Hunters and Gatherers on and in the Surroundings of Jebel Bishri

Generally speaking the sites on Jebel Bishri are characteristic of those occupied by mobile people, compared to the sedentary life in the Euphrates valley.

The Finnish project has found Lower and Middle Palaeolithic tools of ancient hunter-gatherers at a palaeolake formation at Nadra in the central eastern high plateau of Jebel Bishri and on the terrace ridges following the Euphrates. The earliest tools date hundreds of thousands of years back.

Photos: Michael Herles 2005 and Kenneth Lönnqvist 2004.
© SYGIS – Jebel Bishri, the Finnish Project in Syria

The Epipalaeolithic Natufian culture led to the first experiments in cultivation in the Levant. Ca. 100 hundred kilometres from the central areas of Jebel Bishri following the Euphrates upstream lies the village of Abu Hureyra (Phase 1b) that has provided the first signs of the hither-to-known domesticated rye dating 9000 B.C. Nearby oases such as El-Kowm have provided Natufian finds, and the Finnish project has discovered numerous camps with Epipalaolithic microliths including Natufian lunates on Jebel Bishri. These implements of the semi-sedentary Natufian hunter-gatherers, for instance microlithic lunates, were used for reaping, whereas arrow heads for the usage of hunting are also presented in the area of Jebel Bishri. Neolithic implements have been encountered as well.

QuickBird image illustrating a kite with curvilinear stone enclosures © Eurimage, SYGIS – Jebel Bishri, the Finnish Project in Syria

QuickBird satellite images of Jebel Bishri have revealed the existence of kites, that is, large V-shaped gazelle traps, which in addition to hunter-gatherers have also been used by local nomads. Kites are common in the arid zone extending from Sinai and the Negev through Eastern Jordan and Syria to Turkey, being especially prominent in the black desert of the eastern Jordan lava belt and dating from the Neolithic times onwards. Obsidian is included in the finds of Jebel Bishri indicating Anatolian contacts which may have led to gazelle hunting routes as far as to Göbekli Tepe in Turkey.

Later fixtures of hunters consist of inhabited rock shelters and a number of crescent-shaped hunting blinds found at Tar al-Sbai to ambush game. Nowadays rabbits are hunted by the local Bedouins.

A hunter’s blind for ambushing game at Tar al-Sbai. Photo: Juhana Saukkonen 2000. © SYGIS – Jebel Bishri, the Finnish Project in Syria