Ba‘ja 2007: Crawl Spaces, Rich Room Dumps, and High Energy Events.
Results of the 7th Season of Excavations

Hans Georg K. Gebel, Free University of Berlin
Moritz Kinzel, Technical University of Berlin


Ba‘ja 2007: Crawl Spaces, Rich Room Dumps, and High Energy Events. Results of the 7th Season of Excavations
Fallen Ceilings in Room Dumps, Crawl Spaces in Ground Floors

Fallen Ceilings in Room Dumps, Crawl Spaces in Ground Floors

The operations in B-North in 2007 were aimed to uncover the basements of “Central Rooms” 17 (domestic unit in B22/23/32/33), 22/23 (domestic unit in B12/13/22/23), and the “central room” above basement Rooms 2, 4-6, 37-38 (domestic unit in B21/22) (Fig. 2). In addition, the nature and the stratigraphical positions of the twin strengthening buttresses had to be examined, together with the architectural and contextual relations of the “central rooms” and their neighbouring spaces. The aim to reach the floors of the lowermost storeys was achieved for Room 17.1, 17.3, 22 and 23 (southern parts), 27.1, and 39.
The storey discussion of the split-level rising-floor architecture at LPPNB Ba‘ja (Gebel 2006; Gebel, Hermansen and Kinzel 2006; for the specific architectural terminology used here, see Gebel 2006: 66) became increasingly complex with the 2007 results. It is obvious that in addition to basements (“created from upper storeys by building a new storey on top of them …”), we have in Ba‘ja ground floors (“neutral term for a lowermost storey…”) with crawl spaces of various heights beneath an upper storey. They may even have a pit-like appearance in substructure-type ground floors if they were established to create an even building level on the sloping bedrock (especially below Room 17).Again our terms: ground floors, basements, raised floors, and others were found to “idealize” what often has an architecturally intermediate appearance. However, the “central rooms” of Area B-North with their twin buttresses, “supporting structure grid”1 ground floors (Gebel 2006: 71), adjacent stairwells, room fills, and other elements of the LPPNB architectural and sedimentary morphodynamics, remain to be the principal evidence of the terraced two-storeyed architecture in Ba‘ja. Its domestic units consisted of smaller rooms in the basements that supported a larger “central room” with smaller rooms around in the upper storey.


Area B-North, Rooms 17 and 2 (Figs. 2-3)

Room 17 (BNR17) measures approximately 3x3 m and is characterized by two interior opposed (twin) buttresses on its northern and southern walls. The earlier excavations of Room 17 were carried out in 2000 and 2001 (Gebel and Hermansen 2001; Bienert and Gebel 2004), and reached a level of some 40 cm below the preserved upper edge of the walls. The cultural layers in Room 17 were cut crosswise in order to gain two sections through the room fill. Room 17 was excavated completely, as well as the Rooms/Spaces 17.1 and 17.3 underneath (reaching bedrock); Room/Space 17.2 remained unexcavated.

Room 17 represents an upper “central room” whose floor and both twin buttresses rested directly on the solidly built “supporting structure grid” of the ground floor. The architectural appearance and plan of this ground floor resembles a substructure system creating rooms or spaces. This ground floor revealed three unconnected smaller room-like spaces (17.1-3) that are only accessible from above through the “central room‘s” floor, and they are separated by an astonishingly thick wall (ca. 1 m, Loc. 105). The excavated Rooms/Spaces 17.1 and 17.3 revealed a maximum height of only 75 cm between their floor level and the ground floor‘s upper edge. Both rooms had a red plaster floor (17.3 including a renewed one). It is interesting that the plaster floors are stratigraphically earlier than all the (interior) ground floor walls, and later than their outer walls. This means that the lower parts of the Room 17 walls were built earlier (except Loc. B32,7) than the erection of the interior “supporting structure grid” (cf. Fig 2: shaded walls between 17.1-3). Originally, most of the outer walls belonged to the surrounding rooms, which left the later area of Room 17 as an open space.

Parts of the ceiling material (Loci 104 and 117) were preserved in situ on the ground floor walls. Its non-organic components consist of an extremely hard and patchy layered mortar-like material of ca. 15 cm thickness (Loc. 104) upon which a 10 cm thick bed with fine gravel was preserved (Loc. 117). The room fills are characterized by a high content of loam and lime. The stratigraphy of both spaces (17.1 and 17.3) shows a similar pattern. Above the plaster floors were special find associations, some of which still reflect their primary contexts; these finds (articulated animal bone midden, flint artefacts) in Room/Space 17.3 rested 3 cm above the floor, separated from it by a sediment layer. Above, it was followed by ceiling material (Loci 111 and 114). Artefacts such as grinding tools were embedded particularly in its lower part, with some tendency of concentration close to the room/space corners. The ceiling material itself was sealed by several layers, mainly consisting of compact loamy material mixed with lime and wall stones. These probably represent the collapsed roof material intermixing with the material of dilapidating walls. However, the in situ find of an entire and articulated bone necklace (Loc. 118) suggests a fast collapse of the roof after the terminated use of Room 17, and its use as a dump. Furthermore, large quantities of ash mixed with roof and wall materials – particularly in the W half of Room 17 (Loci 106=110=112) – indicate that the burning of parts of the roof caused the end of the room use (or occurring after its abandonment). The findings of Rooms 17, 17.1, 17.3, 22/23 will be subject of a separate publication (Purschwitz and Kinzel 2007).

