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Omry Barzilai


Ph.D. dissertation topic: Bidirectional Blade Industries of the Neolithic Period in the Southern Levant: Techno- Typological Analyses

Advisor: Prof. Nigel Goring-Morris


My dissertation focuses on the early stages of Neolithic period in the Near East. Dated to the early Holocene the Neolithic period in the Southern Levant is divided into four chronological phases. The second phase, Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (hence PPNB), is well known for its rich material culture, as reflected in the use of a wide range of raw materials for the producing individual and communal objects. The PPNB in the Southern Levant is marked by great socio-economical changes from the preceding Palaeolithic periods. These comprise animal and plant domestication, shift into large permanent villages (proto-urban centers), social stratification, unified ritual system and more.

The current research attempts to trace evidence for social complexity through time and space within the PPNB of the Southern Levant using lithic studies. In particular it is the blade blank technology also named 'naviform' or 'bipolar' common to all PPNB assemblages in the Near East that is the concern of my dissertation. It emerged towards the end of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (the first phase) at the Middle Euphrates region of northern Syria and southeastern Turkey. Variations of this bipolar, naviform (or ‘boat-shaped’, describing the shape of the lateral profile of the cores) technology were subsequently widely adopted in the following PPNB throughout the Levant. This distinctive technique was used to produce specific morphometric configurations that in turn were modified into standardized formal tool classes such as sickle blades, arrowheads, burins and borers, comprising the Neolithic toolkit.

Techno-typological studies are commonly used in prehistoric archaeology as means for understanding different aspects such as identification of social groups, craft specialization or trade and exchange systems. In the current research I examine various lithic assemblages from PPNB sites in Israel and Jordan representing different geographical regions. The method applied in this research is attribute analyses of morphometric criteria and refitting as supplementary (when are present). The current research is expected to reveal data concerning social structure and complexity of the Neolithic communities in the Southern Levant and by doing so could present the cultural backgrounds prior to the rise of early civilizations in the Near East.

Current projects:

Lower Palaeolithic
  • The Late Achelian site complex of Kfar Menachem, Israel.
Neolithic Period
  • Pre-Pottery Neolithic B hunter-gatherers of the Western Negev, Israel.
    Co-directed with Prof. N. Goring-Morris, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • The lithic analysis of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B ceremonial site of Kfar HaHoresh, Lower Galilee, Israel. Directed by Prof. N. Goring-Morris, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
  • The Pre-Pottery Neolithic B of Mishmar Haemeq, Jezrael valley, Northern Israel. Co-directed with N. Getzuv behalf of the Israel Antiquity Authority.
  • The lithic analysis of the renewed excavations at Beisamoun: A Pre-Pottery Neolithic site in the Hula Valley, Israel. Research group directed by F. Bocquentin (Ethnologie Préhistorique CNRS, France) and H. Khalaley (the Israel Antiquity Authoroty). Other members are: F. Berna (rresearch associate of department of Archaeology, Boston University), L. K. Horowitz (ddepartment of evolution, systematics and ecology, The Hebrew University), N. Samuelian, (Maison de l'Archéologie et de l'Ethnologie, France).
  • The Neolithic-Chalcolithic periods in the Acre Valley, Israel.
    Together with O. Marder, N. Getzuv and A. Eirich-Rose (The Israel Antiquity Authority), N. Marom (Haifa University).

List of Publications