The Natufian economy at el-Wad Terrace with special reference to gazelle exploitation patterns

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We carried out a detailed taphonomic and zooarchaeological analysis of the faunal remains from the new excavation of the Late Natufian layers of el-Wad Terrace. We focused on gazelle exploitation patterns and examined them within the context of the established Epipalaeolithic sequence from the coastal plain of Israel. Mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella) is the most heavily exploited species. The taphonomic history of the assemblage suggests minor loss of bones caused by post-depositional processes and indicates that bone destruction occurred during occupation. Cut marks from all stages of activities, absence of selective transport, and body part representation suggest that gazelle were butchered at the site. Analysis of gazelle sex composition shows male overrepresentation during the Natufian. Size trends show an increase of gazelle body-size during the Natufian in comparison to previous periods. The patterns of body-size increase show the same tendency in proximal and distal limb-bones. The trends in gazelle body-size from the Epipalaeolithic of the coastal plain do not demonstrate any sign of morphological dwarfism, increased variation, or allometric changes in the morphology of Natufian gazelles and thus do not support the previously suggested hypothesis of "proto-domestication".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-231
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Natalie Munro for stimulating discussions throughout the development of this research and especially for sharing with us her unpublished data, and Dan Simberloff for his comments on the MS and for statistical advice. Detailed comments by Simon Davis, Natalie Munro, and John Speth greatly improved the MS. The research was carried out when the first author was a Clore Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Zoology, Tel-Aviv University. The manuscript was written during his stay at the Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, as a post-doctoral fellow. The Rothschild Post-Doctoral Foundation and the American School of Prehistoric Research, Peabody Museum Harvard University, provided post-doctoral fellowships. The research at el-Wad Terrace is supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 913/01), the Matla and Feival Coastal and Underwater Archaeological Foundation, and the Irene Levi Sala CARE Archaeological Foundation.


  • Epipalaeolithic
  • Levant
  • Mountain gazelle
  • Natufian
  • Proto-domestication
  • Taphonomic history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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