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Near East Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Kebaran / Kebarian Culture (Epi-Palaeolithic) (Near East)
c.18,000 - 12,500 BC

The Upper Palaeolithic Baradostian culture in the Near East's coastal Levantine region seems to have ended with the maximum cold of the last phase of the Würm glaciation, the most recent cold phase of the most recent ice age. Following possible cultural and typological discontinuity - a break of some kind, or a dispersal of the population before it later returned, perhaps some generations later - the Baradostian faded out of use.

Its replacement was the Zarzian culture in northern Mesopotamia and eastern Turkey, while the regionally-dominant Levantine Aurignacian had already begun to make its own transition into the Kebaran or Kebarian culture (and sometimes the 'Geometric Kebaran', based on its characteristic small stone tools - microliths).

This period is more broadly labelled the 'Levantine Stone Age', thanks to those microliths and retouched bladelets being found for the first time. These microliths were very different from those of the earlier Levantine Aurignacian. Population density was low in the Near East at this time, with most regions having a cold, dry climate and perennial shrubby vegetation. The contemporary Qaraoun culture flourished in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon.

The Palaeolithic Ohalo site in the Jordan Valley near to the Sea of Galilee had previously been in an environmental refuge zone during the coldest periods of ice age. It is here that the earliest evidence has emerged for the use of wild cereals by anatomically modern humans. They were not farming, but they did make repeated use of grasses and cereals in their diet. However, this growing familiarity with wild cereals would lay the basis for later domestication.

After about 15,000 BC the climate improved enough to allow the Kebaran to flourish in the southern Levant. The type site is Kebara cave, near Haifa in Israel. People lived in caves or small campsites, most of which were under three hundred square metres in size, although some could reach a thousand square metres.

They are thought to have been seasonally mobile rather than sedentary, hunting gazelle and deer. Houses were circular, small, with stone foundations. The people may have been harvesting wild cereals just like their Ohalo predecessors, as mortars and pestles have been found in occupation remains. The Kebaran appears overall to be an adapted continuation of the earlier Ohalo population, but it would lead directly to the Near East's Neolithic Farmer revolution.

Ahmarian tools

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Makers of the Early Aurignacian of Europe, Steven E Churchill & Fred H Smith (Yearbook of Physical Anthropology Vol 43:61-115 (2000)), from First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies, Peter Bellwood (Second Ed, Wiley-Blackwell, 2022), and from External Links: Makers of the Early Aurignacian of Europe, Steven E Churchill & Fred H Smith (2000), and Early domesticated dogs of the Near East, Tamar Dayan (Journal of Archaeological Science, 1994, and available via Academia.edu).)

c.18,000 BC

The Palaeolithic flint tool culture of the Baradostian has been accelerating its use of microliths for at least ten thousand years. Now that acceleration tips over into the replacement Zarzian culture in the east, while the Levantine Aurignacian transforms into the Kebaran in the west.

Houses of the Near East's Kebaran culture
People of the Kebaran are generally thought to have been ancestral to those of the later Natufian culture who occupied much of the same range of territory

c.15,000 BC

After about this point climate improves enough to allow the Kebaran to flourish in the southern Levant (until about 11,000 BC) The type site is Kebara cave, near Haifa in Israel. Kebaran people live in caves or small campsites, although some campsites are considerably larger.

c.13,000 BC

Evidence points to this general period as being the one in which the people of the Kebaran first domesticate the dog (although early hunters in Scandinavia may also provide early domestication at a point not far off this time period). The species concerned is likely to be a small sub-species of wolf, although a good deal of controversy remains regarding this dating.

Kebaran stone tools
Microliths were used in spear points and arrowheads, but Kebaran microliths showed a degree of change from the older Levantine Aurignacian examples

c.12,500 BC

The Near East's Kebaran culture of the Levant is succeeded by the Natufian culture and its largely sedentary, but pre-Neolithic Farmer, population as the climate continues to warm.

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