Tuesday, February 8, 2011

More on the Fox Burial in Ancient Jordan

More details on the approximately 16,500 year old fox burial (the fox was buried in one grave, and later on divided and part of it buried in a second grave!) at  'Uyun al-Hammam, or "spring of the pigeon," discovered in the small river valley of Wadi Ziqlab in northern Jordan in 2000. 

Prehistoric Cemetery Reveals Man and Fox Were PalsCharles Q. Choi

LiveScience Contributor
livescience.com – Fri Feb 4, 10:35 am ET

Among the most fascinating additional facts are:
  • The Natufian culture was known to bury people with dogs. One case discovered in past excavations in the area involved a woman buried with her hand on a puppy, while another included three humans buried with two dogs along with tortoise shells.
  •  The new discovery at 'Uyun al-Hammam shows that some of these practices took place earlier with a different doglike animal, the fox.
  • At least 11 people were buried at the site in Jordan, most of whom were found with artifacts such as stone tools, a bone spoon and bone dagger, and red ochre, an iron mineral. One grave held the skull and upper right arm bone of a red fox, with red ochre stuck on its skull, along with bones of deer, gazelle, tortoises and wild cattle.(A neighboring grave with human remains also contained the nearly complete skeleton of a red fox, missing its skull and upper right arm bone, suggesting that a single fox had parts of it moved from one grave to another in prehistoric times). The presence of red ochre is significant in a religious/spiritual context.
  • Although foxes are relatively easy to tame, domesticating them might have failed because of their skittish and timid nature. This might explain why dogs ultimately achieved "man's best friend" status instead. However, fox symbolism and fox remains are quite common in later Stone Age sites, both in domestic and burial contexts, so even when other animals were domesticated, prehistoric people maintained an interest in the fox.

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