Colloquium: "Revolution in the Desert: The Rise of Desert Pastoralism and Cult in the Negev" by Steven A. Rosen
"Revolution in the Desert: The Rise of Desert Pastoralism and Cult in the Negev"
The discovery of well-preserved goat dung pellets in the Ramon I rock shelter in the central Negev, dated by radiocarbon to the 7th millennium BCE, marks the earliest appearance of domestic herd animals into the deep desert. It thus reflects the transition from hunting-gathering to herding, a desert equivalent of the Neolithic revolution in the settled agricultural zones farther north, occurring more than a millennium later than the domestication of goats in the farming zone. This revolution in the desert is accompanied by major changes in social organization, including the rise of centralized cult; in the Negev this is reflected in megalithic shrines and funerary structures, and complex symbol systems. Among other features, these symbol systems encompass elaborate cosmologies, as reflected in solstice alignments in the shrines. The structures and symbols embedded in the cult center at Ramat Saharonim suggest a close and perhaps mutually reinforcing relationship between the rise of desert pastoralism and cult.