Oxford Brookes University archaeologist Dr Sam Smith has made an important discovery in Jordon that suggest that some of the earliest buildings created by man might not have been simple dwellings, but community centres.

The findings suggest that 12,000 years ago our ancestors began to give up their nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyles and engaged in communal activities.  Previously, experts thought that people lived together in smaller family groups.

At 22 meters by 19 the building is very large for the Neolithic period.   The building also has an exceptionally large central area with a long meter-deep bench decorated by waves marked into the mud walls.   There is also a second tier of seating in some parts of the building which would have been ideal for social gatherings.  

‘The sheer scale of the site was truly amazing and the smooth and decorated mud plaster of the bench was very beautiful and well preserved. It highlights the importance of social processes and shows that corporate endeavour, even ideas like the ‘big society’ were issues which our ancestors were wrestling with 12,000 years ago,’ Dr Sam Smith of Oxford Brookes University and Co-author of the research paper, said.

The central area also contains a series of stone mortars set into plaster platforms on the floor, which may have been used to grind wild plants. Two other, smaller structures in nearby buildings are thought to have been storehouses for cereals and other food resources.

Many unusually decorated objects and carvings were found at the site, including human heads and wild animals.  The team also discovered that these people cultivated wild plants such as wild barley, pistachio, and fig trees, whilst hunting or herding wild goats, cattle, and gazelle.

‘What we learned through these excavations is that this stage of human development is far more complex than we had thought,” Dr. Smith said.

The findings were outlined by Dr Smith this week at the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that 12,000 years ago Neolithic man may have displayed more community spirit than archeologists had previously thought.