The Levant is an area of considerable environmental diversity, ranging from the thickly forested coastal mountains in the north-west, to the dry steppe and deserts of the south-east. Our knowledge of the Epipalaeolithic hunter-gatherer communities which inhabited the region through the late Pleistocene (24-12,000 cal BP) and of the development and spread of Neolithic farming communities during the early Holocene (12-7,500 BP) is heavily biased to regions which were either park woodland or steppic habitats through these periods. The Qadisha Valley Project was initiated to examine adaptations to an area which is thought to have served as a forest refugium. The valley drains the highest sector of the Lebanese Mountains to the south-east of Tripoli. These rise to over 3,000 m within 30 km of the sea.
The project was begun in 2003, with a geomorphological and archaeological survey of the valley, and was followed by three seasons of excavation at two adjacent caves at Moghr el Ahwal, which lies at about 620 m.
During 2004, excavations were undertaken in Cave 2 revealing three phases of prehistoric occupation. The earliest Geometric Kebaran (14,900 BP) included a partial human burial with grave goods. This was overlain by a Natufian occupation and cutting into this was a number of shallow pits containing disarticulated human remains, dating to the late Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (9,700 BP). An analysis of the faunal remains identified over 35 species, dominated by wild goat and forest species including roe and fallow deer and wild pig.
During 2005 and 2008, excavations were undertaken in the adjacent Cave 3, also revealing three well preserved phases of prehistoric occupation. These were Kebaran (19,000-20,200 BP), Geometric Kebaran (16,100 BP) and Natufian (14,100 BP). The analysis of material from these phases is still continuing.
The field research at Moghr el Ahwal, has provided valuable insights into hunter-gatherer adaptations to an area which is thought to have served as a forest refugium throughout the late Pleistocene and early Holocene. There are similarities in material culture to the Galilee and Mount Carmel areas in the southern Levant, but with a much stronger focus on the use of forest resources.
Articles on the project include:
- Garrard A. & Yazbeck C. (2013) The Natufian of Moghr el Ahwal in the Qadisha Valley, northern Lebanon. In O. Bar-Yosef & F. Valla (eds.) Natufian foragers in the Levant. Terminal Pleistocene social changes in western Asia. (pp. 17-27). Ann Arbor, Michigan: International Monographs in Prehistory.
- Garrard A. & Yazbeck C. (2008) Qadisha Valley Prehistory Project, Lebanon. The 2004-2008 Excavations at Moghr el-Ahwal. Bulletin d'Archéologie et d'Architecture Libanaises 12: 5-15.
- Garrard A. & Yazbeck C. (2004) Qadisha Valley Prehistory Project, Northern Lebanon: Results of 2003 survey season. Bulletin d'Archéologie et d'Architecture Libanaises 8: 5-46.
- Garrard A. & Yazbeck C. (2003) Qadisha Valley Prehistory Project, Northern Lebanon: Summary of first two seasons investigations. Bulletin d'Archéologie et d'Architecture Libanaises 7: 7-14.
Several public lectures and conference papers have been given on aspects of project. These include:
- Liverpool University, 2010
- Natufian of Levant Conference, Paris, 2009
- Ancient Levant Conference, UCL, 2008
- CBRL Lecture, British Academy, London, 2005
- British Academy
- Council for British Research in the Levant
- Leakey Foundation
- Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust
- Society of Antiquaries
- University of London Central Research Fund