Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Between SW Asia and North Africa

Posted by Fredsvenn on March 20, 2015

The Mediterranean race

The Mediterranean race (sometimes Mediterranid race) is one of the sub-races into which the Caucasian race was categorized by most anthropologists in the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries.

According to various definitions, it was said to be prevalent in Southern Europe and Southeast Europe, in Western Asia, in North Africa, in the Horn of Africa, in Central Asia, in Latin America (through Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French and Lebanese ancestry), and in certain parts of the British Isles and Germany.

It is characterized by medium to tall stature, long (dolichocephalic) or moderate (mesocephalic) skull, a narrow and often slightly aquiline nose, prevalence of dark hair and eyes, and pink to reddish to light or dark brown skin tone; olive complexion being especially common.

These differentiations occurred following long-standing claims about the alleged differences between the Nordic and the Mediterranean people. Such debates arose from responses to ancient writers who had commented on differences between northern and southern Europeans.

For the Greeks and Romans, Germanic and Celtic peoples were considered wild red haired barbarians. Pseudo-Aristotle argued that the Greeks were an ideal people because they possessed a medium skin-tone, in contrast to pale northerners and dark southerners.

The Mediterranean race was traditionally regarded as one of the primary Caucasoid races next to the Nordic, Alpine and Armenoid (Beals and Hoijer, An Introduction to Anthropology – 1953).

The fact that Mediterranean peoples were responsible for the most important of ancient civilizations was a problem for the promoters of Nordic superiority. Giuseppe Sergi’s much-debated book The Mediterranean Race (1901) argued that the Mediterranean race had likely originated in the Sahara region in Africa, and spread from there to populate North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and the circum-Mediterranean region.

Sergi added that the Mediterranean race “in its external characters is a brown human variety, neither white nor negroid, but pure in its elements, that is to say not a product of the mixture of Whites with Negroes or negroid peoples.”

In his book The Mediterranean Race, Sergi also hypothesized that the Mediterranean, the African and the Nordic races all originated from an original Eurafrican species.

He explained his taxonomy as inspired by an understanding of “the morphology of the skull as revealing those internal physical characters of human stocks which remain constant through long ages and at far remote spots[…] As a zoologist can recognise the character of an animal species or variety belonging to any region of the globe or any period of time, so also should an anthropologist if he follows the same method of investigating the morphological characters of the skull[…] This method has guided me in my investigations into the present problem and has given me unexpected results which were often afterwards confirmed by archaeology or history.”

According to Sergi, the Mediterranean race was the “greatest race of the world” and was singularly responsible for the most accomplished civilizations of ancient times, including those of Greece, Rome, Phoenicia, Carthage, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia.

The four great branches of the Mediterranean stock were the Libyans, the Ligurians, the Pelasgians and the Iberians. Ancient Egyptians, Ethiopians and Somalis were considered by Sergi as Hamites, themselves constituting a Mediterranean variety and one situated close to the cradle of the stock.

To Sergi, the Semites were a branch of the Eurafricans who were closely related to the Mediterraneans. He also asserted that the light-skinned Nordic race descended from the Mediterranean race.

Later in the 20th century, the concept of a distinctive Mediterranean race was still considered useful by theorists such as Earnest Hooton in Up From the Ape (1931) and Carleton S. Coon in his revised edition of Ripley’s Races of Europe (1939). These writers subscribed to Sergi’s depigmentation theory that the Nordic race was the northern variety of Mediterraneans that lost pigmentation through natural selection due to the environment.

According to Carleton Coon, the “homeland and cradle” of the Mediterranean race was in North Africa and Southwest Asia, in the area from Morocco to Afghanistan. He argued that smaller Mediterraneans traveled by land from the Mediterranean basin north into Europe in the Mesolithic era. Taller Mediterraneans (Atlanto-Mediterraneans) were Neolithic seafarers who sailed in reed-type boats and colonized the Mediterranean basin from a Near Eastern origin.

He argued that they also colonized Britain where their descendants may be seen today, characterized by dark brown hair, dark eyes and robust features. He stressed the central role of the Mediterraneans in his works, claiming “The Mediterraneans occupy the center of the stage; their areas of greatest concentration are precisely those where civilization is the oldest. This is to be expected, since it was they who produced it and it, in a sense, that produced them”.

I. G. Seligman also asserted that “it must, I think, be recognized that the Mediterranean race has actually more achievement to its credit than any other, since it is responsible for by far the greater part of Mediterranean civilization, certainly before 1000 BC. (and probably much later), and so shaped not only the Aegean cultures, but those of Western as well as the greater part of Eastern Mediterranean lands, while the culture of their near relatives, the Hamitic pre-dynastic Egyptians, formed the basis of that of Egypt.”

In the USA, the idea that the Mediterranean race included certain populations on the African continent was taken up in the early twentieth century by African-American writers such as W. E. B. Du Bois, who used it to attack white supremacist ideas about racial “purity”. Such publications as the Journal of Negro History stressed the cross-fertilization of cultures between Africa and Europe, and adopted Sergi’s view that the “civilizing” race had originated in Africa itself.

By the nineteenth century, long-standing cultural and religious differences between Protestant northwestern Europe and the Roman Catholic south were being reinterpreted in racial terms.

In 2012, National Geographic Society released a new Genealogical DNA test which enables members of the public to participate in the Genographic Project. The test included a Mediterranean genetic component among its 43 reference populations.

