Who Were the Natufians? A Dental Assessment of their Biological Coherency

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Joshua G. Lipschultz


The Natufians were complex, semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers who intensively exploited wild plant resources in the southern Levant 12,800 to 10,200 BP. They represent the human culturo-behavioral transition from simple, mobile hunter-gatherers to fully sedentary agriculturalists. The Natufians have been the subject of much archaeological and biological study because of their pivotal position in human prehistory. Previous studies of Natufian population biology, which employed osteometrics, craniometrics, and odontometrics, qualitatively supported the following archaeologically-defined hypothesis. Every human skeletal sample found at each Natufian site belonged to a biologically coherent populations. The present study tests the hypothesis of Natufian biological coherency by analyzing their dental morphology. The data were collected from nearly all available Natufian dental material, using the Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System. The results of the multivariate Mean Measure of Divergence statistical analysis support the biological coherency of the Natufian population.