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The Jehoshua Novels


Göbekli Tepe In The News

Göbekli Tepe PictographsI’ve had a lot of time to ponder Göbekli Tepe in the two years since I visited. The photos I took of the place will soon find their way to the History Channel, as it seems as if there is an embargo of sorts on photos from the site currently–or this is what I was told when negotiating the use of my photos–and producers are desperate to get their hands on something before the embargo ends and the results of this years excavations are published.

I offer these two older posts on Göbekli Tepe (here and here) before submitting this story by Charles C. Mann in National Geographic on the temple complex. The photo essay accompanying the story is here. Do read it, damned interesting. My photos of the site begin here.

What’s most fascinating about this place is how it is upending what we previously thought we knew about the neolithic revolution–or what most of us call the agricultural revolution. What came first? Settlements? Or farming and then permanent settlements? Or maybe as Göbekli Tepe and other excavations in the Fertile Crescent are telling us is that it was a thin concatenation of events, strategies, ideas all thrown around in the same general vicinity–the mythical Garden of Eden–and that it was ultimately a thousand or so years of trial and error. As Mann sums it up in his story:

It is more as if the occupants of various archaeological sites were all playing with the building blocks of civilization, looking for combinations that worked. In one place agriculture may have been the foundation; in another, art and religion; and over there, population pressures or social organization and hierarchy. Eventually they all ended up in the same place. Perhaps there is no single path to civilization; instead it was arrived at by different means in different places.

That feels about right to me.

38 comments to Göbekli Tepe In The News

  • Bolo

    might have been right then.

    She posited that we were explaining things the wrong way around–instead of farming leading to settlements, settlements in fact enabled farming. The creation of farm crops and farming techniques required an already-settled population with enough surplus labor to experiment, observe, and accumulate highly local knowledge over a rather lengthy period of time about how various types of edible plants grow. It also involved creating and enhancing the more edible varieties via selective breeding. She put forth the idea that there may have been trading posts that saw enough activity to become permanent settlements and farming arose as a means to provide more food more consistently to these settlements–or as just something more to trade there.

    A religious site as the initial impetus makes sense too.

  • JustPlainDave

    …for some time, at least in the case of the Levant.

    “For the most part, when people discuss international law they are using it as a tool in a broader policy debate…. Very few people, it turns out, care about international law for its own sake.” ~ David Bosco

  • Synoia

    They founded a settlement. The men had no choice in the matter.

    It’s concurrent. You don’t farm and then wander away (become nomadic). if you are nomadic you cannot consider farming, it’s a waste of effort.

    When deciding to farm, fear of loss keeps the people close. They it is worth the effort to build huts and other permanent structures, and these huts become settlements.

  • adrena

    Natufian art offers the oldest known depiction of a couple having sex.

    The Ain Sakhri lovers
    The Ain Sakhri lovers

    The Natufian culture was mentioned in the article


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • Tonsure Wimple

    if you are nomadic you cannot consider farming, it’s a waste of effort.
    You plant the seeds for the wild flora you want to eat the next time you come that way.

    His position in society, his high repute among his fellow men, his nimbus as a master biped.

    - Rex Stout

  • Synoia

    When they were nomads did not plant.

    We overlook there are people today who live a hunter/gatherers, and people who have only recently started cultivating food, and they do not live in the cities of Gilgamesh.

    Are they typical? I know not. But they are there. All I did was to describe their behavior.

    I get quite excised when people look at ruins to project their theories on how primitive people behave when there are such primitive people living on the plate today.

    Study the Masi, Study the Zulu, Study the Xhosa, Study the Matabele, study the Tswana, Study the San, study the Shona. Study the tribe of the great plateau of Africa, the cradle of the Human race.

    Study the Euroba, Study the IBM, study the Hausa and the other tribes of equatorial Africa.

    These are just the few tribe I can name from no study at all of these people. Surely the professional can extract much more information from these peoples than my poor recollections and very casual observations.

  • JustPlainDave

    …PPNA (Pre-Pottery Neolithic A) unless new evidence has come along since I was active in the field, finds of morphologically domesticated species are rare and contentious from this period. Morphological domesticates are widespread in the subsequent PPNB period.

    My view, this is much less likely to be an instance where folks “decided” to farm and everything flowed from that than one where increasingly intensive collection over a period of time (potentially quite a short period in archaeological terms, particularly compared to the resolution that we have from C14 dates around that time) resulted in the transition. It isn’t a chicken or egg sort of thing – it’s a chicken and egg over a reasonably extended period (compared to the timescale of human life) sort of thing.