The component was found at its highest frequencies in individuals from the Levant, North Africa, Southern Europe, the Caucasus and Iran – people from Sardinia (67%), Lebanon (66%), Egypt (65%), Tunisia (62%), Georgia (61%), Kuwait (57%), Greece (54%), Italy (54%), Iberian peninsula (48%), Northern Caucasus (46%), Romania (43%), and Iran (42%) in their reference populations. It is also found throughout the rest of Europe: Germany (36%), Great Britain (33%), Denmark (30%), as well as the Middle East and Western Asia.

According to the authors, this component is “likely the signal of the Neolithic population from the Middle East, beginning around 8,000 years ago, likely from the western part of the Fertile Crescent.”

The Armenoid type

In the racial anthropology of the early 20th century, the Armenoid type was considered a subtype of the Caucasian race. Carleton S. Coon wrote that the Armenoid racial type is very similar to the Dinaric race. The only difference is that Armenoids have a slightly darker pigmentation.

According to anthropologist Carleton Coon, the countries of the northern part of Western Asia, namely Anatolia (Turkey), the Caucasus, Iran, and the Levant, were considered the center of distribution of the Armenoid race.

Known as the “true” Caucasians, Armenoids were said to be found throughout Eurasia. However, the largest concentrations occurred within Anatolia, Transcaucasia, Iran, and Mesopotamia.

In the The Races of Europe Carleton Stevens Coon wrote: “It has long been believed by physical anthropologists that the quintessence of Near Eastern brachycephaly is to be found in the Armenians; the racial term Armenoid being named for them.

The Armenians have long been established in the territory which is now only partly theirs; they had, before the arrival of the Turks, a powerful kingdom, which covered most of the territory between the Gulf of Alexandretta and the Caucasus.”

The Dinaric race

Carleton S. Coon wrote that the Armenoid racial type is very similar to the Dinaric race, a term historically used to describe the perceived predominant phenotype of the contemporary ethnic groups of Southeastern Europe.

The concept of a Dinaric race originated with Joseph Deniker, but became most closely associated with the writings of Hans F. K. Günther and Carleton S. Coon. The name was derived from the Dinaric Alps (the western part of the Balkan Peninsula) which was supposed to be the principal habitat.

According to Jan Czekanowski, the Dinaric race is a mixed type consisting of Nordic race and Armenoid race, what he proves by anthropological research involving geographical data, cephalic index, and characteristic racial features.

Several theories were advanced regarding the genesis of the Dinaric race. Most researchers agreed that this race was autochthonous to its present habitat from the Neolithic period. Both Günther and Coon claimed that the Bell-Beaker people of the European Bronze Age were at least partially Dinaric.

Coon also argued, however, in The Origin of Races (1962), that the Dinaric and some other categories “are not races but simply the visible expressions of the genetic variability of the intermarrying groups to which they belong.”

He referred to the creation of this distinctive phenotype from the mixing of earlier separate groups as “dinaricisation”. In his view Dinarics were a specific type that arose from ancient mixes of the Mediterranean race and Alpine race.

According to the Dinaric model, Dinarics were to be found in the mountainous areas of Southeast Europe: Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Albania, Slovenia, Austria, part of northwestern Bulgaria, and northwestern Republic of Macedonia.

Northern and Eastern Italy was considered mostly a Dinaric area as well as western Greece, Romania, western Ukraine, southeastern German-speaking areas, and parts of southern Poland and southeastern France.

Mechta-Afalou

Mechta-Afalou or Mechtoid are an extinct people of North Africa. Mechtoids inhabited Northern Africa during late Paleolithic and Mesolithic (Ibero-Maurusian archaeological culture).

Mechtoids were assimilated during Neolithic and early Bronze Age by bearers of Afroasiatic languages. The Capsian culture, from the anthropological standpoint, is considered an indigenous development.

According to P. Sheppard & D. Lubel: “In summary the various lines of evidence, used to argue for derivation of the Capsian from the east, in fact suggest the opposite, and simpler conclusion of continuity between the Iberomaurusian and Capsian.

In the early Holocene as the Iberomaurusian populations moved inland to take advantage of the improved climatic conditions at the end of the Pleistocene adaptive divergence occurred resulting in inter-regional variability.”

The Iberomaurusian culture

The earliest blade industries in North Africa are called Ibero-Mmaurusian or Oranian (after a site near Oran). The industry appears to have spread throughout the coastal regions of North Africa between 15,000 and 10,000 BC.

The Ibero-Maurusian culture is a backed bladelet industry found throughout the Maghreb. The industry was originally described in 1909 by the French scholar Pallary, at the site of Abri Mouillah. Other names for the industry have included “Mouillian” and “Oranian”.

Recent fieldwork indicates that the culture existed in the region from around the timing of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), at 20,000 BP, until the Younger Dryas, a 1,300 year period of cold climatic conditions and drought which occurred between approximately 12,800 and 11,500 years BP (between 10,800 and 9500 BC).

The culture is succeeded by the Capsian, which was originally thought to have expanded into the Maghreb from the Near East, although later studies have indicated that the Iberomaurusian were the progenitors of the Capsian.

The Capsian culture

Between about 9000 and 5000 BC, the Capsian culture (named after the town of Gafsa in Tunisia) made its appearance showing signs to belong to the Neolithic and began influencing the Ibero-Maurusian.

The Capsian culture was a Mesolithic culture of the Maghreb, which lasted from about 10,000 to 6,000 BCE. It was concentrated mainly in modern Tunisia, and Algeria, with some sites attested in southern Spain to Sicily.

It is traditionally divided into two horizons, the Capsien typique (Typical Capsian) and the Capsien supérieur (Upper Capsian) which are sometimes found in chronostratigraphic sequence. They represent variants of one tradition, the differences between them being both typological and technological.

