Info

Figure 5. (A) Plan view of Jericho MPPNB skull cache Ell- 16(EI, II, V, phase xxxiii). After Kenyon (1981:Plate 155). (B) Plan view of Jericho MPPNB skull cache D35-44 (DI phase xxix-xxx). After Kenyon (1981:Plate 36). Note physical grouping of nine skulls in three groups of three.

in the caches with associated skeletons, such as that of Tr.I, FI, stage xxxi, in which nine mandibles were associated with two skeletons, the number 3 or multiples of 3 was often used to organize secondary mortuary interments.

This same pattern of threes also occurs at Beidha, Nahal Hemar, and 'Ain Ghazal in the MPPNB and at several LPPNB settlements, such as Es-Sifiya and Basta. In the excavations at 'Ain Ghazal, several plastered skulls have been recovered. Most of these are individual skulls or portions of skulls, and one cache of a group of three. Rollefson also reports the recovery of several unplastered caches of skulls, one of which involves a group of three (Rollefson 1986). At Beidha, in an abandoned Level II workshop, Kirkbride reports recovering nine infant skeletons (Kirkbride 1968:272).Simi-larly at Nahal Hemar, six skulls were uncovered in the excavation of the cave, three of which were decorated at the back with the same net pattern, although it is not entirely clear if these were all part of a single cache (Bar-Yosef andAlon 1988).

Current archaeological evidence indicates that MPPNB ritual practitioners often cached other cultic objects, such as dedicatory offerings, in sets of three (Table 6.2). The excavators at 'Ain Ghazal uncovered from the corner of a room a circular stone storage feature which contained three Bos metacarpals, one of which had three longitudinal incisions. Underneath these three bones, lying directly upon the plaster base of the feature, was a single Bos figurine (Rollefson 1986:47). Similarly, in the excavations undertaken by Garstang (Garstang et al. 1935:166) at Jericho, two sets of three statues were recovered, each of these apparently consisting of a man, a woman, and a child. Needless to say, there are exceptions to the practices of interring skulls and skeletons in groups of threes at the most extensively excavated sites of Jericho and 'Ain Ghazal. These exceptions account for fewer than half of the examples and usually involve sets of two cultic objects, possibly as a symbolic and physical expression of couples. Interestingly this emphasis on twinning is also seen at 'Ain Ghazal in the recovery of three double-headed statues in which two heads were placed upon a single torso (Schmandt-Besserat 1998). Although the specific meanings of such standardization are lost to us, the clear organization of such practices outlines that MPPNB ritual practitioners at Jericho, 'Ain Ghazal, and Beidha intentionally organized ritual practices in a highly standardized way, presumably so as to be meaningful to others observing these practices and in a way that was consistent with community beliefs and ideology.

How then do data from MPPNB secondary mortuary and anthropomorphic figurine caches help us to understand some of the links between household ritual practices and broader social beliefs in early agricultural communities in the Middle East and to understand why the number of cached objects was probably predetermined?While it is not possible for us to di rectly interpret the specific spiritual beliefs associated with skull caching in predetermined units in the MPPNB, it is possible to reflect upon why such ritual practices were standardized at the household level and to comprehend their impact on relations within early agricultural village communities.

Skull and Statue Caching: Implications for the Scale of Social Action

For a moment let us consider how household and community-level participation in MPPNB skull caching may have been affected by the caching of multiple skeletal and ritual elements within the same context—insome cases up to nine skulls-and the degree to which different households may have been represented. Specifically, were these caches the result of ritual practices by single households (thereby stressing the importance of an individual household), or were the caches composed of human remains from several households (thereby stressing the collective participation by multiple households)? If the skull caches were from single households then it would have been necessary to postpone the secondary interment of skulls until there were enough deceased household members for a collective cache. Depending on the number of human skulls required, the death rates within individual households, and the amount of required for decomposition of the flesh, this could easily require four to six years and possibly as many as twenty years for smaller households. In such a scenario, households would probably hold a primary mortuary celebration for deceased individuals quickly after death, bury the individual with other deceased household members, and then hold a secondary mortuary celebration at some point in the future when there would have been enough deceased individuals for a burial cache. A second scenario is that secondary MPPNB mortuary skull caches represented relationships between multiple households. In this scenario, the skulls from deceased members of various households would have been removed from their primary location and collectively buried by ritual practitioners in a single ceremony at the same time. Depending on the death rate within households, as well as the size of the overall community, such events probably would have occurred at least once a year. Such an annual large community-level ritual event would have required elaborate preparations and organization by the host households and, by linking a number of households within and between villages, would have created a massive community event with widespread participation.

