Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent
    https://aratta.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/war-in-the-fertile-crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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The Origin of the Pottery in the Near East

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on December 5, 2019

Mesopotamian Prehistorical cultures.jpg

The pottery of ancient Tell Halaf of Mesopotamia and my ceramics

Pottery Neolithic

Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) is part of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, a Neolithic culture centered in upper Mesopotamia 8800–6500 BC. It was typed by Kathleen Kenyon during her archaeological excavations at Jericho in the West Bank.

Like the earlier PPNA people, the PPNB culture developed from the Mesolithic Natufian culture. However, it shows evidence of a northerly origin, possibly indicating an influx from the region of north eastern Anatolia.

It is believed that the use of clay plaster for floor and wall coverings during PPNB led to the discovery of pottery. The earliest proto-pottery was White Ware vessels, made from lime and gray ash, built up around baskets before firing, for several centuries around 7000 BCE at sites such as Tell Neba’a Faour (Beqaa Valley).

Sites from this period found in the Levant utilizing rectangular floor plans and plastered floor techniques were found at Ain Ghazal, Yiftahel (western Galilee), and Abu Hureyra (Upper Euphrates). The period is dated to between c. 10,700 and c. 8,000 BP or 7000–6000 BCE.

Plastered human skulls were reconstructed human skulls that were made in the ancient Levant between 9000 and 6000 BC in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period. They represent some of the oldest forms of art in the Middle East and demonstrate that the prehistoric population took great care in burying their ancestors below their homes. The skulls denote some of the earliest sculptural examples of portraiture in the history of art.

Tell Aswad (“Black hill”), Su-uk-su or Shuksa, is a large prehistoric, neolithic tell, about 5 hectares (540,000 sq ft) in size, located around 48 kilometres (30 mi) from Damascus in Syria, on a tributary of the Barada River at the eastern end of the village of Jdeidet el Khass.

Understanding of the role of Tell Aswad in the beginnings of farming has been complicated by changes in dating. Originally it was thought to be an example of one of the oldest sites of agriculture with domesticated emmer wheat dated by Willem van Zeist and his assistant Johanna Bakker-Heeres to the PPNA at 7600-7300 uncal BC (about 9000 cal BC).

The claim is based on the discovery of enlarged grains, absences of wild grains and on the presumption that the site was beyond the usual habitat of the wild variety of emmer wheat. Flax seeds were present, and fruit, figs and pistachios, were found in large quantities. Stationary containers of mud and stone were found with carbonized grain found on the interior of one designating them as silos. Finally, reeds were widely used, especially as reinforcement in the architecture, but also for mats and baskets and perhaps as bedding or fodder.

Despite the (apparently) early date of domesticated plants, Jacques Cauvin considered that Aswad was not the center for the origin of agriculture, stating that its first inhabitants “arrived, perhaps from the neighboring Anti-Lebanon, already equipped with the seeds for planting, for their practice of agriculture from the inception of the settlement is not in doubt. Thus it was not in the oasis itself that they carried out their first experiments in farming.”

Studies of lithics and radiocarbon dating of the 2001–2006 excavations showed that Tell Aswad was not occupied during the PPNA period. Instead the domesticated plants are present from the Early PPNB 8700 to 8200 cal BC onwards.

Analysis of c. 400 samples collected from the most recent excavations generally confirms van Zeist & Bakker-Heeres’s identifications from the earlier excavations. Domesticated barley is present; the domestication status of emmer wheat is uncertain. It has been speculated that irrigation or some form of water management would have been used in order to allow cultivation of cereals and figs in an area with under 200mm rainfall.

The redating of the earliest levels of Tell Aswad to the early PPNB place it alongside other sites with domesticated cereals such as Cafer Hüyük and Aşıklı Höyük (Turkey), Ganj Dareh and Chogah Golan (Iran), and Wadi el-Jilat 7 and Ain Ghazal (Jordan).

Tell Aswad can now be seen as part of a pattern of multi-regional, dispersed local development in at least five areas of the Near East, rather than as uniquely early evidence pointing to agricultural origins in the southern Levant. The preceding PPNA period is now widely accepted as encompassing pre-domestic cultivation of wild cereals, rather than full agriculture with domesticated crops.

