Natufian culture

The Natufian culture (/nəˈtfiən/[1]) is a Late Epipaleolithic archaeological culture of the Levant, dating to around 15,000 to 11,500 years ago.[2] The culture was unusual in that it supported a sedentary or semi-sedentary population even before the introduction of agriculture. The Natufian communities may be the ancestors of the builders of the first Neolithic settlements of the region, which may have been the earliest in the world. Natufians founded a settlement where Jericho in Palestine is today, which may therefore be the longest continuously inhabited urban area on Earth.[citation needed] Some evidence suggests deliberate cultivation of cereals, specifically rye, by the Natufian culture, at Tell Abu Hureyra, the site of earliest evidence of agriculture in the world.[3] The world's oldest evidence of bread-making has been found at Shubayqa 1, a 14,500-year-old site in Jordan's northeastern desert.[4] In addition, the oldest known evidence of beer, dating to approximately 13,000 BP, was found at the Raqefet Cave in Mount Carmel near Haifa in Israel.[5][6]

Natufian culture
Geographical rangeLevant
PeriodEpipaleolithic
Dates15,000–11,500 BP
Type siteShuqba cave (Wadi an-Natuf)
Major sitesShuqba cave, Ain Mallaha, Ein Gev, Tell Abu Hureyra
Preceded byKebaran, Mushabian
Followed byNeolithic: Khiamian, Shepherd Neolithic

Generally, though, Natufians exploited wild cereals and hunted animals, including gazelles.[7] According to Christy G. Turner II, there is archaeological and physical anthropological evidence for a relationship between the modern Semitic-speaking populations of the Levant and the Natufians.[8] Archaeogenetics have revealed derivation of later (Neolithic to Bronze Age) Levantines primarily from Natufians, besides substantial admixture from Chalcholithic Anatolians.[9]

Dorothy Garrod coined the term Natufian based on her excavations at Shuqba cave (Wadi an-Natuf) near the town of Shuqba in the western Judean Mountains.