Needless to say, from an archaeological perspective it is very difficult to distinguish between these two scenarios, as both are likely to have very similar material expressions. There is, however, one very important difference between these two scenarios: the first prioritizes the individual house hold over others, whereas the second one prioritizes the community over individual households. If skull caches had been organized by individual households then one would anticipate a material emphasis of the economic and political status of the host households over others, presumably expressed by an extensive variation in grave goods, residential housing, and material culture within individual structures or household compounds. It is important to note, however, that this is not supported by archaeological evidence (see Byrd 1994; Kuijt 1995, 1996; Rollefson Chapter 7,this volume). Thus, we must ask ourselves if individual members of a single household were being differentiated in skull caching, as it is very tempting to believe; then one must ask why did these people not differentiate themselves from others in more visible ways?Why, for example, did household members not draw attention to their household by including grave goods, building larger and different residential structures, and varying mortuary practices rather than adhere to conservative social codes prohibiting grave goods? Simply put, if individual households wanted to differentiate themselves over others, then why do we not see more evidence for variations in contemporaneous residential architecturalpractices and the differential treatment of people in life and death? I believe that the most parsimonious explanation for these questions is that the acts involved in, and organization behind, the differential selection of individuals in life and death, such as the painting and plastering of skulls, dedicatory caches, and caching of human skulls and large statuary, focused on emphasizing ties between multiple households within MPPNB communities.

Social Differentiation in the MPPNB

Having argued that MPPNB community members adhered to social codes that limited social differentiation, it is also necessary to note that recent research has drawn increasing attention to archaeological evidence for the emergence of social differentiation in the MPPNB (Bar-Yosef and BelferCohen 1989, 1991; Bar-Yosef and Meadows 1995; Byrd 1994; Kuijt 1995; Rollefson et al. 1992) and possibly as early as the PPNA (Bar-Yosef and Meadows 1995; Kuijt 1994, 1996). While it is not possible to provide a detailed examination of this topic within the scope of this chapter, it is necessary to outline some of this evidence. Briefly, while MPPNB material culture and architecture suggest an emphasis on standardization in size, shape, and internal organization of residential buildings within the greater community (see Byrd 1994; Kuijt 1995;Ozdogan and Ozdogan 1989), consideration of mortuary data reflect subtle, yet observable, dimensions of competition and tension between individual Houses within the communitylevel egalitarian worldview. Materially these tensions were expressed through the employment of a series of mortuary practices that differentially selected some individual over others. For example, approximately 70% of adult community members at 'Ain Ghazal and Jericho were selected for secondary mortuary practices with the interment of skulls. Similarly, only 20% of all individuals appear to have been interred in caches, with a much lower percentage of individuals selected at death for skull plastering or painting.

While maintaining the overall emphasis on secondary mortuary practices that first appeared in Late Natufian and PPNA contexts, MPPNB mortuary practices included the intentional caching of crania from select individuals in collective public rituals, with the secondary interment of crania in extra- and intramural locations. Some individuals were also differentially selected through the modification of the crania in the elaborate plastering and painting of skulls with clay, asphalt, and pigments and inlaying shells in the eye sockets. Field work at Jericho and Nahal Hemar documented several kinds of cranial deformation practiced in the MPPNB, and interestingly, many of the individuals identified with deformed crania were from the skull caches (Arensburg and Herskovitz 1788;Cornwall 1781;Kuijt 1775;Kurth and Rohrer-Ertl 1781).At Jericho the physical separation of different kinds of cranial deformation in different areas of the settlement illustrates how differentiation within the community was expressed during life,how highly select individuals were physically and symbolically identified through physical appearance, and how individual Houses may have been differentiated from each other. Thus, certain individuals and groups were selected from the community and treated differently during life with skull deformation and again distinguished in death through skull caching and plastering.