The Pottery Neolithic (PN) or Late Neolithic (LN) began around 6,400 BCE in the Fertile Crescent, succeeding the period of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic. By then distinctive cultures emerged, with pottery like the Halafian (Turkey, Syria, Northern Mesopotamia) and Ubaid (Southern Mesopotamia).

This period has been further divided into PNA (Pottery Neolithic A) and PNB (Pottery Neolithic B) at some sites. The Chalcolithic (Stone-Bronze) period began about 4500 BCE, then the Bronze Age began about 3500 BCE with the invention of writing, replacing the Neolithic cultures and starting the historical period.

The northern Mesopotamian sites of Tell Hassuna and Jarmo (Qal’at Jarmo) are some of the oldest sites in the Near-East where pottery has been found, appearing in the most recent levels of excavation, which dates it to the 7th millennium BCE.

Jarmo is a prehistoric archeological site located in modern Iraq on the foothills of the Zagros Mountains. It lies at an altitude of 800 m above sea-level in a belt of oak and pistachio woodlands. Jarmo was an agricultural community dating back to 7000 BC. It was broadly contemporary with such other important Neolithic sites such as Jericho in the southern Levant and Çatal Hüyük in Anatolia.

Jarmo is one of the oldest sites at which pottery has been found, appearing in the most recent levels of excavation, which dates it to the 7th millennium BC. This pottery is handmade, of simple design and with thick sides, and treated with a vegetable solvent.

There are clay figures, zoomorphic or anthropomorphic, including figures of pregnant women which are taken to be fertility goddesses, similar to the Mother Goddess of later Neolithic cultures in the same region. These constitute the inception of the Art of Mesopotamia.

The Hassuna culture is a Neolithic archaeological culture in northern Mesopotamia dating to the early sixth millennium BC. It is named after the type site of Tell Hassuna in Iraq. Other sites where Hassuna material has been found include Tell Shemshara.

By around 6000 BC people had moved into the foothills (piedmont) of northernmost Mesopotamia where there was enough rainfall to allow for “dry” agriculture in some places. These were the first farmers in northernmost Mesopotamia. They made Hassuna-style pottery (cream slip with reddish paint in linear designs). Hassuna people lived in small villages or hamlets ranging from 2 to 8 acres (3.2 ha).

At Tell Hassuna, adobe dwellings built around open central courts with fine painted pottery replace earlier levels with crude pottery. Hand axes, sickles, grinding stones, bins, baking ovens and numerous bones of domesticated animals reflect settled agricultural life. Female figurines have been related to worship and jar burials within which food was placed related to belief in afterlife. The relationship of Hassuna pottery to that of Jericho suggests that village culture was becoming widespread.

The site of Umm Dabaghiyah in the same area of Iraq, the earliest known culture in the northern Iraq plain,  is believed to have the earliest pottery in this region, and is sometimes described as a ‘Proto-Hassuna culture’ site. Pottery is abundant in all the four main phases and includes painted types similar to archaic Hassuna pottery. Indeed the Umm Dabaghiyah culture can be regarded as ancestral to Hassuna. Other sites of this culture are Yarim Tepe and Tell Sotto further north.

The Umm Dabaghiyah Sotto culture is the oldest find group of the ceramic Neolithic in northern Mesopotamia about 26 km west of Hatra, is the southernmost of these and is a sort of outpost for hunting. The eponymous sites are Umm Dabaghiyah and Tell Sotto in today’s Iraq, which show the most comprehensive picture of this archaeological culture.

The term Proto-Hassuna culture is often used synonymously, since the Umm Dabaghiyah-Sotto culture is to be regarded as a direct precursor to the actual Hassuna culture. A generally accepted agreement to designate this epoch has not yet been made.

While earlier cultures mainly populated the hilly areas that enclose northern Mesopotamia crescent-shaped, now increasingly created settlements in the fertile plains of the Euphrates and Tigris. The Umm Dabaghiyah Sotto culture is the southernmost of these and is a sort of outpost for hunting.

The material legacy of these communities extends across much of the Jazirah from the foothills of the Zāgros Mountains in the east to the shores of the Chabur in the west. However, the focus is on the area on the upper Tigris south of the Jabal Sinjar in the region around Mosul.

