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«Item type text; Dissertation-Reproduction (electronic) Authors Munro, Natalie Dawn Publisher The University of Arizona. Rights Copyright © is held ...»

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A prelude to agriculture: Game use and occupation intensity

during the Natufian period in the southern Levant

Item type text; Dissertation-Reproduction (electronic)

Authors Munro, Natalie Dawn

Publisher The University of Arizona.

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University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction

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by Natalie Dawn Munro Copyright © Natalie Dawn Munro 2001 A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the


In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of


In the Graduate College


2001 UMI Number: 3060935 Copyright 2001 by Munro, Natalie Dawn Ail rights reserved.

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As members of the Final Examination Committee, we certify that we have read the dissertation prepared by Natalie Dawn Mmiro entitled ^ Prelude to Agriculture: Game Use and Occupation Intensity

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Final approval and acceptance of this dissertation is contingent upon the candidate's submission of the final copy of the dissertation to the Graduate College.

I hereby certify that I have read this dissertation prepared under my direction and recommend that it be accepted as fulfilling the dissertation requirement.

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This dissertation has been submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for an advanced degree at The University of Arizona and is deposited in the University Library to be made available to borrowers under rules of the Library.

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I have been allotted only a single page to thank many individuals without whom this research would have been impossible. Though brief, my thanks are no less heartfelt!

Without reservation my most enthusiastic thank you goes to my supervisor Mary Stiner who single-handedly fulfilled all of the demands of a Ph.D. student and then some.

No thank you is big enough. My other committee members Steven Kuhn, and Ofer BarYosef were also instrumental from the onset of this project, and provided assistance every step of the way. Thanks also to Ofer for traveling to Arizona for the defense.

Special thanks go to the Tchemov lab in the Department of ESE on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University in Jemsalem, where I was warmly assisted, advised, and entertained while collecting the data for this project. Thanks to Prof Eitan Tchemov, Rivka Rabinovich and Liora Horwitz, and also to Theodora Bar-EI, Daimy Bar-Yosef, Miriam Belmaker, Mary Craig, Tzuri Lifshitz, Hadas Motro and Yoav Motro.

While in Israel I was also welcomed by the Department of Prehistory at Mount Scopus. Thank you Anna Belfer-Cohen, Naama Goren-Inbar, Nigel Goring-Morris, Leore Grosman, Erella Hovers, Gonen Sharon.

Ofer Bar-Yosef, Leore Grosman, Fran9ois Valla, and Mina Weinstein-Evron, permitted me to study the collections fi^om their sites, and supplied me with maps, site information and encouragement. Bryan Hockett and Simon Davis provided essential references. Thanks also to John Speth, Guy Bar-Oz, and Steve Wolverton for seeming genuinely interested in what I had to say and for providing essential feedback.

At the University of Arizona, many people provided invaluable support. First for aiding with the logistics and bailing me out of several crises I thank Colleen Edmundson, Barbara Fregoso, Dirk Harris, Norma Maynard, Cathy Snider, Ellen Stamp, Mary Stephenson and Diana Vidal. Special thanks also to Drs. Carol Kramer, John Olsen, Stan Olsen and Nancy Parezo for advice and inspiration along the way. Kate Sarther provided a cmcial editing service even on short notice.

Finally, dissertating can be rough. Friends were key for lightening the mood!

First and foremost thanks to Scott Van Keuren, Susan Stinson, Kate Sarther, and Jerry Lyon, but also to Alysia Fischer, Jason Rech, Jeff Brantingham, Liane Brantingham, Christopher Tillquist, Martha Maiers, Kris Kerry, Cathy Kerry, Janet Griffits, Brian McKee, Amy Margaris, Jen Pylypa, Jennie Ebeling, Rebecca Dean, and Todd Surovell.

Thanks to Gideon Hartman for everything, and to Testudo graeca for chaperoning.

Last but not least my thanks go to those closest to me, my family— Neil, Jennifer, Krista, Shane, Camille, Evan, Amy, Anna, Kara, Mike, Pauline, Barry and Carol. And to Kevin who is just as important.

This research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (SBR-9815083), the University of Arizona Final Project Fund, the Levi Sala CARE Foundation, and Doctoral Fellowships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SHARK), and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Arizona (Haury Dissertation Fellowship).


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The origins of agriculture was one of the most significant turning points in human history, yet, no consensus has been reached on its causes. The most commonly cited precursors to agriculture include population pressure, intensive foraging, and sedentism.

These critical factors play central roles in models of agricultural origins, yet have not been rigorously tested. In the Levant, the Natufian period (ca. 13,000-10,500 B.P.) immediately preceded agricultural origins. This research applies ecological models to the Natufian archaeological record to formally test whether population pressure, sedentism, and intensified resource use were major catalysts for economic change at the transition to agriculture. It reconstructs predator-prey relationships by recording the potential effects of human hunting on prey populations and examining how these effects change with varying degrees of hunting pressure.

