• 14C Dating of the Early Natufian at el-Wad Terrace, Mount Carmel, Israel: Methodology and Materials Characterization

      Eckmeier, Eileen; Yeshurun, Reuven; Weinstein-Evron, Mina; Mintz, Eugenia; Boaretto, Elisabetta (Department of Geosciences, The University of Arizona, 2012-10-15)
      The Natufian (15–11.5 kyr BP) sites in the southern Levant are characterized by a lack of macrobotanical remains, including charcoal, and poor preservation of bone collagen. As a result, only about 30 reliable radiocarbon dates are available for building a chronology of the Natufian period. Here, we present new 14C data from the Natufian site of el-Wad terrace that fall in the range of the Early Natufian period. Using Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) analysis, we investigated the environmental factors that influenced the preservation of material for 14C dating of the site, and we tested a modified pretreatment method for poorly preserved charcoal samples. The normal pretreatment protocol for 14C samples (W-ABA) removed more charcoal material than the modified method, which omits the first acid treatment (W-BA). This first acid step seems to enhance the extraction of humic substances during the subsequent base step. We found that the poor preservation of charcoal could be attributed to the presence of calcite, and therefore an alkaline pH of sediments. The most important factor determining bone collagen preservation may have been the hydrological setting, i.e. fluctuating water levels due to oversatu-ration of the dense sediments after rainfall.
    • New 14C Dates for the Early Natufian of el-Wad Terrace, Mount Carmel, Israel

      Weinstein-Evron, Mina; Yeshurun, Reuven; Kaufman, Daniel; Eckmeier, Eileen; Boaretto, Elisabetta (Department of Geosciences, The University of Arizona, 2012-10-15)
      The Natufian culture of the southern Levant played an integral role in the transition from simple hunter-gatherers to food-producing societies of the Neolithic, but the major Natufian hamlets are currently poorly dated. Moreover, none of these complex, continuously occupied base camps have delivered an adequate number of dates to enable an in-depth delineation of intra-Natufian developments. This paper presents the first results of our dating program at el-Wad terrace, Mount Carmel (Israel), one of the major Natufian hamlets of the “core area” of this culture. Thirteen accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon age determinations were obtained from 46 bone (both ungulate and human) and charcoal samples, originating in Early Natufian living surfaces, dwellings, and burials. The obtained dates are largely in agreement with the cultural affiliation of the samples (13–15 kyr cal BP). Two series of dates from different locations show good agreement with the stratigraphy. The ages of the burials clearly point to their being younger than the living surfaces seemingly associated with them. Presently, no burials may be linked with the major architectural phase of Early Natufian el-Wad. Our ongoing dating program and the processing of additional samples from refined contexts will help shed important light on the initial phases of the Natufian culture, habitation duration, intensity, and continuity, as well as the relationships between site features and stratigraphy.