Excavation at WF16

WF16 is located in the spectacular Wadi Faynan area of Southern Jordan. Evaluation of the site was undertaken between 1997 and 2006 with a monograph detailing results of the evaluation published in 2007 (Finlayson & Mithen 2007). Material remains at the site indicate that settlement occurred during the Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) period, with a suite of radiocarbon dates indicating occupation between 11,600 and 10,200 BP. Originally defined by Kenyon during excavation at Jericho in the 1950s, the PPNA is traditionally seen as the earliest manifestation of an agricultural economy in the world, with villages occupied by sedentary groups practicing some form of cultivation. The PPNA brought to an end more than two million years of hunting and gathering and laid the foundations for the first civilisations. However, despite more than 50 years of research, our understanding of PPNA society remains limited.

Excavation of WF16 indicates that the site represents a long lived village with a considerable depth of stratigraphy containing well preserved structures built using a variety of construction techniques. This has resulted in a complex sequence of semi-subterranean structures cut into existing archaeology.The evaluation also yielded well-preserved organic remains, human burials and a diverse range of material culture including chipped stone tools, ground stone tools, ‘art’ objects and beads.As such, WF16 offers the potential to significantly enhance our understanding of the PPNA and the origins of the Neolithic.

The present project will involve three major seasons of excavation in spring 2008, 2009 and 2010 and a final season devoted to conservation and presentation of the site, which will form an integral part of a Neolithic heritage trail in southern Jordan. The opening of a large (40 x 15m) trench will provide unprecedented access into PPNA village life, allowing detailed examination of the spatial and chronological variability. Together with the anticipated recovery of an extensive collection of PPNA material culture and organic items this will shed new light on our understanding of PPNA society and economy.

The excavation will use a single context recording system (based on the MoLAS system) and will use a purpose built archaeological database (supplied by IADS York) to create an easily accessible site archive.

The WF16 project is directed by Prof. S. Mithen (University of Reading), Prof. B. Finlayson (Council for British Research in the Levant, CBRL) and Dr Mohammed Najjar in collaboration with the Jordanian Department of Antiquities and is funded by the AHRC. Field support is generously provided by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature and the project is reliant upon the help and support of the local Bedouin groups, particularly Abu Fawaz, Abu Sael and Juma Ali Zanoon.

Selected publications on WF16:

Mithen, S.J., Finlayson, B., Pirie, A., Carruthers, D. & Kennedy, A. 2000, WF16: ‘New evidence for economic and technological diversity in the PPNA.’ Current Anthropology 41, 655-662.

Finlayson, A., Mithen, S.J.., Pirie, A., Carruthers, D., Kennedy, A. & Tipping, R. 2000. ‘The Dana-Faynan-Ghuwayr Early Prehistory project 1997 and 1998 field seasons.‘ Levant 32, 1-26.

Finlayson, B, Pirie, A. and Mithen, S.J. 2001. The Dana-Faynan-Al-Ghuwayr Early Prehistory Project, Spring 2000 Season, Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, XLIV,19-36.

Finlayson, B. & Mithen S.J. 2007. The Early Prehistory of Wadi Faynan, Southern Jordan: Archaeological Survey of Wadis Faynan, Ghuwayr and Al Bustan and Evaluation of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A Site of WF16. Levant Supplementary Series 4. Oxbow Books with the CBRL.

Mithen, S.J., Austin, P., Kennedy, A., Emberson, H., Lancaster, N. & Finlayson B. 2007. Early Neolithic woodland composition and exploitation in the Southern Levant: a comparison between archaeobotanical remains from WF16 and present-day woodland at Hammam Adethni. Environmental Archaeology 12(1). 49-70

Mithen, S.J., Finlayson, B & Shaffrey, R. 2005. Sexual Symbolism in the Early Neolithic of the Southern Levant: Pestles and Mortars from WF16. Documenta Praehistoria XXXII. 103-110

Smith, S.J. 2007. The form and function of the el Khiam point at WF16 and Dhra’: Issues for interpreting chipped stone assemblage variability. In Astruc, L, Binder, D and Briois, F (eds) Technical Systems and Near Eastern PPN Communities. Proceedings of the 5th International Workshop. Frejus 2004. Éditions APDCA.