Tomorrow’s mundane is today’s extraordinary: A case study of a plastered installation during Neolithization

Leore Grosman*, Timna Raz, David E. Friesem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


For reconstructing past human ways of life we study mundane remains, but in order to detect special worldviews and behaviors we endeavor to observe the extraordinary embedded in those remains. There are many ways to define the ‘extraordinary’. Here we center on early occurrences of phenomena that later become mundane, rendering them ‘extraordinary’ through being rare compared to later frequent appearances. This study explores such extraordinary phenomena with relation to the processes of Neolithization in the Southern Levant, focusing on a round plastered installation (Feature 6) that was unearthed in the Late Natufian village of Nahal Ein Gev II (ca. 12,000 calBP). To investigate the feature’s function, we conducted a micro-geoarcheological analysis of the walls and fill to understand its use and formation processes, using Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy and micromorphology. Our results show that the walls were not exposed to elevated temperatures and that the interior of the installation was filled with mixed sediments. We therefore rule out the use of the feature as a cooking installation or a kiln. The interior mixed assemblage indicates secondary infilling after the feature was no longer in use for its initial purpose, thus challenging the identification of its original function. To date, there are no parallels for such lime and clay plastered installations in the Natufian culture. Yet, this type of feature becomes increasingly common with the advance of Neolithization where such features served as storage installations, integral to the farming way of life. We conclude that Feature 6 in NEG II is ‘extraordinary’ in the context of the Late Natufian, heralding the development of clay lined storage installations. We argue that this example of ‘extraordinary’ within the long process of Neolithization in the Near East helps to illuminate the gradual process of cultural innovation in which new features appear at first as extraordinary phenomena which later will become mundane.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number87
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020

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