Burial Practices in the Southern Pre-Pottery Neolithic Levant

A Case Study of Ritual and Beliefs

Rituals and beliefs are part of one of the most important debates taking a place in prehistoric research, and there are many theories and hypotheses being developed in an attempt to understand the nature of beliefs during the Neolithic.

Material culture in the Neolithic period includes ritual buildings, statues, stelae, masks, figurines, burials, and various treatments of skulls. The study of burial practices as a part of mortuary custom is an important part of prehistoric archaeology. This study will focus on burial practice at 19 southern Levantine Neolithic sites (10500–7500 BP) to reach an understanding of the development of ritual practices based upon the study of burial context.

Archaeological excavations have uncovered spectacular evidence related to burial context: primary and secondary burials, grave goods and special treatment of the skulls. Study of archaeological publications indicates the presence of great variability in the evidence related to burial practices. A database is being created to include the different characteristics of the graves in the southern of Levant. This is essential for assessing the importance of the available materials and the study of literature dealing with this topic.

Through the study of several sites in the Neolithic of the southern Levant, which provide evidence for burial practices, it will be possible to define what the similarities and differences are. These results can lead us to estimate ritual and religious beliefs at that time, and open the possibility of reimagining of the culture’s pattern of burial practices and the differences and similarities between each site. After that will be an attempt to enlarge the investigations and comparing these results with the surrounding regions (northern Levant and southeastern Anatolia), and at the end to explore the possibility of defining the regional ritual patterns based on southern Levant.