The Natufians were one of the earliest agriculturalists. The jury is still out on who holds the title for ‘the first farmers’ as the East Asians are also looking good for it, but Turkey and the Zagros region is more likely to be the home of western agriculture, not Israel or Syria. It’s rather telling that the very earliest Natufian agricultural sites are right on the edges of their territory (Abu Hureyra) and growing a more Northerly crop (ry. They gathered wild grains for a long time after farming was introduced. They seem to share some cultural ties to the Turkish culture of the time, such as removing and decorating skulls, and burying their dead inside their houses. They also have the habit of incisor evulsion shared with the Ibero Maurussian Culture of Morocco. Interestingly, their genetic legacy in the near East seems to be a male contribution (v13), but no L Mt Lineages came out of Africa to accompany it.
There has been some bickering over their race, as they show a mix of features. Unfortunately there haven’t been that many burials found, so the sample sizes have been a bit to small to make definite conclusions about who they were. They seem to show a mix of racial features, and this varies in each era and site, so there was probably a fairly fluid population at that time. Loring Brace’s paper that measured them said they were slightly closer to to the Eurasian population, and all the Sub Saharan traits seem to vanish before the beginning of the Neolithic farming era.
Brace on the Natufians..
This placement suggests that there may have been a Sub-Saharan African element in the make-up of the Natufians (the putative ancestors of the subsequent Neolithic
In that run, the Natufian of Israel ties to the French Mesolithic and then to the Afalou/Taforalt sample from North Africa
The interbreeding of the incoming Neolithic people with the in situ foragers diluted the Sub-Saharan traces that may have come with the Neolithic spread so that no discoverable element of that remained
The second quote suggesting a closer relationship to Eurasian population than African, and the final that the Natufians were overcome by the expansing Neiolthic farming revolution, and not it’s source.
Another sources on the Natufians;
Analysis of morphological variability in the Near East and Europe (here and in Pinhasi 2003) suggests that the Epipalaeolithic populations from the Natufian Levant were noticeably different to the Mesolithic populations described from the Danube Gorge, the western Mediterranean, and central Europe. No close similarities were observed between Early Neolithic and Mesolithic European groups in any of the regions studied, with the possible exception of Mediterranean Europe. However, neither were clear affinities observed between Epipalaeolithic Near Eastern groups and any other Neolithic or Mesolithic groups.
Essentially, from other reading the neolithic expansion seems to have happened into Europre from the Catal Hoyuk area, and most likely from the Zagros area of Iran, which would seem to be the Tarzian culture, who are in the correct time and place to have domesticated sheep, goats, cattle and barley. It’s more likley that the Tarzian culture expanded into the Natufian area bringing agriculture with them.
Necklace picture by courtesy of Pictures of Record, Inc.
The first picture has a puppy found buried with an elderly woman in this grave. Beside it is a necklace found at a Natufian burial at El Wad.
They liked to make animal figurines, like this pig carved out of limestone.
Animal figure in carved limestone found in the Judean desert and dated at 10,500-8,300 bce. From the Natufian culture which ranged from Southern Turkey to Sinai.
The Natufian culture is the name given to the sedentary hunter-gatherers living in the Levant region of the near east between about 12,500 and 10,200 years ago. They were hunter-gatherers, foraging for food such as emmer wheat, barley and almonds, and hunting gazelle, deer, cattle, horse, and wild boar.
For at least part of the year, Natufian people lived in communities, some quite large, of semi-subterranean houses. These semi-circular one room structures were excavated partly into the soil and built of stone, wood and perhaps brush roofs. The largest Natufian communities (called ‘base camps’) found to date include Jericho, Ain Mallaha, and Wadi Hammeh 27. Smaller, short-range dry season foraging camps may have been part of the settlement pattern, although evidence for them is scarce.
The Natufians were hunter-gatherers, and they located their settlements at the boundaries between coastal plains and hill country, to maximize their access to a wide variety of food. They buried their dead in cemeteries, with grave goods including stone bowls and dentalium shell.
Artifacts found at Natufian sites include grinding stones, used to process seeds, dried meats and fish for planned meals, and ochre for likely ritual practices. Flint and bone tools, and dentalium shell ornaments are also part of the Natufian assemblage. Specific tools created for harvesting various crops are a hallmark of Natufian assemblages, such as stone sickles. Large middens are known at Natufian sites, located where they were created (rather than secondary refuse pits). Dealing with refuse is one defining characteristics of the descendants of the Natufians, the Pre-Pottery Neolithic.
Some scarce evidence indicates that the Natufian people may have cultivated barley and wheat. The line between horticulture (tending wild stands of crops) and agriculture (planting specific stands) is a fuzzy one. Most scholars believe that it was not a one-time decision, but rather a series of experiments that may well have taken place during the Natufian or other hunter-gatherer subsistence regimes.
The direct descendants of the Natufian (known as the pre-pottery Neolithic or PPN) were among the earliest farmers on the planet.
Natufian Archaeological Sites
Important Natufian sites include Mt. Carmel, Ain Mallaha (Eynan), Hayonim Cave, Wadi Hammeh, Nahal Oren, Rosh Zin, Rosh Horesha, Wadi Judayid, Beidha, Jericho, and Skhul Cave, Abu Hureyra