Kharaneh IV is a very large Early and Middle Epipaleolithic site, located in the vicinity of the Azraq Oasis, some 70 kilometers (44 miles) east of Amman, Jordan. The site, which includes an area of ~21,000 square meters (~5 acres), is one of two very large sites within the Azraq Basin: the other is Wadi Jilat 6, similarly dated and 40 km (25 mi) to the west. Although there are other epipapelolithic sites in the Azraq basin, they are uniformly small and ephemeral.
Kharaneh IV was continuously occupied between ~20,000 and 16,000 years BP, and includes very dense archaeological deposits spanning the Epipaleolithic phases. Most importantly, the site appears to include evidence for very early hut structures, similar in dates to those from Ohalo II in Israel.
Houses at Kharaneh IV
Excavators at Kharaneh report the presence of two structures, represented by oval occupation floors, consisting of a 2-3 centimeter (1-1.5 inch) thick layer of compacted, clayey deposit. Structure 1 is an oval measuring 3.2x2.2 meters (10.5x72 feet). The clay layer is overlain by an organic-rich black layer with abundant charcoal, which the excavators believe represent the former superstructure, perhaps built of locally-available vegetation. Macro- and micro-botanical remains are currently (February 2012) being studied and have yet to be reported.
Inside Structure 1 were two fragments of groundstone, a quantity of red ochre and five articulated auroch lumbar vertebrae. Over a thousand pierced marine shells, imported from the Mediterranean (130 km [80 mi] to the east) and Red Sea (270 km [170 mi) to the south), were found in three distinct caches, each with a large chunk of red ochre.
Structure 2 has not been fully excavated, but it consists of a shallow, semi-circular depression dug into older cultural deposits. It has a light color clay, overlain by several overlapping organic-rich layers that represent hut floor re-use. At the edge of the hut was a cache of gazelle and aurochsen horn cores.
Living at Khanareh
While the Azraq basin today is a steppic environment, during the epipaleolithic occupation, the region was more moist and productive. Deposits at Wadi Jilat 6 suggests a diverse number of plant and animal resources surrounding several pools characterized the basin.
Plants identified at Wadi Jilat (botanical studies are not complete at Khanareh IV as yet, although they are likely to contain similar plants) include stipa grass, mullein, chenopodium, and sedges. Animals include gazelles, hares, foxes, wild horse or ass, tortoise, water birds, and fish. Gazelles make up fully 90% of the faunal assemblage at Khanareh IV, and researchers believe that gazelles visiting the pools in the basin may have been the initial attraction for the hunter-gatherers.
Two distinct chipped stone concentrations or caches including at least one core, several bladelets and the debitage (chips, flakes, blades) from the construction of the bladelets, were found in the 2 m (6 ft) space between the two huts. One cache also included a bone point.
A hearth was identified, with a grinding slab placed on its end on the southern edge. North of the hearth was a complete tortoise shell, a large rounded stone and four articulated fox paws, that researchers interpret as a pelt pouch.
Stone Tool Assemblage at Kharaneh IV
Muheisen's investigations recovered trapezoidal and quadri-trapezoidal blades as the dominant lithic tool, all made from single platform cores. This type of stone tool is related to Middle Epipaleolithic Geometric Kebaran stone tools, typically somewhat later than the calibrated dates would suggest. The calibrated dates, 18,600-18,800 cal BP (at the 65% confidence level) are Early Epipaleolithic, a discrepancy which the researchers suggest is due to problematic dating of the region (see Maher et al. 2011 for a discussion).
Archaeology at Kharaneh IV
Kharaneh IV has been studied by A.N. Garrard and N.P. Stanley Price. The first extensive excavations were conducted beginning in 1981, under the direction of Mujahed Muheisen; and the site was reopened in the mid-2000s by a British, Danish, American and Jordanian team led by Lisa Maher at UC Berkeley.Sources
Henry DO. 1986. The Prehistory and paleoenvironments of Jordan : An overview. Paleorient 12(2):5-26.
Jones JR. 2012. Using gazelle dental cementum studies to explore seasonality and mobility patterns of the Early-Middle Epipalaeolithic Azraq Basin, Jordan. Quaternary International 252(0):195-201. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2011.09.001
Maher LA, Richter T, Macdonald D, Jones MD, Martin L, and Stock JT. 2012. Twenty Thousand-Year-Old Huts at a Hunter-Gatherer Settlement in Eastern Jordan. PLoS ONE 7(2):e31447.
Maher LA, Banning EB, and Chazan M. 2011. Oasis or Mirage? Assessing the Role of Abrupt Climate Change in the Prehistory of the Southern Levant. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 21(01):1-30. doi:10.1017/S0959774311000011
Muheisen M, and Wada H. 1995. An Analysis of the microliths at Kharaneh IV, phase D, Square A20/37. Paleorient 21(1):75-95.