Skip to main content

Aurochs bone deposits at Kfar HaHoresh and the southern Levant across the agricultural transition

  • Jacqueline S. Meier (a1), A. Nigel Goring-Morris (a2) and Natalie D. Munro (a1)

Aurochs played a prominent role in mortuary and feasting practices during the Neolithic transition in south-west Asia, although evidence of these practices is diverse and regionally varied. This article considers a new concentration of aurochs bones from the southern Levantine Pre-Pottery Neolithic site of Kfar HaHoresh, situating it in a regional context through a survey of aurochs remains from other sites. Analysis shows a change in the regional pattern once animal domestication began from an emphasis on feasting to small-scale practices. These results reveal a widely shared practice of symbolic cattle use that persisted over a long period, but shifted with the beginning of animal management across the region.

Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence (Email:
Hide All
Alhaique F. & Horwitz L.K.. 2012. The fauna, in Garfinkel Y. (ed.) The Pre-Pottery Neolithic B village of Yiftahel: the 1980s and 1990s excavations: 259–79. Berlin: ex Oriente.
Bar-Yosef O. & Alon D.. 1988. Nahal Hemar Cave: the excavations. ‘Atiqot 18: 130.
Bar-Yosef O. & Belfer-Cohen A.. 1989. The origins of sedentism and farming communities in the Levant. Journal of World Prehistory 3: 447–98.
Barzilai O. & Getzov N.. 2008. Mishmar Ha'emeq: a Neolithic site in the Jezreel Valley. Neo-Lithics 2 (8): 1217.
Becker C. 2002. Nothing to do with indigenous domestication? Cattle from Late PPNB Basta. Archaeozoology of the Near East 5: 112–37.
Behrensmeyer A.K. 1978. Taphonomic and ecologic information from bone weathering. Paleobiology 4: 150–62.
Belfer-Cohen A. & Goring-Morris A.N.. 2014. North and south—variable trajectories of the Neolithic in the Levant, in Finlayson B. & Makarewicz C.A. (ed.) Settlement, survey, and stone: essays on Near Eastern prehistory in honour of Gary Rollefson: 6171. Berlin: ex Oriente.
Biton R. 2010. The clay repertoire from Pre-Pottery Neolithic B Kfar HaHoresh: not just the usual bull. Unpublished MA dissertation, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Bocquentin F. & Garrard A.. 2016. Natufian collective burial practice and cranial pigmentation: a reconstruction from Azraq 18 (Jordan). Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 10: 693702.
Byrd B.F. 1994. Public and private, domestic and corporate: the emergence of the southwest Asian village. American Antiquity 59: 639–66.
Cauvin J. 2000. The birth of gods and the beginnings of agriculture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Finlayson B., Mithen S.J., Najjar M., Smith S., Maričević D., Pankhurst N. & Yeomans L.. 2011. Architecture, sedentism, and social complexity at Pre-Pottery Neolithic A WF16, southern Jordan. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 108: 8183–88.
Galili E., Gopher A., Eshed V. & Hershkovitz I.. 2005. Burial practices at the submerged Pre-Pottery Neolithic C site of Atlit-Yam, northern coast of Israel. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 339: 119.
Goring-Morris A.N. 2000. The quick and the dead. The social context of Aceramic mortuary practices as seen from Kfar Ha Horesh, in Kuijt I. (ed.) Life in Neolithic farming communities: social organization, identity, and differentiation: 103–36. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.
Goring-Morris A.N. & Horwitz L.K.. 2007. Funerals and feasts during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B of the Near East. Antiquity 81: 902–19.
Goring-Morris A.N., Goren Y., Horwitz L.K., Bar-Yosef D. & Hershkovitz I.. 1995. Investigations at an early Neolithic settlement in the Lower Galilee: results of the 1991 season at Kefar HaHoresh. ‘Atiqot 27: 3762.
Goring-Morris A.N., Burns R., Eshed V. & Goren Y.. 1998. The 1997 season of excavations at the mortuary site of Kfar HaHoresh, Galilee, Israel. Neo-Lithics 3: 14.
Grosman L. & Munro N.D.. 2016. A Natufian ritual event. Current Anthropology 57: 311–31.
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 Sciences of the USA 105: 17665–69.
Gubenko N. & Ronen A.. 2014. More from Yiftahel (PPNB), Israel. Paléorient 40 (1): 149–58.
Hayden B. 2001. Fabulous feasts: a prolegomenon to the importance of feasting, in Dietler M. & Hayden B. (ed.) Feasts: archaeological and ethnographic perspectives on food, politics, and power: 2364. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
Helmer D. & Gourichon L.. 2008. Premières données sur les modalités de subsistance à Tell Aswad (Syrie, PPNB moyen et récent, Néolithique céramique ancien)—Fouilles 2001–2005. Travaux de la Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée 49 (1): 119–51.
Hodder I. & Cessford C.. 2004. Daily practice and social memory at Çatalhöyük. American Antiquity 69: 1740.
Horwitz L.K. 2003. Temporal and spatial variation in Neolithic caprine exploitation strategies: a case study of fauna from the site of Yiftah'el (Israel). Paléorient 29 (1): 1958.
Horwitz L.K. & Goring-Morris A.N.. 2004. Animals and ritual during the Levantine PPNB: a case study from the site of Kfar HaHoresh, Israel. Anthropozoologica 39 (1): 165–78.
Horwitz L.K. & Tchernov E.. 1987. Faunal remains from the PPNB submerged site of Atlit. Mitekufat Haeven: Journal of the Israel Prehistoric Society 20: 7278.