Scattered older sites such as Jarmo or Maghzaliya already had knowledge of the production of ceramics and are therefore considered to be classical representatives of the ceramic Neolithicum before the heyday of the Umm Dabaghiyah Sotto type, but did not reach their diversity in their legacies.

From about 6,000 BC it is not only a more widespread use of ceramic goods in northern Mesopotamia to note, also larger coincidences between the finds from the individual settlements on and shape the image of a coordinated network.

Ever since the excavations of Umm Dabaghiyah and Tell Sotto more and more find material has been developed, whose characteristic features reveal a uniform cultural group, already in the centuries before the appearance Hassuna pottery populated the north Mesopotamian plain.

However, due to the lack of reliable radiocarbon data, unambiguous dating is difficult and relies heavily on comparisons. For example, an early construction phase on Tell 2 in Telul eth-Thalathat was identified with the Umm Dabaghiyah-Sotto culture and was recorded at 5,850 ± 80 BC. are also dated C14 evaluations for a layer of the settlement hill Kashkashok II, a period of 5,930-5,540 BC. And the Proto-Hassuna merchandise contained therein set a rough time frame.

For Umm Dabaghiyah and Sotto there are no radiocarbon values. However, with the latter, the steady development of ceramics can be very well understood – the finds from the layers 1-6 show strong parallels to Umm Dabaghiyah, while the ceramics of layers 7-8 has a striking similarity to the archaic Hassuna-Ware and thus already documents the first phase of the successor crop in northern Mesopotamia. These hints provide at least approximate clues, so that a period of about 6,000-5,750 BC. has been established.

Sotto is located 2 km west of the Yarim Tepe excavation site on the northern edge of the Upper Mesopotamian Plain in close proximity to the Kül Tepe sites in the west and about 40 km away Telul eth-Thalathat in the east. In the northeast of Syria, the facilities of Kashkashok II and Khazna II are located near al-Hasakah in Chabur. The eastern border marks Gird Ali Agha on the Great Zab.

Yarim Tepe is an archaeological site of an early farming settlement that goes back to about 6000 BC. It is located in the Sinjar valley some 7km southwest from the town of Tal Afar in northern Iraq. The site consists of several hills reflecting the development of the Hassuna culture, and then of the Halaf and Ubaid cultures.

Kul Tepe (Iraq) is a related site located about 6km due west from Yarim tepe. Two mounds there (Kultepe I, and Kultepe II) have been excavated. The lowest level of Kultepe I contains material of Sotto type (from nearby Tell Sotto), and above it there is archaic Hassuna materials. The lowest level also contains three high quality marble vessels, with parallels at Tell es-Sawwan and Umm Dabaghiyah.

Other related sites in the area are Sotto, and Kul Tepe (Iraq). Another pre-Hassuna or proto-Hassuna site in Iraq is Tell Maghzaliyah (Tell Maghzalia), a prehistoric aceramic Mesolithic and Neolithic site located approximately 7.5 km northwest of Yarim Tepe, with which it shows some similarities.

Tell Maghzaliyah shows the development of pre-Hassuna culture. There are also numerous connections to the Jarmo culture going back to 7000 BCE. More recently, the concept of a very early ‘Pre-Proto-Hassuna’ pottery tradition has been introduced by some scholars. This has been prompted by more recent discoveries of still earlier pottery traditions.

The Halaf culture is a prehistoric period which lasted between about 6100 BC and 5100 BC. The period is a continuous development out of the earlier Pottery Neolithic and is located primarily in south-eastern Turkey, Syria, and northern Iraq, although Halaf-influenced material is found throughout Greater Mesopotamia.

Halaf pottery has been found in other parts of northern Mesopotamia, such as at Nineveh and Tepe Gawra, Chagar Bazar and at many sites in Anatolia (Turkey) suggesting that it was widely used in the region.

Tell Halaf  is an archaeological site in the Al Hasakah governorate of northeastern Syria, near the Turkish border, just opposite Ceylanpınar. The site, which dates to the 6th millennium BCE, was the first to be excavated from a Neolithic culture, later called the Halaf culture, characterized by glazed pottery painted with geometric and animal designs.

