Journal of World Prehistory

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 179-282

First online:

Beyond Boundaries: Nature, Culture and a Holistic Approach to Domestication in the Levant

  • Marc VerhoevenAffiliated withThe University Museum, The University of Tokyo Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The main objective of this paper is to suggest an alternative approach for the investigation of domestication in the Levant. First, basic data regarding domestication in the Levant are presented. Then the various traditional approaches towards domestication in the prehistoric Levant, labeled (1) environmental, (2) social and anthropological, and (3) cognitive, are briefly reviewed. This discussion forms the basis for a proposal of a “holistic approach,” in which domestication is regarded as a long-term, multidimensional and multirelational phenomenon, including many elements—such as plants, animals, humans, material culture and ancestors—with increasing human manipulation of these various constituents. After a presentation of the theoretical framework, a growth metaphor is used to reconstruct the process of domestication (ca. 20,000–6500 B.P.) as a number of phases: (1) germination in the Kebaran; (2) development in the Early Natufian; (3) retreat/dormancy in the Late/Final Natufian; (4) growth in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A; (5) florescence in the Early- and Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B: (6) further development in the Late Pre-Pottery Neolithic B; (7) dispersal in the Final Pre-Pottery Neolithic B and the Pottery Neolithic. In each of these phases, relations between the various elements are dealt with, special attention being paid to symbolical relations, as evidenced by “art” and ritual.

Key words

domestication Levant Epipaleolithic Neolithic nature and culture holism ritual symbolism