During this period, the environment of the Maghreb was open savanna, much like modern East Africa, with Mediterranean forests at higher altitudes. The Capsian diet included a wide variety of animals, ranging from aurochs and hartebeest to hares and snails; there is little evidence concerning plants eaten. During the succeeding Neolithic of Capsian Tradition, there is evidence from one site, for domesticated, probably imported, ovicaprids.

Anatomically, Capsian populations were modern Homo sapiens, traditionally classed into two variegate types: Proto-Mediterranean and Mechta-Afalou on the basis of cranial morphology. Some have argued that they were immigrants from the east, whereas others argue for population continuity based on physical skeletal characteristics and other criteria, et cetera.

Given its widespread occurrence in the Sahara, the Capsian culture is identified by some historical linguists as a possible ancestor of the speakers of modern Afroasiatic languages of North Africa which includes the Berber languages in North Africa.

Nothing is known about Capsian religion, but their burial methods suggest a belief in an afterlife. Decorative art is widely found at their sites, including figurative and abstract rock art, and ochre is found coloring both tools and corpses.

Ostrich eggshells were used to make beads and containers; seashells were used for necklaces. The Ibero-Maurusian practice of extracting the central incisors continued sporadically, but became rarer.

The Eburran industry which dates between 13,000 and 9,000 BCE in East Africa, was formerly known as the “Kenya Capsian” due to similarities in the stone blade shapes.

The Younger Dryas

The Younger Dryas stadial is thought to have been caused by the collapse of the North American ice sheets, although rival theories have been proposed. It followed the Bølling-Allerød interstadial (warm period) at the end of the Pleistocene and preceded the preboreal of the early Holocene.

It is named after an indicator genus, the alpine-tundra wildflower Dryas octopetala. In Ireland, the period has been known as the Nahanagan Stadial, while in the United Kingdom it has been called the Loch Lomond Stadial and most recently Greenland Stadial 1 (GS1). The Younger Dryas (GS1) is also a Blytt-Sernander climate period detected from layers in north European bog peat.

The Dryas stadials were cold periods which interrupted the warming trend since the Last Glacial Maximum 20,000 years ago. The Older Dryas occurred approximately 1,000 years before the Younger Dryas and lasted about 300 years. The Oldest Dryas is dated between approximately 18,000 and 15,000 BP (16000 to 13000 BC).

The Younger Dryas is often linked to the adoption of agriculture in the Levant. It is argued that the cold and dry Younger Dryas lowered the carrying capacity of the area and forced the sedentary Early Natufian population into a more mobile subsistence pattern.

Further climatic deterioration is thought to have brought about cereal cultivation. While there exists relative consensus regarding the role of the Younger Dryas in the changing subsistence patterns during the Natufian, its connection to the beginning of agriculture at the end of the period is still being debated.

The Mushabian culture

The Mushabian culture (alternately, Mushabi or Mushabaean) is an Archaeological culture suggested to have originated east of the Levantine Rift Valley c. 14,000 BC in the Middle Epipaleolithic period. Although the Mushabian industry was once thought to have originated in the Nile Valley it is now known to have originated in the previous lithic industries of the Levant.

The migration of farmers from the Middle East into Europe is believed to have significantly influenced the genetic profile of contemporary Europeans. The Natufian culture which existed about 12,000 years ago in the Levant, has been the subject of various archeological investigations as the Natufian culture is generally believed to be the source of the European and North African Neolithic.

The Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert were formidable barriers to gene flow between Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe. But Europe was periodically accessible to Africans due to fluctuations in the size and climate of the Sahara. At the Strait of Gibraltar, Africa and Europe are separated by only 15 km of water.

At the Suez, Eurasia is connected to Africa forming a single land mass. The Nile river valley, which runs from East Africa to the Mediterranean Sea served as a bidirectional corridor in the Sahara desert, that frequently connected people from Sub-Saharan Africa with the peoples of Eurasia.

According to Bar-Yosef the Natufian culture emerged from the mixing of the Geometric Kebaran (indigenous to the Levant) and the Mushabian (also indigenous to the Levant). Modern analyses comparing 24 craniofacial measurements reveal a predominantly cosmopolitan population within the pre-Neolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age Fertile Crescent, supporting the view that a diverse population of peoples occupied this region during these time periods.

In particular, evidence demonstrates the presence of North European, Central European, Saharan and strong Sub-Saharan African presence within the region, especially among the Epipalaeolithic Natufians of Israel.

These studies further argue that over time the Sub-Saharan influences would have been “diluted” out of the genetic picture due to interbreeding between Neolithic migrants from the Near East and indigenous hunter-gatherers whom they came in contact with.

Ricaut et al. (2008) associate the Sub-Saharan influences detected in the Natufian samples with the migration of E1b1b lineages from East Africa to the Levant and then into Europe. Entering the late mesolithic Natufian culture, the E1b1b1a2 (E-V13) sub-clade has been associated with the spread of farming from the Middle East into Europe either during or just before the Neolithic transition. E1b1b1 lineages are found throughout Europe but are distributed along a South-to-North cline, with a E1b1b1a mode in the Balkans.

“Recently, it has been proposed that E3b originated in sub-Saharan Africa and expanded into the Near East and northern Africa at the end of the Pleistocene. E3b lineages would have then been introduced from the Near East into southern Europe by immigrant farmers, during the Neolithic expansion”.”

