PPND - the Platform for Neolithic Radiocarbon Dates


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Jericho is still the site par excellence for the definition of the early Neolithic.

The radiocarbon dates for the Natufian at Jericho extend back before the Younger Dryas, 11170-10980 BC, but the earliest set of calibrated dates starts only around 9300 BC (= sum Stage IV, Trench F I). Only the GL-dates (69, 70, 72) date into the hiatus; but as their deviations are very high, and they were questioned due to methodological problems, these dates have been disregarded. Two samples (BM 105 and BM 110) that date into the Younger Dryas come from stratigraphicly much younger layers. [1]

An analysis of the dates of the early Neolithic layers demonstrates that the radiocarbon dates are approximately consistent with the stratigraphy (Gopher 1994:226-228). In two cases where dating by both Pennsylvania and the British Museum exist, the Pennsylvania dates are a little older. The date of Pennsylvania (P387) for Trench FI, IV A overlaps only with the older date of the British Museum (BM 1327) in the 1-σ range between 9130 BC and 8920 BC. This correlates very well with the Pennsylvania date (P377: 9150-8810 BC) of Trench E I, II, V, Stage IV.

The material of the Pennsylvania sample of Layer DI VIA perhaps comes from the layer beneath, as it would fit quite well into this earlier time range.

The sums of dates of the trenches F and DI/II indicate for Stage VI/VIA a time range between 9150-9000 BC (11.6%); 8950-8450 (56.6%) BC, and for Stage VIIIA 8620 BC to 8320 BC. Stage VI/VI A would therefore be contemporary with the late PPNA or the phase de transition defined by Abbès and Stordeur between PPNA and PPNB and dated at Jerf el Ahmar between 8800-8610 BC, whereas Stage VIIIA would be contemporary with the early PPNB of the Northern Levant. This chronological determination is not compatible with the separation of PPNA and PPNB as defined by Kenyon (1981), who distinguished the phases on the basis of architectural criteria: she attributed layers with round building structures to the PPNA, but layers with rectangular buildings to the PPNB.

Consequently most of the skull burials must be dated to the middle or late PPNB (Benz in press). There are some exceptions. The skull burials of Trench M are stratigraphicly older. Similarly, the skull burials of Trench E could be older than the early PPNB because they were attributed by Kenyon to Stage VII/VIII and are thus older than the radiocarbon dated Stage VIIIA.

One of the major problems of Jericho is discerning differences between the middle and late PPNB. Kenyon, as was mentioned above, distinguished PPNA and PPNB mostly on the basis of the architecture; but she did not separate the middle from the late PPNB.

The radiocarbon dates for the late non-ceramic layers are contradictory (Fig.1). Especially problematic are the samples from Trench F. Neither the GL-dates (green), because they date one and the same sample, nor the Groningen dates (orange), which seem to be too old, are reliable. However, it is striking that the original dates of Groningen were the same as that of the British Museum (Burleigh 1981). These younger dates match the stratigraphy much better than the old dates and correlate very well with the radiocarbon dates of the other trenches. Stages XIV and XV of trench D I, which correspond stratigraphicly with the stages of Trench FI, are dated by samples BM 1793 and P 380 to a time range between 7880/7720-7570 BC. These dates give a terminus post quem for Stage XVII of Trench FI/DI.

It is thus possible to separate at least two chronological phases, of which the younger one may be divided in two sub-phases. The earliest PPN-dates are of Stage IV/IVA. Their sum ranges between 9300 BC and 8700 BC. This corresponds to Stages IVA (Trench D/F) and IV (Trench E I,II,V). The second group of dates centres between 9150 BC and 8450 BC corresponding to Stages VI/VIA (Trench D/F) and Stage VI (Trench E). Stage VIIIA would give the latest date of this phase, which dates between 8620 BC and 8320 BC. The only date ending a little later than 8320 BC comes from Stage IX (Trench F); but compared to other dates of Trench E and the stratigraphy, this sample may have been dislocated from an earlier layer.

Stage VIIIB ends with a thick burnt layer (Keynon 1981:48-49), but it is not possible to determine how quickly the site was resettled. There are two dates starting around 8250 BC; but the stratigraphy suggests they are too old.[2]

The focus of the younger dates of the 8th millenium BC starts around 7950 BC and lasts until 7530 BC, although many of the calibrated ranges end earlier at about 7580 +/- 10 BC. This date correlates well, as would be expected, with a steep decline of the calibration curve between 7610 and 7580 BC. However, the stratigraphy indicates that the occupation of the site continued. The comparison of the radiocarbon dates with the stratigraphy also demonstrates that the dates P 382 and P 1789 are too old compared to their stratigraphic position.

Due to the few radiocarbon dates, only rough trends can be discerned. As a working hypothesis it can be suggested that there was a hiatus between Stage VIIIA and Stage VIIIC/IX and/or X. Weninger et al. (2009) recently suggested climatic causes for this abandonment of the site. [3]

The next occupational phase can be paralleled most probably with the late-middle or early-late PPNB.
In attempting any final interpretation, it should be kept in mind that the uppermost and the deepest PPN-layers of
Jericho do not have radiocarbon dates. This is also true of Beidha, where the late PPNB phases have not been dated. The termination of the dates at about 7580 +/-10 BC therefore should not be interpreted as the end of the occupation of the site.