Ibáñez J.J., González-Urquijo J.E. & Braemer F.. 2014. The human face and the origins of the Neolithic: the carved bone wand from Tell Qarassa North, Syria. Antiquity 88: 8194.
Kanjou Y., Kuijt I., Erdal Y. & Kondo O.. 2013. Early human decapitation, 11,700–10,700 cal BP, within the Pre-Pottery Neolithic village of Tell Qaramel, north Syria. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 25: 743–52.
Kent S. 1992. Studying variability in the archaeological record: an ethnoarchaeological model for distinguishing mobility patterns. American Antiquity 57: 635–60.
Khalaily H., Milevski I., Getzov N., Hershkovitz I., Barzilai O., Yarosevich A., Shlomi V., Najjar A., Zidan O. & Smithline H.. 2008. Recent excavations at the Neolithic site of Yiftah'el (Khalet Khalladyiah), Lower Galilee. Neo-Lithics 2 (8): 311.
Kuijt I. 2008. The regeneration of life: Neolithic structures of symbolic remembering and forgetting. Current Anthropology 49: 171–97.
Le Mort F. 1989. PPNA burials from Hatoula (Israel), in Hershkovitz I. (ed.) People and culture in change: Proceedings of the Second Symposium on Upper Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic Populations of Europe and the Mediterranean Basin (British Archaeological Reports international series 508): 133–40. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.
Maher L.A., Stock J.T., Finney S., Heywood J.J.N., Miracle P.T. & Banning E.B.. 2011. A unique human-fox burial from a pre-Natufian cemetery in the Levant (Jordan). PLoS ONE 6: e15815.
Maher L.A., Richter T., MacDonald D., Jones M.D., Martin L. & Stock J.T.. 2012. Twenty-thousand-year-old huts at a hunter-gatherer settlement in eastern Jordan. PLoS ONE 7: e31447.
Marom N. & Bar-Oz G.. 2013. The prey pathway: a regional history of cattle (Bos taurus) and pig (Sus scrofa) domestication in the northern Jordan Valley, Israel. PLoS ONE 8: e55958.
Meier J.S., Munro N.D. & Goring-Morris A.N.. 2016. Provisioning the ritual PPNB site of Kfar HaHoresh, Israel within the context of emergent animal management. PLoS ONE 11: e0166573.
Milevski I., Khalaily H., Getzov N. & Hershkovitz I.. 2008. The plastered skulls and other PPNB finds from Yiftahel, Lower Galilee (Israel). Paléorient 34 (2): 3746.
Munro N.D. 2012. The Natufian faunal assemblage from Hayonim Terrace, in Valla F.R. (ed.) Les Fouilles de la Terrasse d'Hayonim, Israël 1980–1981 et 1985–1989: 321–48. Paris: De Boccard.
Munro N.D. & Grosman L.. 2010. Early evidence (ca. 12,000 B.P.) for feasting at a burial cave in Israel. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 107: 15362–66.
Otte M., Yalcinkaya I., Leotard J., Kartal M., Bar-Yosef O., Kozłowski J., Bayón I.L. & Marshack A.. 1995. The Epi-Palaeolithic of Öküzini Cave (SW Anatolia) and its mobiliary art. Antiquity 69: 931–44.
Rappaport R.A. 1999. Ritual and religion in the making of humanity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rollefson G.O. 1986. Neolithic ‘Ain Ghazal (Jordan): ritual and ceremony, II. Paléorient 12 (1): 4552.
Sapir-Hen L. In press. Subsistence economy at the dawn of animal domestication in the early Neolithic site of Motza, Israel, in Khalaily H. (ed.) Motza. Jerusalem: IAA Reports.
Sapir-Hen L., Bar-Oz G., Khalaily H. & Dayan T.. 2009. Gazelle exploitation in the early Neolithic site of Motza, Israel: the last of the gazelle hunters in the southern Levant. Journal of Archaeological Science 36: 1538–46.
Sapir-Hen L., Dayan T., Khalaily H. & Munro N.D.. 2016. Human hunting and nascent animal management at Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic Yiftah'el, Israel. PLoS ONE 11: e0156964.
Simmons A.H. & Najjar M.. 2006. Ghwair I: a small, complex Neolithic community in southern Jordan. Journal of Field Archaeology 31: 7795.
Stiner M.C. 1994. Honor among thieves: a zooarchaeological study of Neandertal ecology. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press.
Twiss K.C. 2008. Transformations in an early agricultural society: feasting in the southern Levantine Pre-Pottery Neolithic. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 27: 418–42.
Twiss K.C. & Russell N.. 2009. Taking the bull by the horns: ideology, masculinity, and cattle horns at Çatalhöyük (Turkey). Paléorient 35 (2): 1932.
Walker W.H. 1995. Ceremonial trash, in Skibo J., Walker W. & Nielsen A. (ed.) Expanding archaeology: 6779. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
Yeshurun R., Bar-Oz G. & Nadel D.. 2013. The social role of food in the Natufian cemetery of Raqefet Cave, Mount Carmel, Israel. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 32: 511–26.
Yeshurun R., Bar-Oz G., Kaufman D. & Weinstein-Evron M.. 2014. Purpose, permanence, and perception of 14,000-year-old architecture. Current Anthropology 55: 591618.
Zeder M.A. & Spitzer M.D.. 2016. New insights into broad spectrum communities of the Early Holocene Near East: the birds of Hallan Çemi. Quaternary Science Reviews 151: 140–59.
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? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Meier et al supplementary material
Meier et al supplementary material 1

 PDF (272 KB)
272 KB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 6
Total number of PDF views: 75 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 231 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 6th December 2017 - 16th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.