Wadi Al-Naṭṭūf

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WADI AL-NAṬṬŪF , site of the first discovery of the prehistoric Natufian culture in Ereẓ Israel. Starting in the Judean hills c. 12½ mi. (20 km.) north of Jerusalem, Wadi al-Naṭṭūf joins Naḥal Ayalon in the coastal plain near Or Yehudah, and near the village of Shuqbā the wadi turns sharply to the southwest; on the northern side of this turn is the Shuqbā Cave, 72 ft. (22 m.) above the wadi-bed and 656 ft. (200 m.) above sea level. The cave, composed of three chambers, measures 131 × 131 ft. (40 × 40 m.); the vault, 82 ft. (25 m.) above the floor of the cave, contains two open chimneys.

The Shuqbā Cave was excavated in 1928 by D. Garrod in one of the earliest cave excavations in Ereẓ Israel. The cave was the first to reveal a Mesolithic cultural stage, dating to about 10,000 years ago, which Garrod called Natufian after the name of the wadi. Four stages were distinguished in the cave, including, from bottom to top: layer d, with an upper Mousterian industry; layer c derived from d and redeposited with abraded implements; layer b containing the Natufian industry; and the uppermost layer a with pottery dating from the Early Bronze Age to recent times. The Natufian of layer b is characterized by an important group of microliths – tiny stone implements – of which the majority are lunates (crescentshaped blades) and also including triangles, trapezes, and various small-backed blades. Among the non-microlithic artifacts were scrapers, gravers, borers, etc., as well as sickle blades which make their first appearance in the Natufian culture. Bone tools, mainly awls, are also typical of this stage. The Natufian tool kit is regarded as representing a more or less intensive collection of wild cereals in conjunction with the traditional food supply acquired through hunting and food gathering. The report that a domesticated dog was found in the Natufian culture at Shuqbā is dubious.


Garrod, in: Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 8 (1942), 1–20.

[Avraham Ronen]