Also, “a Mesolithic population carrying Group III lineages with the M35/M215 mutation expanded northwards from sub-Saharan to North Africa and the Levant. The Levantine population of farmers that dispersed into Europe during and after the Neolithic carried these African Group III M35/M215 lineages, together with a cluster of Group VI lineages characterized by M172 and M201 mutations”.

The Kebaran culture

The Kebaran or Kebarian culture was an archaeological culture in the eastern Mediterranean area (c. 18,000 to 12,500 BC), named after its type site, Kebara Cave south of Haifa. The Kebaran were a highly mobile nomadic population, composed of hunters and gatherers in the Levant and Sinai areas who utilized microlithic tools.

The Kebaran is the last Upper Paleolithic phase of the Levant (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine). The Kebarans were characterized by small, geometric microliths, and were thought to lack the specialized grinders and pounders found in later Near Eastern cultures.

The Kebaran is preceded by the Athlitian phase of the Antelian, an Upper Paleolithic phase of the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine) that evolves from Emirian, and followed by the proto-agrarian Natufian culture of the Epipalaeolithic. The Kebaran is also characterised by the earliest collecting of wild cereals, known due to the uncovering of grain grinding tools. It was the first step towards the Neolithic Revolution.

The Kebaran people are believed to have practiced dispersal to upland environments in the summer, and aggregation in caves and rockshelters near lowland lakes in the winter. This diversity of environments may be the reason for the variety of tools found in their toolkits.

Situated in the Terminal Pleistocene, the Kebaran is classified as an Epipalaeolithic society. They are generally thought to have been ancestral to the later Natufian culture that occupied much of the same range.

The Natufian culture

The Natufian, an Epipaleolithic culture that existed from 13,000 to 11,000 BC. in the Levant, a region in the Eastern Mediterranean, developed in the same region as the earlier Kebaran complex, and is generally seen as a successor which developed from at least elements within that earlier culture. It was unusual in that it was sedentary, or semi-sedentary, before the introduction of agriculture.

There were also other cultures in the region, such as the Mushabian culture of the Negev and Sinai, which are sometimes distinguished from the Kebaran, and sometimes also seen as having played a role in the development of the Natufian.

More generally there has been discussion of the similarities of these cultures with those found in coastal North Africa. Graeme Barker notes there are: “similarities in the respective archaeological records of the Natufian culture of the Levant and of contemporary foragers in coastal North Africa across the late Pleistocene and early Holocene boundary”.

Ofer Bar-Yosef has argued that there are signs of influences coming from North Africa to the Levant, citing the microburin technique and “microlithic forms such as arched backed bladelets and La Mouillah points.”

But recent research has shown that the presence of arched backed bladelets, La Mouillah points, and the use of the microburin technique was already apparent in the Nebekian industry of the Eastern Levant.

And Maher et al. state that, “Many technological nuances that have often been always highlighted as significant during the Natufian were already present during the Early and Middle EP [Epipalaeolithic] and do not, in most cases, represent a radical departure in knowledge, tradition, or behavior.”

Authors such as Christopher Ehret have built upon the little evidence available to develop scenarios of intensive usage of plants having built up first in North Africa, as a precursor to the development of true farming in the Fertile Crescent, but such suggestions are considered highly speculative until more North African archaeological evidence can be gathered.

In fact, Weiss et al. have shown that the earliest known intensive usage of plants was in the Levant 23,000 years ago at the Ohalo II site.

Anthropologist C. Loring Brace in a recent study on cranial metric traits however, was also able to identify a “clear link” to Sub-Saharan African populations for early Natufians based on his observation of gross anatomical similarity with extant populations found mostly in the Sahara. Brace believes that these populations later became assimilated into the broader continuum of Southwest Asian populations.

According to Bar-Yosef and Belfer-Cohen, “It seems that certain preadaptive traits, developed already by the Kebaran and Geometric Kebaran populations within the Mediterranean park forest, played an important role in the emergence of the new socioeconomic system known as the Natufian culture.”

The period is commonly split into two subperiods: Early Natufian (12,500–10,800 BC) and Late Natufian (10,800–9500 BC). The Late Natufian most likely occurred in tandem with the Younger Dryas (10,800 to 9500 BC). In the Levant, there are more than a hundred kinds of cereals, fruits, nuts and other edible parts of plants, and the flora of the Levant during the Natufian period was not the dry, barren, and thorny landscape of today, but woodland.

The Natufian communities are possibly the ancestors of the builders of the first Neolithic settlements of the region, which may have been the earliest in the world. There is some evidence for the deliberate cultivation of cereals, specifically rye, by the Natufian culture, at the Tell Abu Hureyra site, the site for earliest evidence of agriculture in the world. Generally, though, Natufians made use of wild cereals. Animals hunted included gazelles.

According to one theory, it was a sudden change in climate, the Younger Dryas event (ca. 10,800 to 9500 BC), that inspired the development of agriculture. The Younger Dryas was a 1,000-year-long interruption in the higher temperatures prevailing since the Last Glacial Maximum, which produced a sudden drought in the Levant.

This would have endangered the wild cereals, which could no longer compete with dryland scrub, but upon which the population had become dependent to sustain a relatively large sedentary population. By artificially clearing scrub and planting seeds obtained from elsewhere, they began to practice agriculture. However, this theory of the origin of agriculture is controversial in the scientific community.

The Natufian had a microlithic industry, based on short blades and bladelets. The microburin technique was used. Geometric microliths include lunates, trapezes and triangles. There are backed blades as well. A special type of retouch (Helwan retouch) is characteristic for the early Natufian. In the late Natufian, the Harif-point, a typical arrowhead made from a regular blade, became common in the Negev. Some scholars use it to define a separate culture, the Harifian.