    “For the most part, when people discuss international law they are using it as a tool in a broader policy debate…. Very few people, it turns out, care about international law for its own sake.” ~ David Bosco

  • JustPlainDave

    …knowledge about the species and selective breeding. Aboriginal populations tend to have extremely detailed knowledge about the species in their environment – very unlikely that the woke up one morning and thought “Ah, cereals – not just for breakfast any more”. In terms of the changes associated with the development of morphological domesticates, it’s much more likely to be a case of unintentional selective pressures as the drivers.

    I’ve quite explicitly stayed away from the literature for the last ten years or so and I’m working from memory, so bear with me, but my recollection is that most of the mutations that stand behind the most common Levantine plant domesticates are point mutations, occurring something on the order of one in a million examples. When one introduces the new selective pressures associated with intensive collection, if they act consistently, the changes associated with domestication can potentially occur quite quickly. As an example, when one begins to intensively collect cereals, one introduces selective pressure for tough rachised variants. I seem to recall that the modeling suggested that the emergence of a morphologically domesticated population could have taken something like as little as 200 years, which is very short on an archaeological timescale, given the resolution we have.

    “For the most part, when people discuss international law they are using it as a tool in a broader policy debate…. Very few people, it turns out, care about international law for its own sake.” ~ David Bosco

  • Gary Sugar

    I see a strong continuity with prior Eurasian stone-age culture. The carvings, drawings, and paintings look very similar to all the famous cave art. One of the figurines looks almost identical to the Venus of Willendorf. I expect that the temple buildings at Göbekli Tepe were used for more or less the same rituals as the Lascaux and other cave temples. My impression is that the biggest of these sites are mostly located near the best hunting grounds, where herds and hunters from around the areas congregated seasonally. The rituals apparently included worship of the animal species for sacrificing their offspring as food, worship of ancestral heroes as miraculous hunters or magically fertile mothers, and self-identification as reincarnations of the ancestral heroes. I imagine that boys were taught to particularly worship personally inherited heroes, and that after surviving some kind of initiation rite in the cave or temple labyrinth, they were informed that “you are that hero”. Probably some inner rooms or otherwise special rooms were reserved for higher initiations.

  • Tina

    of thought is that there were areas of natural wild crops

  • Rich_Lather

    Settlements evolved out of the technology developed in the creation of stone-aged porn. ;)

  • adrena

    dating from 12,500- 9,500 BC, in which a man and a woman are intertwined in a sensual sexual embrace, makes you think of porn I feel sorry for you.


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • adrena

    the Natufian culture that inhabited the Levant was sedantary or semi-sedantary before the advent of agriculture. Food in the area was plentiful. Their diet consisted of wild barley and wheat, nuts and the meat of gazelles and other game.

    “The Natufians developed quite sophisticated techniques of storing grain, and they devised pestles and grinding slabs to prepare it to eat. They built circular and oval dwellings of stone that were occupied year-round for centuries.” Source

    As for this, When the women decided to farm they founded a settlement. The men had no choice in the matter. Why would they be adversarial? Have you never heard of interdependence and cooperation?


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • adrena

    I imagine that boys were taught to particularly worship personally inherited heroes and that after surviving some kind of initiation rite in the cave or temple labyrinth, they were informed that “you are that hero” What makes you think that? Do you have any evidence, links? There are plenty of references, though, for the important role and high status of women during this era. I imagine the girls had lots of heroes.

    Though women’s roles were less adventuresome and aggressive, they were arguably more critical to the survival of the band. The foods women gathered provided the basic subsistence of the band and permitted its survival in times when hunting parties were
    unsuccessful. Women also became adept in the application of medicinal plants, which were the only means that Paleolithic peoples had to ward off disease. Because life expectancy was short – 20 years or less on the average – and mortality rates for women in labor and infants were very high, women had to give birth many times in order for the band to increase its numbers even slightly. The early appearance (c. 25,000 B.C.) of figurines carved by Homo sapiens sapiens that depict voluptuous and pregnant women suggest the existence of cults devoted to earth and mother goddesses. The centrality of feminine symbolism in early art and religion may also be indicative of the considerable influence that women wielded within the band.

    There is also evidence that Natufian society was matrilocal – young men went to live with their wives’ families – and matrilineal – family descent and inheritance were traced through the female line. The fact that women gathered food crops in the wild may explain the importance of women and the power and influence they enjoyed in Natufian settlements. Source

    Also, a 12,000-year old shaman/priestess was unearthed in Israel.

