Publications by authors named "Leore Grosman"

11 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Evidence of ritual breakage of a ground stone tool at the Late Natufian site of Hilazon Tachtit cave (12,000 years ago).

PLoS One 2019 16;14(10):e0223370. Epub 2019 Oct 16.

Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel.

Destruction of valuables is a common behavior in human history. Ethnographic data show the polysemic, but fundamentally symbolic, nature of this act. Yet, research aimed at exploring symbolic destruction in prehistoric societies has underlined the difficulties in establishing unambiguous evidence for such behaviour. We present here the analysis of a basalt tool fragment which provides evidence for intentional breakage associated with ritual activity 12,000 years ago. The tool fragment was part of a unique assemblage of grave goods deposited in a burial pit of a woman suggested to have been a shaman (Hilazon Tachtit cave, Southern Levant). The reconstruction of the artefact's life history through morphological, 3D, use wear, residue and contextual analyses suggest that: 1) the fragment was initially part of a shallow bowl used for mixing ash or lime with water; 2) the bowl was subsequently intentionally broken through flaking along multiple axes; 3) The bowl was not used after its breakage but placed in a cache before the interment of the deceased, accompanied with other special items. The broken bowl fragment underlines the ritualistic nature of the act of breakage in the Natufian society. The research presented in this paper provides an important window into Natufian ritual behaviour during the critical period of transformation to agricultural communities. In addition, our results offer new insight into practices related to intentional destruction of valuables associated with death-related ceremonies at the end of the Palaeolithic.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0223370PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6795415PMC
March 2020

AGMT3-D: A software for 3-D landmarks-based geometric morphometric shape analysis of archaeological artifacts.

PLoS One 2018 20;13(11):e0207890. Epub 2018 Nov 20.

Institute of Archaeology, Mount Scopus, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.

We present here a newly developed software package named Artifact GeoMorph Toolbox 3-D (AGMT3-D). It is intended to provide archaeologists with a simple and easy-to-use tool for performing 3-D landmarks-based geometric morphometric shape analysis on 3-D digital models of archaeological artifacts. It requires no prior knowledge of programming or proficiency in statistics. AGMT3-D consists of a data-acquisition procedure for automatically positioning 3-D models in space and fitting them with grids of 3-D semi-landmarks. It also provides a number of analytical tools and procedures that allow the processing and statistical analysis of the data, including generalized Procrustes analysis, principal component analysis, a warp tool, automatic calculation of shape variabilities and statistical tests. It provides an output of quantitative, objective and reproducible results in numerical, textual and graphic formats. These can be used to answer archaeologically significant questions relating to morphologies and morphological variabilities in artifact assemblages. Following the presentation of the software and its functions, we apply it to a case study addressing the effects of different types of raw material on the morphologies and morphological variabilities present in an experimentally produced Acheulian handaxe assemblage. The results show that there are statistically significant differences between the mean shapes and shape variabilities of handaxes produced on flint and those produced on basalt. With AGMT3-D, users can analyze artifact assemblages and address questions that are deducible from the morphologies and morphological variabilities of material culture assemblages. These questions can relate to issues of, among others, relative chronology, cultural affinities, tool function and production technology. AGMT3-D is aimed at making 3-D landmarks-based geometric morphometric shape analysis more accessible to archaeologists, in the hope that this method will become a tool commonly used by archaeologists.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0207890PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6245792PMC
April 2019

Monumental megalithic burial and rock art tell a new story about the Levant Intermediate Bronze "Dark Ages".

PLoS One 2017 2;12(3):e0172969. Epub 2017 Mar 2.

Northern District, Israel Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem, Israel.

The Intermediate Bronze Age (IB) in the Southern Levant (ca. 2350-2000 BCE) is known as the "Dark Ages," following the collapse of Early Bronze urban society and predating the establishment of the Middle Bronze cities. The absence of significant settlements and monumental building has led to the reconstruction of IB social organization as that of nomadic, tribal society inhabiting rural villages with no central governmental system. Excavation in the Shamir Dolmen Field (comprising over 400 dolmens) on the western foothills of the Golan Heights was carried out following the discovery of rock art engravings on the ceiling of the central chamber inside one of the largest dolmens ever recorded in the Levant. Excavation of this multi-chambered dolmen, covered by a basalt capstone weighing some 50 tons, revealed a secondary multi-burial (of both adults and children) rarely described in a dolmen context in the Golan. Engraved into the rock ceiling above the multi-burial is a panel of 14 forms composed of a vertical line and downturned arc motif. 3D-scanning by structured-light technology was used to sharpen the forms and revealed the technique employed to create them. Building of the Shamir dolmens required a tremendous amount of labor, architectural mastery, and complex socio-economic organization well beyond the capacity of small, rural nomadic groups. The monumental megalithic burial of the Shamir dolmens indicates a hierarchical, complex, non-urban governmental system. This new evidence supports a growing body of recent criticism stemming from new discoveries and approaches that calls for rethinking our views of the Levantine IB "Dark Ages."
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0172969PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5333866PMC
September 2017

Hunted gazelles evidence cooling, but not drying, during the Younger Dryas in the southern Levant.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2016 Apr 28;113(15):3997-4002. Epub 2016 Mar 28.

Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269;

The climatic downturn known globally as the Younger Dryas (YD; ∼12,900-11,500 BP) has frequently been cited as a prime mover of agricultural origins and has thus inspired enthusiastic debate over its local impact. This study presents seasonal climatic data from the southern Levant obtained from the sequential sampling of gazelle tooth carbonates from the Early and Late Natufian archaeological sites of Hayonim and Hilazon Tachtit Caves (western Galilee, Israel). Our results challenge the entrenched model that assumes that warm temperatures and high precipitation are synonymous with climatic amelioration and cold and wet conditions are combined in climatic downturns. Enamel carbon isotope values from teeth of human-hunted gazelle dating before and during the YD provide a proxy measure for water availability during plant growth. They reveal that although the YD was cooler, it was not drier than the preceding Bølling-Allerød. In addition, the magnitude of the seasonal curve constructed from oxygen isotopes is significantly dampened during the YD, indicating that cooling was most pronounced in the growing season. Cool temperatures likely affected the productivity of staple wild cereal resources. We hypothesize that human groups responded by shifting settlement strategies-increasing population mobility and perhaps moving to the warmer Jordan Valley where wild cereals were more productive and stable.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1519862113DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4839398PMC
April 2016

Landscape Alteration by Pre-Pottery Neolithic Communities in the Southern Levant - The Kaizer Hilltop Quarry, Israel.

PLoS One 2016 9;11(3):e0150395. Epub 2016 Mar 9.

Institute of Archaeology, Mount Scopus, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, 91905, Israel.

This study focuses on Kaizer Hill, a quarry site located in the vicinity of the city of Modiin where remains of a single prehistoric cultural entity assigned to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A were discovered. A systematic survey revealed that large-scale quarrying activities have left damage markings on the bedrock of the Hilltop and its slopes. We aim to present here our findings from the Hilltop, which are concerned with the human impact on rock surfaces and the lithic artifacts retrieved during the survey. It is evident that the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A inhabitants of the area changed their landscape forever, "stripping" the caliche surface and penetrating it in search of flint bedded in the bedrock.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0150395PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4784956PMC
August 2016

Nahal Ein Gev II, a Late Natufian Community at the Sea of Galilee.

PLoS One 2016 27;11(1):e0146647. Epub 2016 Jan 27.

Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 02138, United States of America.

The Natufian culture is of great importance as a starting point to investigate the dynamics of the transition to agriculture. Given its chronological position at the threshold of the Neolithic (ca. 12,000 years ago) and its geographic setting in the productive Jordan Valley, the site of Nahal Ein Gev II (NEG II) reveals aspects of the Late Natufian adaptations and its implications for the transition to agriculture. The size of the site, the thick archaeological deposits, invested architecture and multiple occupation sub-phases reveal a large, sedentary community at least on par with Early Natufian camps in the Mediterranean zone. Although the NEG II lithic tool kit completely lacks attributes typical of succeeding Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) assemblages, the artistic style is more closely related to the early PPNA world, despite clear roots in Early Natufian tradition. The site does not conform to current perceptions of the Late Natufians as a largely mobile population coping with reduced resource productivity caused by the Younger Dryas. Instead, the faunal and architectural data suggest that the sedentary populations of the Early Natufian did not revert back to a nomadic way of life in the Late Natufian in the Jordan Valley. NEG II encapsulates cultural characteristics typical of both Natufian and PPNA traditions and thus bridges the crossroads between Late Paleolithic foragers and Neolithic farmers.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0146647PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4729465PMC
July 2016

How can ten fingers shape a pot? Evidence for equivalent function in culturally distinct motor skills.

PLoS One 2013 27;8(11):e81614. Epub 2013 Nov 27.

Computerized Archaeology Laboratory, Institute of Archaeology, Jerusalem, Israel.