[1] In our view the old dates of the British Museum should not be discarded à priori. Two of the dates with standard deviations of +/- 150 years correlate quite well with the more recent analyses and with the stratigraphy, and therefore were included in the following analysis (cf. Weinstein 1994: 351).

[2] P-382 of Trench E, Stage XII is probably too old, as a date of Stage X is younger and the dates of other trenches at similar stratigraphic positions point to younger dates. The GL-dates seem to be rather young; but they overlap after the calibration with the other dates and thus should not be dismissed à priori.

[3] As the authors retain the separation of the PPNA and PPNB layers according to the arguments of Kenyon, they correlate this hiatus with the transition from the PPNA to the PPNB. This thesis could be confirmed only by a detailed analysis of the material remains from this early phase.

14C Dates

 Code  BP Dev. Δ13C Location material References
BM 105 10250 200 FI IVA.iiib CH Burleigh 1981:504
BM 106 10300 200 D I, VIA x-xi[1] CH Burleigh 1981:503
BM 110 10180 200 D II, IX xxii-xxiii CH Burleigh 1981:503
BM 115 9170 200 E I, II, V XII.xliia CH Burleigh 1981:504
BM 1320 8540 65 MI XI lv CH Burleigh 1981:504
BM 1321 9230 80 FI VIIIA.xvib CH Burleigh 1981:504
BM 1322 9380 85 FI IVA.iiib CH Burleigh 1981:504
BM 1323 9380 85 D I, VIA x-xi CH Burleigh 1981:503
BM 1324 9430 85 E VI.xxvii CH Burleigh 1981:503
BM 1326 9230 220 FI VIIIA.xvib CH Burleigh 1981:504
BM 1327 9560 65 FI IVA.iiib CH Burleigh 1981:504
BM 1407 11090 90 EI,II,V ph I,ii CH Burleigh 1981:503
BM 1769 8700 110 MI XI lvia CH Burleigh 1983:763
BM 1770 8680 70 MI XI.lxa CH Burleigh 1983:763
BM 1771 8660 260 MI XIII.lxxa CH Burleigh 1983:763
BM 1772 8810 100 MI XIII.lxxiv-XIV.lxxv CH Burleigh 1983:763
BM 1773 8730 80 MI XIV.lxxvi CH Burleigh 1983:763
BM 1787 9280 100 FI VIIIA.xv CH Burleigh 1983:763
BM 1789 9200 70 FI IX.xx-xxia CH Burleigh 1983:763
BM 1793 8660 130 DI XIV.xxxvii CH Burleigh 1983:763
BM 250 10300 500 D I, IVA iva CH Burleigh 1981:503
BM 251 9390 150 D II, VI via CH Burleigh 1981:503
BM 252 9320 150 D I, VIIIA xvia CH Burleigh 1981:503
BM 253 8710 150 E I, II, V XIII.i CH Burleigh 1981:504
GL 28 8200 200 EI, II, V XIII.lív CH Burleigh 1981:504
GL 36 8390 200 EI, II, V XIII.li CH Burleigh 1981:504
GL 38 7800 160 FI XVII.xxx CH Burleigh 1981:504
GL 39 8870 150 FI VIIIB.xviia CH Burleigh 1981:504
GL 40 8690 150 FI VIIIB.xviia CH Burleigh 1981:504
GL 41 8670 150 FI XVII.xxx CH Burleigh 1981:504
GL 42 8700 200 FI XVII.xxx CH Burleigh 1981:504
GL 43 8895 150 FI VIIIB.xviia CH Burleigh 1981:504
GL 46 7300 200 FI VIIIB.xviia CH Burleigh 1981:504
GL 69 9850 240 EI,II,V ph I,ii CH Burleigh 1981:503
GL 70 10800 180 EI,II,V ph I,ii CH Burleigh 1981:503
GL 72 9800 240 EI,II,V ph I,ii CH Burleigh 1981:503
GrN 942 9140 70 FI XVII.xxx CH Burleigh 1981:504
GrN 963 9025 100 FI XVII.xxx CH Burleigh 1981:504
P 376 11166 107 EI,II,V ph I,ii CH Burleigh 1981:503
P 377 9582 89 E IV.viii CH Burleigh 1981:503
P 378 9775 110 FI IVA.iiib CH Burleigh 1981:504
P 379 9655 84 D I, VIA x-xi CH Burleigh 1981:503
P 380 8610 75 DI, XV A xxxviiia CH Burleigh 1981:504
P 381 8658 101 E I, II, V X.xlii CH Burleigh 1981:504
P 382 8956 103 EI, II, V XII.xlviia CH Burleigh 1981:504



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Fig. 1 Ranges of calibrated radiocarbon dates from Jericho arranged as to trenches and stratigraphic levels.

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