, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 159-197

The Natufian: Settlement variability and economic adaptations in the Levant at the end of the Pleistocene

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Abstract

The relationship between current interpretations of Natufian settlement and subsistence and available archaeological data are examined in light of recent research, particularly in Jordan. Regional variability in adaptive strategies is discernible, particularly between forest and coastal sites versus steppe and desert sites. Greater evidence of plant processing and more intensive occupation characterize settlement in the former, although year-round occupation has yet to be conclusively demonstrated. Patterned variability also exists between two classes of steppe and desert area settlements. One set of steppe and desert sites is characterized by a broad range of activities and moderate settlement permanence and activity intensity, while less permanent occupation and more specialized activities focused primarily on hunting typify the other set of sites. Evidence for food production in the Natufian is examined and, although the domestication process may have begun, no morphological evidence exists for the domestication of plants or herd animals. Finally, worthwhile areas for future research are outlined.