Excavations at Motza in the Judean Hills and the Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic B in the Southern Levant

Abstract : Recent excavations at Motza near Jerusalem revealed a large Neolithic site that was continuously inhabited from the Early PPNB until the Pottery Neolithic period. The well-dated Early PPNB occupation comprises various architectural remains, human burials, clay and stone figurines, and rich flint and obsidian assemblages. Layer VI is approximately 2 m thick and consists of three discrete occupational levels with distinct architectural remains. These include curvilinear and rectangular structures with lime plastered floors, courtyards, hearths, and long massive walls of up to 1 m width. This layer is dated by sixteen radiocarbon dates, all falling within the range of 8600-8200 cal. BC. The EPPNB flint assemblage at Motza demonstrates a combination of the continuation of the earlier PPNA traditions together with the introduction of new technological innovations. The formal tools are dominated by Helwan and Jericho points, with many of the former being made on bidirectional blades in the north Levantine mode. Sickle blades are also mainly fashioned on bidirectional blanks. Mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella), the dominant species of the EPPNB faunal remains, indicates that hunting was still important. Gazelle bones were preferred for manufacturing bone tools, continuing PPNA Sultanian practices. Most of the human remains were primary burials, with no preference in the orientation of the bodies, although they were tightly flexed. Graves illustrate various funerary practices although primary inhumations on tightly flexed position are more common. All three primary graves of adults show evidence of later skull removal. Corpse treatment seems nonetheless quite particular at Motza as most of the graves were associated in different ways with remains of plaster, more frequently, as patches mixed in the fi lling of the grave. The archaeological evidence from Motza revises the hypothesis held by some that the PPNB in this region only started in the MPPNB. In addition, the advanced naviform technology and Helwan points present at Motza appear to be chronological markers of this period and together with radiocarbon dates confi rm the existence of this stage of the PPNB in the southern Levant.
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H. Khalaily, Ofer Bar-Yosef, Omry Barzilai, Elisabetta Boaretto, Fanny Bocquentin, et al.. Excavations at Motza in the Judean Hills and the Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic B in the Southern Levant. Paléorient, CNRS, 2007, 33 (2), pp.5-37. ⟨10.3406/paleo.2007.5218⟩. ⟨hal-01996987⟩

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