Recent discoveries in the PPNA of southern Jordan illustrate a highly heterogenous set of mortuary practices. These are enacted within a southern Jordan Neolithic that is now well-established as having its own distinctive dynamics within the wider Near Eastern Neolithic. This local tradition was sufficiently established that it maintained a strong identity through the PPNA, where local adaptations appear to have continued in parallel with new arrivals from the northern EPPNB, and generated a Middle PPNB that combined elements of both traditions. A pattern of generally small sites with a high frequency of communal architecture suggests that these sites were not always discrete self-contained settlements, but parts of a regional network, where communities extended across the landscape. Recent discoveries illustrate how mortuary practices may have served to actively construct these communities and networks, reflecting Neolithic ideologies, and opening up small-scale societies to dynamic change.

Cheryl Makarewicz is Professor in the Institute of Archaeology at Kiel University, where she directs both the Zooarchaeology Laboratory and the Archaeological Stable Isotope Laboratory. Her research focuses on the origins of food production, animal domestication , and tracing mobility and dietary dynamics through the stable isotopic record. In addition to directing Neolithic excavations in Jordan, she also holds an ERC Consolidator Grant for her project ‘ASIAPAST’, which investigates the Bronze Age spread of mobile pastoralism across the Eurasian steppe using isotopic, proteomic, and genomic approaches. 

Bill Finlayson has recently started in a new job, as Director of the Endangered Archaeology in the MENA project at Oxford University, and is in the process of moving there from his role as Professor of Prehistoric Environment and Society at Oxford Brookes University. Before that he was the Director of the Council for British Research in the Levant, and for a long time was based in Amman, Jordan. His main research interest is in the transition from hunting and gathering to farming, and he has undertaken fieldwork and chipped stones studies on the early Neolithic of Jordan and the Mesolithic of Scotland. 

Cheryl Makarewicz & Bill Finlayson 

Bring us your dead
Mortuary practice and community in the early Neolithic of southern Jordan