The excavation of “Central Room” 17 confirmed further the two-storeyed nature of the housing in Area B-North. Its lower fills represent intermixed deposition of roof/ wall collapse with the material used on the roof (dilapidation and eroded original use contexts) and discarded cultural material (use as dump after abandonment). The cause for the abandonment of Room 17 might have been a fire by which part of the roof collapsed. During the process of dilapidation these materials sank further down into the ground floor spaces, mixing here with the materials of the ground floor ceiling/ floor of the first storey: The upper parts of the ground floor fills show roof collapse materials, followed by the ground floor ceiling material mixed with grinders underneath. Room 17 represents the core element of a domestic unit in Ba‘ja: a “central room” with a ground floor/ basement. The artefact assemblages suggest a short re-use of the room as dump area; the associated objects still reflect their original contexts representing food preparation, sandstone ring workshops, household garbage, and discarded personal items.

The excavation of Room 2 resulted in the exposure of a red-stained plaster floor, which was already exposed in the 2005 season. As in Rooms/Spaces 17.1 and 17.3, the “supporting structure grid” was partly erected directly on the previously established plaster floor. The “supporting structure grid” walls themselves are characterized as small juts on which ceiling material was preserved in situ. These juts and a small wall created another pit-like space of some 30 cm depth, upon which the Crawl Space/Room 2 gave access to the adjacent Rooms 1, 4 and 38. Ring workshop remains were embedded in the ceiling/ roof material, indicating a ring workshop on the roof.



Fig. 2: Ba'ja Area B-North  


Fig. 3:

Area B-North, Rooms 22 and 23, 23.1, 27 and 27.1 (Figs. 2 and 4)

The excavation of the ground floor Rooms 22 and 23 below the northernmost “Central Room” 22/23 in Area B-North (BNR22/23), located between a system of buttresses (Gebel 2006; Gebel et al. 2006)2 was continued in 2007 in its southern half. It exposed the base of the room dividing Wall 7, the top of a small wall or a stone row or step (?) below the east of Wall Opening 105, and the room fill stratigraphy. While it is rather clear that the Twin Buttresses 2 and 9 relate to the establishment of the “central room” of the upper storey, the architectural stratigraphy of Loci 4 in B23 and 4 (with its abutting Loc. 5) in B12-13 remained unclear. Do the latter indicate another twin buttress situation for Room 22/23?

Like the operation in Room 17, the ground floor room fills of Rooms 22 and 23 showed an extraordinary high density of finds, representing various depositional processes and events, as well as very different primary, secondary, and tertiary contexts and activities. Excavation in 2007 ended with the exposure of Floor 113 in Room 23 and 103 in Room 22; both loci represent one floor at one level. Its plaster extended onto wall base Locus 7, which continues below Locus 113/103. The room was left clean (free of in situ finds) before the deposition of the room fills started. The character of the deposits in Rooms 22 and 23 is quite different. After a deposit containing a high amount of charcoal (on the floor of Room 22), a layer of ceiling material was deposited over the Floor 113/103. This ceiling material contained quite a number of animal bones, especially concentrating in Room 23. In Room 23 also were the remains of a celt workshop, and some eight grinder fragments and other objects were intentionally deposited; another concentration of some 13 complete and fragmentary grinding tools were found in later room fills of Room 23 (Loc. 111). The other finds of the lowermost Room Fill 112 in Room23 show a high concentration of bone tools, worked stone, bracelets and ornaments, representing a mixture of settlement debris either deriving from upper storeys or being dumped here. The lowermost Room Fill 102 in Room 22 had a high concentration of animal bones and waste collected from a ring workshop. Above this locus another concentration of ring workshop waste was deposited, followed by a concentration of animal bones. The remaining parts of the room fills in Rooms 22 and 23 also produced a sequence of find-rich deposits mixed with stone rubble, grinding tool fragments and pestles, numerous but isolated mother-of-peal objects, worked bone, shell ornaments, various classes of personal objects (paillettes, pendants), a few grooved stones, a “statue-shaped” pestle, and odd-shaped natural stones. Especially interesting are the small sling ball assemblages found in Loci 101, 103, 104, 111, and 112 (Gebel in prep.): representing preserved secondary contexts, they testify to the repeated intentional dumping of primary contexts in the ground floor rooms.