    Buried alongside the woman’s small, huddled corpse were selected pieces of animal bone, a cowtail, an eagle wing, the foot of another human, and, most curiously, some fifty tortoise shells deliberately arranged around the woman’s body — all tell-tale signs, experts say, of her lofty social status at the time. Source


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • Rich_Lather

    I know it when I see it.

  • JustPlainDave

    …extensive a chain of inference off the available evidence from the Natufian. Matrilineality / matrilocality is in the category of “an interesting idea” without much definitive support. It’s consistent with the available evidence, but the evidence available isn’t terribly extensive. Ideally one would like large scale genetic evidence, but to the best of my knowledge (now getting somewhat dated) it doesn’t exist [the cost of decontaminating and getting sufficiently pure samples would be significant, if it could be done at all].

    A lot (if not all) of this stuff can be interpreted more than one way – for example, the shaman burial certainly lots of effort placed into this burial, but it is not clear why. Does this reflect high personal status? High role status? Is the status inherited or achieved? Is it associated with her being female or is it cued off her unusual skeletal morphology? How much power does that translate into anyway? In what spheres? With the data at the level we have, we can say that there’s greater status differentiation in the Natufian, but it is difficult to move much beyond that with certainty. A lot of this stuff when one goes from the evidence to talking about specific gender roles and power, when you track the citations back, actually foots on folks saying it repeatedly and assumption, rather than on really good archaeological evidence (I’m thinking less about the Natufian than about other periods). One of the reasons why I’m particularly sensitive to the notion of folks looking at evidence and projecting is that I saw it all the time in archaeology. None of it is necessarily wrong, but in my view it’s better to have a depiction of the past that’s founded firmly on the evidence available instead of on contemporary cultural ideas, given how plastic they are and given how excessive “projection” tends to corrupt the database (folks who look at things from too stylized a direction tend not to have high fidelity to the data).

    “For the most part, when people discuss international law they are using it as a tool in a broader policy debate…. Very few people, it turns out, care about international law for its own sake.” ~ David Bosco

  • adrena

    You mean the ‘pornified’ eye of the beholder. The Goddess of Willendorf is likewise viewed by some as being representative of pre-historic porn. Pathetic!


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • adrena

    that you did not find the boy/hunt/hero worhip interpretation, to which I responded, worthy of a challenge. Yet, you feel the need to question the validity of my entire post. It’s just one more piece of evidence to add to the topic of how scientific data is manipulated to support the dominant narrative. I’ll be discussing this at length later.

    Violet Socks of the Reclusive Leftist succinctly describes … “the ludicrousness of the field in the 60s and early 70s, the era of “Man the Hunter,” when male anthropologists argued that men had driven all of human evolution, that humanity itself was defined by the exclusively (so they thought) male occupations of hunting and flint knapping, and that all women did was sit around in the caves waiting for their pelvises to evolve so they could give birth to big-brained sons who would bring them meat.”

    The idea that girls and women might once have had heroes, female no less, evokes absolute horror and fear in the cold hearts of patriarchs.


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • JustPlainDave

    …projection? Before you go digging in too much further it might be worth taking on board that I was a Levantine epipaleolithic/aceramic neolithic/pottery neolithic/chalcolithic guy (with more focus on the latter periods). I don’t know the Upper Paelo literature anything like as well – hence my lack of comment (though I strongly suspect that that also rests on a thin evidentiary base).

    When you base things on evidence that I know from primary experience to be somewhat sketchy the PSA guy in me would offer cautions. If you would prefer free reign to extemporize, just let me know and I’ll keep quiet – there are no policy implications to understanding of the rise of social complexity and I really don’t care what people believe, right, wrong or indifferent. Sad commentary, given that I spent almost a decade and a half of my life on it, but there it is.

    “For the most part, when people discuss international law they are using it as a tool in a broader policy debate…. Very few people, it turns out, care about international law for its own sake.” ~ David Bosco

  • adrena

    that the projections I described were made by numerous Levantine epipaleolithic/aceramic neolithic/pottery neolithic/chalcolithic guys and gals such as yourself. So your criticism is misdirected.

    But let’s disect a few simple facts and draw our own final conclusion.

    1. The site where the priestess/shaman/witch doctor/ ancient wise woman was found is primarily a burial ground of at least 28 Natufian individuals. Most of the remains are buried in one collective pit, but one burial was special. The remains of this 45 year old woman was separate and accompanied by lots of animal remains.

