Mppnb And Lppnb Ritual And Social Structure

The wealth of MPPNB material that was associated with ritual can be seen as a maintenance of earlier traditions in the Levant as well as an ongoing elaboration associated with a rapidly growing population during the late ninth and early eighth millennia. The figurines, burials, treated skulls, and plaster statuary, taken altogether, argue for a social order more complex than a simple egalitarian system of farmers. I propose that ritual behavior during this time occurred on at least three (possibly four) hierarchical levels in the settlement (and perhaps the greater region) and that these levels reflect to some degree the organization of social behavior on a day-to-day basis.

The production of clay animal and human figurines is an activity that requires little talent; a visit to almost any farming village in India will show that children or parents are often engaged in making figurines as toys (Kohler-Rollefson, personal communication). But some figurine manufacture in those same villages is highly restricted in terms of who can make them and how they can be used—social license is strictly governed for some forms and purposes. Certainly some of the MPPNB animal figurines fit into a "toy"or analogous category, but others (particularly human and cattle figurines) appear in contexts that indicate controlled ritual usage (and perhaps production by certain shamans or other ritual practitioners). The dispersal of figurines among the houses and trash dumps at 'Ain Ghazal suggests that figurines were available to everyone for personal protection or prosperity. In this regard, this was the "lowestlevel"in a hierarchy of ritual activity that involved personal, individual interaction with the magic or luck that is imbued in the talisman he or she possessed.

Human burials involved an intermediate level of the hierarchy. Certainly not every family member was entitled to a subfloor or courtyard burial, complete with ritual decapitation. The size and arrangement of MPPNB architecture suggest that each household was a nuclear family and essentially an independent production and consumption unit. On this "household level" certain individuals of either sex were selected for special postmortem treatment: beneath every MPPNB floor excavated at 'Ain Ghazal there was at least one burial, and decapitated burials included both males and females of all ages above ca. fifteen to eighteen months. How this selection process operated is not known. The "trash burials" are difficult to interpret since there are few parallels in the Levant, but the evident lack of respect at the death of these people suggests that they probably enjoyed little respect while they were alive; it is possible that a patron-client relationship was in effect and that the trash burials were essentially of disenfranchised people, with few if any social privileges and claims.

Associated with this household level, and perhaps operating on its own merits, the additional selection of some skulls for particular treatment indicates a higher level of complexity. The skulls of household heads (no pun intended) may simply have been buried elsewhere, untreated except for the fact of decapitation and separate relocation. Some skulls that were painted red or black may have been, for example, particularly respected ritual practitioners. But the elaboration afforded those individuals with a remodeling of the facial features in plaster suggests a higher plateau cf respect (and responsibility)—revered ancestors, as Kenyon (1970:54) described them, yes, but perhaps at the level of lineage or even clan leadership.

At the top of the hierarchy come the plaster statues and busts. The smaller, less-impressive busts might be taken to represent mythological lineage or clan founders whose names were passed down the generations through the powerful memory of oral tradition. The larger and more imposing statues tower above them all, and while it is unclear if they were "gods" they may have been the mythical founders of the community of clans (i.e., of "the people").

The twin-headed statues from the 1985 cache introduce an intriguing element in social complexity. Several coincidental aspects provide several possible interpretations. First, the mid-ninth millennium was a time of severe upheaval in terms of the abandonment of MPPNB farming villages, particularly in the Jordan Valley and areas to the west (see Rollefson 1987; Simmons Chapter 9 this volume). Second, it is also about this time that 'Ain Ghazal appears to have undergone a "sudden" increase in size with the establishment of the eastern enclave across the Zarqa River from the main settlement; normal population growth is an unlikely explanation for the rapid growth of 'Ain Ghazal, and it is not improbable that much of the expansion was the result of in-migration of some of families from the deserted settlements. And finally, recent faunal analysis of the ovicaprid remains at 'Ain Ghazal indicate that a rapid shift occurred from a dominance of goats to a strong majority of sheep during the latter half of the ninth millennium (Wasse 1994),a transformation of the subsistence economy that led to the beginnings of pastoral nomadism and increasing contact with steppe and desert populations to the east (Perrot 1993;Rollefsonand Kohler-Rollefson1993). The double-headed statues, then, might reflect a symbolic consolidation in the 'Ain Ghazal settlement of two or more related lineages or clan populations formerly spatially segregated, either as separate farming communities or as farmers and steppe/desert-dwelling hunters, or both.

The probability that the statuary was on display at least at certain times of the year logically demands that there was a special building to house them, although we have found no such evidence for a "shrine" or "temple" in our sampling of MPPNB deposits. The burials of the statue caches not far from the spring at 'Ain Ghazal suggest that such a community focus ofritual behavior was located near the center of the settlement, possibly destroyed by highway construction in the 1970s.

Despite the uneven evidence for the LPPNB, there is little to indicate major changes in ritual activity with the exception of the first appearance of secondary burials. With the changeover from goat- to sheep-based animal husbandry, the return of incomplete skeletons from afar for burial in the "home" territory is perhaps reflected here. The apparent replacement of small independent households by extended family economic units is suggested by much larger LPPNB buildings at 'Ain Ghazal and at Basta (cf.

Nissenetal. 1991:Figure 1),for example (Kafafi and Rollefson 1995).Some of the household members may have traveled with the flocks for part of the seasonal round, returning to 'Ain Ghazal periodically. Current research is addressing this topic, as well as the relationship of architecture and social structure (Rollefson 1997), such as understanding the implications of the violent death (and possible postmortem mutilation) of one community member recovered from a trash burial.

The LPPNB cult buildings/shrines and the temple/sanctuary add new dimensions of ritual practice not previously seen in the MPPNB in the southern Levant (but cf. Hauptmann 1991-92:26-32; Schmidt 1995;Bienert 1995:317320 for eastern Anatolia). The small size of the circular cult buildings indicates that, although they probably served some ritual purpose, they were not for the use of all the people of 'Ain Ghazal. Instead, they may have served the needs of a part of the population on a lineage or clan level, overseen by a full-time shaman or priest. The temple/sanctuary is also small, but the unique internal features and its location high on the slope of the East Field suggest that it likely served a large part (perhaps all) of 'Ain Ghazal's population. In any event, the two nondomestic structural forms share similarities with the aceramic Neolithic ritual buildings at Jericho (Kenyon 1981), Beidha (Kirkbride 1967), Nevali Cori (Hauptmann 1993) and Cayonu (Ozdogan and Ozdogan 1989), which argues that the religious sphere of this enormous area of the Near East shared a number of aspects of public expression of ritual meaning.

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