Collection Description

Tradition Name


Tradition Description

The Epipaleolithic tradition extends from 45,000 BP to 10,100 BP from the Mediterranean zone to the desert areas of the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and southern Turkey, northern Iraq and northwestern Iran. It includes the Natufian subtradition. Epipaleolithic people were hunter-gatherers living in small, egalitarian communities. Communities became more sedentary over time. They made shell bead ornaments, stone and bone tools, including groundstone tools for grinding ochre and later for preparing food.


Select the Tradition Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Middle East --Middle East



Gaza Strip





General Middle East



West Bank

OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number. The index notes were written by Sarah Berry.

The Epipaleolithic collection consists of 54 documents; eight are in French, the rest in English. The documents discuss the Epipaleolithic tradition in Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordon, Lebanon, Palestinian Autonomous Areas, Syria, and Turkey from 45,000 BP – 10,100 BP.

Readers will find there is some overlap in the time periods and material culture, mostly at sites that have continuous occupation from the Epipaleolithic to the Aceramic Neolithic traditions (M084 collection). Although each collection is marked for OCM ([i]Outline of Cultural Materials[/i]) codes that pertain only to its own time period and area, readers are encouraged to examine the documents in the other collections for additional information. This is especially important for documents about Abu Hureyra, a site in Syria that was inhabited from Epipaleolithic times through the Aceramic Neolithic and into the Ceramic Neolithic. Readers interested in Abu Hureyra should read the following eHRAF documents in the Epipaleolithic collection (M080 collection): Moore 1991, no. 26; Olszewski 1991, no. 37; Moore 2000, nos. 49 and 52; Olszewski 2000, no. 50; Olsen 2000, no. 51; Hillman 2000, no. 53; and Roitel 2000, no. 54. Abu Hureyra appears in the following eHRAF documents in the Aceramic Neolithic tradition (M084 collection): Moore 2000, nos. 14, 19, 20, and 21; Molleson 2000, nos. 22 and 29; Moulins 2000, no. 24; Hillman 2000, no. 25; Legge 2000, no. 26; Huxtable 2000, no. 27; and Le Mière 2000, no. 28. These documents contain information on both the Epipaleolithic and the Aceramic Neolithic at Abu Hureyra.

No one document provides an overview of the entire Epipaleolithic tradition: Gilead (1991, no. 4) summarizes the Upper Paleolithic in the Levant, covering the time period of 45,000 BP to 13,000 BP, Goring-Morris (1995, no. 5) provides an overview of the various archaeological subtraditions from 20,000 to 10,000 BP, Henry (1989, no. 6) summarizes the time period from about 15,000 BP-10,100 BP, and an overview of the Natufian subtradition can be found in Perlés (1991, no. 48) and Valla (1995, no.9). Goring-Morris (1991, no. 21) summarizes the Harifian, a very late Epipaleolithic subtradition. Bar-Yosef (1995, no. 1) also summarizes the archaeology from 24,000 BP-10,000 BP while exploring the origins of agriculture. Baruch (1991, no. 11) and Leroi-Gourhan (1991, no. 12) (in French) both use pollen evidence to describe the paleoclimate.

