Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Mysterious Natufians

Natufian territory
Alice C. Linsley

The Natufian populations of the ancient world are fascinating and mysterious. They are known for stone structures, organized settlements, red ochre burial, and the domestication of the dog.

The Natufians appear to be an "out-of-Africa" population. They are an early biblical population in that their area included parts of Western Egypt (Fayoum Oasis), Mount Carmel, Jericho and Bethlehem, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon between 15,000 and 7,500 years ago.

When the Natufians lived in the Levant it received sufficient precipitation to sustain crops and orchards. During the African Aqualithic, there were abundant wadis, salt marshes, peat swamps, and lakes in the region extending from the Nile to the Jordan Valley. Core samples taken in the Hula Basin reveal a warm and wet climate during the time the Natufians flourished in this area. This explains the abundance of tortoise shells found at Natufian burial sites.

They practiced naak, the ritual removal of teeth, a culture trait of Nilotic peoples. Among the Nilotic Luo initiation involves the removal of six front teeth using the tip of a spear. This practice, called naak, persists in some Luo clans, especially in Africanized Churches in Luoland, such as the Legio Maria sect.

Natufian territory is in the heartland of biblical Eden which extended from the Upper Nile to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, according to Genesis 2:10-14.

A small Natufian sculpture representing sexual intercourse was found in a cave near Bethlehem. It dates to 11,000 years. Bethlehem has along association with the biblical Horite Hebrew.

Bethlehem is associated with the Horite Hebrew in I Chronicles 4:4 which names Hur (Hor) as the "father of Bethlehem." Rahab of Jericho was the wife of Salmon, the son of Hur (Horite). Salmon is called the "father of Bethlehem" in 1 Chronicles 2:54. Rahab was the grandmother of Boaz who married Ruth. Salmon is a Horite Hebrew name associated with Bethlehem in 1 Chronicles 2:51

The British archaeologist Dorothy Garrod (1932) coined the term "Natufian" while studying remains from the Shuqba cave at Wadi an-Natuf in Palestine. The term is derived from the place, but Natufian ceramics and stone work have been found in many locations ranging from Turkey to the Sinai. She considered the Natufians to be the first agriculturalists based on the presence of sickles to harvest the grains and mortars and pestles to process it.

Since Garrod's time earlier sickles have been found at Ohalo II, an Upper Paleolithic encampment on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (23,000 BC). At Ohalo II, archaeologists also found wooden objects on brush-hut floors. They include a bark plank, pencil-shaped specimens with longitudinal shavings that may have been decorative or symbolic, and an incised wooden object that is identical in size and incision pattern to a gazelle bone implement found in a grave.

The Natufians in Jordan were baking bread 14,500 years ago. Their diet consisted of meat and plants. The bread was made from wild cereals such as barley, einkorn or oats, and tubers from an aquatic papyrus relative. These were ground into flour and baked in round fire pits made from flat basalt stones, and were located in the middle of huts.

Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA Christopher Ehret notes that the intensive use of plants among the Natufians was first found in Africa, as a precursor to the development of farming in the Fertile Crescent. (Ehret, The Civilizations of Africa: A History to 1800. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2002)

The British archaeologist Graeme Barker explains: "the similarities in the respective archaeological records of the Natufian culture of the Levant and of contemporary foragers in coastal North Africa across the late Pleistocene and early Holocene boundary". (Barker G, Transitions to farming and pastoralism in North Africa, in Bellwood P, Renfrew C 2002, Examining the Farming/Language Dispersal Hypothesis, pp 151–161.)

Harvard Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology Ofer Bar-Yosef cites the microburin technique and “microlithic forms such as arched backed bladelets and La Mouillah points" as well as the parthenocarpic figs found in Natufian territory originated in the Sudan. (Bar-Yosef O., Pleistocene connections between Africa and South West Asia: an archaeological perspective. The African Archaeological Review; Chapter 5, pg 29-38; Kislev ME, Hartmann A, Bar-Yosef O, Early domesticated fig in the Jordan Valley. Nature 312:1372–1374.)

Related reading: Natufian Culture, The Ritual Removal of Teeth; Natufian Culture and the Origin of the Neolithic in the Levant


  1. Natufian DNA - Eurasian, not Nilotic. Not "Out-of-Africa"...that was far earlier.

    According to ancient DNA analyses conducted by Lazaridis et al. (2016) on Natufian skeletal remains from present-day northern Israel, the Natufians carried the Y-DNA (paternal) haplogroups E1b1b1b2(xE1b1b1b2a,E1b1b1b2b) (2/5; 40%), CT (2/5; 40%), and E1b1(xE1b1a1,E1b1b1b1) (1/5; 20%).[27] One Natufian individual was also found to belong to the N1b mtDNA haplogroup and two others belonged to the J2a2 mtDNA haplogroup.[42] In terms of autosomal DNA, these Natufians carried around 50% of the Basal Eurasian (BE) and 50% of Western Eurasian Unknown Hunter Gather (UHG) components. However, they were slightly distinct from the northern Anatolian populations that contributed to the peopling of Europe, who had higher Western Hunter Gatherer (WHG) inferred ancestry.

    Source: . "Genomic insights into the origin of farming in the ancient Near East" (PDF). Nature. 536 (7617): 419–424. Bibcode:2016Natur.536..419L. doi:10.1038/nature19310. PMC 5003663. PMID 27459054

    1. E1b1 started in central or East Africa


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