Antiquity Vol 82 Issue 318 December 2008
Kfar HaHoresh is a small site nestled in the Nazareth hills of lower Galilee (location map), with a stratigraphic sequence spanning the early through late PPNB (c. 8500–6750 cal BC). Thirteen excavation seasons have revealed its potential for investigating mortuary, ritual, subsistence and industrial activities. The site has been interpreted as representing a regional funerary and cult centre for nearby lowland villages due to its location and unusual contextual associations (Goring-Morris 2000, 2005, 2008).
Human burials at Kfar HaHoresh (totalling c. 70 individuals) display an unusual demographic profile compared to other PPNB populations, with high representation of young adult males (Eshed et al. 2008). Many graves occur under or associated with lime plaster surfaced L-shaped walled structures (Goren & Goring-Morris 2008). Burials vary from single articulated through multiple secondary burials comprising up to 15 individuals plus intentional arrangements of human bones. Skull caches are found, including three modelled skulls. Grave goods comprise chipped and groundstone tools, shells, minerals and animal bones. The 2007-8 seasons focused on the east side of the excavation area (Figure 1). Efforts centred on exposing a multi-phased massive walled enclosure with an L-shaped configuration of two walls at right angles to one another; one wall is 10m long, while the other, still only partially uncovered, is >20m long. The bounded area has patches of uneven lime plastered surfaces. Depressions and subsidence indicate the probable presence of underlying pits akin to inhumation L1005, also located under this structure that was associated with evidence for feasting on a herd of wild cattle (Goring-Morris & Horwitz 2007).
Figure 2. Secondary burial of 'half-a-man' (L1804). Photo: A.N. Goring-Morris.Click to enlarge.
Figure 3. Primary tightly articulated burial of adult male (L1926). Photo: M. Birkenfeld. Click to enlarge.
|Figure 4. L1926 burial. Note mollusc, sickle blade and reddened burnt clay grave goods near right knee. Photo: J. Williams. Click to enlarge.|
Two burials excavated in the 2007/8 seasons are noteworthy. L1804, within early PPNB midden deposits, is the shallow secondary pit burial of 'half-a-man,' a male some 40–45 years old (Figure 2). The individual comprised part of the left side of the mandible together with some post-cranial bones. The skull was absent. The only two matching long bones, namely the right tibia and the right fibula, were placed in opposite directions. Long bones were placed above the post-cranial bones, including the mandible and lower part of the vertebral column. Although the ribs all derive from the left side of the individual, they ‘framed’ both sides of the long bones.
Adjacent to a stone platform within a midden deposit overlying the L1604 complex, L1926 was a M/LPPNB shallow grave containing the tightly contracted primary burial of a 50+ year old male, with the head propped up facing northwest (Figure 3). Grave goods included a sickle blade, a Cerastoderma shell and a large lump of reddened burnt clay (Figure 5); a concentration of some 60 other molluscs found close-by may relate to the burial.
Figure 5. Projectile points: 1–4) Helwan points (1 on obsidian); 5) Jericho point; 6–7) Byblos points; 8) Amuq point with Abu Gosh retouch. Photo: A.N. Goring-Morris.Click to enlarge.
Figure 6. Symbolic items: 1) phallic figurine; 2) votive axe on serpentine; 3) shell pendant; 4) incised token. Photo: A.N. Goring-Morris. Click to enlarge.
The numerous flint artefacts derive from three distinct reduction sequences (naviform, ad hoc and bifacial). Tools include sickle blades, projectile points, burins, perforators and bifacials (Figure 5). Groundstone tools and animal bones, mostly of hunted animals (gazelle, deer, wild boar and cattle, as well as some goat and fox) were also abundant. Symbolic items included plain or incised polished pebble tokens (Figure 6). Neolithic fertility symbols are often associated with female imagery, but at Kfar HaHoresh only phallic figurines have been found. Extensive exchange networks indicated by Mediterranean, Red Sea and freshwater sea shell ornaments; exotic minerals included malachite from south of the Dead Sea, obsidian from central Anatolia, and a serpentine votive axe from northern Syria or Cyprus.
Excavations at Kfar HaHoresh are funded by grants from the Irene Levi-Sala CARE Foundation and the Israel Science Foundation.