We think that the ground floor room fills in 22 and 23 represent a sequence of intermingled depositional events. During intramural decay (collapse of first floor ceiling and roof material, eroding wall plaster, wall rubble) intentional dumping took place, including secondary contexts of material originating from individual primary contexts: food preparation by grinding tools, celt and sandstone ring workshop waste, mixed household garbage, and various other primary contexts; tertiary contexts included materials from surrounding deposits that were washed in. It cannot be excluded that material once used on the roof are in these deposits. Contrary to Room 17 the finds in the ground floor room stratigraphy of 22 and 23 are more fragmentary. While dumped secondary contexts dominate in the lower room fills, tertiary contexts characterize the upper room fills. Together with Room 17, this sequence again argues for the concentration of sealed early Neolithic deposits in the lowermost room fills.

The baulk that remained from earlier excavations in Room 27 was removed. Three events of wall rubble deposition were traced. The lowermost part of the room did not show a preserved floor, but exposed instead a bench-like substructure (Loci 103 and 104) to the south, east and west. The “bench” rests on the bedrock (Loc. 102) and forms with the cut bedrock in the north a pit-like space (Loc. 101, called Room/Space 27.1, 65 cm in depth) under Room27. The bedrock was clearly cut out to extend this space created by the “substructure” walls to level the bedrock for the first storey. The pit seems – in its latest stage of use – to have been intentionally filled with an almost sterile sandy and loose material. The original use of the pit is unknown (collective burial?, storage?).



Fig. 4:

Area B-North, Square B21 (Figs. 2, 5-6)

The opening of B21 extended Area B-North towards the east. The expansion aimed to understand the eastern extension of the two-storied ground plan of the domestic unit in B21-22 that has a “central room” between Buttresses 55 and 33 above the ground floor or basement Rooms 2, 4-6, and 37-38 (Gebel 2006; Gebel, Hermansen and Kinzel 2006).

B21 was found divided E-W by the long Wall 4/21;Wall 6 runs northwards at a right angle from Wall 4/21. The western border of B21 is occupied by Wall 38 (= B22,34 of 2005), the top of which is covered with thick remains of ceiling/floor material. This material was also found on top of Wall 29, located between Walls 6 and 38 and separating Rooms 37 and 38. Close to the east baulk another wall, Locus 19, runs N-S, contacting Wall 4/21. It seems to be a massive wall (1 m wide), with its east face running into the baulk.

Wall 6 turned out to be the east wall of the “central room” in B21-22 that used the Twin Buttresses 33 and 55. The room rested above a “supporting structure grid” formed by the walls of Rooms 2, 4, and 37-38 that were reduced in their heights before establishing the new upper storey with the “central room” (Gebel 2006).

South of Wall 4/21 a curvilinear wall (Loc. 24 of B21; Loc. 46 in B32) bends from N-S to E-W directions, separating Rooms 40 and 41. In Room 41, low walls of a channel-like structure (Loci 35 and 36) are attested, coming out of wall opening in Wall 4/21.

The building stratigraphy of B21 revealed that the roughly set cobble-faced Walls 44, 45, 43, and 54 of Room 39 and Locus 43 of Rooms 37 and 38 form the first structural remains in the square. They created the foundation level of the first storey‘s walls (e.g. Walls 6, 21, 19, 42 of Room 39). These rough walls are in contact with the bedrock at the northern sides of Rooms 39 and 37, and probably remained unplastered. B21 shows that basement/ ground floor walls close to bedrock tend to be wider, possibly also seen in Test Unit 7 (cf. below), and they were erected with the intention to support an upper storey. The construction of both the ground floor and the upper storey in one building process seems to be in evidence with the B21 results for building plots near bedrock. Entrance/access to the rooms west of Locus 6 was most likely possible through an opening (Loc. 46) in Wall 38 leading to the narrow Room 38 with openings to the neighbouring Rooms 37 and 41. There are no openings in Wall 6 leading to the rooms east of this wall. This may indicate that Locus 6 separated two different housing units. However, the heights of the coarse basal walls of both houses are similar, suggesting that their first floors rested on similar levels. The room fill in Rooms 39, 38, and 37 showed remains of fallen ceilings with the material still accumulating along the walls and in the corners of the rooms. More layers with patches of floor and ceiling material followed in the room stratigraphy downwards. It is probable that these room fills in the basement/ ground floor rooms have been partly built up by intentional filling before the Floor 33 (equivalent in height with the ceiling/floor remains of Loci 12 and 13) was laid. Above Locus 33 in Room 39 the remains of a ring workshop were deposited from a floor/ roof above, found between a sequence of secondary and tertiary deposited wall and ceiling/roof materials. In the ceiling material (Loc. 33) a lintel stone (60 x 20 x 15 cm) and a threshold (30 x 30 x 41 cm) with a depression in the corner of one face were found lying upright. Probably they fell from one of the wall openings related to Loci 20 and 42.


Fig. 5:


Fig. 6:

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