(Ar., ῾Ain Mallaḥa),

an important Natufian site located 72 m above sea level near a freshwater spring in Israel's Hulah Valley. The site was excavated by Jean Perrot (1955–1971), who was joined In 1971 by François R. Valla, who later continued excavation in the uppermost layer. Excavation exposed four major building strata, all constructed within the slope of colluvial deposits. The lowest strata (IV–III) were assigned to the Early Natufian and strata II and I to the Middle and Late Natufian, respectively (c. 10,000–8,000 BCE).

The earliest building, which was found in stratum IV, is a large subterranean house, 9 m in diameter. Its rear walls were constructed as terraces and still stand to a height of one meter. Six well-preserved postholes indicate that wood supports probably held the structure's roof. Two fireplaces were found in the floor, as well as more than twenty multicolored pebbles and three whetstones. A large number of stone and bone tools were found, along with broken mortars and pestles. The round houses of strata III and II are 3–6 m in diameter, all with semisubterranean stone foundations. While little is known about their superstructure, the interiors of several of these houses reveal squarish fireplaces. The houses of stratum I are smaller in diameter but always have a central fireplace. In this layer, numerous bell-shaped subterranean pits were found, some one meter deep and with sides coated with a thick layer of clay. Other, shallower pits were covered with a thin lime plaster and may have been storage facilities, although they were often used secondarily for burials.

Both single and communal burials were found in strata III and IV, mostly in a semiflexed to flexed position. Several of the skeletal remains exhibit decorated headpieces of dentalium beads, as well as necklaces or bracelets made of these or other shells. The burials, even when found under floors, had originally been dug outside the structures. It has been suggested that some were dug in family burial grounds. One distinctive grave was of an older woman interred with a puppy, illustrating the special relationship between humans and domesticated animals. The stratum II burials often lack decoration and are less flexed than the earlier ones. The burials in stratum I were commonly pits in secondary use and generally contained more than one individual. One special grave is covered by a rock pile and contains the remains of four-eight individuals. Based on cranial morphologies from these burials, the population from ῾Einan is believed to be descended from local Levantine Upper Paleolithic groups.

῾Einan's lithic industry led Valla to propose the subdivision of the Natufian into four stages of lithic development. The dominant types are microliths, especially Helwan lunates in the lower part of the sequence, and increasingly dominant backed lunates. Burins from another important group, with fewer endscrapers, sickle blades, and a few elongated picks considered the forerunners of Neolithic axes. The ground-stone industry is rich in mortars and pestles, and a very large goblet-shaped basalt mortar should be noted in particular. Numerous whetstones and shaft straighteners were recovered. Artistic activity was expressed in a series of schematic figurines, mainly carved or incised in stone.

Although plant remains were not preserved, the presence of sickle blades probably indicates the harvesting of wild cereals. Animal bones are numerous and consist mainly of gazelle and deer, with a noticeable presence of wild boar. Other important food sources were tortoises, fish from Lake Hulah, and waterfowl, especially migratory species present in winter. Animal bones and marine shells provided raw material for jewelry; shells were brought mainly from the Mediterranean Sea, with a few specimens from the Red Sea and the Nile Valley.

The site of ῾Einan was probably one of the major villages of the Natufian culture in the Levant. Although the site was abandoned several times, the presence of domesticated animals and the evidence for a seasonal distribution of food indicate that when the settlement was occupied, habitation was nearly year-round.

Bibliography

  • Bouchud, Jean. La faune du gisement Natoufien de Mallaha (Eynan) Israel. Mémoires et Travaux du Centre de Recherche Française de Jérusalem, 4. Paris, 1987.
  • Perrot, Jean, and Daniel Ladiray. Les hommes de Mallaha, Eynan, Israel. Mémoires et Travaux du Centre de Recherche Française de Jérusalem, 7. Paris, 1988.
  • Valla, François R. “Aspects du sol de l'Abri 131 de Mallaha (Eynan).” Paléorient 14.2 (1988): 283–296.
  • Valla, François R. “Les Natoufiens de Mallaha et l'espace.” In The Natufian Culture in the Levant, edited by Ofer Bar-Yosef and François R. Valla, pp. 111–122. Ann Arbor, 1991.

Ofer Bar-Yosef