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SIGN - Dr. Marion Benz


  Dr. Marion Benz
  Project management of SIGN
  Department of Near Eastern Archaeology
  Albert-Ludwigs University
  Platz der Universität 3
  D-79085 Freiburg, Germany


The project: 'The principle of sharing - the segregation and construction of social identities at the transition from foraging to farming' financed by the Landesstiftung Baden Württemberg gGmbH and the Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg is part of the international research project SIGN - Social Identities of early neolithic Groups in the Near East.

 Abb. 1 The burials of Körtik Tepe, Prov. Diyarbakir,  Southeastern Anatolia, show a strongly differentiated  social organisation (Photo: Körtik Tepe Project  Photo Archiv).

The project is located at the Department of Near Eastern Archaeology of the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, Germany. Projectmanager is Dr. Marion Benz, Department of Near Eastern Archaeology, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. Participants are: Prof. Dr. Kurt Alt and Johanna Kranzbühler, M.A., Institute of Anthropology of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and Dr. Nabil Ali, Department of Archaeology of the Jordan University, Amman, Jordan as well as different international cooperation partners to which we owe our deepest thanks to grant us access to their material.

Project time-lines: 1.5.2007-31.3.2009

Abb. 2 Communal buildings such as the EA 30  (II/West) of the early neolithic village of Jerf el-  Ahmar, Syria, are architectural symbols of a more  complexly structured society (Stordeur 2000: fig.4).

The aim of the project is to reassess the hypothesis that during the process of neolithisation, before regular cultivation and herding could be permanently established, the general reciprocity, the principle to share with everybody, and open access to territories must be reduced to a circumscribed group. If so, our aim is to clarify on which criteria these groups are defined.

The hypothesis will be tested on three levels:



Abb. 3 Engraved shaftstraiteners and stones of Jerf el-Ahmar, in Syria, might be signs of remembrance (Stordeur 2000:52).

About the end of the project (Jan. 2009) an international meeting of archaeologists, physical and cultural anthropologists studying the social processes of the neolithisation will be held at the University of Freiburg to incorporate the results of the project into other international research projects.The three parties of the project work independently but in regular communication. The results will be compared at the end and only the combination of all three sub-projects will enable us to attain the results of the whole project.
The geographical extension comprises the countries of the so called fertile crescent. The anthropological sub-project will use a non-invasive method developed by Prof. Dr. Kurt Alt to deduce parental relationships on the basis of epigenetic characteristics on dental remains. Another part of the anthropological sub-project will be to deduce migration patterns by strontium and oxygen analyses on tooth enamel of selected individuals.
The chronological frame comprises the Natufian and chronologically related epi-palaeolithic groups and the prepottery neolithic groups of the Near East (PPNA/PPNB). For most of our analyses we will refer to already published material and will compare it in an intercultural analysis.

The results of the project will be published in national and international media. All cooperation partners contributing with their knowledge and support to our analyses will be co-authors of the publications referring to their information.
We are convinced that the project will be a further step to clarify the revolutionary process of neolithisation and the social identities of epi-palaeolithic and early neolithic groups in the Near East. It is a great honour and pleasure for us to be able to provide our results to the international research about neolithisation and we are obliged to all those who support our project.


Reference: D. Stordeur 2000. Jerf el-Ahmar et l'émergence du Néolithique au Proche Orient. In : J. Guilaine (ed.) Premiers paysans du monde. Naissance des agricultures. Errance : Paris. 33-60.



Alt, K.W., Benz, M., Müller, W., Berner, M., Schultz, M., Schmidt-Schultz, T.H., Knipper, C., Gebel, H.G.K., Nissen, H.J., Vach, W. Earliest Evidence for Social Endogamy in the 9,000-Year-Old-Population of Basta, Jordan. PLoS ONE 8(6): e65649. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065649

Benz, M. “ 'Little poor babies' – Creation of history through death at the transition from foraging to farming”. In: T. L. Kienlin, A. Zimmermann (eds.): "Beyond Elites" Universitätsforschungen zur Prähistorischen Archäologie 215 (Bonn: Dr. Rudolf Habelt) (2012) 169-182.

Benz, M. “The Principle of Sharing – An Introduction” and “Beyond death - the Construction of Social Identities at the Transition from Foraging to Farming”. In: M. Benz (ed.), The Principle of Sharing. Segregation and Construction of Social Identities at the Transition from Foraging to Farming. Studies in Early Near Eastern Production, Subsistence and Environment 14 (2010). Berlin, ex oriente.

Platz der Universität 3 (KG III)
79085 Freiburg
Telefon +49 (0) 761 203 3150




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