ref: Before Farming 2009/1 article 1

Human subsistence change in the Late Pleistocene Mediterranean basin: the status of research on faunal intensification, diversification & specialisation

Natalie D Munro
Department of Anthropology, Unit 2176, 354 Mansfield Road, University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT, 06269, United States

Levent Atici
Department of Anthropology & Ethnic Studies, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
4505 S Maryland Pkwy, Las Vegas, Nevada, 89154-5003, United States

Keywords: Intensification, specialisation, diversification, Upper Palaeolithic, Epipalaeolithic, Mediterranean

An introduction to a series of articles appearing in Before Farming 2009/1 2009/2 and 2009/3

ref: Before Farming 2009/1 article 2

'Man made oases': Neolithic patterns of wild ungulate exploitation & their consequences for the domestication of pigs & cattle

Nimrod Marom & Guy Bar-Oz
Laboratory of Archaeozoology, Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Mt Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel

Keywords: Boar, cattle, domestication, Neolithic, southern Levant


This paper studies the changes observed in wild ungulate game procurement strategies between the Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic periods in the southern Levant. It is proposed that the advent of agricultural societies in the Neolithic caused an increase in the frequency of encounters between human hunters and wild ungulate taxa drawn to agriculturally-modified habitats. This higher frequency of encounters is responsible for the observed shift from gazelle- and fallow deer-dominated assemblages in the Epipalaeolithic to the wild boar- and aurochs-dominated assemblages in the Neolithic. The intensification of hunting wild boar and aurochs during the Neolithic is argued to have given rise to a trajectory towards the cultural control of these taxa.

But if the hunter is also a cultivator, he will have something to offer the famished beasts: the stubble of his freshly reaped fields will afford the best grazing in the oasis. Once the grains are garnered, the cultivator can tolerate half-starved mouflons and wild oxen trespassing upon his garden plots (…) man can study their habits, drive off the lions and wolves that would prey upon them, and perhaps even offer them some surplus grain from his stores. The beasts, for their part, will grow tame and accustomed to man's proximity.

(Childe 1961:68-69)

ref: Before Farming 2009/1 article 3

The role of foxes in the Natufian economy: a view from Mount Carmel, Israel

Reuven Yeshurun 
Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, 31905 Haifa, Israel

Guy Bar-Oz
Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, 31905 Haifa, Israel

Mina Weinstein-Evron
Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, 31905 Haifa, Israel

Keywords: Natufian, fox (Vulpes vulpes), small game, taphonomy, zooarchaeology


The Natufian culture of the Levant represents a sedentary, terminal Pleistocene hunter-gatherer society. Excavations of Natufian hamlets yield rich faunal assemblages in which a significant rise in small carnivore frequencies is noted (mainly red fox, Vulpes vulpes). Fox frequencies remain high in the succeeding Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA). We use Late Natufian fox remains from the site of el-Wad Terrace (Mount Carmel, Israel) as a case-study to discern the depositional history and exploitation of foxes in the Natufian. Our analysis shows that it is likely that foxes were consumed for food and thus should be considered in analyses of Natufian diets. Moreover, it seems that foxes were not captured by the same methods nor using similar foraging opportunities as other fast small game species (eg, hares). We hypothesise that foxes were captured close to the sites which they approached for food. Thus, the constant rise in fox abundance from the early Epipalaeolithic to the PPNA could potentially reflect a parallel rise in site occupation intensity.

ref: Before Farming 2009/1 article 4

Integrating inter- & intra-site analyses of Epipalaeolithic faunal assemblages from Israel

Natalie D Munro
Department of Anthropology, Unit 2176, 354 Mansfield Road, University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT, 06269, United States

Keywords: Epipalaeolithic, Levant, foraging efficiency, intensification, body-part representation


Inter- and intra-site variability in faunal assemblages from Epipalaeolithic sites in the southern Levant are investigated to identify broad patterns of human hunting efficiency and specific human activities at individual sites. The examination of eleven assemblages from the Mediterranean phytogeographic zone of Israel indicates a decline in human hunting efficiency across the Epipalaeolithic period. This decline is part of an intensified hunting strategy driven by human-induced resource depression of high-ranked large game taxa (ungulates). More detailed analyses at the site level indicate distinct variation in the use of fauna within individual archaeological sites. At Hilazon Tachtit taxonomic representation differs substantially among features in the cave. The differential deposition of fauna reflects specific burial customs including the selection of particular body parts and taxa as grave inclusions and consumption events.  At Hayonim Cave uneven body part representation reflects variation in the function of different avian taxa as food and raw materials as well as the curation of specific bones for ornamental functions.  Together, the intra- and inter-site analyses show that although humans selected particular taxa for specific purposes, prey choice was constrained by resource availability and the impacts of Epipalaeolithic hunters on their animal resources. In combination the two scales of analysis shed light on multiple dimensions of human behaviour providing a more robust picture than either analysis could alone.

ref: Before Farming 2009/1 article 5

Until the cows come home: cattle and Early Neolithic Cyprus

Alan H Simmons
Department of Anthropology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV 89154

Keywords: Cypriot Neolithic, early cattle domestication, late Pleistocene/early Holocene Cypriot faunal exploitation, island faunal exploitation patterns


The Neolithic of Cyprus has long been regarded as something of an ‘oddity’ with little relevance to the broader Near Eastern Neolithic world. It was believed that the ‘Neolithic package’ arrived on the island relatively late and, at least in terms of domestic fauna, there was little to distinguish it from the mainland, except for the lack of cattle. Research over the past several years, however, has challenged this perspective, first demonstrating a Late Epipalaeolithic use of the island with an apparent specialised focus on hunting the limited endemic fauna. Even more recent research has documented an earlier phase of the Neolithic as well, one that contains cattle. This paper summarises some of these developments.


© Western Academic & Specialist Press Ltd 2009