    2. Your fellow archaeologists inferred the following: “The elaborate burial of this physically disabled woman accompanied with tortoises, cow tails, eagle wings, and fur-bearing animals fall in line with our observation of other shaman burials found throughout the world”.

    3. The fact that this woman was 45 and that the life expectancy of her fellow Natufians was 20-30 years is also noteworthy. Why might that be, you think? As a shaman/priestess she was a conduit between the spirit and human world. It has been projected by your fellow archaeologists that she may have received special treatment because of her higher status and that this may have extended her life.

    So all I’m trying to say is that once there was a world where women were revered and respected. But no, you have to immediately stamp out that notion by hammering on about false projections blah, blah, blah. You don’t even have the sensitivity (and courage) to simply acknowledge that alternative archaeological interpretations recognize the contributions of pre patriarchal women to the development of civilization.

    Every time you try to crawl out of the hell hole that the dominators have created for women you get pushed back down. And it hurts … it hurts like hell. But who cares?


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • JustPlainDave

    Have fun.

    “For the most part, when people discuss international law they are using it as a tool in a broader policy debate…. Very few people, it turns out, care about international law for its own sake.” ~ David Bosco

  • adrena

    I never said I’d like you to be quiet. Remaining silent is entirely your own decision.

    And Have fun? That’s something a teenager would say.


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • JustPlainDave

    I would prefer not to be abused by you when I have the poor taste, on the basis of pretty considerable (though increasingly dated) familiarity with the data, to tell you that your reconstruction rests on tenuous grounds.

    The guys writing the history you cited for matrilocality are historians, they are not archaeologists. I know the material they based that assertion on and I know the folks who produced much of that material – they would be cautious in how far they pushed that idea and I can tell you that even as far as they pushed it (literally a handful of sentences) the idea was somewhat contentious. Similarly, there’s a significant gap between a high status burial (which no one disagrees about) to where you run with it. A few high status burials (there are others that would fit into this category, though this one is at the high end) do not necessarily translate into women generally being revered and respected. It is possible, but the evidence is far from definite and there are clear indications of many more female burials not having this sort of treatment which would have to be explained. One does not reliably make such sweeping inferences from a handful of burials, it just doesn’t work that way.

    When it comes to archaeological interpretation I didn’t build long inferential chains and I certainly didn’t give a rat’s ass about politics when I did so. Those who found their politics on the past would be well served to be extremely cautious in doing so – this is a field where one new find can completely change our understanding of the reality of the past.

    “For the most part, when those interested in gender discuss prehistory they use it as a tool in a broader policy debate…. Would that they cared about it for its own sake.” ~ not-David Bosco

  • adrena

    Got any links/references for your assertions … especially of the material produced by the historians?

    It appears the entire field of archaeology rests on tenuous grounds … but that has never stopped many archaeologists from making sweeping inferences. You would agree that historically, the projections have always favored the dominant narrative.

    And again, I’m not reconstructing anything but merely describing the projections and inferences of archaeologists.

    But I understand I’m up against a wall of resistance when seeking a meaningful place for women in the history of humankind. I will provide many examples at a later date.


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • JustPlainDave

    ….different from where I’m sitting. I can think of dozens and dozens of folks who are interested in archaeological studies of gender among all of my former profs, colleagues and students. Contrary to the ideas I used to see expressed by my first years, resistance to the idea of a gendered understanding of the past isn’t a synonym for thinking that things like The Chalice and the Blade rest on shaky archaeological footings.

    Historically did archaeological interpretation favour the role of men? Sure, no dispute. Always? That’s a lot more of a stretch – gender has been a key interpretational lens since well before I started in 1987 and it has only grown in importance over time. Similarly, I would argue that the sweeping nature of inference practiced by archaeologists has decreased as we have become more interested in more granular studies – the key issue is that the inferences made by secondary users of our work have emphatically not become more limited.

