Skip to main content Accesibility Help

An Early Epipalaeolithic sitting burial from the Azraq Oasis, Jordan

  • T. Richter (a1), Jay T. Stock (a1), L. Maher (a1) and C. Hebron (a2)

Detailed analysis of the anatomy and taphonomic process of a burial in Jordan shows that the body was originally bound in a sitting position and placed in marshland, where it collapsed into the splayed tableau eventually recovered by excavation. The authors succeed in reconstructing a burial rite from one of the most elusive of mortuary phases: the Early Epipalaeolithic in south-west Asia.

Corresponding author
Hide All
Arensburg, B. & Bar-Yosef, O.. 1973. Human remains from Ein Gev I, Jordan Valley, Israel. Paléorient 1: 201202.
Bar-Yosef, O. 1989. The Last Glacial Maximum in The Mediterranean Levant, in Soffer, O. & Gamble, C. (ed.) The world at 18,000 BP. Volume 2. Low latitudes: 5877. London: Unwin Hyman.
Bar-Yosef, O. 1998. The Natufian culture in the Levant. Threshold to the origins of agriculture. Evolutionary Anthropology 6: 159177.
Bar-Yosef, O. & Belfer-Cohen, A.. 2000. Early sedenstism in the Near East: a bumpy ride to village life, in Kujit, I. (ed.) Life in Neolithic farming communities: social organization, identity, and differentiation: 1962. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.
Bar-Yosef, O. & Meadow, R.H.. 1995. The origins of agriculture in the Near East, in Price, T.D. & Gebauer, A.B. (ed.) Last hunters-first farmers: new perspectives on the prehistoric transition to agriculture: 3994. Santa Fe (NM): School of American Research Press.
Bar-Yosef, O. & Vogel, J.C.. 1987. Relative and absolute chronology of the Epipalaeolithic in the southern Levant, in Aurenche, O., Evin, J. & Hours, F. (ed.) Chronologies in the Near East (British Archaeological Reports International Series 379): 219246. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.
Belfer-Cohen, A. 1988. The Natufian graveyard in Hayonim Cave. Paléorient 14: 297308.
Belfer-Cohen, A. 1991. The Natufian in the Levant. Annual Review of Anthropology 20: 167186.
Belfer-Cohen, A. 1995. Rethinking social stratification in the Natufian culture: the evidence from burials, in Campbell, S. & Green, A. (ed.) The archaeology of death in the ancient Near East: 297308. Oxford: Oxbow.
Belfer-Cohen, A., Schepartz, L.A. & Bar-Yosef, O.. 1991. New biological data for the Natufian populations in Israel, in Bar-Yosef, O. & Valla, F.F. (ed.) The Natufian culture in the Levant (International Monographs in Prehistory 1): 411424. Ann Arbor (MI): International Monographs in Prehistory.
Betts, A.V.G. 1991. The Late Epipalaeolithic in the Black Desert, eastern Jordan, in Bar-Yosef, O. & Valla, F.R. (ed.) The Natufian culture in the Levant (International Monographs in Prehistory 1): 923. Ann Arbor (MI): International Monographs in Prehistory.
Betts, A.V.G. 1998. The Harra and the Hamad: excavations and surveys in eastern Jordan. Volume 1. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.
Bocquentin, F. 2007. A Final Natufian population: health and burial status at Eynan-Mallaha, in Faerman, M., Horwitz, L.K., Khana, T. & Zilberman, U. (ed.) Faces from the past: diachronic patterns in the biology of human populations from the Eastern Mediterranean. Papers in honour of Patricia Smith (British Archaeological Reports International Series 1603): 6681. Oxford: Archaeopress.
Boyd, B. 2001. The Natufian burials from el-Wad, Mt. Carmel: beyond issues of social differentiation. Journal of the Israel Prehistoric Society 31:185200.
Byrd, B.F. 1994. Late Quaternary hunter-gatherer complexes in the Levant between 20,000 and 10,000 BP, in Bar-Yosef, O. & Kra, R.S. (ed.) Late Quaternary chronology and paleoclimates of the eastern Mediterranean: 205226. Tucson (AZ): Radiocarbon; Cambridge (MA): American School of Prehistoric Research.
