Social Organisation and Changing Beliefs in the Neolithic Transition in Southwest Asia: Evidence from the Funerary Domain

Professor Christopher Knüsel 

Under the auspices of a CBRL (Council for British Research in the Levant) Senior Research Fellowship (2013) (http://www.cbrl.org.uk/institutes.html), this project considers the cosmological links between the early Neolithic Levant and central Anatolia. Recent bioarchaeological research makes in-roads into the biological changes that attest to the adoption of agriculture, specifically those linked to dental wear from the use grinding stones in food preparation, supported by isotopic evidence attesting to the consumption of terrestrial plants, but they do not explicitly address change in social organisation and belief/cosmology that is of utmost concern to archaeologists. In this area of enquiry, much attention focuses on the interpretation of human crania, some plastered, and secondary manipulation of human remains in Southwest Asia.

The purpose of this project is to: 1) to assess the published evidence for nature of funerary treatment of the dead through the construction of a database of excavated material dating from the Epipalaeolithic to the early pottery Neolithic in the Levant and Anatolia; 2) to review the dating evidence of these remains; 3) to collate the published biological information of the deceased in order to address the evidence for the advent and development of social differentiation in this region, and 4) to ascertain the location of excavated remains, especially those east of the River Jordan. Concentrating initially on evidence from Jordan, this is intended to form the basis of a diachronic synthesis and assessment of burials and human remains from the Epipalaeolithic through the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and B of the Levant and contemporary periods in Syria and Anatolia.