    As to the historians, if you google these guys you will find that Peter Stearns is Professor of History at George Mason, Michael Adas is Professor of History at Rutgers, and Stuart Schwartz is a Professor of History at Yale. They don’t cite their source for the assertion of matrilineality and matrilocality, but I would lay real good money that they got it from Don’s 1989 book on the Natufian. Fullish cite is Henry, Don. (1989). From Foraging to Agriculture, The Natufian Culture in the Levant. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Matrilocality is cited in the index and there’s about a graf of discussion – appropriately caveated – in the book. I seem to recall that some folks then ran with the idea and looked at decorative motifs on tools thought to be associated with women, but I can’t recall who that was. I think it was then Doug Campana who cast doubt on the notion, but I don’t remember enough to be sure and I divested myself of those articles some time ago, so don’t hold him to that. For other status differentiated burials, look at the burials at Hayonim Cave, Nahal Oren and Ain Mallaha – I think those are the best evidence. I seem to recall than Anna Belfer-Cohen did a summary piece on Natufian burial practices back in 1991 or so that would have a lot of this with a lot of useful stuff on the associated caveats – think it’s in the big volume The Natufian Culture in the Levant out of Oxbow Books.

    “For the most part, when people discuss international law they are using it as a tool in a broader policy debate…. Very few people, it turns out, care about international law for its own sake.” ~ David Bosco

  • adrena

    So Peter Stearns, George Mason, Michael Adas, Stuart Schwartz, Henry Don and Doug Campana all rejected the idea that the Natufians were a matrilocal and matrilineal society. What did the menz propose instead? That it was patrilocal? Or did they leave the question unanswered? We’re talking 1989. As you must be aware, in archaeology, conclusions can later be rejected and earlier projections may be reintroduced and/or revised. With that in mind, I have decided that I’m not going to take your word for it. (Absolutely no offense intended) That’s not to say that I have taken a position. I’ll leave the question open until I have finished researching the most recent opinions on this topic. I have put it on my “to do” list.

    Gender archaeology, aka feminist archaeology, came into being in the late 80s precisely because their was a wall of resistance. It has evolved since then. Here is a good description of its current status and challenges.

    I just finished reading a summary of Anna Belfer-Cohen’s book The Natufian culture in the Levant. Although she did not make any comments about its social organization it was, nevertheless, a fascinating read. Very detailed. Thanks for the reference.


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • JustPlainDave

    Don Henry suggested that the Natufian was matrilineal / matrilocal on the basis of a couple of pretty general lines of evidence (the summary’s in his book on page 51 and then also pops up on page 202) and the four historians incorporated this into their summary article. Doug Campana suggested that one of the lines of evidence (decorative motifs) was weak. In terms of alternate interpretations, no one that I’m aware of has suggested patrilineality / patrilocality – only thing that I’ve seen is suggestions that the evidence thusfar for a matri interpretation is weak. As I say, it’s generally viewed as an interesting idea – the issue is one of lack of unambiguous archaeological evidence one way or another. This sort of thing would be difficult to infer from any archaeological culture, let alone one with the challenges of the Natufian. In practical terms, for archaeologists specializing in the period, the specific form of locality / lineage practiced is just not that important an issue given the other extremely pertinent issues around the rise of sedentism, intensive hunting and gathering and social complexity to explore.

    I dug out my copy of The Natufian Culture in the Levant and it doesn’t contain the article that I recall (though there is one of hers dealing with art objects from Hayonim) – there is a great deal else in there that is of use, however including a summary of the burial corpus (n=around 500 or so with many problems sexing and aging the remains). There’s an article of Anna’s cited from a 1988 Paléorient dealing with the burials at Hayonim Cave that might be what I was recalling.

    It isn’t, BTW, Anna’s book – it’s a collection of articles on the Natufian written by a whole raft of people and edited by Ofer Bar-Yosef and François Valla. I don’t know if you’ll be able to find it for purchase now – it was fairly expensive (my paperback copy cost me 39 quid at a time when a quid was worth something). That said, I seem to recall that the University of Toronto holds it and I know they hold Paléorient (it’s a journal series put out by the CNRS dealing with Near Eastern prehistory).

    “For the most part, when people discuss international law they are using it as a tool in a broader policy debate…. Very few people, it turns out, care about international law for its own sake.” ~ David Bosco

  • adrena

    You’ll do your research and I’ll do mine.

    But for now, let’s give it a rest, shall we?

    cartoonarchaeology


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • adrena

    The debate about whether the Natufian culture was matrilineal and matrilocal, or not, seems to have no clear ending. However, while researching this topic, I discovered something far more appealing. Archaeologist Ian Kuijt found evidence in his study: Negotiating Equality through Ritual: A consideration of Late Natufian and Prepottery Neolithic A Period Mortuary Practices (1996), of an egalitarian society – the Natufians made a concerted effort to resist a hierarchical division in favor of a society free of a class system. Our ancient ancestors instinctively understood that when adopting a sedentary lifestyle, which required the coming together of formerly smaller and separate human groups, their chances of survival would be greater if they all got along. To that end, the Natufians initiated and established unity and stability among the disparate kin-groups by employing specific mortuary rituals and by celebrating and burying their dead together.

