The Andrews University Heshbon Expedition began excavations at Tall Hesban in 1968. During the 1973 season, and continuing through the 1974 and 1976 seasons, a regional survey was launched with the purpose of reaching a better understanding of Tall Hesban in its wider geographical and archaeological context. Under the direction of Robert Ibach, the survey operated in the Hesban region with the objective of locating archaeological sites from all ceramic cultures (Ibach 1987: 3). Pre-ceramic cultures were ignored by this survey because personnel lacked both interest and expertise in prehistoric material culture. This emphasis on ceramic cultures led to data collection and publication that ignored pre-ceramic material. In an effort to correct this problem, a joint project was launched in 1998 between BirZeit University (Palestine), University of Bergen (Norway), and the Madaba Plains Project, with the aim of examining prehistoric remains within a five kilometer radius of Tall Hesban. Within this report, I will attempt to give a clear description and classification of the lithics collected in 1998, and I will attempt to date them based on their typological features.
The main goal of the survey was to re-examine archaeological sites recorded by Ibach's survey, and to see whether or not prehistoric sites existed within the region! The survey was designed to re-locate all evidence of human presence in the area from prehistoric times up to the present. Archaeological remains were recorded and all survey sites were plotted on 1: 25.000 scale maps (Palestine Grid). Material culture, such as lithics and pottery sherds, were collected in order to determine the dates of occupations as well as to show the economy of the sites.
During the 1998 season (six weeks), the survey team used a global positioning system (GPS) to locate the sites recorded during Ibach's survey. Additionally, new sites were recorded as the survey team encountered them. Each site has been given a number. Numbers below 200 are Ibach's sites, and numbers above 200 are newly discovered sites. Coordinates for these sites are based on the Palestine Grid. At each site, the survey team collected samples of pottery sherds and lithics attempting to include as many diagnostics as possible. In the case of lithics, the topic of this report, the survey team concentrated on cores, flakes, blades, and tools.
Among the 84 sites that were visited and recorded during the 1998 season, 57 of them included lithic material (see Table 1).
From the total number of 57 sites with lithics, 15 were selected for this report. These 15 were selected because of the large number of lithic artifacts recovered and clear typological features (see Map 1). Lithic material from the remaining 42 sites are included in the totals, but will not be discussed here because these samples were either too small or lacked clear typological features (see Survey sheets page 1-2).
Dating of the lithic samples was based on time-specific evidence.
In the absence of such typological markers, general chronological
determinations have been carefully assigned based on relative
comparative studies with other sites in Jordan. Hence, in some
cases only the most general assignments could be made, such as:
either Paleolithic (i.e. Lower, Middle, and Upper), or Later periods
(i.e. Epi-Paleolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Early Bronze
Lithics: Site examined 16 July 1998. 114 lithic artifacts were collected: 2 cores, 23 flakes, 13 blades, 14 bladelets, 7 scrapers (see Figure 1, no. 1-3), 2 arrowheads, 1 backed, 1 notch, and 51 debitage. The typological features of these lithic artifacts were similar to those of the later periods (i.e. Epi-Paleolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Early Bronze Age).
The economy: Based on the probable function of
these lithic artifacts, it seems likely that this site was used
for farming activities (based on the amount of sickles including
blades and bladelets), and for slaughtering activities (based
on the amount of scrapers). Furthermore, since only 2 arrowheads
were found, it seems likely that hunting was not a priority at
this site and that the slaughtering activities were directed at
domestic animals instead. It is also important to note that bones
and wood were used as tools for preparing arrowheads and scrapers,
but none of these organic materials were found within the survey
collection. This makes it more difficult to determine the economy
of this site based on these small samples.
Lithics: Site examined 03 July 1998. 100 lithic artifacts were collected: 8 cores (see Figure 2, no. 2), 15 flakes, 2 blades, 5 bladelets, 12 scrapers, 1 hand axe (see Figure 2, no. 1), 1 backed, and 56 debitage. The typological features of the hand axe show some similarities to those of the Middle Paleolithic tools of the Jiza Plain region in Jordan (see Garner 1981), while the rest of the tools ranged between the Neolithic periods and the Early Bronze Age.
The economy: It seems likely that this site was
used as a slaughtering place.
Lithics: Site examined 26 June 1998. 124 lithic artifacts were collected: 13 cores, 6 flakes, 16 blades, 2 bladelets, 11 scrapers, 4 arrowheads (see Figure 3, no. 1), and 72 debitage. This site seemed to be a quarry for knapping and preparing flint tools, and might be dated to the later periods.
The economy: This site was most likely a slaughtering
place, within a farming region, and surrounded by a flint quarry.