The best known, most characteristic pottery of Tell Halaf, called Halaf ware, produced by specialist potters, can be painted, sometimes using more than two colors (called polychrome) with geometric and animal motifs. Other types of Halaf pottery are known, including unpainted, cooking ware and ware with burnished surfaces. There are many theories about why the distinctive pottery style developed.

The theory is that the pottery came about due to regional copying and that it was exchanged as a prestige item between local elites is now disputed. The polychrome painted Halaf pottery has been proposed to be a “trade pottery”—pottery produced for export—however, the predominance of locally produced painted pottery in all areas of Halaf sites including potters settlement questions that theory.

Shulaveri-Shomu culture is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, as well as small parts of northern Iran. The culture is dated to mid-6th or early-5th millennia BC and is thought to be one of the earliest known Neolithic cultures.

Many of the characteristic traits of the Shulaverian material culture (circular mudbrick architecture, pottery decorated by plastic design, anthropomorphic female figurines, obsidian industry with an emphasis on production of long prismatic blades) are believed to have their origin in the Near Eastern Neolithic (Hassuna, Halaf).

Especially in recent years as a result of archaeological research in the area of Goytepe, the largest settlement of the early period of Neolithic era in the South Caucasus, the Shulaveri-Shomutepe culture has been identified as belonging to the 7th millennium BC and the second half of the 6th millennium.

Although Shulaveri-Shomutepe complex firstly was attributed to the Eneolithic era, it is now considered as a material and cultural example of the Neolithic era except the upper layers where metal objects have been discovered as in Khramis Didi-Gora and Arucho I.

The earliest evidence of domesticated grapes in the world has been found in the general “Shulaveri area”, near the site of Shulaveri gora, in Marneuli Municipality, in southeastern Republic of Georgia. Specifically, the most recent evidence comes from Gadachrili gora, near the village of Imiri in the same region; carbon-dating points to the date of about 6000 BC.

Shulaveri-Shomu culture covers the 6th-5th millennia BC. According to the material culture examples found in the sites depict that the main activities of the population were farming and breeding.[3] Shulaveri culture predates the Kura-Araxes culture which flourished in this area around 4000–2200 BC.

Later on, in the middle Bronze Age period (c. 3000–1500 BC), the Trialeti culture emerged. Sioni culture of Eastern Georgia possibly represents a transition from the Shulaveri to the Kura-Arax cultural complex.

Goytepe approximately dates back to the 6th millennium cal. BC. is one of the largest settlement sites of the Shomutepe culture. Ceramic, basalt and obsidian, bone-based labour instruments (awls, needles, axes and hammers), pottery specimens, plant and animal remnants were found from the Neolithic cultural sequence. 

Pottery samples were found at all layers. Vertical and incurved jars were mostly used, followed by bowls, small vessels without handles and deep bowls. Decorated pottery was hardly found; few samples of them have simple relief decoration with some circles and oval knobs and wavy lines, while others which were revealed from the upper levels have a monochrome decoration around the neck.

Mineral and plant tempered pottery were also found here; whereas, minerals, such as basalt and obsidian were generally used in plan-tempered pottery. Mineral-tempered pottery were found in less quantity from the upper layers.

Anthropomorphic figurines of mainly seated women found in the sites represent the items used for religious purposes relating to the fertility cult.  The similarities between the macrolithic tools and the use of ochre also bring Shulaveri-Shomu culture closer to the culture of Halaf. Pestles and mortars found in Shulaveri-Shomu sites and Late Neolithic layers of Tell Sabi Abyad in Syria are also similar to each other.

The technology and typology of bone-based instruments are similar to those of the Middle East Neolithic material culture. A quern with 2 small hollows found in Shomutepe is similar to the one with more hollows detected in Khramisi Didi-Gora.

There is no good evidence for pottery production in the Levant in the Early Neolithic (Pre-pottery Neolithic/PP) times, but the existence of pyrotechnology that allowed humans to attain temperatures in excess of 1000 °C for reducing limestone to lime to make plaster, indicates a level of technology ripe for the discovery of pottery and its spread. In the PPN period portable vessels of lime plaster, called “vaisselles blanche” or “White Ware” served some of the functions that pottery later fulfilled. These vessels tended to be rather large and coarse and were somewhat rare.

