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Antiquity Vol 77 No 295 March 2003

Excavations at a Geometric Kebaran site
in Wadi Ziqlab, northern Jordan

Lisa Maher, E.B.Banning

In 2002 the Wadi Ziqlab Project of University of Toronto conducted excavations at a Geometric Kebaran site, 'Uyyun al-Hammam (WZ 148) in Wadi Ziqlab, following on smaller test excavations in 2000 and 2001 (Maher et al. 2001). The previous excavations had shown deep cultural deposits with high densities of flakes, bladelets, bladelet cores, and microlithic tools, as well as high densities of faunal remains, and some human remains. The 2002 excavations demonstrate the importance of this site, particularly for its potential contribution to Epipalaeolithic mortuary archaeology.

The site occupies a south-facing, sloping terrace 6 m above the modern wadi channel (figure 1), and the Epipalaeolithic deposits are buried under more than 50 cm of Holocene colluvium, which contains some stone field walls, probably of Byzantine date, and a stone feature that might be Neolithic.

Figure 1 (Click to View).

Figure 1: View of the WZ 148 terrace from the road to Tubna, showing the location of the 2002 excavation units and the 2000/2001 test pit on the right (now backfilled).

The goal of the 2002 season was to expose a relatively large surface area of the uppermost Geometric Kebaran deposit, and this was accomplished over an area of approximately 38 m2. The Epipalaeolithic surface was gridded into units of 50 cm x 50 cm. Within each unit, a 10 cm spit was excavated and dry- screened in 2mm mesh in the field, except for samples removed for flotation or reserved for micromorphological analysis. All material remaining in the 2 mm mesh was further wet-sieved in the lab for microartifact collection. Following removal of the later colluvium, we excavated into the Geometric Kebaran paleosol to a depth of 20 cm.

Lithic densities are extremely high for a site of this period and all stages of lithic manufacture are represented at the site. Microliths and endscrapers dominate the tool assemblage, with complete and incomplete trapeze/rectangles accounting for about half of the identified tools. These are usually made on a fine, light brown/tan coloured flint whose source is the flint-rich limestone hills east of the site. Other common microliths include asymmetrical trapezes, obliquely truncated and backed bladelets, partially and completely backed bladelets, and fragments of backed pieces. Other tools include variously retouched flakes and blades, blade fragments, and bladelets and endscrapers made on blades. Most endscrapers are formed on the distal ends of complete blades made from fine-quality, brown and reddish-brown flint. Double endscrapers are also common. Single burins on flakes and snapped blades are regularly represented. One large basalt pestle constituted the only complete groundstone tool recovered this season. The assemblage's character is classic Geometric Kebaran (cf. Bar-Yosef 1991), similar to other large Geometric Kebaran sites in this part of the Levant, such as Neve David (Kaufman, 1989).

The remains of Bos cf. primigenius (aurochs), Sus scrofa (boar), Ovis sp./Capra sp. (probably O. orientalis, C. ibex nubiana, C. aegagrus) occur, as well as those of Cervus sp. (possibly C. elaphus, Dama dama), various Antilopinae (Alcephalus sp., Gazella sp.), and a large rodent (probably Marmota) (cf. Bar- Oz et al, 1998). The 2001 test excavations showed that there were in situ human remains buried 2 m below the surface in the Geometric Kebaran paleosol in Area H16. This year's excavation of the portion of these deposits that were in danger of eroding out of the site shows fairly convincingly that these constitute the remains of two or three individuals, possibly in flexed position (figure 2). The road cut has removed the southern portion of the burial. The great depth of the remains and their extension into the terrace made their full excavation impossible this year. The 2001 and 2002 excavations in this area yielded fragments of two mandibles, one isolated tooth, an articulated foot and distal tibia and fibula, and an articulated femur and pelvis. The mandibles and pelvis were removed to prevent their destruction from erosion and immediate construction of a terrace wall. The foot was conserved in situ and reburied for full excavation in future. In addition, isolated traces of human remains were eroding out of the slope at about the same depth about 8 m farther west in Area H13. These constitute an isolated tooth and another fragmented mandible, but, we could not trace the remains any farther into the section.

Because human burials of this period are very rare (previous examples are known from only a few sites in Jordan and Israel), and because there may have been significant social and ideological changes concerning the interment of the deceased in this and subsequent periods, further investigation of these human remains will be of great importance.

Figure 2 (Click to View).

Figure 2: In situ human remains from Area H16 eroding out of the section. Visible is the articulated foot (left and centre) and pelvis and femur (upper right corner).

Maher, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada M5S 3G3.
Banning, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada M5S 3G3.

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