The Neolithic In The Levant Chronology and Phasing

Many of the Near East'sbest known Neolithic sites are located in the Levantine Near East, and there is a substantial radiocarbon-supported chronology for the region (Kuijt and Bar-Yosef 1994). Although there is disagreement on details of this sequence, most researchers concur on the general outline cf the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) and the Pottery Neolithic (PN). As with the PPN,the PN consists of several phases (Garfinkel 1993;Gopher and Gophna 1993; Kafafi 1982; Stekelis 1973). In the past, many researchers (e.g., de Vaux 1966;Kenyon 1960;Perrot 1968) felt that the PN was temporally separated from the PPN by a gap of up to a millennium, a proposition supported at major sites. Furthermore, they believed the PN represented new and intrusive populations, filling a gap that developed with the cessation ofthe "PPNB Interaction Sphere" (Bar-Yosef and Belfer-Cohen 1989). Increased aridity at the end of the PPN often was cited as a major stimulus for this abandonment. Recently, however, this position has been challenged, due to better dating techniques resulting in a shrinkage of the presumed gap,more sophisticated understanding of paleoclimates, and research at newly discovered sites. Many researchers now believe that the PN was characterized by shifts in site location instead of regional abandonment and replacement by new populations (Banning et al., 1994; Gopher and Gophna 1993:304307).

This argument has been strongly supported with the documentation of a transitional phase [the Pre-Pottery Neolithic C (PPNC)] at large, near "urban" Jordanian settlements, such as 'Ain Ghazal, Wadi Shu'eib, andpossibly Basta (Muheisen 1995;Rollefson 1993;Rollefson and Köhler-Rollefson 1993; Simmons et al. 1988). At these sites an unbroken sequence from mid-PPNB

(i.e., MPPNB) through PN is documented, with subsequent post-Neolithic abandonment. While the PPNC appears largely restricted to major Jordanian settlements, it may also occur at smaller sites further to the west in Israel (e.g.,Galili et al. 1993; Garfinkel 1994). The documentation of the PPNC is important because it supports arguments for local in-situ development rather than abandonments and resettlement by "new" peoples whose material inventory now included pottery. It seems clear that cultural change during the end of the PPN and extending into the PN is much more complex than previously believed.

Bar-Yosef and Meadows have recently questioned the utility of the PPNC, noting that " . . . this phase is chronologically the same as the final PPNB in the northern Levant and the relevant entities in Anatolia, and using the label PPNC suggests a major cultural change where only minor shifts exist" (1995:73). This criticism misses the point in that the PPNC is, indeed, quite distinct. While the PPNC may chronologically overlap with terminal PPNB further to the west and north, it is a strikingly different material phenomenon from both the PPNB and subsequent PN. This distinct character is manifested in artifacts, economy, and burials. Furthermore, at the settlements of'Ain Ghazal and Wadi Shu'eib, it is part of an unbroken occupational sequence, something rarely documented at other large sites further west or north (Rollefson 1989, 1993; Rollefson et al. 1992; Simmons et al. 1988, 1989).

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