Before Farming

The role of foxes in the Natufian economy

a view from Mount Carmel, Israel

Before Farming (2009), 2009, (1), 1–15.

Abstract

The Natufian culture of the Levant represents a sedentary, terminal Pleistocene hunter-gatherer society. Excavations of Natufian hamlets yield rich faunal assemblages in which a significant rise in small carnivore frequencies is noted (mainly red fox, Vulpes vulpes). Fox frequencies remain high in the succeeding Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA). We use Late Natufian fox remains from the site of el-Wad Terrace (Mount Carmel, Israel) as a case-study to discern the depositional history and exploitation of foxes in the Natufian. Our analysis shows that it is likely that foxes were consumed for food and thus should be considered in analyses of Natufian diets. Moreover, it seems that foxes were not captured by the same methods nor using similar foraging opportunities as other fast small game species (eg, hares). We hypothesise that foxes were captured close to the sites which they approached for food. Thus, the constant rise in fox abundance from the early Epipalaeolithic to the PPNA could potentially reflect a parallel rise in site occupation intensity.

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Yeshurun, Reuven

Bar-Oz, Guy

Weinstein-Evron, Mina