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Harvesting cereals at Dja’de el-Mughara in the northern Levant: New results through microtexture analysis of Early PPNB sickle gloss (11th millennium cal BP)

Abstract : The origin of cereal domestication is a key current issue of archaeological research in the Fertile Crescent. Archaeobotanical evidence highlights a complex scenario for when and where agricultural practices started. Gloss texture analysis of sickle blades with confocal microscopy represents a new contribution to the knowledge of this process. A previous study (Ib´a˜nez et al., 2016) pointed to the Middle Euphrates in the Levant as one region where cereal cultivation occurred since the 13th millennium cal BP and progression towards cereal domestication was since then continuous, culminating in the mid-10th millennium cal BP, in the Middle PPNB. However, the transition from the Early to the Middle PPNB – between 10,200 9,800 cal BP –, a key period previous to the appearance of the first domestic cereals, is not fully understood. This paper presents the quantitative analysis of gloss microtexture on 48 sickles blades from the Early PPNB levels of Dja’de el-Mughara (c. 10,650–10,350 cal BP), where pre-domestic cultivation of wild cereals is attested by archaeobotanical studies. Gloss texture analysis of sickle blades indicates that though reaping semi-ripe cereals associated to cutting wild cultivated cereals is dominant, other group of tools reaped cereals in an advanced degree of maturity. Tools used for cutting green cereals are also present, suggesting that wild cereals in natural stands were also exploited. This study exhibits the complexity of the cereal harvesting strategies at this transitional period, suggesting the exploitation of cereal populations that were in different phases of the domestication process. The results were then compared with the previous research about 50 sickle elements from several sites from the Late Natufian (13th millennium cal BP) to the Late PPNB (late 10th millennium cal BP) in the Middle Euphrates.
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Submitted on : Sunday, October 3, 2021 - 10:08:08 PM
Last modification on : Sunday, June 26, 2022 - 5:53:31 AM

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Fiona Pichon, Juan José Ibáñez-Estevez, Patricia Anderson, Carolyne Douché, Éric Coqueugniot. Harvesting cereals at Dja’de el-Mughara in the northern Levant: New results through microtexture analysis of Early PPNB sickle gloss (11th millennium cal BP). Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Elsevier, 2021, 36, pp.102807. ⟨10.1016/j.jasrep.2021.102807⟩. ⟨hal-03363363⟩

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