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2019-04-22 16:39:20   •   ID: 2094

Outpost of a new Levantine Lifestyle: Sickle Blades from Fayum

Figure 1
Goring -Morris and Belfer-Cohen recently redefined the Levantine Neolithic:

We prefer to use the terms‘Early Neolithic’and‘Late Neolithic’ when referring to what is usually termed ‘Pre-Pottery Neolithic’and‘Pottery Neolithic’, respectively, since ceramics and pottery have been consistently reported within ‘Pre-Pottery’Neolithic contexts.

The ‘Early Neolithic’ encompasses the PPNA (ca. 9600 - 8750 cal. BC) represented by the ‘Khiamian’ and the ‘Sultanian’ entities, and the PPNB (ca. 8750 - 6900 cal. BC).

The ‘Late Neolithic’ comprises the ‘Yarmukian’ and ‘Lodian/ Jericho IX’ entities (ca. 6900 - 5500 cal. BC)
. What is clear is that parts of the Neolithic lifestyle entered Fayum relatively late.

Figure 1 shows bifacially pressure-flaked, unilaterally serrated sickle blades, with a retouched bifacial truncated base, a hallmark of the Fayum Neolithic-see here 1427 , here 1438 , here: 1225 and here 2087 .

They are part of elaborated bifacially- retouched tools that were present at Fayum in the middle of the 5th millennium cal. BC.

Caton- Thompson (1934) mentioned pointed and rectangular forms from the Fayum Neolithic.

The pointed and wide form was very common not only at Fayum (Kom K and Kom W for example) but also at the Levels II, III, IV and V of Merimde Beni Salama which are known to be present in the middle-late 5th millennium BC.

Narrow examples with coarse serration may be even earlier in date than the wide form with fine serration.

Not only sickles, but also large projectile points, axes, knives were made by bifacial technology during the Fayum Neolithic. Slightly after that, similar items appeared in neighbouring sites like Merimde Beni Salama and El-Omari, and this lithic tradition persisted in the Badarian culture of the 5th-4th millennia cal.BC in the Nile Valley of Middle Egypt.

The bifacial sickles had forerunners in the Levant during the late Neolithic ("Lodian"), while the concave-based arrowheads (Figure 2), and other tool classes were not related to faming, but attest hunting adaptions and are known neither in the southern Levant nor in the Egyptian Western Desert.

Sickle blades are apparently for harvesting cereal crops, and their first appearance in Egypt is most likely related to the diffusion of farming from the southern Levant to somewhere in Lower Egypt. The southern Levant has a long history of sickle blade making.

According to some synthetic studies of the development of sickle blades in the southern Levant sickle blades of the PPNA and PPNB were usually made from large blades or blade segments with slight lateral side serration, and thus their body form was narrow.

It was in the PPNC and Pottery Neolithic Yarmukian culture in the 7th millennium BC that sickle blades were made from blade segments or flakes and were sparsely and deeply serrated bifacially on one or two lateral sides though the body was not thoroughly pressure-flaked bifacially.

It was only in the Pottery Neolithic Lodian culture of the early middle 6th millennium BC that flakes were thoroughly pressure-flaked bifacially, and their one lateral side was densely and shallowly serrated. Their body form tended to be wide.

Such elaborate sickle blades declined in the southrn Levant in the subsequent Wadi Raba and Qatifian cultures of the late 6th - early 5th millennia BC, and coarse serration on one lateral side of a blade or blade segment became common
. (Shiai 2018).

Figure 2
The sickle blades of the Fayum Neolithic are most similar to those of the Lodian, but the sickle blade of the Lodian type disappeared in the southern Levant approximately 1000 years before they appeared at the type sites of the Fayum Neolithic mentioned above

How to explain the chronological gap between Fayum and the Lodian?- several propositions have been made, the most probable is that bifacial sickle blades appeared earlier than it can be proven by the limited C-14 data.

It remains unclear if the "Lodian" component at Fayum was the consequence of diffusion of ideas and / or people- but maybe Paleogenetic studies will settle this issue.