Cambridge Archaeological Journal

Research Article

Interaction before Agriculture: Exchanging Material and Sharing Knowledge in the Final Pleistocene Levant

Tobias Richtera1, Andrew N. Garrarda2, Samantha Allocka3 and Lisa A. Mahera4

a1 Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, Snorresgade 17-19, 2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark Email:

a2 Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 31-34 Gordon Square, London, WC1H PY, UK,

a3 School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, 8 Kirkby Place, University of Plymouth, PL4 8AA, UK,

a4 Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, University of Cambridge, Fitzwilliam St, Cambridge, CB2 1QH, UK, Email:


This article discusses social interaction in the Epipalaeolithic of southwest Asia. Discussions of contact, social relationships and social organization have primarily focused on the Pre-Pottery Neolithic and are often considered to represent typical hallmarks of emergent farming societies. The hunter-gatherers of the final Pleistocene, in particular those of the Early and Middle Epipalaeolithic, have more rarely been the focus of such discussions. In this article we consider evidence for interaction from the Azraq Basin of eastern Jordan, to question the uniqueness of the Neolithic evidence for interaction. We argue that interaction between differently-constituted groups can be traced within the Early Epipalaeolithic of the southern Levant, suggesting that it is of far greater antiquity than previously considered.

(Received November 02 2009)

(Accepted June 15 2010)

(Revised September 29 2010)

(Online publication January 31 2011)

Tobias Richter is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Copenhagen. He studied archaeology at University College London (PhD 2005-2009) and the University of Wales Lampeter (MPhil 2002-2006, BA 1999-2002). His research interests include the Epipalaeolithic-Neolithic transition in western Asia, lithic technology, social learning theories, landscape archaeology and the post-medieval archaeology of the Persian Gulf.

Andrew Garrard is currently Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. He obtained his PhD on Palaeolithic food-procurement strategies in the Levant from the University of Cambridge in 1980. He was Assistant Director and subsequently Director of the British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History (1982-89) and has been a Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology since 1990. He has directed Palaeolithic and Neolithic survey and excavation programmes in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

Samantha L. Allcock received BA and MSc Archaeology degrees from University College London, in 2008 and 2009 respectively. She is currently studying for a PhD degree from the University of Plymouth in Geographical Sciences. Her work concentrates on the interactions between Holocene climate variability and past cultures within Turkey, with particular focus on the resilience and adaptability of past people.

Lisa Maher is a Research Associate at the University of Cambridge interested in late Pleistocene and early Holocene hunter-gatherer behaviour in the circum-Mediterranean region. She directs field work at two Epipalaeolithic sites in Jordan and a primary theme of her research involves using geoarchaeology, lithic analysis and mortuary archaeology to examine the interrelationships between people and their environment.