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Specialized aquatic resource exploitation at the Late Natufian site of Nahal Ein Gev II, Israel

Abstract

This paper investigates aquatic resource exploitation at the Late Natufian site (ca. 12,000 cal. BP) of Nahal Ein Gev II located 2 km east of the Sea of Galilee. Aquatic game, here fish and waterfowl, were an important component of the diverse small game resources that became important in the Late Epipaleolithic in Southwest Asia. We characterize local adaptations to the aquatic habitat and their economic and social implications at Nahal Ein Gev II. Taxonomic abundance and diversity, body-part representation, and fish body-size were investigated to evaluate the contribution of aquatic resources to human diets and butchery and transport strategies. Our results show that the residents of Nahal Ein Gev II were highly selective of the aquatic resources they captured and transported home. The hunters maximized foraging efficiency by nearly exclusively choosing the largest bodied species of fish and waterfowl and processing their carcasses to maximize meat utility before transporting them back to the site. The selectivity of these human foragers enables us to reconstruct rare details about the organization of forays for aquatic resources. When combined with evidence from other material classes from Nahal Ein Gev II and other sites, the results suggest that aquatic resource exploitation is only one of several specialized activities practiced at Nahal Ein Gev II. These along with other archaeological evidence provide evidence of task diversification that foreshadows the emergence of a more complex division of labor to come in the succeeding Neolithic period.

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Data Availability

The fauna is stored in the Zooarchaeology Laboratory of the National Collections, directed by Dr. Rivka Rabinovich in the Department of Ecology, Systematics and Evolution at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. All relevant data are presented in tables and figures within the paper and in the supplementary materials.

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Acknowledgments

Thanks to Rivka Rabinovich, Rebecca Biton and Gali Beiner for generously hosting the faunal identification stage of this research in the National Collections in the Department of Ecology, Systematics and Evolution at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. NM is grateful to Judith White and Joanne Cooper, curators of the avian collection at the Natural History Museum at Tring, England, for arranging her visit to the collection. Sincere thanks to Irit Zohar for providing access to her personal fish collection for identification purposes, sharing knowledge, and advice on identifications. Marion Prévost also provided helpful tips on fish bone identification. Jackie Meier provided valuable comments on an earlier draft of this paper. She and Roxie Lebenzon assisted with the NEG II fauna in the field. Many thanks to the Mandel Scholion Interdisciplinary Research Center in the Humanities and Jewish Studies, and Danny Schwartz for supporting both NM and LG when the data for this paper was analyzed. Gonen Sharon and Evgeny Evanovsky generously provided fish specimens for NMs comparative collection. Kris Bovy provided helpful discussion on avian body-part representation and Hadas Goldgeier drafted the map. Finally, we thank students from the Hebrew University and other institutions for their assistance in the field.

Funding

This research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (BCS-1842087 and BCS-1318381 to NDM) and the Israel Science Foundation (#1415/14 and #459/11 to LG).

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Natalie Munro and Leore Grosman contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection, and analysis were performed by Natalie Munro and Ashley Petrillo. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Natalie Munro with contributions by Leore Grosman, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Natalie D. Munro.

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Munro, N.D., Petrillo, A.N. & Grosman, L. Specialized aquatic resource exploitation at the Late Natufian site of Nahal Ein Gev II, Israel. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 13, 6 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-020-01257-1

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Keywords

  • Zooarchaeology
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Task specialization
  • Origins of agriculture
  • Division of labor