Lithics: Site examined 09 July 1998. 138 lithic artifacts were collected: 3 cores, 20 flakes, 13 blades, 20 bladelets, 2 microblades, 2 scrapers, 6 arrowheads, 1 borer, and 71 debitage. Most of these lithics did not exhibit any of the chronological features of any of the prehistoric periods. Thus, it was quite difficult to date the site based on these samples but it seems likely to be from the later periods.
The economy: It seemed to be an agricultural
site with some evidence of hunting.
Lithics: Site examined 29 June 1998. 187 lithic artifacts were collected: 3 cores, 14 flakes, 8 blades, 3 bladelets, 4 scrapers, 3 arrowheads (see Figure 4, no. 2), 1 borer, 1 notch (see Figure 4, no. 1), and 150 debitage. Some of these tools were similar to those of the Epi-Paleolithic period in Wadi el-Hasa (see Byrd & Rollefson 1984), while the rest were similar to those of the Neolithic period.
The economy: It seems likely that the economy
of this site was based on farming accompanied by hunting.
Lithics: Site examined 14 July 1998. 90 lithic artifacts were collected: 1 core, 4 flakes, 13 blades, 7 bladelets, 2 microblades, 2 scrapers, 1 arrowhead (see Figure 5, no. 1), 2 borers, 1 backed and 57 debitage. The lithic typology and technology of this site are similar to those of the Neolithic periods of Ain Ghazal (see Rollefson & Simmon 1984).
The economy: It was most likely a farming site.
Lithic: Site examined 14 July 1998. 164 lithic artifacts were collected: 28 flakes, 32 blades, 10 bladelets, 5 microblades, 6 scrapers (see Figure 6, no. 3), 3 arrowheads (see Figure 6, no. 2), 4 borers, 2 backed (see Figure 6, no. 1), and 74 debitage. The typological and technological features of these lithics were similar to those of the Neolithic periods of Ain Ghazal (see Rollefson & Simmon 1984).
The economy: It was most likely an agricultural
site accompanied by hunting and slaughtering.
Lithics: Site examined 29 June 1998. 129 lithic artifacts were collected: 7 cores, 17 flakes, 6 blades (see Figure 7, no. 2), 7 bladelets, 3 scrapers, 2 arrowheads, 1 backed, 1 notch (see Figure 7, no. 1), and 85 debitage. This site had a lithic quarry and its tools are similar to those of the Neolithic periods of Wadi el-Yabis (see Kirkbride 1956), and Ain Ghazal (see Rollefson & Simmon 1984).
The economy: It seemed most likely an agricultural
and, perhaps, trading site. Trade was suggested by the appearance
of an obsidian tool among the collection of artifacts. Since the
closest source for obsidian is Anatolia, it is possible that this
artifact represents trade between the southern Levant and Anatolia.
Lithics: Site examined 01 July 1998. 383 lithic artifacts were collected: 1 cores, 9 flakes, 6 blades, 8 bladelets, 8 scrapers (see Figure 8, no. 1), 1 arrowhead, 2 borers (see Figure 8, no. 2), and 348 debitage. This site had a quarry and some of its tools were similar to those of the Epi-Paleolithic period of Wadi el-Hasa (see Byrd & Rollefson 1984). While the rest were similar to the Neolithic periods.
The economy: It seemed to be a site for slaughtering, farming, and quarrying
Lithics: Site examined 03 July 1998. 189 lithic artifacts were collected: 1 cores, 13 flakes, 14 blades, 3 bladelets, 6 scrapers, and 152 debitage. No pottery sherds were found at this site and it seemed to be principally a quarry dated to the pre-Pottery Neolithic period.
The economy: It seemed likely that this site
was in an agricultural region accompanied by slaughtering of animals
and manufacturing lithic artifacts from the nearby quarry.
Lithics: Site examined 30 June 1998. 390 lithic artifacts were collected: 4 cores, 27 flakes, 12 blades (see Figure 9, no. 1-2), 22 bladelets, 5 microblades, 9 scrapers, 3 arrowhead (see Figure 9, no. 3), 9 backed (see Figure 9, no. 4), and 299 debitage. Many of these lithics were similar to those of the Neolithic periods of Ain Ghazal (see Rollefson & Simmon 1984), as well as to those of the Early Bronze Age of Jericho (see Crowfoot & Payne 1983).
The economy: Based on the lithic assemblage and
the surrounding landscape, this sites economy was based in hunting,
agriculture, slaughtering animals, and manufacturing lithics from
the nearby quarry.
Lithics: Site examined 07 July 1998. 264 lithic artifacts were collected: 13 flakes, 5 blades, 15 bladelets, 7 scrapers (see Figure 10, no. 1), 4 arrowheads, 3 borers (see Figure 10, no. 2), 1 backed, 1 notch, and 215 debitage. This site had some tools, such as fan scrapers, which were similar to those of the Early Bronze Age of Jericho (see Crowfoot Payne 1983).