Byrd, B.F. & Garrard, A.N.. 1989. The Last Glacial Maximum in the Jordanian desert, in Soffer, O. & Gamble, C. (ed.) The world at 18,000 BP. Volume 2. Low latitudes: 7896. London: Unwin Hyman.
Byrd, B.F. & Monahan, C.M.. 1995. Death, mortuary ritual and Natufian social structure. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 14: 251287.
Dirkmaat, D.C. & Sienicki, L.A.. 1995. Taphonomy in the northeast woodlands: four cases from western Pennsylvania. Proceedings of the 47th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences 1: 10.
Duday, H. 1987. Nouvelles observations sur la déecomposition des corps dans un espace libre, in Duday, H. & Masset, C. (ed.) Anthropologie physique et archéologie: méthode d’étude des sépultures. Comptes rendus de la table ronde de la RCP 742, St-Germain-en-Laye: 613. Paris: CNRS.
Duday, H. 1990. Observations ostéologiques et décomposition du cadavre: sépulture en espace colmaté ou en espace vide? Revue Archéologique du Centre de la France 29: 193196.
Duday, H. & Masset, C. (ed.) 1987. Anthropologie physique et archéologie: méthode d’étude des sépultures. Comptes rendus de la table ronde de la RCP 742, St-Germain-en-Laye. Paris: CNRS.
Duday, H., Courtaud, P., Cruzbézy, E., Sellier, P. & Tillier, A.M.. 1990. L'anthropologie de ‘terrain’: reconnaissance et interprétation des gestes funéraires. Bulletins et Mémoires de la Société d'Anthropologie de Paris 2: 2649.
Eshed, V., Gopher, A., Gage, T.B. & Hershkovitz, I.. 2004a. Has the transition to agriculture reshaped the demographic structure of prehistoric populations? New evidence from the Levant. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 124: 315329.
Eshed, V., Gopher, A., Galili, E. & Hershkovitz, I.. 2004b. Musculoskeletal stress markers in Natufian hunter-gatherers and Neolithic farmers in the Levant: the upper limb. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 123: 303315.
Eshed, V., Gopher, A. & Hershkovitz, I.. 2006. Tooth wear and dental pathology at the advent of agriculture: new evidence from the Levant. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 130: 145159.
Garrard, A.N. 1991. Natufian settlement in the Azraq Basin, eastern Jordan, in Bar-Yosef, O. & Valla, F.F. (ed.) The Natufian culture in the Levant (International Monographs in Prehistory 1):235244. Ann Arbor (MI): International Monographs in Prehistory.
Garrard, A.N. 1998. Environment and cultural adaptations in the Azraq Basin: 24,000-7,000 BP, in Henry, D.O. (ed.) The prehistoric archaeology of Jordan (British Archaeological Reports International Series 705):139148. Oxford: Archaeopress.
Garrard, A.N. & Byrd, B.F.. 1992. New dimensions to the Epipalaeolithic of the Wadi el-Jilat in central Jordan. Paléorient 18: 4762.
Garrard, A.N., Betts, A., Byrd, B.F., Colledge, S. & Hunt, C.. 1988. Summary of the palaeoenvironmental and prehistoric investigations in the Azraq Basin, in Garrard, A.N. & Gebel, H.G. (ed.) The prehistory of Jordan: the state of research in 1986 (British Archaeological Reports International Series 396): 311337. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.
Garrard, A.N. Baird, D., Colledge, S., Martin, L. & Wright, K.. 1994. Prehistoric environment and settlement in the Azraq Basin: an interim report on the 1987 and 1988 excavation seasons. Levant 26: 73109.
Garrod, D.A.E. 1932. Excavations at the Wady el-Mughara (Palestine), 1931. Quarterly Statement of the Palestine Exploration Fund 64: 4651.
Garrod, D.A.E. & Bate, D.M.. 1937. The Stone Age of Mount Carmel. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Goring-Morris, A.N. 1995. Complex hunter/gatherers at the end of the Paleolithic, in Levy, T. (ed.) The archaeology of society in the Holy Land: 141167. London: Leicester University Press.
