Short Report on the 1999 Season

by Hans Georg K. Gebel and Bo Dahl Hermansen


Short Report on the 1999 Season

Other Major Results of the Season

1) For the first time we can report a Neolithic staircase outside the housing areas: a rock cleft that leads onto the settlement from one of the rare spots from which the site is accessible from the siq (gorge) below was furnished with stone steps. These stairs lead to a wide, flat part of the gorge's bank that limits the site in the south. On the way up, it also led to a source of (banked) sandstone of the type that was used in the construction of the LPPNB houses.

2) The topographic situation of the above mentioned siq's bank, the existence of a 90° change of direction of the siq that damped the energy of waters flushing down the gorge, and the subsequent narrowness (1.5m) of the gorge created an ideal situation for storing water by building a dam. (About 150-180 m3 of water could have been stored if the barrage wall was only 1m high). A similar topographic situation is attested further up the gorge, and the possibility of Neolithic water storage through the use of 1-2 dams in this otherwise arid area is a distinct possibility.

3) We continued the programme of test units that followed specific questions related to the site's periphery, its internal spatial organization and its control and defensibility, and a considerable amount of data were collected. It became clear this season that Ba'ja is indeed in a protected setting, but it is also difficult to defend since any aggressor could have easily blocked the inhabitants from access to water and from escaping either up or down the gorge.

4) Large amounts of debris from a sandstone ring workshop were thrown down the above-mentioned staircase cleft in Neolithic times, after it went out of use. Together with the workshop found in D12 , we now have evidence for a more complex chaine operatoire in the sandstone ring production than previously discussed (Gebel et al. 1997: Pl. 7). The published tree analysis has been confirmed, but the working stages appear much more diversified and show almost "individualised" features, including failure management.

5) We found four finished but unused celts (and one that was unfinished) built into a house wall in Area D. Their sizes are among the largest ever found in the southern Levant. This finding leads to the question of possible magic practices using walls as depots. At Basta we found similar evidence, where unused manos (as well as a human infant!) were included in the construction of walls. Since we normally do not remove walls in archaeological excavations, such evidence appears only when preserved tops of ruined walls are exposed.

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