The Epipalaeolithic Foragers in Azraq Project (EFAP) focuses on developing a detailed understanding of hunter-gatherer behaviour in the Azraq Basin (Jordan), and placing this within the broader context of cultural transformation in southwest Asia at the end of the Pleistocene. We are investigating interrelated patterns of social behaviour, including mobility, inter-regional exchange, social organization, and palaeoecology, in order to understand how landscapes were socially constructed and ‘lived-in’ by human populations through a study of human burial practices, on-site activities, and use of the local landscape.
The research addresses aspects of both the spatial dichotomy established by the core-periphery models of cultural change at the origins of agriculture, as well as the exclusive focus on the late Epipalaeolithic. Models of the origins of agriculture based upon these ideas adhere to a stringent version of social evolution, which biases our understanding of culture change to a unilineal development from simple to complex. In this context, this project re-evaluates the existing models that explain complexity and social transformations during the final Pleistocene, and considers human action as both socially-constituted and influencing environmental change. While environmental conditions clearly played a role in the articulation and manifestation of cultural processes, we explore behaviour in the Epipalaeolithic as a process of niche construction and emphasize the dynamics of the relationship between environment and human activity. The project builds upon recent evidence based upon the work of our team members, that late Epipalaeolithic markers of social complexity, such as sedentism, cemeteries, and artistic expression, have an earlier origin, and tests whether these aspects of social and behavioural complexity are present at early archaeological sites in the Azraq Basin.