Ba‘ja 2005: A Two-Storied Building and Collective Burials.
Results of the 6th Season of Excavation

Hans Georg K. Gebel, Free University of Berlin
Bo Dahl Hermansen, Carsten Niebuhr Institute, Copenhagen University

Moritz Kinzel, Technical University of Berlin


Ba‘ja 2005: A Two-Storied Building and Collective Burials. Results of the 6th Season of Excavation
A Two-Storied Building in Area B-North

Test Unit 7

This probe was an exercise to understand the potential domestic and communal units in this area giving access to the site from the Siq al-Ba‘ja (Gebel et al. 1997: fig. 4, table 1 “the Towel”). The various inclinations of the slope let us expect erosional activity, which at least destroyed structures in the central parts of Area A. The only occupational evidence hitherto known from Area A consisted of garbage deposits in the lowermost parts of the slope (Sounding I in 1984: Gebel 1988: 85ff), which had already provided most of the information on the material culture of LPPNB Ba‘ja.

Test Unit 7 was placed in the central part of Area A, with a slight shift towards south, in order to reach the rocky fringes of this area bordered by vertical sandstone formations. The extension of the sounding was 6 x 2 m, oriented South-North. The depth reached in the NE corner is about 2 m; the depth reached in the NW corner is about 1.3 m, and in the SW corner ca. 0.9 m. The eastern section and the evidence from the excavations give evidence of the following stratigraphy:

The surface is densely covered with eroded stone (building) material, grinders, and artifacts, providing an instable (slope, erosion) stone pavement. A top soil seems not to exist due to erosion activity. The uppermost layer is ca. 40-50 cm thick and shows the downslope transportation of LPPNB wall stones deriving from Neolithic architecture further up. Both erosional activity and agricultural use of the slope are responsible for this transport. Except for the re-deposited Neolithic material, this layer contains sherds from the Nabatean and Roman periods. The share of stones in this layer (by volume) is 5 to 10 %, indicating that field clearing from stones took place in the area. Transverse walls are characteristic for Area A, proving the existence of former agricultural terraces for which the field clearing of stones was carried out. Below this fine-grained layer a light greenish layer of some 80 cm thickness is attested, containing many Neolithic wall stones with an increasing number of Neolithic artifacts. The upper end of this deposit (Loc. 4) has the same height as the preserved LPPNB wall tops in the southern part of the Test Unit. Loc. 4 represents most likely the earlier erosional and colluvial sediments depositing here from the ruins of the LPPNB settlement above.

Below the Loc. 4 layer is Loc. 9, consisting of ashy patches and yellowish-brown lenses, leading us to expect that here the deposits more or less in situ, probably deriving from midden activities (deposits of building material, settlement garbage). The lenses do not give the impression that their material was transported far downslope; the ashy midden area of Test Unit 1 excavated in 1984 is more certainly a garbage area for organic and non-organic matter.

A burial (Loc. 5, cf. Fig. 9) was found within the layers of Loc. 9, meaning that here an extramural inhumation had taken place in an LPPNB midden area. It appears that the corpse was not placed in a proper burial pit, i.e., lined and covered by set stones, but rather was buried in the stone rubble. This rubble not only characterized the burial’s fringes; the area in which the contracted corpse rested was also full of densely packed stones (2-20 cm, in average 5-10 cm). The corpse appears to have been protected by stones, and nothing indicates a later disturbance of the burial. This means that at least Loc. 9 remained as a stable deposit in the slope of Area A. The thorax of the body rested on its back with the skull being placed slightly higher (north of the thorax, facing south). The right arm rested below the lower part of the spine, while the lower left arm stretched towards ESE. The lower extremities were contracted, but not really representing a “hocker” position. All parts of the body appear to be represented (the right foot is still embedded in the remains seem to belong to the 6 skulls found, and they eastern section of the Test Unit, as well as the left femur, tibia, fibula, and the left hand). The remains are of a gracile adult female aged 25-50 years. The individual suffered from dental diseases such as abscesses. Two leaf-shaped arrowheads seem to be linked with the burial, while some sandstone ring fragments seem to represent intrusive settlement debris. Stratigraphically, the burial might belong to a post-occupational early Neolithic phase of the site, a final PPNB/PPNC.

The architectural remains in the southernmost third of the test unit represent an extremely solid part of an LPNNB building, using large boulders at this spot. It “announces” the architectural occupation to be expected in Area A. It is not clear if the remains represent a massive wall corner reaching a thickness of about 80 cm (height 105 cm), or if they belong to a buttress. Nothing can be said about the ground plan. However, it might be stated that the preservation of the burial and various lenses in Loc. 9 indicate that no erosion or later agricultural activity had disturbed this part of the central slope. However, we may not have reached the necessary depths yet to identify LPPNB wall tops in the central part of the slope.


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