Grosman, L. 2003. Preserving cultural traditions in a period of instability: the Late Natufian of the hilly Mediterranean zone. Current Anthropology 44: 571580.
Grosman, L., Munro, N.D. & Belfer-Cohen, A.. 2008. A 12,000-year-old shaman burial from the southern Levant (Israel). Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States 105:1766517669.
Hassan, F.A. 1981. Demographic archaeology. New York; London: Academic Press.
Henderson, J. 1987. Factors determining the state of preservation of human remains, in Boddington, A., Garland, A.N. & Janaway, R.C. (ed.) Death, decay and reconstruction: approaches to archaeology and forensic science: 4354. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Hershkovitz, I., Spiers, M.S., Frayerd, D., Nadel, D., Wishbaratz, S. & Arensburg, B.. 1995. Ohalo 11: a 19,000-year-old skeleton from a water-logged site at the Sea of Galilee. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 96: 215234.
Hours, F. 1992. Le Paléolithique et l'Epipaléeolithique de la Syrie et du Liban. Beirut: Dar El-Machreq.
Johnson, D., Janetski, J., Chazan, M., Witcher, S. & Meadow, R.. 1999. Preliminary report on Brigham Young University's first season of excavation and survey at Wadi Al-Mataha, Petra, Jordan. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 43: 249260.
Kroeber, A.L. 1927. Disposal of the dead. American Anthropologist 29: 308315.
Maher, L. 2005. Recent excavations at the Middle Epipalaeolithic encampment of ‘Uyun al-Hammam, northern Jordan. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 49: 101114.
Maher, L. 2007a. 2005 Excavations at the Geometric Kebaran site of ‘Uyun al-Hammam, Al Koura District, Jordan. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 51: 263272.
Maher, L. 2007b. Microliths and mortuary practices: new perspectives on the Epipalaeolithic in northern and eastern Jordan, in Levy, T.E., Daviau, M., Younker, R.W. & Sharer, M. (ed.) Crossing Jordan: North American contributions to the archaeology of Jordan: 195202. London: Equinox.
Maher, L., Richter, T. & Jones, D.. 2007. Archaeological survey at the Epipalaeolithic site of Kharaneh IV. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 51: 263272.
Mastin, B.A. 1964. The extended burials at the Mugharet el-Wad. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 94: 4451.
Muheisen, M. 1983. La Préhistoire en Jordanie. Recherches sur l'Epipaléolithique. Volume 2. L'exemple du gisement de Kharaneh IV. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Université de Bordeaux.
Muheisen, M. 1988a. The Epipalaeolithic phases of Kharaneh IV, in Garrard, A.N. & Gebel, H.G. (ed.) The prehistory of Jordan: the state of research in 1986 (British Archaeological Reports International Series 396): 353367. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.
Muheisen, M. 1988b. Le gisement de Kharaneh IV, note sommaire sur la phase D. Paléorient 14: 265282.
Nadel, D. 1994. Levantine Upper Palaeolithic-Early Epipalaeolithic burial customs: Ohalo II as a case study. Paléorient 20: 113121.
Nadel, D. 1995. The visibility of prehistoric burials in the southern Levant. How rare are the Upper Palaeolithic/Early Epipalaeolithic graves?, in Campbell, S.A.G. & Green, A. (ed.) The archaeology of death in the ancient Near East (Oxbow Monograph 51): 18. Oxford: Oxbow.
Olszewski, D.I. 2001. The Palaeolithic, including the Epipalaeolithic, in MacDonald, B., Adams, R. & Bienkowski, P. (ed.) The archaeology of Jordan (Levantine Archaeology 1): 3165. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.
Olszewski, D.I. 2006. Issues in the Levantine Epipalaeolithic: the Madamaghan, Nebekian and Qalkhan (Levant Epipalaeolithic). Paléorient 32: 1926.
Parker Pearson, M. 1999. The archaeology of death and burial. Stroud: Sutton.
Perrot, J., Ladiray, D. & Soliveres-Massei, O.. 1988. Les hommes de Mallaha (Eynan) Israel (Mémoires et Travaux du Centre de Recherche fran¸ais de Jerusalem 7). Paris: Association Paléorient.