Sickle blades appear for the first time. The characteristic sickle-gloss shows that they have been used to cut the silica-rich stems of cereals and form an indirect proof for incipient agriculture. Shaft straighteners made of ground stone indicate the practice of archery. There are heavy ground-stone bowl mortars as well.

While the period involved makes it difficult to speculate on any language associated with the Natufian culture, linguists who believe it is possible to speculate this far back in time have written on this subject. As with other Natufian subjects, opinions tend to either emphasize North African connections or Eurasian connections.

Hence, Alexander Militarev and others have argued that the Natufian may represent the culture which spoke Proto-Afroasiatic which he in turn believes has a Eurasian origin associated with the concept of Nostratic languages.

Some scholars, for example Christopher Ehret, Roger Blench and others, contend that the Afroasiatic Urheimat is to be found in North or North East Africa, probably in the area of Egypt, the Sahara, Horn of Africa or Sudan. Within this group, Ehret, who like Militarev believes Afroasiatic may already have been in existence in the Natufian period, would associate Natufians only with the Near Eastern pre-Proto-Semitic branch of Afroasiatic.

The Harifian culture

During the period of 8500–7500 BC, another hunter-gatherer group, showing clear affinities with the cultures of Egypt (particularly the Outacha retouch technique for working stone) was in Sinai.

The Harifian is a specialized regional cultural development of the Epipalaeolithic of the Negev Desert. It corresponds to the latest stages of the Natufian culture. Like the Natufian, it is characterized by semi-subterranean houses. These are often more elaborate than those found at Natufian sites. For the first time arrowheads are found among the stone tool kit.

Andy Burns states “The Harifian dates to between approximately 10,800/10,500bp and 10,000/10,200bp. It is restricted to the Sinai and Negev, and is probably broadly contemporary with the Late Natufian or Pre-Pottery Neolithic A.

Microlithic points are a characteristic feature of the industry, with the Harif point being both new and particularly diagnostic – Bar-Yosef (1998) suggests that it is an indication of improved hunting techniques.

Lunates, isosceles and other triangular forms were backed with retouch, and some Helwan lunates are found. This industry contrasts with the Desert Natufian which did not have the roughly triangular points in its assemblage.

There are two main groups within the Harifian. One group consists of ephemeral base camps in the north of Sinai and western Negev, where stone points comprise up to 88% of all microliths, accompanied by only a few lunates and triangles.

The other group consists of base camps and smaller campsites in the Negev and features a greater number of lunates and triangles than points. These sites probably represent functional rather than chronological differences. The presence of Khiam points in some sites indicates that there was communication with other areas in the Levant at this time.”

Harifian has close connections with the late Mesolithic cultures of Fayyum and the Eastern Deserts of Egypt, whose tool assemblage resembles that of the Harifian. Fusion with animal domestication elements of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) culture is hypothesised by Juris Zarins, to have led to the Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex, a group of cultures that invented nomadic pastoralism, and may have been the original culture which spread Proto-Semitic languages throughout the region.

This Harifian culture may have adopted the use of pottery from the Isnan culture and Helwan culture of Egypt (which lasted from 9000 to 4500 BC), and subsequently fused with elements from the PPNB culture during the climatic crisis of 6000 BC to form what Juris Zarins calls the Syro-Arabian pastoral technocomplex, which saw the spread of the first Nomadic pastoralists in the Ancient Near East.

These extended southwards along the Red Sea coast and penetrating the Arabian bifacial cultures, which became progressively more Neolithic and pastoral, and extending north and eastwards, to lay the foundations for the tent-dwelling Martu and Akkadian peoples of Mesopotamia.

In the Amuq valley of Syria, PPNB culture seems to have survived, influencing further cultural developments further south. Nomadic elements fused with PPNB to form the Minhata Culture and Yarmukian Culture which were to spread southwards, beginning the development of the classic mixed farming Mediterranean culture, and from 5600 BC were associated with the Ghassulian culture of the region, the first chalcolithic culture of the Levant. This period also witnessed the development of megalithic structures, which continued into the Bronze Age.

The Khiamian culture

The Khiamian (also referred to as El Khiam or El-Khiam) is a period of the Near-Eastern Neolithic, marking the transition between the Natufian and the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A. Some sources date it from about 10,000 to 9,500 BCE. It currently dates between 10,200 and 8800 BC according to the ASPRO chronology.

The Khiamian owes its name to the site of El Khiam, situated on banks of the Dead Sea, where researchers have recovered the oldest chert arrows heads, with lateral notchs, the so-called “El Khiam points”. They have served to identify sites of this period, which are found in Israel, as well as in Jordan (Azraq), Sinai (Abu Madi), and to the north as far as the Middle Euphrates (Mureybet).

Aside from the appearance of El Khiam arrow heads, the Khiamian is placed in the continuity of the Natufian, without any major technical innovations. However, for the first time houses were built on the ground level itself, and not half below ground as was previously done.

Otherwise, the bearers of the El Khiam culture were still hunter-gatherers, and agriculture at that time was then still rather primitive, based on what has been reported on sites of this period. Newer discoveries show that in the Middle East and Anatolia some experiments with agriculture were being made by 10,900 BC. and that there may already have been experimenting with wild grain processing by around 19,000 BC at Ohalo II.

The Khiamien also sees a change occur in the symbolic aspects of culture, as evidenced by the appearance of small female statuettes, as well as by the burying of aurochs skulls. According to Jacques Cauvin, it is the beginning of the worship of the Woman and the Bull, as evidenced in the following periods of the Near-Eastern Neolithic.

