Monday, February 11, 2008

Fayum Neolithic update Here's more on that whole big Neolithic site linked to earlier. (this via the EEF) New stone age in Fayoum

At the site, known as Z-Basin, on the north shore of Lake Qaroun, an archaeological and geological team from University College of Los Angeles (UCLA) and Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (RUG) stumbled upon what is believed to be the most complete Neolithic settlement ever found in Fayoum. This discovery was made when the team was surveying the site to study fluctuations in the lake level which caused artefacts to be either covered with metres of sediment or dramatically displaced by erosion.

This site was previously excavated in 1925 by Gertund Caton-Thompson, who found several Neolithic remains. This time the magnetic survey revealed that the settlement was much larger than expected and that the area excavated by Thompson was only a fraction of the site.

Apparently, the earlier stories were conflating finds of Greco-Roman and Neolithic. I don't recall exactly the locations (don't have my references handy either), but either Caton-Thompson's Kom W and/or Kom K are located in Z Basin. This is one of the more major Neolithic sites in the Fayum and if C-T only excavated part of it, there could be significant stuff left to find.

There's been something of an odd dichotomy for the Neolithic in the Fayum. On the one hand, you've got some fairly substantial sites that C-T found, including grain silos and such that indicate a heavy reliance on agricultural products and silos that suggest a pretty good degree of sedentism. OTOH, Wenke's site in the southwest (see some summary here) seems a lot more reflective of mobile groups with a substantial reliance on wild flora and fauna and no structures at all. It's been something of a quandary how sedentary and dependent on domesticates the Neolithic Fayumis really were. If the Kom W/K site is really much larger it should provide a LOT more data.