The discovery of a large, amphitheater-like guilding in Jordan is added to mounting evidence that the earliest permanent buildings were built for community use and not as homes for farmers as was previously thought.
The find, researchers say, suggests that during the advent of agriculture—a pivotal turning point that prehistorians call the Neolithic Revolution—early farmers may have come together first to engage in communal activities, and only later did they begin living together.
“This is definitely one of the most exciting discoveries in recent years associated with the [Neolithic] in the Near East,” says Nigel Goring-Morris, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.
Archaeologists have little doubt that the larger villages that crop up after about 10,000 years ago across the Near East—an area that includes modern-day Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and neighboring countries—were residential communities made up of individual family houses. At 9500-year-old Çatalhöyük in Turkey, for example, thousands of people lived in a tight, honeycomb-like cluster of mud-brick homes that they entered through holes in the roof, and hundreds of similar sites have been excavated across the region.
Story: Michael Balter, Science Magazine | Photo: David Oliver, WF16 Project