The Yarmukian Culture in Israel

IX. Architecture and Settlement Pattern

Excavations at Yarmukian sites, and other Pottery Neolithic sites as well, usually yielded pits without buildings. This gave a general impression of "pit dwelling settlements"(101). Thus, although some structures were found in Pottery Neolithic sites, like Munhata(102) and Pottery Neolithic A Jericho(103), they were overlooked. In the second half of the 1980s clear evidence of construction activities in Yarmukian sites were published from Jebel Abu Thawwab(104), `Ain Ghazal(105), and Sha`ar Hagolan(106).

It seems now that Yarmukian structures were unearthed in Israel in the following three sites:

1. Sha`ar Hagolan: In the new excavations at Sa`ar Hagolan a domestic structure and a corner of a massive public building were exposed(107). The domestic structure consists of one rectangular room (Loc. 9), whose inner dimensions are 1.6 by 3 m and its area is about 4.8 sq m (see Fig. 14). Only the lowest course of its walls, built of medium-sized field stones, was preserved. The floor was made of beaten earth, on which several flat basalt slabes were found, which may have been used as anvils. An open area abutting the room from the north served as the house's courtyard (Loc. 3). It was surrounded by short rows of stones (Loc. 5, 36, 26, 47), giving the impression that they served as signs of ownership or perhaps as a support for a fence of perishable materials. The courtyard floor consists of a thin layer of limestones and small pebbles (Loc 21), and in four places some areas were paved with flat basalt pebbles or large to medium sized limestone slabs (Loc. 13, 14, 30, 40). Two big mortars were found (Loc. 23, 24), with the lower part sunk below the courtyard floor and supported by a circle of stones. The corner of the massive building was formed by two walls (Loc. 5, 29) that met at a 90 degree angle. Each wall is 1 m thick and reaches a maximal height of about 60 cm. The walls which extend beyond the excavated area have so far been traced for a length of some 8 m. A rectangular pier adjoins the inner face of one wall probably to reinforce it. This seems part of a monumental building of a type never before found at a Yarmukian site.

2. Munhata: Remains of five rounded structures were discovered at the site, and their diameter is about 3 m(108). Two of them were found in the northern part of the excavations (see Fig. 15, Structures 696 and 707), and three in the southern part. In addition, over 70 pits were found all over the excavated area. 3. Megiddo: In the base of Area BB fragments of rounded and rectangular structures were reported, which were generally related to Layer XX. The rounded walls were considered by the excavators as Early Bronze I "apsidal" buildings(109). Dothan`s further analysis of the stratigraphy of these remains suggested that the rounded walls (apsidal buildings) dated to the Early Bronze I, and the rectangular buildings are later and date to Early Bronze II(110).

Table 5: The Distribution of Archaeological Phenomena in the Different

Fields at Munhata. Data is Based on Garfinkel 1992B, Figs. 3-7.

FieldStructuresLiving FloorsHearthsGravesPitsObsidian

Kempinski suggested an opposite solution, i.e. that the rectangular buildings are the earlier element and date to the Ghassulian Chalcolithic period, while the rounded walls are a later element of Early Bronze I apsidial buildings(111).

It should be noted that the reconstruction of the rounded walls in Megiddo as apsidial buildings is not supported by any architectural remains at the site. The Early Bronze I period dating is also problematic since no clear pottery was related to these buildings. As rounded architecture is now known to be in use in Yarmukian sites such as Munhata and Jebel Abu Thawwab, and since Yarmukian pottery, flint and figurines were found at the base of Area BB (see Fig. 2), it seems that the rounded walls are Yarmukian rounded structures, and not Early Bronze I apsidial houses.

To summarize both types of structures were found in Yarmukian sites: rounded (Munhata, Megiddo, and Jebel Abu Thawwab) and rectangular (Sha`ar Hagolan and `Ain Ghazal). The exsistance of such architecture raises the question of how a picture of pit dwellers was formulated in the early years of reserch. It seem that the answer is connected with the Yarmukian settlement pattern, as can be best seen at Munhata.

When we studied and analyzed the pottery assemblage from Munhata, one of the first steps was to check each excavated unit (pits, structures, floors, etc.) in order to select the clean loci for the analysis. The excavated area of 2050 sq m was divided into five fields and the Yarmukian features were drawn on maps(112).

These maps give the most up-to-date picture of a Yarmukian settlement. In Table 5 the main features of each field is summarized. It can be seen very clearly that two fields were intensivly used: the North (see Fig. 15) and the South-East. Here remains of rounded structures, pits, and a burial were found. In the other three fields only pits were found. The distance between the structures in the north and the structures in the south is about 35 m. All the area between the structures, which constitute most of the excavated site, was basically used for diging pits.

When an archaeologist excavates a small part of such a site, statistically he is likly to be excavating an open area with pits. Only a large exposure of Yarmukian sites reveals architectural remains.


101) Kaplan, 1959a: 22; Kenyon, 1960; Perrot, 1098;

Kirkbride, 1971; Yeivin and Olami, 1979.

102) Perrot, 1968: 415; Garfinkel, 1992b: Figs. 3,7.

103) Kenyon, 1981: 94, Pl. 228b.

104) Kafafi, 1988.

105) Rollefson et al., 1992.

106) Garfinkel, 1990, 1992a.

107) Garfinkel, 1990, 1992a.

108) Perrot, 1968: 415; Garfinkel, 1992b: Figs. 3,7.

109) Loud, 1948: 60-61.

110) Dothan, 1958.

111) Kempinski, 1989: 20-21.

112) Garfinkel, 1992b: Figs. 3-7.