Pre Pottery Neolithic

Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) denotes the first stage in early Levantine and Anatolian Neolithic culture, dating around 8000 to 7000 BC. Archaeological remains are located in the Levantine and upper Mesopotamian region of the Fertile Crescent. The time period is characterized by tiny circular mud brick dwellings, the cultivation of crops, the hunting of wild game, and unique burial customs in which bodies were buried below the floors of dwellings.

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and the following Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) were originally defined by Kathleen Kenyon in the type site of Jericho (Palestine). During this time, pottery was not in use yet. They precede the ceramic Neolithic (Yarmukian). PPNA succeeds the Natufian culture of the Epipaleolithic (Mesolithic).

Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) denotes the first stage in early Levantine and Anatolian Neolithic culture, dating around 8000 to 7000 BC. Archaeological remains are located in the Levantine and upper Mesopotamian region of the Fertile Crescent. The time period is characterized by tiny circular mud brick dwellings, the cultivation of crops, the hunting of wild game, and unique burial customs in which bodies were buried below the floors of dwellings.

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and the following Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) were originally defined by Kathleen Kenyon in the type site of Jericho (Palestine). During this time, pottery was not in use yet. They precede the ceramic Neolithic (Yarmukian). PPNA succeeds the Natufian culture of the Epipaleolithic (Mesolithic).

Sedentism of this time allowed for the cultivation of local grains, such as barley and wild oats, and for storage in granaries. Sites such as Dhra′ and Jericho retained a hunting lifestyle until the PPNB period, but granaries allowed for year-round occupation.

This period of cultivation is considered “pre-domestication”, but may have begun to develop plant species into the domesticated forms they are today. Deliberate, extended-period storage was made possible by the use of “suspended floors for air circulation and protection from rodents”. This practice “precedes the emergence of domestication and large-scale sedentary communities by at least 1,000 years”.

Granaries are positioned in places between other buildings early on 9500 BC. However beginning around 8500 BC, they were moved inside houses, and by 7500 BC storage occurred in special rooms. This change might reflect changing systems of ownership and property as granaries shifted from a communal use and ownership to become under the control of households or individuals.

It has been observed of these granaries that their “sophisticated storage systems with subfloor ventilation are a precocious development that precedes the emergence of almost all of the other elements of the Near Eastern Neolithic package—domestication, large scale sedentary communities, and the entrenchment of some degree of social differentiation”. Moreover, “Building granaries may … have been the most important feature in increasing sedentism that required active community participation in new life-ways”.

Like the earlier PPNA people, the PPNB culture developed from the Earlier Natufian but shows evidence of a northerly origin, possibly indicating an influx from the region of north eastern Anatolia. The culture disappeared during the 8.2 kiloyear event, a term that climatologists have adopted for a sudden decrease in global temperatures that occurred approximately 8,200 years before the present, or c. 6200 BCE, and which lasted for the next two to four centuries.

In the following Munhatta and Yarmukian post-pottery Neolithic cultures that succeeded it, rapid cultural development continues, although PPNB culture continued in the Amuq valley, where it influenced the later development of Ghassulian culture.

The Neolithic period is traditionally divided to the Pre-Pottery (A and B) and Pottery phases. PPNA developed from the earlier Natufian cultures of the area. This is the time of the agricultural transition and development of farming economies in the Near East, and the region’s first known megaliths (and Earth’s oldest known megalith, other than Gobekli Tepe, which is in the Northern Levant and from an unknown culture) with a burial chamber and tracking of the sun or other stars.

In addition, the Levant in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic was involved in large scale, far reaching trade. Obsidian found in the Chalcolithic levels at Gilat, Israel have had their origins traced via elemental analysis to three sources in Southern Anatolia: Hotamis Dağ, Göllü Dağ, and as far east as Nemrut Dağ itself 500 km East of the other two sources. This is indicative of a very large trade circle reaching as far as the Northern Fertile Crescent at Nemrut Dağ and as far North as Hotamis Dağ.

The Ghassulian period created the basis of the Mediterranean economy which has characterised the area ever since. A Chalcolithic culture, the Ghassulian economy was a mixed agricultural system consisting of extensive cultivation of grains (wheat and barley), intensive horticulture of vegetable crops, commercial production of vines and olives, and a combination of transhumance and nomadic pastoralism.

Y Chromosome J Haplogroups trace post glacial period expansion from Turkey and Caucasus into the Middle East confirms what I have argued about, i.e., that the West Asian highlands are responsible for the spread of haplogroup J, including, it seems into the Middle East itself. The chronology presented probably assumes the evolutionary mutation rate; also, the lack of haplogroup J in Europe pre-5ka argues for a late expansion.

Out of this West Asian highlander population came the two dominant groups of West Eurasian prehistory, the Indo-Europeans and the Semites, their spread associated with a “metallurgical edge” in technology and social complexity during the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age.

The latter probably picked their language from a T- or E-bearing population of the southern Levant as these two haplogroups might link the Proto-Semites with their African Afroasiatic brethren.

The interaction between african afroasiatic speakers and PPNB agro-pastoralists fits within the spectrum of Juris Zarins Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex which supposedly spread Semitic throughout the area.

It is also simplistic to assume that these PPNB populations simply shifted their language, as PS is hypothesized to have had early ergative features (some of which can be observed in Aramaic)… Typologically, this is proves to be an interesting link to Northeast Caucasian languages which also exhibit extensive properties (and whose speakers have high J-M267 frequencies).