The effects of human hunting on prey populations is govemed by the ecological characteristics of prey species. Prey species vary in their cost of capture and their resistance to hunting pressure. The presence of some species and not others at archaeological sites may thus reflect changes in human population density. In archaeofaunal assemblages these changes are expressed in the relative abundance and age structures of prey species.

The prey composition and prey age profiles fi-om four Natufian sites —Hayonim Cave, Hayonim Terrace, Hilazon Tachtit, and el-Wad Cave ~ support three major

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Natufian in comparison to earlier Paleolithic periods in the region. Second, a substantial decrease in site occupation intensity back to virtually pre-Natufian conditions occurred during the Late Natufian in association with the Younger Dryas climatic event. Finally, the Natufians exerted constant, intensive pressure on their resources throughout the duration of the period. These trends have implications for human demography at the regional scale. During the Early Natufian period, human population densities in the Mediterranean zone peaked for the Paleolithic period. With the decline in site occupation intensity in the Late Natufian, human populations became more mobile and partial depopulation of the region occurred. The origins of agriculture thus emerged firom a atmosphere of long-term resource stress, not as an immediate response to environmental

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The Natufian culture of the southern Levant inspires great anthropological interest because it immediately precedes the adoption of the first agricultural economy. In the Natufian period, we thus hope to find the roots of some of the important cultural changes associated with this adoption — explosive population growth, the formation of permanent sedentary villages, a dependence on domestic plants and animals, and novel social structures. Though consensus on the causes of the agricultural revolution has not been reached, researchers consistently return to a few ecological themes to explain the emergence of the Natufian adaptation, and of subsequent agricultural economies. These include population pressure, or an imbalance between human population size and resources; intensified site occupation or sedentism; and intensified subsistence regimes based on cereals grains, nuts, and wild game (Bar-Yosef and Belfer-Cohen 1989, 1991;

Belfer-Cohen and Bar-Yosef 2000; Binford 1968; Boserup 1965; Braidwood 1960;

Childe 1951; Cohen 1977; Flannery 1969; Gebauerand Price 1992; Henry 1989; Hillman 1996; Keeley 1995; McCorriston and Hole 1991; Redding 1988; Smith and Young 1972, 1983). Despite their paramount status in models of agricultural origins, these factors are poorly understood, and have rarely been subjected to rigorous testing.

This research applies ecological models to zooarchaeological assemblages to test

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period. I also explore the role of these factors as catalysts for economic change at the transition to agriculture. The expected impact of varying degrees of human hunting pressure on prey populations is investigated with the aid of simple population simulations (following Stiner et al. 1999, 2000). Application of the simulations to the archaeological record allows us to estimate the relative degree of pressure exerted by Natufian hunters on key elements of their food supply. The method is based on the assumption that the effect of human hunting on prey populations is governed partly by the behavioral and population characteristics of prey species. Animals vary in their cost of capture, body size, population density, and resistance to hunting pressure, and as a result in the total energy returned for the predator. If animal communities are relatively constant the presence of some species and not others in archaeological assemblages should reflect the intensity of resource use. This in turn acts as a proxy measure of human population density at regional (population pressure) and local scales (site use intensity). In the archaeological record, hunting pressure is reflected in the prey type composition and in the mortality or body size profiles of faunal assemblages.

The Natufian fauna from Hayonim Cave, a multicomponent base camp in the northern Levant, is the centerpiece of a larger study that explores human game use in the Natufian period in general. Three additional Natufian sites ~ Hayonim Terrace, Hilazon Tachtit, and el-Wad Cave ~ are also evaluated to reconstruct patterns of human demography on a regional scale. Reconstructions of the relative density of human populations across Southwest Asia over the Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene transition

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Population pressure stems from an imbalance between human population size and resource availability. Resource imbalances are caused by population growth or a reduction in habitat area through climatic change, environmental degradation, territorial circumscription, or a combination of these (Bar-Yosef and Belfer-Cohen 1989; Binford 1968; Boserup 1965; Cohen 1977; Flannery 1969; Henry 1989; Smith and Young 1972, 1983). Because the survival of human populations depends on access to adequate nutrition, population imbalances can affect processes of cultural evolution. Such change may manifest itself as a shift in foraging strategy or population mobility, or as a technological innovation. Yet models of agricultural origins based on population pressure have been criticized for their unicausal designs as well as for their failure to explain the sources of population imbalance (Bender 1978; Cowgill 1975; Hassan 1978;

Hayden 1981, 1995). This research does not seek to explain the origin of population pressure; rather it aims to test the hypothesis that it was associated with revolutionary subsistence change at the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary. This does not imply that population pressure was the sole force behind subsistence change. In the presence of other factors such as climatic, environmental, or social disruption, however, it may have the potential to provoke cultural change.

Currently, scholars generally agree that the roots of human sedentism in the

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