    One, but by no means the only, interpretation of the late Natufian and PPNA envisions mortuary practices as a reflection of the development of a series of ritual events organized for the veneration or worshipping of ancestors while simultaneously serving to reaffirm community identity and egalitarian beliefs. This belief system was materially expressed through: (1) the control and restriction of the display of social differences (lack of grave goods, homogeneous grave construction and individual burials and/or (2) the development of mortuary rituals that emphasize a community identity and a shared ancestor (cranial removal, secondary mortuary practices). Ultimately, when we look at these lines of evidence, we can see considerable data that argue for an overall continuity in mortuary practices and, by extension, cultural links and overall beliefs and ideology between these periods.

    Not only are such mortuary rituals viewed as a part of a shared belief system that explains material similarities during the Natufian-Neolithic transition but perhaps more importantly, these behaviors should be recognized by anthropologists as a form of social action that holds implications for how personal relations were defined within these communities. Over the past few years, a number of scholars (e.g., Belfer-Cohen 1995; Byrd and Monahan 1995), at times employing different data sets have argued that there is no significant archaeological evidence for hereditary social inequality during the late Natufian period. Expanding upon these works, the analysis presented here indicates that late Natufian and PPNA communities adopted specific mortuary practices, … to intentionally limit and control the accumulation of power and authority at the individual, kin-group, household, and community level.

    As outlined elsewhere (Kuijt 1995), considerable mortuary and architectural evidence from the later PPNA and MPPNB periods indicates that social codes were expanded and increasingly standardized within the Levantine region to reinforce a shared community ethos and limit the development of social inequality. Source

    In spite of the lack of agreement on matrilineality and matrilocality, one can see that these and social equality are not mutually exclusive. I still maintain that, considering the worship of Goddesses in the later Neolithic period as well as the discovery of a female shaman/priestess of this era whose grave indicated special status, there is sufficient indirect evidence to suggest that matrilocal and matrilineal elements may have been part of the Natufian culture.

    Adding more force to the equal status of men and women, which, incidentally, is a prerequisite for the development of a class-free society, is the discovery of a multipurpose Natufian tool kit. A collection of hunting and gathering tools in this bag suggests the absence of the distinct gender roles that are fiercely enforced in today’s society.

    ….. the bag’s owner wasn’t necessarily a man; women are thought to have been in charge of plant gathering. The tools, therefore, either belonged to a woman hunter-gatherer, or work activities were more gender-blind than thought during prehistoric times, Edwards theorized.

    Francois Valla, director of the French Research Center in Jerusalem and a noted archaeologist, told Discovery News that similar ancient clusters of tools have been excavated, but this latest one is “the most spectacular of them all.”

    “The clustering of these items is due to a decision made by some Natufian individual,” Valla said. “As such, it is a rare testimony of the behavior of a person 14,000 years ago.” Source

    Interesting that the archaeologist’s first inference is that the bag belonged to a woman hunter-gatherer. It seems that the idea of a man doing what is perceived to be women’s work (gathering) still provokes unease in the modern male.

    I believe the opposite scenario would be more likely. Just for fun, let’s pretend that a small prehistoric hunting party set out to try and kill a gazelle. What if the hunt was unsuccessful? Why wouldn’t the mens, on the way home, gather some wild wheat and barley (which is very labor intensive) and pick up a few nuts so as not to return to the camp empty-handed?

    Also, knowing that the Natufian lifespan was about 20-30 years and that therefore, the adult women were almost always pregnant, why wouldn’t these women, while sitting around the campfire, try to invent new tools for the mens to make the hunt a little easier? Pregnancy doesn’t cause stupidity.

    An alternative scenario. What if a few strong, ‘unpregnant’ women joined the hunting party to practice hitting the target with a sling shot? While the women focused on taking down a gazelle, the men could be protecting them from predatory animals to avoid becoming prey themselves. And if the women succeeded in taking down a gazelle, the men could carry the animal back to camp. See … cooperation gets you a lot farther.


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • JustPlainDave

    …be real surprised by associations between hunting tools and sickle reaping tools – there are numerous sickle hafts decorated with gazelle (I think maybe even one from Wadi Hammeh 27). Personally I’ve always thought that hunting and long-distance foraging went together in the Natufian (and that’s not an out there view). I rather suspect this might be more the reporter than Edwards.

