A micromorphological analysis of continuity and discontinuity at PPNC Beisamoun Pond 11, Israel
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Archaeologists working in the Eastern Mediterranean do not fully understand the relationship between the earliest known farming communities of the Early Neolithic and the earliest known proto-urban communities of the Late Neolithic, despite more than a century of intensive study. The ongoing excavations at Beisamoun Pond 11, in the Hula Valley of northern Israel (ca. late 8th – early 7th millennia BCE), provide a rare opportunity to better understand this transition. For this study, micromorphological analyses were performed on the earthen construction materials and the surrounding sediments from a large, multiphase structure and several partially preserved architectural features. These analyses were performed alongside excavation in order to clarify the stratigraphic relationships, site formation processes, and degree of preservation of context at the site. Five main conclusions are drawn. First, the earliest exposed layers were built on a sloping, irregularly surfaced wetland soil. Second, construction material at the Pond 11 area was composed of local silty clay loam mixed with ashes, dung, and plant temper. Third, construction material and archaeological accumulation degraded during a period of semi-abandonment, ca. 6700 – 6600 BCE, and the degradation products (e.g., adobe, ash, coprolites, and charcoal) are spread over 175 m. Fourth, several walls of the early Pond 11 structure survived for centuries and were reused during later periods of rebuilding. Finally, bioturbation and pooling water have greatly disturbed the upper layers; the earlier layers are better preserved. The micromorphological results lead to a discussion of community continuity and social memory during this period. The extent of the deposits indicates a large early site, which may have continued elsewhere after ca. 6600 BCE. The reuse and reoccupation of the main structure suggest continuity social values in the wider Beisamoun site, even as new forms of mortuary practice suggest social change. The conclusion adds to recent data that the Early to Late Neolithic transition was more gradual and subtle than claimed previously. At the methodological level, this dissertation provides a further example of the benefits of integrating micromorphology during ongoing excavation.