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Heavy Neolithic and Shepherd Neolithic in Lebanon

Heavy Neolithic (alternatively, Gigantolithic) is a style of large stone and flint tools (or industry) associated primarily with the Qaraoun culture in the Beqaa Valley, Lebanon, dating to the Epipaleolithic or early Pre-pottery Neolithic at the end of the Stone Age. The type site for the Qaraoun culture is Qaraoun II.

The term “Heavy Neolithic” was translated by Lorraine Copeland and Peter J. Wescombe from Henri Fleisch’s term “gros Neolithique”, suggested by Dorothy Garrod (in a letter dated February 1965) for adoption to describe the particular flint industry that was identified at sites near Qaraoun in the Beqaa Valley. The industry was also termed “Gigantolithic” and confirmed as Neolithic by Alfred Rust and Dorothy Garrod.

Gigantolithic was initially mistaken for Acheulean or Levalloisian by some scholars. Diana Kirkbride and Henri de Contenson suggested that it existed over a wide area of the fertile crescent. Heavy Neolithic industry occurred before the invention of pottery and is characterized by huge, coarse, heavy tools such as axes, picks and adzes including bifaces.

There is no evidence of polishing at the Qaraoun sites or indeed of any arrowheads, burins or millstones. Henri Fleisch noted that the culture that produced this industry may well have led a forest way of life before the dawn of agriculture. Jacques Cauvin proposed that some of the sites discovered may have been factories or workshops as many artifacts recovered were rough outs.

James Mellaart suggested the industry dated to a period before the Pottery Neolithic at Byblos (10,600 to 6900 BCE according to the ASPRO chronology) and noted “Aceramic cultures have not yet been found in excavations but they must have existed here as it is clear from Ras Shamra and from the fact that the Pre-Pottery B complex of Palestine originated in this area, just as the following Pottery Neolithic cultures can be traced back to the Lebanon.”

A notable stratified excavation of Heavy Neolithic material took place in 1963 at Adloun II (Bezez Cave), conducted by Diana Kirkbride and Dorothy Garrod, who determined a sequence stretching through the Yarbrudian, Levalloiso-Mousterian, Upper Paleolithic and on into the Heavy Neolithic. Materials extracted from the upper layers were however disturbed.

The morphology of the tools has noted similarities to the Campignian industry in France, an archaeological culture of the early Neolithic period (sixth millennium to fourth millennium B.C.) in France, named after the Campigny site in the department of Seine-Maritime. The concept of the Campignian culture was introduced in 1886 by the French archaeologist F. Salmon.

The population of the culture engaged in fishing and hunting for deer, wild horses, and oxen. Much importance was also attached to the gathering of cereal grasses (grain mortars and barley grain impressions in pottery have been discovered), which paved the way for the development of agriculture. The dog was the only domestic animal. Dwellings were round pit houses measuring 6 m in diameter.

Typical stone implements included the tranchet (a triangular chopping tool with a broad cutting edge and a handle attached to the narrow end) and the pick (axmattock, an oval tool with lateral working edges). The tools were used for woodworking (making boats, rafts, weirs). The ax-mattock was also used for digging. Polished axes appeared in later Campignian culture sites. Pottery—flat-bottomed and pointed-bottomed vessels made of clay mixed with sand and crushed shells—was made for the first time in the Campignian culture.

The industry has been found at surface stations in the Beqaa Valley and on the seaward side of the mountains. Heavy Neolithic sites were found near sources of flint and were thought to be factories or workshops where large, coarse flint tools were roughed out to work and chop timber. Chisels, flake scrapers and picks were also found with little, if any sign of arrowheads, sickles (except for Orange slices) or pottery.

Finds of waste and debris at the sites were usually plentiful, normally consisting of Orange slices, thick and crested blades, discoid, cylindrical, pyramidal or Levallois cores. Andrew Moore suggested that many of the sites were used as flint factories that complimented settlements in the surrounding hills.

The identification of Heavy Neolithic sites in Lebanon was complicated by the fact that the assemblages found at these sites included tools made with all techniques used during earlier periods. Bifaces are found both with and without a cortex, along with grattoir de cote, triangular flakes, tortoise cores, discoid cores and steep scrapers.

This presented particular problems with sites where Heavy Neolithic material was mixed with that from the Lower Paleolithic and Middle Paleolithic, such as at Mejdel Anjar I and Dakoue.

Although tools similar to Heavy Neolithic ones were found at later Neolithic surfaces sites, little relationship could be established between those found at the later Neolithic tells, where flints were often sparse, especially at those of later dates.

The relationship and dividing line between the related Shepherd Neolithic zone of the north Bekaa Valley could also not be clearly defined but was suggested to be in the area around Douris and Qalaat Tannour. Not enough exploration has been carried out yet to conclude whether the bands of Neolithic surface sites continues north into the areas around Zahle and Rayak.