Behavioural variability is likely to emerge when a particular task is performed in different cultural settings, assuming that part of human motor behaviour is influenced by culture. In analysing motor behaviour it is useful to distinguish how the action is performed from the result achieved. Does cultural environment lead to specific cultural motor skills? Are there differences between cultures both in the skills themselves and in the corresponding outcomes? Here we analyse the skill of pottery wheel-throwing in French and Indian cultural environments. Our specific goal was to examine the ability of expert potters from distinct cultural settings to reproduce a common model shape (a sphere). The operational aspects of motor performance were captured through the analysis of the hand positions used by the potters during the fashioning process. In parallel, the outcomes were captured by the geometrical characteristics of the vessels produced. As expected, results revealed a cultural influence on the operational aspects of the potters' motor skill. Yet, the marked cultural differences in hand positions used did not give rise to noticeable differences in the shapes of the vessels produced. Hence, for the simple model form studied, the culturally-specific motor traditions of the French and Indian potters gave rise to an equivalent outcome, that is shape uniformity. Further work is needed to test whether such equivalence is also observed in more complex ceramic shapes.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0081614PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3842241PMC
December 2014

The earliest matches.

PLoS One 2012 1;7(8):e42213. Epub 2012 Aug 1.

Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel.

Cylindrical objects made usually of fired clay but sometimes of stone were found at the Yarmukian Pottery Neolithic sites of Sha'ar HaGolan and Munhata (first half of the 8(th) millennium BP) in the Jordan Valley. Similar objects have been reported from other Near Eastern Pottery Neolithic sites. Most scholars have interpreted them as cultic objects in the shape of phalli, while others have referred to them in more general terms as "clay pestles," "clay rods," and "cylindrical clay objects." Re-examination of these artifacts leads us to present a new interpretation of their function and to suggest a reconstruction of their technology and mode of use. We suggest that these objects were components of fire drills and consider them the earliest evidence of a complex technology of fire ignition, which incorporates the cylindrical objects in the role of matches.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0042213PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3411622PMC
February 2013

Early evidence (ca. 12,000 B.P.) for feasting at a burial cave in Israel.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2010 Aug 30;107(35):15362-6. Epub 2010 Aug 30.

Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269, USA.

Feasting is one of humanity's most universal and unique social behaviors. Although evidence for feasting is common in the early agricultural societies of the Neolithic, evidence in pre-Neolithic contexts is more elusive. We found clear evidence for feasting on wild cattle and tortoises at Hilazon Tachtit cave, a Late Epipaleolithic (12,000 calibrated years B.P.) burial site in Israel. This includes unusually high densities of butchered tortoise and wild cattle remains in two structures, the unique location of the feasting activity in a burial cave, and the manufacture of two structures for burial and related feasting activities. The results indicate that community members coalesced at Hilazon to engage in special rituals to commemorate the burial of the dead and that feasts were central elements in these important events. Feasts likely served important roles in the negotiation and solidification of social relationships, the integration of communities, and the mitigation of scalar stress. These and other social changes in the Natufian period mark significant changes in human social complexity that continued into the Neolithic period. Together, social and economic change signal the very beginning of the agricultural transition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1001809107DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2932561PMC
August 2010

Studying post depositional damage on Acheulian bifaces using 3-D scanning.

J Hum Evol 2011 Apr 20;60(4):398-406. Epub 2010 Mar 20.

Department of Physics of Complex Systems, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.

In this study, we explore post-depositional damage observed on Acheulian bifacial tools by comparing two assemblages: a collection of archaeological handaxes which shows pronounced damage marks associated with high energy water accumulation system, and an experimental assemblage that was rolled and battered in a controlled simulation experiment. Scanning the two assemblages with a precise 3-D optical scanner and subjecting the measured surfaces to the same mathematical analysis enabled the development of quantitative measures assessing and comparing the degree of damage observed on archaeological and experimental tools. The method presented here enables the definition of morphological patterns typically resulting from battering and different from intentional controlled knapping. The most important kinds of damage included the formation of deep, random 'notch-like' scars on the lateral edges and substantial degrees of damage to the tip of the tools, but minimal damage to the artifact's butt. Quantifying the degree of damage and its location and morphological characters allows us to present a method by which post depositional damage on archaeological tools can be measured.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2010.02.004DOI Listing
April 2011

A 12,000-year-old Shaman burial from the southern Levant (Israel).

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2008 Nov 3;105(46):17665-9. Epub 2008 Nov 3.

Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel.

The Natufians of the southern Levant (15,000-11,500 cal BP) underwent pronounced socioeconomic changes associated with the onset of sedentism and the shift from a foraging to farming lifestyle. Excavations at the 12,000-year-old Natufian cave site, Hilazon Tachtit (Israel), have revealed a grave that provides a rare opportunity to investigate the ideological shifts that must have accompanied these socioeconomic changes. The grave was constructed and specifically arranged for a petite, elderly, and disabled woman, who was accompanied by exceptional grave offerings. The grave goods comprised 50 complete tortoise shells and select body-parts of a wild boar, an eagle, a cow, a leopard, and two martens, as well as a complete human foot. The interment rituals and the method used to construct and seal the grave suggest that this is the burial of a shaman, one of the earliest known from the archaeological record. Several attributes of this burial later become central in the spiritual arena of human cultures worldwide.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0806030105DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2584673PMC
November 2008