Friday, May 13, 2011

Dating the end of Mass Gazelle Hunting on the Khabur River

Arial view of two circular stone "corrals" on the left, with the long V kite structures extending to the right

Researchers at the University of Haifa and at the Smithsonian announced in April their research on their detailed work that shows two desert kite structures at Tell Kuran in Syria's Khabur River Basin are dated to 5000 years ago.  Their work indicates that at one time, gazelles in the Syrian Desert were abundant and migrated from their breeding grounds near the Arabian peninsula in the south, to green pastures in the north, where they gave birth.  (Link)

The research emphasizes the past importance of the gazelle to people in the Khabur River Basin, as well as gives an indication of why the gazelle today is near extinction on the Arabian peninsula, Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq.  Tell Kuran is in the Ar'Raqqa - Deir Ezzor - Al Hasakah Archaeological Triangle on the Khabur River. It is a region of significant archaeological importance which has been inhabited at least since Lower Paleolithic.  Preliminary results of the prehistoric survey in the Khabur Basin, Syria:  1990-91 seasons, Nishiaki, et al. states:  "The Khabur basin is in fact an interesting region, which lies between the Levant and Mesopotamia, and on the margins of another cultural area in Anatolia and the Zagros."

The curious absence of arrowheads at some early Neolithic Tigris and Euphrates archeological sites, in combination with clear evidence for a large game diet, may be explained by such mass hunting/corral technologies. For example, at Nemrik, "The technique of hunting is less clear. There are bolas stones, but few ‘spear’ straighteners. Arrow heads are exceptional and exotic, occurring only in some burials." See Hunters of Nemrik, Molleson, page 6.

It is likely that the Tell Kuran desert kite find marks the beginning of the end of mass gazelle hunting in this region.  Its beginning surely extends at a minimum back to the period when hunters began experimenting with domestication 10,000 years ago.  See Domestication and early agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin:  Origins, diffusion and impact, Zeder.

Further Reading:
Gazelles caught in ancient Syrian "killing zones" (Link)

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