Hunter-Gatherers Built Shelters Long Before the Rise of Farming

Hunter-Gatherers Built Shelters Long Before the Rise of Farming

It was not that many years ago that the accepted wisdom was that villages, even small ones, were preceded by farming of some sort, if only learning to exploit wild grains. Prior posts have noted the growing evidence that this wisdom is inaccurate. Now, the evidence has grown significantly.

Researchers have found that a couple of nearly 20,000-year-old huts, excavated in a Jordanian desert basin, add to evidence that hunter-gatherers built long-term dwellings 10,000 years before farming villages debuted in the Middle East. It is not unreasonable to speculate that hunter-gathers set up huts and occupied same for long periods of time in locations where there were rivers, lakes, and plentiful game. The remains of six brushwood huts at Israel's Ohalo II site, along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, date to as early as 23,000 years ago. The plant and animal finds at the site indicate that these huts were occupied year-round. These contrast with other early huts found elsewhere in Jordan at a site called Kharaneh IV that are believed to have been occupied approximately half of the year. In that case, it is believed that ancient hunter-gatherers returned annually for long stretches over many generations.

Researchers believe that the huts at Ohalo II, but not those at Kharaneh IV, were precursors of the 14,500-year-old oval structures with stone foundations built at several Middle Eastern locations by the Natufians, the first foraging society known to inhabit permanent settlements, and whose discovery was noted in prior posts.

As always, what is interesting is the evolving understanding of settlements, and the more nuanced conclusions now being reached.

The study can be found at http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0031447.

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