A grid-like incised pattern inside a Natufian bedrock mortar, Raqefet Cave, Israel

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Bedrock features are a hallmark of the Natufian (ca. 15,000-11,500 cal BP) in the southern Levant and beyond and they include a large variety of types, from deep variants to shallow ones and from narrow mortars to wide basins. They are usually interpreted as food preparation facilities, associated with Natufian intensification of cereal and acorn consumption. However, inside the shaft of one deep narrow Natufian mortar at the entrance to Raqefet Cave (Mt. Carmel, Israel), we found a set of grid-like incisions accompanied by irregular lines. This pattern is similar in the general impression and the details of execution to incised stone slabs and objects found in other Natufian sites. As in several other Natufian objects, the incised patterns were hardly visible at the time, due to their light appearance and concealed location. The engraving act and symbolic meaning of the contents were likely more important than the display of the results. Furthermore, the Raqefet mortar was incorporated in a structured complex that also included a slab pavement and a boulder mortar. Thus, the complex motif, the specific feature it was carved on (inside a deep mortar), the associated features, and the location at the entrance to a burial cave all suggest an elaborate ceremonial and symbolic system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337–357
JournalJournal of Lithic Studies
StatePublished - 2016


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