Finds of large quantities of seeds and a grinding stone at the paleolithic site of Ohalo II in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee, dated to around 19,400 BP has shown some of the earliest evidence for advanced planning of plant food consumption and has led Ehud Weiss, an archeologist, to suggest that humans at Ohalo II processed the grain before consumption. Tell Aswad is oldest site of agriculture with domesticated emmer wheat dated by Willem van Zeist and his assistant Johanna Bakker-Heeres to 8800 BC.

Soon after came hulled, two-row barley found domesticated earliest at Jericho in the Jordan valley and Iraq ed-Dubb in Jordan. Other sites in the Levantine corridor that show the first evidence of agriculture include Wadi Faynan 16 and Netiv Hagdud. Jacques Cauvin noted that the settlers of Aswad did not domesticate on site, but “arrived, perhaps from the neighbouring Anti-Lebanon, already equipped with the seed for planting”.

The Heavy Neolithic Qaraoun culture has been identified at around fifty sites in Lebanon around the source springs of the River Jordan, however the dating of the culture has never been reliably determined.

The Qaraoun culture is a culture of the Lebanese Stone Age around Qaraoun in the Beqaa Valley. The Gigantolithic or Heavy Neolithic flint tool industry of this culture was recognized as a particular Neolithic variant of the Lebanese highlands by Henri Fleisch, who collected over one hundred flint tools within two hours on 2 September 1954 from the site. Fleisch discussed the discoveries with Alfred Rust and Dorothy Garrod, who confirmed the culture to have Neolithic elements. Garrod said that the Qaraoun culture “in the absence of all stratigaphical evidence may be regarded as mesolithic or proto-neolithic”.

Due to the disturbance of the upper layers and lack of radiocarbon dating or the materials at the time of this excavation, the placement of the Qaroun culture into the chronology of the ancient Near East remains undetermined from these excavations.

Shepherd Neolithic is a name given by archaeologists to a style (or industry) of small flint tools from the Hermel plains in the north Beqaa Valley, Lebanon. It was determined to be definitely later than the Mesolithic but without any usual forms from the Upper Paleolithic or pottery Neolithic. Henri Fleisch tentatively suggested the industry to be Epipaleolithic and suggested it may have been used by nomadic shepherds. The Shepherd Neolithic has largely been ignored and understudied following the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war.

Nomadic pastoralism is a form of pastoralism where livestock are herded in order to find fresh pastures on which to graze following an irregular pattern of movement. This is in contrast with transhumance where seasonal pastures are fixed.

The nomadic pastoralism was a result of the Neolithic revolution. During the revolution, humans began domesticating animals and plants for food and started forming cities. Nomadism generally has existed in symbiosis with such settled cultures trading animal products (meat, hides, wool, cheeses and other animal products) for manufactured items not produced by the nomadic herders. Henri Fleisch tentatively suggested the Shepherd Neolithic industry of Lebanon may date to the Epipaleolithic and that it may have been used by one of the first cultures of nomadic shepherds in the Beqaa valley.

Andrew Sherratt demonstrates that “early farming populations used livestock mainly for meat, and that other applications were explored as agriculturalists adapted to new conditions, especially in the semi‐arid zone.”

Historically nomadic herder lifestyles have led to warrior-based cultures that have made them fearsome enemies of settled people. Tribal confederations built by charismatic nomadic leaders have sometimes held sway over huge areas as incipient state structures whose stability is dependent upon the distribution of taxes, tribute and plunder taken from settled populations.

In the past it was asserted that pastoral nomads left no presence archaeologically but this has now been challenged. Pastoral nomadic sites are identified based on their location outside the zone of agriculture, the absence of grains or grain-processing equipment, limited and characteristic architecture, a predominance of sheep and goat bones, and by ethnographic analogy to modern pastoral nomadic peoples Juris Zahrins has proposed that pastoral nomadism began as a cultural lifestyle in the wake of the 6200 BC climatic crisis when Harifian hunter-gatherers fused with Pre-Pottery Neolithic B agriculturalists to produce a nomadic lifestyle based on animal domestication, developing a circum-Arabian nomadic pastoral complex, and spreading Proto-Semitic languages.

The relationship and dividing line between the related Heavy Neolithic zone of the south Beqaa Valley could also not be clearly defined but was suggested to be in the area around Douris and Qalaat Tannour. Not enough exploration had been carried out to conclude whether the bands of Neolithic surface sites continues south into the areas around Zahle and Rayak.

Along with Maqne I, a town and municipality in the Baalbek District of the Beqaa Governorate, Lebanon, Qaa is a type site of the Shepherd Neolithic industry. The site is located 5 miles (8.0 km) north west of the town, north of a path leading from Qaa to Hermel. It was discovered by M. Billaux and the materials recovered were documented by Henri Fleisch in 1966.

The area was lightly cultivated with a thin soil covering the conglomerates. The flints were divided into three groups of a reddish brown, light brown and one that was mostly chocolate and grey colored with a radiant “desert shine”.

It was one of the most important Phoenician cities, and may have been the oldest. From here, and other ports, a great Mediterranean commercial empire was founded.

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