In distant prehistory, along a branch of the Tigris River, a group of humans lived in a community “on the threshold of the Neolithic Revolution.” Near their open village at the rivers, Shanidar Cave, nestled in the Zagros Mountains, served as a base camp and also sheltered a burial site. Eleven thousand years later, archaeologists excavating the cave have discovered artifacts and skeletal remains that offer impressive evidence about their prehistoric culture and, specifically, about the origins of agriculture and trade. The thirty-five bodies in twenty-six burials and the associated artifacts recovered from the cave’s upper levels are systematically catalogued and described in this well-illustrated and carefully explicated report. Associated with the burials was a special assemblage of funerary goods and human remains that provide new clues to the familial relationships and lifestyles of these people of the 9th millennium B.C. The only prehistoric cemetery site of its kind east of the Mediterranean area, Shanidar Cave adds a new geographic perspective to the study of the Proto-Neolithic era, which has been dominated by findings from the more extensively investigated Levant area to the west. It suggests unexpected patterns of trade and cultural interactions and offers clues to the role of the Zagros-Taurus Mountains area in the prehistory of the Near East.This report has long been awaited by anthropologists who have followed the work of the Soleckis’ research team on the distant prehistory of Mesopotamia. The current inaccessibility of the region for further excavations (because of recent political developments in Iraq and surrounding countries) gives the material even greater value and significance.
About the Author
Ralph S. Soclecki is professor emeritus at Columbia University in New York City and an adjunct professor in the Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M University in College Station. His first professional position was with the Smithsonian Institution, under whose auspices he worked extensively in North America and the Near East. After joining the faculty of Columbia University, he continued archaeological field work in various countries of the Near East.Rose L. Solecki is a research associate at Columbia University and an adjunct professor at Texas A&M University in College Station. She participated in archaeological excavations sponsored by Columbia University in the New World, the Near East, and South Asia.Anagnostis, P. Agelarakis, is a professor of Anthropology and an archaeologist specializing in bio-archaeology and anthropological archaeology, with a focus on human paleopathology. He has carried out research projects with human skeletal remains and archaeological sites from Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean, Scania, American North East, and the Caribbean. Currently he serves as director of the Environmental Studies Program at Adelphi University.