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Sheltered by reeds and settled on sedges: Construction and use of a twenty thousand-year-old hut according to phytolith analysis from Kharaneh IV, Jordan


This paper employs new phytolith evidence to consider how Early Epipaleolithic people at the site of Kharaneh IV (Azraq Basin, Jordan) used local plant resources to construct their huts, and furnish their indoor space. Forty-five sediment samples from Structure 1 were compared to previously published results (10 sediment samples) from the well-preserved site of Ohalo II (Hut 1) (adjacent to Sea of Galilee, Israel). Our results demonstrate that similar plant resources were employed in both sites’ hut constructions, including the heavy use of wetland sedge and reed resources. Interpreting the extensive use of wetland resources in hut construction at Kharaneh IV required the use of new ethnographic analogs focused on wetland-based adaptations, such as Northern Paiute ‘tule technology’ from the American Great Basin. The phytolith evidence shows that woody and shrubby dicots were employed, likely to construct the hut frame. Phragmites culm may also have been used to frame the structure. While a variety of grasses, wetland reeds, and importantly sedge resources, were used as part of the hut superstructure, perhaps as bundled thatching to cover the frame. In the interior these resources were employed as a loose floor covering or matting to increase the comfort of the living space. Our broader findings emphasize that Early Epipaleolithic hunter-gatherers were increasingly investing in ‘place’. Indeed, the construction of these early homes may even have enhanced the ecological productivity and social meaning of the Azraq Landscape.

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