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PLoS One. 2011 Jan 26;6(1):e15815. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015815.

A unique human-fox burial from a pre-Natufian cemetery in the Levant (Jordan).

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  • 1Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.


New human burials from northern Jordan provide important insights into the appearance of cemeteries and the nature of human-animal relationships within mortuary contexts during the Epipalaeolithic period (c. 23,000-11,600 cal BP) in the Levant, reinforcing a socio-ideological relationship that goes beyond predator-prey. Previous work suggests that archaeological features indicative of social complexity occur suddenly during the latest Epipalaeolithic phase, the Natufian (c. 14,500-11,600 cal BP). These features include sedentism, cemeteries, architecture, food production, including animal domestication, and burials with elaborate mortuary treatments. Our findings from the pre-Natufian (Middle Epipalaeolithic) cemetery of 'Uyun al-Hammam demonstrate that joint human-animal mortuary practices appear earlier in the Epipalaeolithic. We describe the earliest human-fox burial in the Near East, where the remains of dogs have been found associated with human burials at a number of Natufian sites. This is the first time that a fox has been documented in association with human interments pre-dating the Natufian and with a particular suite of grave goods. Analysis of the human and animal bones and their associated artefacts provides critical data on the nature and timing of these newly-developing relationships between people and animals prior to the appearance of domesticated dogs in the Natufian.

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