Ritual Centers Burial Grounds and Cemetery Sites

During both the PPN and the Natufian there is some evidence to indicate that, while the deceased were often buried and symbolically "reincarnated" by postmortem head removal in localities whose main functions were as residential occupation sites, other localities functioned primarily as ritual centers and burial grounds. During the PPN throughout the Mediterranean and semiarid regions of the southern Levant, human remains within settlements are generally quite rare, certainly in comparison to their size and duration (e.g., 'AinGhazal, Abu Gosh, Beidha, andNahal Issaron) (GoringMorris and Gopher 1983; Kirkbride 1967; Lechevallier 1978; Rollefson personal communication). Thus, it seems likely that either most of the deceased were buried elsewhere, beyond the excavated areas, within the confines of settlements, or else, and perhaps more likely, there are specific mortuary sites located some distance away. They may frequently have been overlooked for a combination of reasons: their specific (secluded?) locations, small sizes, and specific attributes. Nevali Sori (and Gobekli Tepe) on the Euphrates in southeastern Turkey also fulfilled roles as major cultic and funerary centers during the PPNB. Interestingly the latter, upon initial discovery, was thought not to date to the Neolithic (Schmidt 1995).

For the PPNA we presently have no data beyond that from within residential sites. The relative abundance of burials in the vicinity of the tower at Jericho may reflect a ritual area within the settlement (see Kuijt 1996). However, during both the Early and Late/Final Natufian certain parallels are available. Thus Early Natufian Erq el-Ahmar and, perhaps, Kebara Cave may be viewed as primarily burial localities rather than occupation sites. At Mallaha the Early Natufian Structure 1,with its enigmatic circular plastered bench, slab outlined perimeter, hearth and underlying cemetery, almost certainly does not represent a simple domestic residence, but more

Table 1. Southern Levantine Cultic Installations and Burial Traditions

Cultic structures

Headless burials


Modeled skulls

Vault treat men!

Statues and busts



Early Natufian Erq el-Ahmar Eynan Hayonim El Wad Ein el-Saratan late/Final Natufian Nahal Oren Eynan Hayonim

PPNA Jericho Nctiv Hagdud

Early/Mid PPNB Ain Ghazal Jericho Beidha

Mid/Late HPNB Ain Ghazal (Nahal Hemar) Ratnad

Beisainoun present in cave?

present in cave?

present present present present present?


present present?

present present? present present present'

present present present?

present present?

present nest single; scalp single??

present nest (6); .singles singles?

nests' nest'+singie nests'

nests present?

nests present1


nests+single nests dentalia dental ia ochre bust ochre nests+single nests+single ochre, bitumen? nests — "wigs" fragments nest? — present present present dog dogs gazelle horns gazelle horns dogs gazelle, au roches; fox; capra?


Table 1. Continued
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