Demographic, Biological and Cultural Aspects of the Neolithic Revolution: A View from the Southern Levant

  • Israel Hershkovitz
  • Avi Gopher

Abstract

We present and discuss the life of people in transition from Natufian hunting and gathering to Neolithic farming in the southern Levant, as reflected in their bones and archaeological remains. Data on Natufian and Neolithic populations were derived from a series of available sites. Demographically, the transition to agriculture affected males and females differently; while females experienced a decrease in mean age at death in the Neolithic period, males experienced an increase. The distribution of female ages at death in the Neolithic period indicates that females may have given birth at an earlier age compared to Natufian females. Natufian women lived longer than males. Using the NDT model, 15mathrmP5 shows that population growth was significant during the Late Natufian, the PPNA and the PPNC while it was much lower in the Final Natufian and the PPNB. No major changes in dental health between the two populations were observed. This indicates that Natufian and Neolithic people may have differed in their food procurement strategies, but consumed the same types of food. There is a clear increase in the prevalence of infectious diseases during the later parts of the PPN period. The magnitude (not the pattern) of physical stress was similar in Natufian and Neolithic populations although the MSM study suggests that certain daily activities in the Neolithic were more physically demanding than in the preceding Natufian. This may relate to new Neolithic activities such as making mudbricks, preparing lime-plaster, tree felling and grinding cereals. Neolithic females took over a greater proportion of the physical activities compared to Natufian females. Violent encounters were more common in the Natufian.

Keywords

Levant Natufian neolithic demography neolithic revolution diet pathology health physical load occupational disease site formation processes 

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Israel Hershkovitz
    • 1
  • Avi Gopher
  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and Anthropology, Sackler Faculty of MedicineTel Aviv University, The Tassia and Dr. Joseph Meychan Chair of the History and Philosophy of MedicineTel AvivIsrael

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