Most of the documents discuss the Natufian time period (12,500 BP-10,250 BP). Belfer-Cohen (1991, no. 2) provides a definition for the term Natufian. Byrd (1989, no. 3) looks at its’ settlement and subsistence strategies. Kaufman (1992, no. 7) looks at the social reasons for the shift to sedentism seen during the Natufian. Stone tools from two sites in northern Syria are the subject of Olszewski’s two papers (1986, no. 8 and 1991, no. 37). She compares these sites to contemporary ones in Israel and Jordon and briefly describes the Epipaleolithic in Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. Most of the papers are from a conference on the Natufian. Bar-Yosef (1991, no. 10) describes the Natufian conference and the submitted papers in his introduction to documents nos. 11-48. Several of the papers are site descriptions or describe the findings from surveys (Copeland 1991, no. 13; Schroeder 1991, no.14; Bar-Yosef 1991, no. 15; Valla 1991, nos. 16 and 17 (in French); Edwards 1991, no. 18; Ronen 1991, no. 19; Crabtree 1991, no. 20; Betts 1991, no. 22; Garrard 1991, no. 23; Byrd 1991, nos. 24 and 25; and Cauvin 1991, no. 27 (in French)). Several papers concentrate on the Epipaleolithic section of the site of Abu Hureyra in Syria and the results of their analyses (Moore 1991, no. 26, and Moore 2000, nos. 49 and 52; Olszewski 2000, no. 50; Olsen 2000, no. 51; Hillman 2000, no. 53, and Roitel 2000, no. 54). Faunal data is used to examine sedentism, hunting practices, diet, and animal domestication among other things (Tchernov 1991, no. 28; Cope 1991, no 29; Helmer 1991, no. 30 (in French); Pichon 1991, no. 31 (in French); and Davis 1991, no. 32). Occasionally plant remains are found in Epipaleolithic sites. Colledge (1991, no. 33) discusses one site and provides guidelines so that more might be found. Human remains are used to provide data on diet, food processing, and residence patterns (Sillen 1991, no. 34; Belfer-Cohen 1991, no. 35; and Smith 1991, no. 36). Bone tools are the subject of Campana (1991, no. 39) and Stordeur (1991, no. 40) ( in French); while Sellars (1991, no. 38) examines lithic tools. Unger-Hamilton (1991, no. 41) and Anderson (1991, no. 42) both used microwear analysis of stone tools to determine what plant species were harvested with them. Noy (1991, no. 43) describes decorative art in the Mount Carmel area while Belfer-Cohen (1991, no. 44) focuses on art objects from Hayonim Cave. Ornaments from the end of the Natufian are examined by Maréchal (1991, no. 45). Marine shells, which include shell ornaments, were examined by Reese (1991, no. 46) and Bar-Yosef (1991, no. 47).

For further information on individual works in this collection, see the abstract in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Sarah Berry

Architectural Features – can mean such things as walls, floors, hearths, pits, pavements, etc. - use "ARCHITECTURE (341)"

Aggregation of a band or other group - use "VISITING AND HOSPITALITY (574)"

Band aggregation – use "VISITING AND HOSPITALITY (574)"

Chamfered pieces (or chanfreins) – “a tool on which a broad transverse flake was removed from the distal end, using a platform shaped by a distal lateral direct retouch,” (Gilead 1991, no. 4, page 108). Use "LITHIC INDUSTRIES (324)"

Charcoal – use "FIRE (372)"

Construction Features – usually meaning walls, pavements, and pits - use "ARCHITECTURE (341)"

Digging – use "EARTH MOVING (332)"

Domestic Activity Area – use "HOUSEHOLD (592)"

Dunam – a unit of area used in the Ottoman Empire and still in use today. In Israel, Jordon, Lebanon, Palestinian Autonomous Areas, and Turkey it is equivalent to 1000 m².


Headdress – use "SPECIAL GARMENTS (292)"

Homo sapiens sapiens – use "GENETICS (143)"

Hypoplasia-a developmental defect of the tooth enamel - use "ONTOGENETIC DATA (145)"

Installations – hearths and structures - - use "ARCHITECTURE (341)"

Intensive Building Activity - – a phrase usually meaning walls, pavements, and pits - use "ARCHITECTURE (341)"

Microburins - use "LITHIC INDUSTRIES (324)"

Microburin Technique -use "LITHIC INDUSTRIES (324)"

Neanderthal - use "GENETICS (143)"

Pavements - - use "ARCHITECTURE (341)"

Sickles - use "COLLECTING (222)" with "GENERAL TOOLS (412)"

Sickle Polish - use "COLLECTING (222)"

Sickle Sheen - use "COLLECTING (222)"

Size of Territory – use "LAND USE (311)"

Substantial Architecture - – usually meaning walls, pavements, and pits - use "ARCHITECTURE (341)"

Territory size - use "LAND USE (311)"

Third Molar Agenesis – use "ONTOGENETIC DATA (145)"

Indexing Notes by

Sarah Berry

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