Marine exploitation, seafaring and cultural diffusion in Tabarja Wata Slam 100 (TWS 100), a Neolithic site on the Lebanese coast - ongoing

Corine Yazbeck

The Neolithic of Lebanon is poorly known when compared to adjacent countries; most recorded sites consist of find-spots where no stratigraphy was recorded. Few sites have been excavated and these are Tell Labwe south Nachcharini in the Beqaa and Byblos on the coast. In fact, Byblos was the only site where extensive excavations were undertaken. The Neolithic of Byblos is a pottery Neolithic and no Pre-pottery evidence was recorded. Consequently, TWS 100 represents the only site on the Lebanese coast (and possibly on the Levantine coast) with a sequence covering the Middle PPNB, the Late PPNB and the pottery Neolithic.

Before the discovery of TWS 100, it was thought that the Neolithic expansion started from the Damascus basin through the Beqaa and later on towards the coastal area. The substantial data gathered so far from TWS 100, strongly suggest it predates Tell Labwe south in the Beqaa, considered as the earliest Neolithic village in Lebanon. As confirmed by radiocarbon dating, the earliest occupation of the site dates back to 8960 ± 150 BP which corresponds culturally to the Middle PPNB. It is important to note that the Middle PPNB is a crucial phase of the Neolithic where evidence of crop cultivation and herding appeared.

In addition, the specific location of the site on the coast added to the nature of the data uncovered so far raises many questions regarding the relation between the Neolithic settlers and the sea not only as a natural resource of food (fish and molluscs) but also as a channel for the diffusion and expansion of culture and inventions (agriculture, domestication); a possible expansion towards Cyprus via maritime routes is one of these issues.

This research has several objectives; the first one consists of exploring the various aspects of the interaction between the occupants of TWS 100 during the Pre-Pottery and the Pottery Neolithic and the sea through a multidisciplinary approach. The second one consists of understanding the role of the site and therefore of the Lebanese coast in the development and the diffusion of the Neolithic lifeways (crop cultivation and animal husbandry) throughout the Levant. Part of this objective would be to understand the role of Tabarja as a harbour site for navigation linking the continent with the Mediterranean islands such as Cyprus. The third objective is to reconstruct the interaction between the continent and the islands inhabitants through the analysis of specific aspects such as the domestication of goats and swine and their introduction through maritime routes to the islands such as Cyprus.

More information about the work undertaken here by the HFF Lebanon team can be found here