    Similarly, I think on talking with folks working in the field, you’d find that your alternative scenario with women participating in hunting in at least some contexts isn’t so alternative. There’s decent evidence for communal net hunting from the faunal record out in some of the eastern sites and I don’t think anyone’s seriously posited that the women weren’t there and involved.

    Seriously, I think you should ask some hard questions about exactly how much of the Man the Hunter accusation actually tracks back to the folks doing the work and how much of it is a product of the bias of popular accounts.

    In examining concepts like social equality, you need to be very focused in what you’re looking at. I find it very difficult to argue that the Natufian is characterized by unusually high levels of social equality – what makes the period so interesting is that there is more personal social differentiation visible in the archaeological record than we’ve previously seen. It’s probably not very differentiated – for example, all of the status items are things that don’t require specialist manufacture, though they may require privileged social connections (i.e., connections to neighbouring social groups that have access to imports such as dentalium shell). Look also to differential burial patterns – why are some burials rich in grave goods if social equality is really high? My sense is that when you use the term social equality you don’t mean it in quite the same way that an archaeologist specializing in the period might – instead, you mean rough equality between the sexes. That I don’t know whether we can address effectively. Political and social power is tough to address in living cultures, let alone the Natufian.

    Also, before drawing a straight line between the Natufian and Late Neolithic religious iconography, there’s a wealth of stuff to be taken on board from the aceramic neolithic. Denise Schmand-Besserat has done a great deal of work with the ‘Ain Ghazal corpus which is largely available online: https://webspace.utexas.edu/dsbay/index.html

    Finally, you could try to be just a little bit more circumspect about the what “provokes unease in the modern male” schtick. I’ve met most of the people you mentioned above and a couple of them I used to know pretty well and there was a I time when I knew all of their work intimately – you might be very surprised what they actually believe about gendered interpretations of the past, let alone gender relations, etc.

    “For the most part, when people discuss international law they are using it as a tool in a broader policy debate…. Very few people, it turns out, care about international law for its own sake.” ~ David Bosco

  • adrena

    archaeologists like Philip Edwards, a senior lecturer in archaeology at Melbourne university, and François Valla, a noted archaeologist working in Israel, when their conclusions do not match your very own ‘unbiased’ ideas. And while acknowledging women’s participation in hunting and men’s in gathering it’s important for us to know that men only did long-distance gathering and women only took part in communal net hunting. The prehistoric man wouldn’t dream of picking up a few nuts if the tree happened to be too close to camp, would he?

    Also, why should anyone consider your personal view coupled with a declaration that it’s not an out there view to be solid evidence for anything? I’d say it’s far more questionable than my attempt to draw a direct line between the Natufian culture and Neolithic Goddesses which, of course, you criticized. At least, I can avail myself of additional fields of study (Anthropology, Ethnology, History of Religions, Linguistics, Art, Architecture, Literature, Folklore and Mythology) to support my claim.

    However, I admit the discipline of archaeology is complex and does not offer straightforward answers. There are as many points of view as there are archaeologists. I’m not denying that the majority of prehistoric hunters were male and the majority of gatherers were female. What I do object to though, is the fact that, as anthropologist S.L Washburn points out, “Theories of human evolution have focused on male activities rather than female as the core of human adaptation“. In archaeological circles, the failure to consider the role of prehistoric women is referred to as a “Paleolithic glass ceiling”. The tendency to ignore the behavior of females if it does not adhere to the dominant narrative persists today. For example, the fact that females employ active reproductive strategies rather than act as passive receptacles for male reproductive ambitions still hasn’t filtered through the patriarchal template used by evolutionary biologists/psychologists in their many so-called credible interpretations of human sexuality.

    As for this Seriously, I think you should ask some hard questions about exactly how much of the Man the Hunter accusation actually tracks back to the folks doing the work and how much of it is a product of the bias of popular accounts. Please tell me, what is the origin of our culture’s obsessive idealization of “Man the Hunter“?

    And this you could try to be just a little bit more circumspect about the what “provokes unease in the modern male” schtick. I intended to put it mildly as I found Edward’s reversal of his assumptions about gender roles to be laudatory.

    Notwithstanding your personal experience, I can assure you that when women infringe on what some males believe to be their exclusive role, their response can be anywhere from subtly negative to outright nasty and, in some cases, their treatment of these women may be brutal. I will offer multiple examples … another day.


