Stage 2 Disharmony During the PPNC

While the PPNB may reflect the florescence of Neolithic life, this pattern of prosperity was not to continue. At around 8,000 bp, as exemplified by the PPNC, dramatic economic and, presumably, social, shifts occurred (cf. Rollefson 1993).The advantages initially offered by population aggregation during the Late PPNB were becoming increasingly fragile by the PPNC, probably due to ecological degradation. Whether it was solely culturally induced or a combination of human mismanagement coupled with deteriorating climatic conditions is, in a sense, a moot question. The point is that by ca. 8,000 bp, the largess ofthe environment was diminishing. The huge populations of centers such as 'Ain Ghazal and Wadi Shu'eib had diminished the local environment, and the occupants of these sites were finding it increasingly difficult to maintain the viable and diverse economy they had enjoyed during the PPNB.

This was occurring at a time when social organization was sophisticated enough to manage the daily operation of the large settlements. The intergroup stress brought about by the increasingly difficult farming and herding conditions would have required careful resolution. Several outcomes were possible, not the least of which may have been interpersonal violence. There is, however, little data to suggest conflictwithin or between Neolithic settlements. Some evidence exists at 'Ain Ghazal (see Rollefson Chapter 7 this volume), but the overall lack of violence in Late Neolithic society may be a testament to the efficiency of the social organization that had been forged during the PPNB. It apparently was robust enough to deal with deteriorating economic conditions in a nonconfrontational manner. Nonetheless, there would have been consequences of a weaker economy, and these would have had social manifestations. Unfortunately, our database from the PPNC is relatively scant.

While the PPNC is still poorly understood in the southern Levant, research at 'Ain Ghazal, where considerable exposures relating to that period have been excavated, outline profound changes in architecture, artifacts, and the reduced size of the settlement compared to the LPPNB. For example, two different building styles suggest that seasonal nomadism may have been practiced by some of the population (Rollefson and Kohler-Rollefson 1993), lime plaster on floors was no longer used, and houses were smaller in the PPNC. Changes in burial practices also provide evi dence for a major change of social behavior during the PPNC. While still interred in flexed positions, none of the thirty-four PPNC burials recovered from 'Ain Ghazal had their skulls removed (Rollefson, personal communication). What the social implications of this are is unclear, but obviously a change in treatment of the dead reflects changing social mores. Based on present evidence, during the PPNC sites such as 'Ain Ghazal and Wadi Shu'eib continued to function as less prosperous versions of the LPPNB. Overall, the PPNC is perhaps best viewed as a true transitional period leading into the PN.

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