Early evidence (ca. 12,000 B.P.) for feasting at a burial cave in Israel

Natalie D. Munro, Leore Grosman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations

Abstract

Feasting is one of humanity's most universal and unique social behaviors. Although evidence for feasting is common in the early agricultural societies of the Neolithic, evidence in pre-Neolithic contexts is more elusive. We found clear evidence for feasting on wild cattle and tortoises at Hilazon Tachtit cave, a Late Epipaleolithic (12,000 calibrated years B.P.) burial site in Israel. This includes unusually high densities of butchered tortoise and wild cattle remains in two structures, the unique location of the feasting activity in a burial cave, and the manufacture of two structures for burial and related feasting activities. The results indicate that community members coalesced at Hilazon to engage in special rituals to commemorate the burial of the dead and that feasts were central elements in these important events. Feasts likely served important roles in the negotiation and solidification of social relationships, the integration of communities, and the mitigation of scalar stress. These and other social changes in the Natufian period mark significant changes in human social complexity that continued into the Neolithic period. Together, social and economic change signal the very beginning of the agricultural transition.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)15362-15366
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume107
Issue number35
DOIs
StatePublished - 31 Aug 2010

Keywords

  • Epipaleolithic
  • Natufian culture
  • Origins of agriculture
  • Ritual
  • Social complexity

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