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • JustPlainDave

    …and how much of this is real? I cite instances where there’s good evidence for interpretations that show that the traditional male : female economic dichotomy is blurred and that’s taken to mean that I lock women into “only” those roles. Really? As it happens the strawman/[woman?] that you seem to need to build – for reasons that elude me – isn’t what I believe. I’m in [non]violent agreement that men would have collected like crazy even in areas close to the settlement. And yet you seem to need the opposition, manufacturing it out of whole cloth if necessary.

    Similarly, when I say there’s much to be taken on board from Denise’s work on the aceramic neolithic, that’s taken as a complete disavowal of the notion of possible linkage (again, a strawman). I won’t spoil the surprise – all I can say is go read her work then maybe reflect that this archaeologist at least finds the notion of an iconographic transition towards enhanced depiction of primary and secondary sexual traits over the broader period intriguing.

    The origins of our Man the Hunter obsession seem to me to be intimately tied up to the historically particular circumstances around the rise of anthropology as a broad field of inquiry in the latter 20th century and reinforced by popular conception. Call me a nasty cynical bastard but I tend to think that it’s stayed around as long as it has – even when the field of practice has moved on considerably – in part because some folks find its existence convenient. As an example, you can’t wait to hang it around my neck, whether I believe it or not. Personally I think it’s well on the way of the dodo, for the simple reason that so many of the practitioners coming in are women (I’d wager decent money that a majority of archaeology PhDs are going to women by now), if absolutely no other (and there are a number of other reasons).

    Your quote, by the way should be attributed to Craig Stanford [Stanford, C. (1999). The Hunting Apes: Meat Eating and the Origins of Human Behavior. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.]. He was talking about the trajectory Washburn kicked off. In 1966.

    “For the most part, when people discuss international law they are using it as a tool in a broader policy debate…. Very few people, it turns out, care about international law for its own sake.” ~ David Bosco

  • adrena

    Thanks for this lively exchange.

    As for the straw man, maybe you’re right, maybe not. All I can say is that your former statement about the rape of women in the Canadian army in Afghanistan being just ‘collateral damage‘ resurfaces in my consciousness each time we have these kinds of discussions. It influences my response to whatever you say. In other words, I don’t trust your intentions. You can’t treat women lower than an amoeba one day and afford them equal status the next. It’s too much of a mental stretch. “Is he genuine”, I ask myself or, “Is he fake”? I don’t know …

    Anyway … here’s a real straw man.

    strawman1


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • JustPlainDave

    Let me make it crystal clear for you, because you don’t quite seem to be able to understand anything other than explicit crystal clarity. Saying that we there are barriers that prevent us from getting any fuckwits who committed crimes against any of our members is not the same as saying the members who suffered the assault are “collateral damage”. And all of that presupposes that it was our members who were victimized, which has not been established.

    Let me make another thing perfectly clear – this propensity that you have for being extraordinarily offensive as a result of letting your set of highly charged, frankly ignorant, assumptions “fill in the gaps” of others that you don’t know isn’t endearing. I was willing to let it go the first time, this is the second – I would hope that you have the good grace to reflect on the value of restraint and the dangers of assumption sufficiently that there won’t be a third.

    “You want genuine? Here’s genuine: You’re an offensive jerk and the next time you want me to take time from my day in an attempt to help you, you can frankly do without.”* ~ me

    * The first versions of this were a good deal more profane, but I wouldn’t want to sound like a teenager. I mean, after all, actual adults might get called on their bullshit.

  • adrena

    I’ve wanted to call you a jerk so many times but I always refrained since I figured the editors would immediately be on my back. But I see they don’t have a problem with it. So here‘s a high five from one jerk to another. Just kidding!!!

    I must say, it certainly wasn’t pleasant reading although in the end your outburst did, strangely enough, bring a smile to my face.

    However, your point has been duly noted, absorbed, and processed. Edit: Whether you agree or not with the outcome I don’t care to find out from an arrogant, offensive jerk like you.

    Enuff said!


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • JustPlainDave

    They’re more fun the second time.

    “For the most part, when people discuss international law they are using it as a tool in a broader policy debate…. Very few people, it turns out, care about international law for its own sake.” ~ David Bosco

  • adrena

    I wouldn’t want to follow in your footsteps. I have a better idea. Why don’t we set aside our differences and rejoice … ’cause summer is on the doorstep.


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

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