Locally available or imported? Identifying the provenance of Natufian plant food and fuel resources at Shubayqa 1 (northeastern Jordan)

Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, Joe Roe, Alexis Pantos, Jonathan Santana-Cabrera, José Luis Araus, Petrus Le Roux, and Tobias Richter

Paper presented at the 18th conference of the International Workgroup for Palaeoethnobotany (IWGP), Lecce, 2019.


Archaeologists have long investigated the provenance of archaeological artefacts as a way of understanding past subsistence. Provenance analyses of bioarchaeological materials have provided key information on human and animal mobility patterns, territoriality, and economic activities such as pastoralism. Surprisingly, the provisioning of plant resources in prehistory has rarely been examined. Where the plants that served as food, fuel and raw materials were growing has only been inferred indirectly, based on modern ecological analogues and the geological setting of sites. Here we propose a new, interdisciplinary approach that combines archaeobotany, ecological niche modelling, carbon isotope discrimination and strontium analyses to evaluate hunter-gatherer plant procurement strategies. We identify some of the plant species used as food and fuel by Natufian groups and their likely distribution in the landscape (plant catchment areas) at the site of Shubayqa 1 (northeastern Jordan). The results provide unique perspectives about the degree of mobility of hunter-gatherer groups and the distribution of plant resources in the past.


hunter-gatherer; plant procurement; Southwest Asia; multi-proxy