Peterson, J. 2002. Sexual revolutions: gender and labor at the dawn of agriculture (Gender and Archaeology Series 4). Walnut Creek (CA); Oxford: Altamira.
Raxter, M.H. Ruff, C.B., Azab, A., Frfan, M., Soliman, M. & El-Sawaf, A.. 2008. Stature estimation in ancient Egyptians: a new technique based on anatomical reconstruction of stature. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 136: 147155.
Richter, T. & Röhl, C.. 2007. Rescue excavations at Epipalaeolithic ‘Ayn Qasiyah: report on the 2005 season. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 50: 313328.
Richter, T., Colledge, S., Luddy, S., JOnes, D., M. Jones, , Maher, L. & Kelly, R.. 2007. Preliminary report on the 2006 season at Epipalaeolithic ‘Ayn Qasiyah, Azraq es-Shishan. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 51: 313328.
Richter, T., Alcock, S., Asouti, E., Colledge, S., Jones, M., Maher, L., Martin, L., Stock, J. & Thorne, B.. 2010. New light on Final Pleistocene settlement diversity in the Azraq Basin: some preliminary results from Ayn Qasiyah and AWS 48. Paléorient 35.
Roksandic, M. 2002. Position of skeletal remains as a key to understanding mortuary behavior, in Haglund, W.D. & Sorg, M.H. (ed.) Advances in forensic taphonomy: method, theory, and archaeological perspectives: 99117. Boca Raton (FL); London: CRC Press.
Rollefson, G., Schnurrenberger, D., Quintero, L., Watson, R.P. & Low, R.. 1997. Ain Soda and ‘Ayn Qasiya: new Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene sites in the Azraq Shishan area, eastern Jordan, in Gebel, H.G.K., Kafafi, Z. & Rollefson, G.O. (ed.) The prehistory of Jordan, II: perspectives from 1997 (Studies in early Near Eastern production, subsistence and environment 4): 4558. Berlin: Ex Oriente.
Rollefson, G., Quintero, L. & Wilke, P.. 1999. Bawwab al-Ghazal: preliminary report on the testing season 1998. Neo-Lithics 1: 24.
Rollefson, G., Quintero, L. & Wilke, P. 2001. Azraq wetlands survey 2000: preliminary report. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 45: 7182.
Rolston, S.L. 1982. Two prehistoric burials from Qasr Kharaneh. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 26: 221229.
Ruff, C.B. Trinkhaus, E. & Holliday, T.W.. 1997. Body mass and encephalization in Pleistocene Homo. Nature 387: 173176.
Schyle, D. & Uerpmann, H.. 1996. Das Epipaläolithikum des Vorderen Orients, Bd. 1. Tl. 1: das Epipaläolithikum und der Ü bergang zum Neolithikum in der Levante und in Ägypten (Beihefte zum Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients. Reihe B, Geisteswissenschaften 85/1). Wiesbaden: Ludwig Reichert.
Stock, J., Pfeiffer, S., Chazan, M. & Janetski, J.. 2005. F-81 skeleton from Wadi Mataha, Jordan, and its bearing on human variability in the Epipaleolithic of the Levant. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 128: 453465.
Stutz, A.J. & Estabrook, G.F.. 2004. Computationally intensive multivariate statistics and relative frequency distributions in archaeology (with an application to the Early Epipaleolithic of the Levant). Journal of Archaeological Science 31: 16431658.
Ucko, P. 1969. Ethnography and archaeological interpretation of funerary remains. World Archaeology 1: 262280.
Valla, F.R. 1995. The first settled societies – Natufian (12,500-10,200 BP), in Levy, T. (ed.) The archaeology of the Holy Land: 169190. London: Leicester University Press.
Weinstein-Evron, M. 2003. In B or not in B: a reappraisal of the Natufian burials at Shukbah Cave, Judaea, Palestine. Antiquity 77: 96101.
Wright, G.A. 1978. Social differentiation in the early Natufian, in Redman, C.L., Berman, M.J., Curtin, E.V., Langhorne, W.T. Jr., Versaggi, N.M. & Wanser, J.C. (ed.) Social anthropology: 210224. New York: Academic Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed