Hunting and herding in a semi-arid region : an archaeozoological and ethological analysis of the faunal remains from the Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic of the eastern Jordanian steppe
This thesis focuses on the faunal remains from a sequence of 11 Epipalaeolithic and ten Neolithic sites in the eastern Jordanian steppe, with the aim of investigating the subsistence practices of hunters and herders between 20,000bp and 7,500bp, and their temporal and geographic variability within the study region. The first section outlines the archaeological and palaeoenvironmental background of the southern Levant; reviews subsistence evidence and models for the periods concerned; and describes the study area and sites. The second section concerns methodological approaches. A model of gazelle ethology for prehistoric eastern Jordan is presented, since this taxon is dominant in many of the study assemblages. Eleven modern case studies are used to predict population structure, demography and mobility, drawing on the principles of behavioural ecology. The archaeozoological methodologies used in the thesis are explained. The third section presents the results of the analyses. Taxonomic identification, quantification and faunal diversity are described and discussed for each assemblage, and broad temporal and geographical trends highlighted. Whether the assemblage compositions reflect the environmental changes discussed earlier is considered. It is demonstrated that the size diminution observed in both gazelle and hare between the late Pleistocene and early Holocene is probably attributable to climatic change. The question of selectivity in the taxa killed by prehistoric hunters is investigated. This is approached through ecological modelling and it is concluded that no strong selective biasses are observed. The nature of gazelle hunting is then further explored; the age profiles and sex ratios of the animal culls are compared to the model of gazelle social composition, and seasonal hunting times are proposed. The results suggest that none of the Epipalaeolithic assemblages shows signs of selective culling. Two Neolithic assemblages contain high proportions of juveniles, and interpretations relating to herd management practices, intensive hunting, and the targetting of vulnerable animals are discussed. The treatment of carcasses of the hunted animals is investigated. Body part representation, butchery and processing evidence, and taphonomic factors are considered, in order to present a picture of the activities undertaken at each site. The appearance of domestic caprines in eastern Jordan is considered. An assessment is made of their wild/domestic status, the management of herds and of carcass treatment. The results of the faunal remains analysed are integrated with other forms of archaeological evidence to discuss issues of mobility, contact and exchange, and to consider the changing and varied use of this area in prehistory.