Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 May 2019
The likelihood that Palaeolithic artisans sometimes used natural objects as models for their image-making has long been suggested, yet well-contextualized and stratified examples have remained rare. This study examines a series of natural and fabricated items from the Natufian settlement of Wadi Hammeh 27 in Jordan (12,000–12,500 cal. bc) to propose that the site occupants collected a variety of found objects such as fossils, unusually shaped stones and animal bones, which they utilized as templates in the production of geometric art pieces. Natural and fabricated objects were woven into complex schemes of relation by Natufian artisans. Existing patterns were copied and applied to a variety of representational images. Found objects were sometimes subtly modified, whereas at other times they were transformed into finished artefacts. The scute pattern on the tortoise carapace, in particular, appears to have formed the basis of important ritual beliefs across the Natufian culture area. At Wadi Hammeh 27, it was evoked in various media and at various scales to form interrelating tableaux of representation.