Domestic maintenance practices in the Early Epipalaeolithic of the Jordanian steppe

Adam Allentuck, Louise Martin, and Joe Roe

Paper presented at the 12th International Symposium of the ICAZ Archaeozoology of Southwest Asia and Adjacent Areas Working Group (ASWA), Groningen, 2015.


Excavations of Early Epipalaeolithic (ca. 22–18 ka BP) deposits at Kharaneh IV, a ‘mega-site’ in the Azraq Basin of the eastern Jordanian steppe, are uncovering abundant, well-preserved faunal remains from hearths, middens, pits, caches and some of the earliest and best-preserved brush hut structures in the Near East. A constrained series of AMS dates in the context of high-density faunal and lithic assemblages suggest that Kharaneh IV was intensively and repeatedly occupied by aggregating groups of foragers over a maximum span of about twelve hundred years. In keeping with other Epipalaeolithic faunal assemblages from the southern Levant, gazelle predominates over all other animal taxa in the Kharaneh IV assemblage. Equid, fox, hare and tortoise are also well represented, while aurochs, wolf or dog, and ostrich comprise minor components of the collection. Although gazelle dominate taxonomic abundance tallies in most contexts, they are less abundant than the collective contribution from small fur-bearing mammals and tortoises in a brush hut dwelling (Structure 1). One of the other outstanding features of the assemblage is the conspicuous frequency of anatomical articulations, which include paired gazelle horn cores, canid skulls, fox and hare feet, partial vertebral columns of large and small ungulates and tortoise shells. While some of these articulations are ascribed to low post-depositional disturbance, others represent the residues of structured discard practices. Another example of structured deposits at Kharaneh IV is a cache of burnt aurochs and gazelle horn cores. While refuse disposal and structured deposition are conventionally regarded as practical and symbolic behaviours, respectively, we argue that both were formal, deliberate, habitual practices that together constituted alternate forms of Early Epipalaeolithic domestic maintenance.