The J1 people who stayed behind in the north (and didn’t mix with the E/T Afroasiatics) continued to speak their own languages (perhaps some type of Northeast Caucasian-type language or others that are now extinct).

Ghassulian refers to a culture and an archaeological stage dating to the Middle Chalcolithic Period in the Southern Levant (c. 3800–c. 3350 BC). Considered to correspond to the Halafian culture of North Syria and Mesopotamia, its type-site, Tulaylat al-Ghassul, is located in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea in modern Jordan and was excavated in the 1930s. It seems that Ghassulian culture was an extension Zarin’s Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex coupled with the Amuq valley’s relic PPNB culture.

The Ghassulian stage was characterized by small hamlet settlements of mixed farming peoples, and migrated southwards from Syria into Palestine Canaan. Houses were trapezoid-shaped and built mud-brick, covered with remarkable polychrome wall paintings.

Their pottery was highly elaborate, including footed bowls and horn-shaped drinking goblets, indicating the cultivation of wine. Several samples display the use of sculptural decoration or of a reserved slip (a clay and water coating partially wiped away while still wet). The Ghassulians were a Chalcolithic culture as they also smelted copper. Funerary customs show evidence that they buried their dead in stone dolmens.

Ghassulian culture has been identified at numerous other places in what is today southern Israel, especially in the region of Beersheba. The Ghassulian culture correlates closely with the Amratian of Egypt and may have had trading affinities (e.g., the distinctive churns, or “bird vases”) with early Minoan culture in Crete.

Work at the site of ‘Ain Ghazal in Jordan has indicated a later Pre-Pottery Neolithic C period. Juris Zarins has proposed that a Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex developed in the period from the climatic crisis of 6200 BCE, partly as a result of an increasing emphasis in PPNB cultures upon domesticated animals, and a fusion with Harifian hunter gatherers in the Southern Levant, with affiliate connections with the cultures of Fayyum and the Eastern Desert of Egypt. Cultures practicing this lifestyle spread down the Red Sea shoreline and moved east from Syria into southern Iraq.

Cardium Pottery or Cardial Ware is a Neolithic decorative style that gets its name from the imprinting of the clay with the shell of the cockle, an edible marine mollusk, formerly Cardium edulis, now Cerastoderma edule. These forms of pottery are in turn used to define the Neolithic culture which produced and spread them, mostly commonly called the “Cardial Culture”.

The alternative name Impressed Ware is given by some archaeologists to define this culture, because impressions can be with sharp objects other than cockle shell, such as a nail or comb.

This pottery style gives its name to the main culture of the Mediterranean Neolithic: Cardium Pottery Culture or Cardial Culture, or Impressed Ware Culture, which eventually extended from the Adriatic sea to the Atlantic coasts of Portugal and south to Morocco.

Older Neolithic cultures existed already at this time in eastern Greece and Crete, apparently having arrived from the Levant, but they appear distinct from the Cardial or Impressed Ware culture. The ceramic tradition in the central Balkans also remained distinct from that along the Adriatic coastline in both style and manufacturing techniques for almost 1,000 years from the 6th millennium BC.

Early Neolithic impressed pottery is found in the Levant, and certain parts of Anatolia, including Mezraa-Teleilat, and in North Africa at Tunus-Redeyef, Tunisia. So the first Cardial settlers in the Adriatic may have come directly from the Levant.

Of course it might equally well have come directly from North Africa, and impressed-pottery also appears in Egypt. Along the East Mediterranean coast Impressed Ware has been found in North Syria, Palestine and Lebanon.

North African Neolithic

During the Neolithic Era, before the onset of desertification, around 9500 BCE the central Sudan had been a rich environment supporting a large population ranging across what is now barren desert, like the Wadi el-Qa’ab. By the 5th millennium BCE, the people who inhabited what is now called Nubia, were full participants in the “agricultural revolution”, living a settled lifestyle with domesticated plants and animals. Saharan rock art of cattle and herdsmen suggests the presence of a cattle cult like those found in Sudan and other pastoral societies in Africa today.

Megaliths found at Nabta Playa are overt examples of probably the world’s first known archaeoastronomy devices, predating Stonehenge by some 2,000 years. This complexity, as observed at Nabta Playa, and as expressed by different levels of authority within the society there, likely formed the basis for the structure of both the Neolithic society at Nabta and the Old Kingdom of Egypt.

By 6000 BCE predynastic Egyptians in the southwestern corner of Egypt were herding cattle and constructing large buildings. Subsistence in organized and permanent settlements in predynastic Egypt by the middle of the 6th millennium BCE centered predominantly on cereal and animal agriculture: cattle, goats, pigs and sheep. Metal objects replaced prior ones of stone. Tanning of animal skins, pottery and weaving were commonplace in this era also.

There are indications of seasonal or only temporary occupation of the Al Fayyum in the 6th millennium BCE, with food activities centering on fishing, hunting and food-gathering. Stone arrowheads, knives and scrapers from the era are commonly found.

Burial items included pottery, jewelry, farming and hunting equipment, and assorted foods including dried meat and fruit. Burial in desert environments appears to enhance Egyptian preservation rites, and dead were buried facing due west.

Neolithic civilization (marked by animal domestication and subsistence agriculture) developed in the Saharan and Mediterranean North Africa after the Levante between 6000 and 2000 BC. This type of economy, so richly depicted in the Tassili n’Ajjer cave paintings, predominated in North Africa until the classical period.

The cave paintings found at Tassili n’Ajjer, north of Tamanrasset, Algeria, and at other locations depict vibrant and vivid scenes of everyday life in central North Africa during the Neolithic Subpluvial period (about 8000 to 4000 BC). They were executed by a hunting people in the Capsian period of the Neolithic age who lived in a savanna region teeming with giant buffalo, elephant, rhinoceros, and hippopotamus, animals that no longer exist in the now-desert area.

