches could have seated thirty-five to forty people at a time. In other words, a large proportion of the Community, if not everyone, could have been accommodated. The structures at Beidha and Cayonu may also have served as community halls for they are about twice the size of domestic buildings and were well paved. In contrast, the structures of'Ain Ghazal, less than half as large as at Nevali Cori, but similar in size to hundreds of southwestern kivas, seem more appropriately sized to accommodate individual households or at least small groups.

Whereas the function of most of the buildings cannot be determined easily, the skull building at Cayonu as well as the many decapitated and plastered skulls found in PPNB sites confirm that the so-called burial cult was pervasive. At Cayonu a large proportion of the population was placed within the burial vaults, and blood residues on the floor of the room suggest that it was used for the preparation of bodies for burial and beheading. Inasmuch as detachment of skulls was a widespread, if not universal, practice during the PPNB, we should expect that buildings or off-site charnel houses at other sites functioned in a similar way, even if bones were not stored in vaults. Thus, despite the common practice of burial beneath houses, where the skull cult was practiced, it seems likely that it was carried out in one of the special buildings. It remains to be determined, perhaps through residue analysis for blood, whether all the buildings that I have reviewed served in the same way.

Domestic structures offer few clues as to the organization of PPNB society. There is no appreciable differentiation among residential structures other than overall size, but there is a tendency for the larger sites and larger houses to hold more evidence of exotic goods than the smaller ones, as at Cayonu. There seems little doubt that the PPNB sites were organized around the household, as a working, economic, and social unit. At some sites, such as Bouqras, the houses were more complex than at sites like Abu Hureyra. This may imply that larger groups composed the household at Bouqras, but in each site all houses look structurally like all others. This leads to the conclusion in all cases that households held property separately from the community, and such integrative activities as took place involved burial rites and perhaps social events, not community storage.

It is hard to find convincing evidence for leadership in any of the villages despite some differences in the sizes of houses. Clearly extraordinary effort was put into the construction of some of the special structures, as manifest in the terrazzo, plaster, and carved stelae at Cayonu Nevali Cori, 'Ain Ghazal, and other sites, but local artisans had already developed the requisite skills during the building of their residences. I see nothing in the PPNB that would have required a large or highly skilled labor crew.

What then can we say about the overall organization of the PPNB world?To date, despite gross differences in size and even in apparent quality of constructions, there is no convincing evidence that any site served the function of a political or economic center. Rather, each site looks pretty much like all others, including having special structures. It is hard to imagine what a "center"would have done, but one should not dismiss the effect of sheer size on other contemporary settlements. At the least the largest sites must have had a substantial buffer zone to allow for their residents to extract resources without competition from outsiders. Any site, large or small, might have controlled access to a scarce commodity such as high-quality flint for the making of naviform cores. 'Ain Ghazal may have controlled such a source, although it would be hard to find evidence that it did in fact limit access (Quintero 1997).

In conclusion, the concept of site "hierarchy" may not be applicable to PPNB sites, despite manifest differences in size. At least in the PPNB, size of site does not seem to have been a signal of complexity or, in itself, a determining factor of specialization or complexity. In one of this characteristically broadbrush essays, Robert McC. Adams considered that archaeologists' tendencies to construct normative classifications of sites belies the variability that is inherent, particularly as such communities are perceived archaeologically. As he put it, "any social reality involves variable rather than standardized units" (Adams 1988:5). He refers to ways that communities may become differentiated and stresses that when advantage accrues to one community, it alters its relationships with other, "generating conflict, exploitation and enhanced asymmetries of power as well as indeterminancies of outcome" (Adams 1988:6). Nevertheless, asymmetries are transitory for any number of social-economic-political reasons, yet the physical communities may remain largely intact. An older village may be large but have lost its "power," whereas a smallervillage with a rising leader may have become the center that in time would possibly outstrip others in size if the many internal and external factors permitted continued growth.

A further consideration regarding indeterminancies is the possibility that there was significant regional and temporal variation in the architectural expression of ceremonial and social activities. The sites in Anatolia have the best preserved and most exceptional features, whereas the sites on the Euphrates have so far yielded none. The sites in the southern Levant show more modest examples in the Anatolian pattern. The reported structures are Middle to Late PPNB. Does this imply that such facilities arose to meet changing needs as the PPNB progressed, perhaps, as Rollefson has argued, in the face of environmental depletion (Rollefson and Kohler-Rollefson 1989, 1992)? Until there has been fuller excavation and reporting, the possible implications of these sources of variability remain obscure.

In the meantime, while there is clear evidence for nondomestic activities that appear to be strongly ritualistic at many sites in the PPNB, apart from the mortuary cult, we are unable to specify what these rituals may have involved or who participated in them. Equally clear is that such rituals were normal components of PPNB society and they may have been universal in settlements. At this time there is no reason to think that large sites were organized differently from small settlements: the module throughout may have been the household whose activities were coordinated at the settlement level by their heads, meeting in "shrine-like" buildings.

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