Purpose, permanence, and perception of 14,000-year-old architecture: Contextual taphonomy of food refuse

Reuven Yeshurun, Guy Bar-Oz, Daniel Kaufman, Mina Weinstein-Evron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Remains of early architecture at the Epipaleolithic-Neolithic transition of the Near East are commonly evaluated by means of two criteria: Structure size and permanent interior features or decorations. Less attention has been given to associated refuse, which could be the key for discerning the role of architectural space in the lives and minds of the last hunter-gatherers. We consider this dimension by modeling the deposition of animal remains in an Early Natufian (ca. 14,000 cal BP) architectural complex at the el-Wad Terrace (Mount Carmel, Israel). Contextual taphonomy shows that a sequence of structures was used for everyday living activities, including food preparation and consumption—probably at the household level—as well as bone working. Despite the relatively permanent habitation, reflected by repeatedly renovated stone architecture, a broad-spectrum economy, and the infliction of heavy habitation damage to in situ refuse, the inhabitants did not systematically engage in the clearing away of organic trash or otherwise marking out their domicile. The perception of the house was probably still “Paleolithic” and functional in character, highlighting the complex mosaic of old and new traits in the preagricultural communities of the Levant.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)591-618
Number of pages28
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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