"Environmental roots of agriculture"

This study provides the environmental background for the dramatic cultural changes that occurred in the Mediterranean-Levant during the Late-Pleistocene/Early-Holocene boundary.

The study is based on a well-dated, high-resolution pollen record recovered from the waterlogged archaeological site Jordan River Dureijat (JRD), located on the banks of Paleolake Hula.

JRD’s continuous sequence enabled to build a pollen-based paleoclimate model. The modeling of temperatures, precipitation and seasonality was fine-tuned by taxonomic identification of the waterlogged wood assemblage collected from the JRD site. The chronological framework is based on radiocarbon dating and the typology of archaeological findings.

The wettest and warmest period was identified between ~14.9-13.0 ka cal.-BP, synchronized with the global warm and moist Bølling-Allerød interstadial and with the onset of the Natufian culture and the emergence of sedentism. The Younger-Dryas began around 12.9 ka cal. BP and was identified as an exceptional period by the JRD sequence with low temperatures and minimal climatic seasonality contrast. Until this study, it was unclear whether and to what extent there was any expression of this period in the region. The reconstructed vegetation suggests the presence of Mediterranean open field vegetation, rich with annuals, which probably increased the opportunities for plant gathering and familiarity with annual plants on the eve of agriculture. Since the Early-Holocene, the region is characterized by seasonal stress, with long, hot dry summers.

It is proposed that the significant vegetation and climate changes at the late Pleistocene-Holocene boundary contributed to the development of agriculturally-based subsistence communities in the Mediterranean-Levant. Undoubtedly, environmental changes similar to those of the Younger-Dryas/Early-Holocene transition occurred previously during earlier phases of the Pleistocene. But, for the first time, these ecological changes were accompanied by sedentism, more complex social organization, increase in familiarity with annuals and technologies for harvesting and for food storage (mostly developed by the Natufians).

Together with:

Prof. Gonen Sharon from Tel Hai University – Director of the excavation