(Chapter III, section 3)

The Natufians of Palestine

Compared with the continent of Africa, from the prehistoric standpoint, Asia is little known. So far, excavations have revealed implements of Mesolithic technique in Kurdistan and in Palestine,8 but only from the latter have Mesolithic skeletons been recovered. Here an Aurignacian culture lasted during the entire Late Pleistocene, and directly preceded the Mesolithic. Since Miss Garrod feels that this region was one of the main areas of differentiation of the Aurignacian cultural technique, it is very unfortunate that not a single Aurignacian skull has been published. Therefore, the very important question of the Late Pleistocene relationships of this key area must remain unsettled.

For the following period, however, at least two hundred skeletons have been exhumed from two different Mesolithic levels and from five or more sites. So far, only two of these skeletons have been published, one from each level. Great doubt is current at the moment concerning the exact nature of the physical types of this people, and we must await detailed publications in the near future before this matter may be settled.9

These Palestinians, who have been given the name Natufians, apparently differed in physical type from period to period. One of the two skeletons which has been published is that of an adult female from the earliest level at a site called Erg el Ahmar.10

The skull of this woman is large, robust, and thick-walled; it is purely dolichocephalic, and has an elevated cranial vault in which the height almost equals the breadth. The forehead, as with females of many races, is broad, straight, and rounded. The face, likewise, is broad, and of medium height; the nasal root, somewhat depressed, is hidden under browridges massive for a female, while the nasal bones project far forward, to form an accentuated profile.

The low, broad orbits of this specimen assume the rectangular form characteristic among most of the Upper Palaeolithic skulls from Europe and North Africa, while the orbital index is correspondingly low. The nose is high, narrow, and metrically leptorrhine; the nasal spine prominent, and the lower border of the piriform opening strongly crested. The mandible, of medium robusticity, possesses a prominent chin. The rugged beauty of this Natufian woman was, however, somewhat diminished by an abnormality of dental occlusion, for her lower incisors overlap the upper ones.

Morphologically, this skull is perfectly European and belongs Without question to the general Upper Palaeolithic type. It would also fit metri.. cally into the female range for this group. It would, however, fit equally well into the North African series of Afalou bou Rummel, except that it is somewhat narrower nosed than the females of that group as known at present.11 In the absence of data on Palestinian Aurignacian crania, one may suppose that the Aurignacian Upper Palaeolithic Neanderthal-sapiens hybrid developed in this neighborhood from Skhul-like beginnings, and that this Erg el Ahmar female is a survival of it.

The skulls from the later Natufian period, while exceedingly numerous, remain dubiously classified because of several conflicting ideas about them which have been published. Sir Arthur Keith12 in a preliminary report on the remains from Shuqbah and Kebara, states that the later Natuflans were short people, the males having a mean stature of 160 cm. and the females of 152 cm. The tallest male in the group was only 165 cm. in height. The hands and feet of these later Natufians were remarkably small, and their long bones were in no sense massive.

The skulls which Keith describes are of a peculiarly Mediterranean type, with a cephalic index ranging from 72 to 78, thus rivalling the subdolichocephalic head form of short statured Mediterraneans living today. The brain cases are of medium size, and the faces absolutely small. The lower jaws are also small and weakly developed, with little chin prominence and a prevalence of alveolar prognathism. The wide, low-vaulted nose, in combination with prognathism, gives a somewhat negroid cast to the face. The browridges are smooth, and the whole system of muscularity in the male but slightly developed. These late Natufians represent a basically Mediterranean type with minor negroid affinities.13 There was, apparently, a change of race during the Natufian. These small Mediterraneans must have brought their microliths from some point farther south or east, impelled by changes of climate.


8 Garrod, Miss D. A. E., BASP, No. 6, 1930, pp. 843.

9 Mr. T. D. McCown was, at the time of writing, engaged in working over a large collection of these skeletons under the direction of Sir Arthur Keith and intends to publish it shortly.

Vallois, Henri, V., Anth, vol. 46, 1936, pp. 529-543.

11 Some of the Mugharet el Wad crania, which belong to the earlier horizon, seem likewise to resemble those of the Upper Pleistocene. This comparison represents, however, a preliminary impression, and is stated only with reservations. Personal cornmunication by Mr. T. D. McCown.

Keith, Sir A., New Discoveries, pp. 202—214; PICP, 1932, pp. 46—47.

13 This impression is also confirmed by the French school.
Boule, Vallois, and Verneau, Les Grottes Palaeolithiques de Beni Séghoual, pp. 212—214.