In a recent article in Newsweek and in light of the upcoming holiday season, UCONN Professor of Anthropology, Natalie Munro, presents evidence for evidence of a 12000-year-old holiday feast in the Hilazon Tachtit cave in northern Israel. This archaeological site was discovered and excavated by Professor Munro and her colleague Dr. Leore Grosman of the Hebrew University in the late 1990s. The site includes, among other things, the tomb of a “shaman:” the special burial of an older woman whose fine construction, plastered walls, and “eclectic array of animal body parts,” especially carnivores such as leopard, marten, and eagle, set the burial apart from other graves in the cave, and indeed other contemporary sites in the Middle East.
Based on other artifactual indicators from the site as well as other contemporary archaeological sites, Dr. Munro and her colleague have interpreted this evidence as a feast associated with the transition to agriculture. According to the article, “[t]hese feasts had an important role to play. Adapting to village life after hundreds of millennia on the move was no simple act. Research on modern hunter-gatherer societies shows that closer contact between neighbors dramatically increased social tensions. New solutions to avoid and repair conflict were critical.”
The discoveries at Hilazon Tachtit were also published by Leore Grosman and colleagues in 2008 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.