The pictures provide the most complete record of a prehistoric African culture. Various populations of pastoralists have left paintings of abundant wildlife, domesticated animals, chariots, and a complex culture that dates back to at least 10,000 BC in Northern Niger and neighboring parts of Algeria and Libya. Several former northern Nigerien villages and archeological sites date from the Green Sahara period of 7500-7000 to 3500-3000 BC.

Some parts of North Africa began to participate in the Neolithic revolution in the 6th millennium BC, just before the rapid desertification of the Sahara around 3500 B.C. due to a tilt in the Earth’s orbit.

Clement and fertile conditions during the Neolithic Subpluvial supported increased human settlement of the Nile Valley in Egypt, as well as neolithic societies in Sudan and throughout the present-day Sahara. Cultures producing rock art (notably that at Tassili n’Ajjer in southeastern Algeria) flourished during this period.

In Prehistoric Egypt, Neolithic settlements appear from about 6000 BC. Oher regions in Africa independently developed agriculture at about the same time: the Ethiopian highlands, the Sahel, and West Africa.

The beginning of the Bronze Age in Egypt is conventionally identified as the Protodynastic Period, following the Neolithic Naqada culture about 3200 BC.

By 3400 BCE, the Sahara was as dry as it is today, due to reduced precipitation and higher temperatures resulting from a shift in the Earth’s orbit, and it became a largely impenetrable barrier to humans, with only scattered settlements around the oases but little trade or commerce through the desert. The one major exception was the Nile Valley. The Nile, however, was impassable at several cataracts, making trade and contact by boat difficult.

By the Iron Age, the historic record demonstrated the existence of the Berbers in North Africa from at least 10,000 B.C. While Egypt and Sudan had entered historicity since the Bronze Age, the Maghreb remained in the prehistoric period longer. Some Phoenician and Greek colonies were established along the Mediterranean coast during the 7th century BC.

The Neolithic Subpluvial

The Neolithic Subpluvial — sometimes called the Holocene Wet Phase — was an extended period (from about 7500–7000 BCE to about 3500–3000 BCE) of wet and rainy conditions in the climate history of northern Africa. It was both preceded and followed by much drier periods.

The Neolithic Subpluvial was the most recent of a number of periods of “Wet Sahara” or “Green Sahara”, during which the region was much more moist and supported a richer biota and human population than the present-day desert.

The Neolithic Subpluvial began during the 7th millennium BC and was strong for about 2,000 years; it waned over time and ended after the 5.9 kiloyear event (3900 BCE). Then the drier conditions that prevailed prior to the Neolithic Subpluvial returned; desertification advanced, and the Sahara Desert formed (or re-formed). Arid conditions have continued through to the present day.

5.9 kiloyear event

The 5.9 kiloyear event was one of the most intense aridification events during the Holocene Epoch. It occurred around 3900 BC (5,900 years BP), ending the Neolithic Subpluvial and probably initiated the most recent desiccation of the Sahara desert.

Thus, it also triggered worldwide migration to river valleys, such as from central North Africa to the Nile valley, which eventually led to the emergence of the first complex, highly organized, state-level societies in the 4th millennium BC. It is associated with the last round of the Sahara pump theory.

In the Middle East the 5.9 kiloyear event contributed to the abrupt end of the Ubaid period (ca. 6500 to 3800 BC), a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The name derives from Tell al-Ubaid where the earliest large excavation of Ubaid period material was conducted initially by Henry Hall and later by Leonard Woolley.

In South Mesopotamia the period is the earliest known period on the alluvium although it is likely earlier periods exist obscured under the alluvium. In the south it has a very long duration between about 6500 and 3800 BC when it is replaced by the Uruk period.

In North Mesopotamia the period runs only between about 5300 and 4300 BC. It is preceded by the Halaf period and the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period and succeeded by the Late Chalcolithic period.

Ubaid culture originated in the south, but still has clear connections to earlier cultures in the region of middle Iraq, showing clear connection to the Samarra culture to the north. The appearance of the Ubaid folk has sometimes been linked to the so-called Sumerian problem, related to the origins of Sumerian civilisation.

Whatever the ethnic origins of this group, this culture saw for the first time a clear tripartite social division between intensive subsistence peasant farmers with crops and animals coming from the north, tent-dwelling nomadic pastoralists dependent upon their herds, and hunter-fisher folk of the Arabian littoral living in reed huts.

Stein and Özbal describe the Near East oikumene that resulted from Ubaid expansion, contrasting it to the colonial expansionism of the later Uruk period. “A contextual analysis comparing different regions shows that the Ubaid expansion took place largely through the peaceful spread of an ideology, leading to the formation of numerous new indigenous identities that appropriated and transformed superficial elements of Ubaid material culture into locally distinct expressions”.

The Uruk period  was associated with an abandonment of unwalled villages and the rapid growth of hierarchically structured walled cities, and in the Jemdet Nasr period, with the first book-keeping scripts.

The archaeological record shows that Arabian Bifacial/Ubaid period came to an abrupt end in eastern Arabia and the Oman peninsula at 3800 BC, just after the phase of lake lowering and onset of dune reactivation.

At this time, increased aridity led to an end in semi-desert nomadism, and there is no evidence of human presence in the area for approximately 1000 years, the so-called “Dark Millennium”. This might be due to the 5.9 kiloyear event at the end of the Older Peron.

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