conclusion AND implications

In light of the growing body cf archaeological evidence for social differentiation within MPPNB communities, as well as the symbolic and physical use of material culture to stress real and fictive affinity within and between individuals, households, and communities, I have argued that MPPNB ritual practices reinforced a collective ethos with the continued use of social mechanisms to encourage social cohesion and solidarity. Consideration of the archaeological record in question, with the almost total absence of grave goods with MPPNB primary and secondary interments and the homogenous design of residential architecture, illustrates a pattern that is consistent with communities attempting to emphasize a real or perceived parity between individuals, and the existence of political and economic cooperation and relationships between households. Archaeological studies provide a number of specific material patterns that inform researchers as to how commu nity members may have dealt with new social and organizational pressures associated with increased population aggregation in early agricultural communities. Among the observable patterns from the MPPNB are (1) a significant expansion of secondary mortuary ceremonies in comparison to the PPNA, (2) the caching of cultic objects in extramural locations, and votive offerings in inter-mural contexts, including human figurines and faunal remains, (3) the development of other forms of ritual, probably focused on the household, that involved caching of animal figurines, and (4) evidence for the deliberate standardization in the number of votive offerings in groups ofthree. Collectively, I believe that consideration ofthese developments, as well as the limited development of social differentiation in the MPPNB, indicates that future research is facilitated by envisioning MPPNB social systems as organized by a series of complex social rules that reaffirmed the egalitarian values and ethos of general society and at the same time permitted the development of social differentiation that crosscut household and kin-group lines.

This reconstruction of the MPPNB community and its chronological placement raises a number of interesting implications for our anthropological and archaeological understanding of the relationships between emerging hierarchy, community relations, and existence of House Societies many thousands of years ago. First of all, available evidence indicates that the earliest systematic appearance of social differentiation in the Aceramic Neolithic occurred in the MPPNB, between c. 9,200-8,500bp, in the form of cranial deformation, skull plastering and painting, and the select use of secondary cranial removal and caching to differentially identify some community members over others (also see Chapter 4, 5, and 7 in this volume). This realization is important, for if Bar-Yosef and Meadows (1995:88) are correct in arguing that size reduction in goats had already occurred by the MPPNB and that domesticated wheat and barley first appeared in the PPNA communities of Tel Aswad, Jericho, Gilgal, and Netiv Hagdud (Hillman and Davies 1990), then our most convincing evidence for systematic social differentiation in the Levantine Pre-Pottery Neolithic occurs after the domestication of plants and probably after that of goats as well. Such an awareness has profound implications for how archaeologists and anthropologists model the relationship of social differentiation and the origins of food production in the Levantine Neolithic, for many, if not most, models of this transition (e.g. Hayden 1995) either assume that they occurred simultaneously or fail to consistently situate these models within the archaeological record for this period of time. In light of our current knowledge of the Neolithic archaeological record, I argue that detailed consideration of PPNA and MPPNB mortuary and architectural evidence from the south-central Levant do not support arguments that the limited social differentiation seen in the MPPNB

led to successful political and economic consolidation among competing individuals or households. Thus, despite the dramatic increase in the scale of PPNA and MPPNB communities (see Bar-Yosef and Belfer-Cohen 1991; Bar-Yosef and Meadows 1995) and competition between different households within MPPNB communities over the control of new resources, I believe that community leaders developed and maintained a series of elaborate social controls, materially expressed through mortuary, ritual, and architectural practices, that emphasized membership and affinity at the household and community level. In short, while social differentiationexisted within and between households in communities, widely accepted social codes restricted the consolidation of this into some form of hereditary power, authority, or status during this period.

This realization, while counter to our expectation of food production leading to the emergence of hereditary social inequality, actually makes sense when we envision Pre-Pottery Neolithic communities as organized with competing and cooperating Houses and households, founded on an egalitarian ideology. From this viewpoint, the earlier development and maintenance of an egalitarian ideology in the PPNA and MPPNB may have become one of the major venues (if not the major venue) in which individual and household-based competitions were expressed (see also Boehm 1993; Kan 1989; McKinnon 1991). Similar to the system outlined by McKinnon (1991), I believe that the continual negotiation of existing, and development of new, social rules in the MPPNB and PPNA facilitated the cooperative and competitive relationships between individuals, households, and communities. In this light, community members may have transformed the ideological identity of egalitarianism from the earlier Late Natufian/PPNA into a form of egalitarianism focused on competitive exclusion between MPPNB households, to the eventual usurping of authority and power by ritual practitioners in the name of this same ideology in the LPPNB (c. 8,500-8,000 bp). Communities in the MPPNB period, therefore, provide one example of how the conceptual boundaries of, and tensions within, kinship-based systemswere constantly negotiated and challenged, as people attempted to reconcile a world still ordered and conceptualized in the conservative kinship terms of their ancestors with the increasingly dynamic and unanticipated economic, social, and political interests of their children in a rapidly changing world.

0 0

Post a comment