The economy: It seems to be a farming economy
accompanied by hunting and slaughtering.
Lithics: Site examined 07 July 1998. 195 lithic artifacts were collected: 2 cores (see Figure 11, no. 1), 13 flakes, 11 blades (see Figure 11, no. 2), 9 bladelets, 1 microblades (see Figure 11, no. 3), 4 scrapers, 2 notches, and 153 debitage. The lithics of this site are similar to those of the Epi-Paleolithic period of Wadi el-Hasa and the Lower Jordan Valley (see Byrd & Rollefson 1984, Schuldenrein & Goldberg 1981), and to the Neolithic periods of the Petra area (see Gebel & Starck 1985).
The economy: It seemed to be a farming economy
accompanied by slaughtering animals.
Lithics: Site examined 26 June 1998. 194 lithic artifacts were collected: 2 cores, 8 flakes, 6 blades (see Figure 12, no. 3), 4 bladelets (see Figure 12, no. 1-2), 4 scrapers, 1 arrowheads, and 169 debitage. The lithic artifacts of this site were similar to those of the Epi-Paleolithic period of the lower Jordan Valley (see Schuldenrein & Goldberg 1981), and to the Neolithic periods of Ain Ghazal (see Rollefson and Simmons 1984).
The economy: The lithic assemblage seemed to
indicate a farming economy accompanied by slaughtering animals.
Lithics: Site examined 20 July 1998. 239 lithic artifacts were collected: 1 core, 8 flakes, 11 blades (see Figure 13, no. 2-3), 15 bladelets, 5 scrapers (see Figure 13, no. 1), and 199 debitage. This site was rich in lithics and seems similar to those of the Neolithic periods at Ain Ghazal (see Rollefson & Simmons 1984).
The economy: The economy of this site was based
on farming in addition to hunting and slaughtering.
The 1998 survey in the region of Tall Hesban represents a new interest in prehistory by the Madaba Plains Project, and the preliminary results are encouraging. The tools in the assemblage ranged in age from the Epi-Paleolithic to the Early Bronze Age (with a single tool dated, probably, to the Middle Paleolithic period). Although the number of sites discussed here is small, the distribution of prehistoric sites in the Hesban region seems to indicate exploitation of two main environmental zones and a clear preference for avoiding the deep wadis. Sites were located in three zones (see Map 1): on the plain (3, 5, 70, 71, 226, 229, 245), on the edge of the rift, between the plain and the steep descent to the Dead Sea (18, 21, 235,104, 10, 45, 28) and deep in the wadi (61). With the exception of the single site (61) in the wadi, sites were evenly divided between the plain and the edge of the rift. Further, looking at the sites period-by-period, there is no clear preference for plain or edge sites with each period being divided almost evenly between the two zones (Epi-Paleolithic 3/4, Neolithic 6/7, Chalcolithic/Early Bronze 3/3). This even division of sites between environmental zones may indicate that one of the attractions of the Hesban region during the prehistoric period was the opportunity to incorporate divergent environments into their subsistence strategies.
The lithic assemblage also seems to indicate an economic mix.
Agricultural pursuits and butchering were suggested at most sites
by the presence of sickle blades and scrapers. Lithics suggesting
hunting activities, with the exception of site 226, were confined
to those sites on the edge of the rift. This suggests that game
was more plentiful in this zone. All these data indicate a strong
relationship between humans and their environment in the Hesban
region, and show that the region was extensively inhabited as
early as the Epi-Paleolithic period up to the present day.
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I would also like to thank Dr. Oysten LaBianca and Dr. Gary Christopherson for encouraging and supporting me throughout my fieldwork in Jordan as well as during the writing of this report. A special thanks to the latter for his help in editing the manuscript, and for his fruitful comments; however, any mistakes in the completed work are my own. I am also thankful to the Palestine Institute of Archaeology (PIA) the Lower Jordan Basin project and to the Madaba Plains Project for their financial support. A special thanks to Mr. Ibrahim Iqtait for his drawings of the lithics.
Ghattas Sayej has his M.A. in prehistoric archaeology from the University of Bergen, Norway. His B.A.was obtained from BirZeit University, Palestine, in the field of Archaeology-History. Presently he is working as a researcher and a part time lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology, BirZeit University. 1998 was his first season with the Madaba Plains Project. Correspondence may be sent to: Institute of Archaeology, BirZeit University, P.O. Box 14. BirZeit, West Bank-Palestine, Via Israel. Phone (972) 2-298-2974, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org