There are some indications that pottery may have been in use in the third and final phase of Early Neolithic, PPNC (recognized Early Neolithic phases are, beginning with the earliest, PPNA, PPNB and PPNC); however such artifacts are rare, their provenance equivocal and the issue remains in doubt. Approximately sometime in the late 6th millennium BC pottery was introduced into the southern Levant and it became widely used.

The supposedly sophisticated forms and technological and decorative aspects suggested to archaeologists that it must have been received as an imported, technological advance from adjacent regions to the north and was not developed locally. The evidence for this hypothesis, however, remains equivocal for lack of documentation in the archaeological record. This hypothesis also does not take into account the bulk of simple, rudely fashioned vessels that were part of the ceramic repertoire of this period.

White Ware or “Vaisselle Blanche”, effectively a form of limestone plaster used to make vessels, is the first precursor to clay pottery developed in the Levant that appeared in the 9th millennium BC, during the pre-pottery (aceramic) neolithic period.

It is not to be confused with “whiteware”, which is both a term in the modern ceramic industry for most finer types of pottery for tableware and similar uses, and a term for specific historical types of earthenware made with clays giving an off-white body when fired.

White Ware was commonly found in PPNB archaeological sites in Syria such as Tell Aswad, Tell Abu Hureyra, Bouqras and El Kowm. Similar sherds were excavated at Ain Ghazal in northern Jordan.

White pozzolanic ware from Tell Ramad and Ras Shamra is considered to be a local imitation of these limestone vessels. It was also evident in the earliest neolithic periods of Byblos, Hashbai, Labweh, Tell Jisr and Tell Neba’a Faour in the Beqaa Valley, Lebanon.

It has been noted that this type of pottery was more prevalent and dated earlier in the Beqaa than at Byblos. A mixed form was found at Byblos where the clay was coated in a limestone slip, in both plain and shell combed finishes.

The similarities of White Ware and overlapping time periods with later clay firing methods have suggested that Dark Faced Burnished Ware, the earliest form of real pottery developed in the western world, came as a development from this limestone prototype.

Dark Faced Burnished Ware was produced after the earliest examples from the independent phenomenon of the Jōmon culture in Japan and is predominantly found at archaeological sites in Lebanon, Israel southwest Syria and Cyprus.

Some notable examples of Dark Faced Burnished Ware were found at Tell Judaidah (and nearby Tell Dhahab) in Amuq by Robert Braidwood as well as at Ras Shamra and Tell Boueid. Other finds have been made at Yumuktepe in Mersin, Turkey where comparative studies were made defining different categories of ware that have been generally grouped as DFBW.

Tell Sabi Abyad is an archaeological site in the Balikh River valley in northern Syria. The site consists of four prehistoric mounds that are numbered Tell Sabi Abyad I to IV. Extensive excavations showed that these sites were inhabited already around 7500 to 5500 BC, although not always at the same time; the settlement shifted back and forth between these four sites.

The earliest pottery of Syria was discovered here; it dates at ca. 6900-6800 BC, and consists of mineral-tempered, and sometimes painted wares. Pottery found at the site includes Dark Faced Burnished Ware and a Fine Ware that resembled Hassuna Ware and Samarra Ware.

It was discovered that around 6700 BC, pottery was already mass-produced. Bowls and jars often had angled necks and ornate geometric designs, some featuring horned animals. Only around six percent of the pottery found was produced locally.

The pottery of Tell Sabi Abyad is somewhat similar to what was found in the other prehistoric sites in Syria and south-eastern Turkey; for example in Tell Halula, Akarçay Tepe Höyük, Mezraa-Teleilat, and Tell Seker al-Aheimar. Yet in Sabi Abyad, the presence of painted pottery is quite unique.

Tell Seker al-Aheimar, located in the Upper Khabur, northeastern Syria, is an early Neolithic settlement that chrono-culturally spans from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) to the Proto-Hassuna period (Pottery Neolithic). The site is one of the largest and best documented Neolithic sites in this relatively poorly investigated region in Upper Mesopotamia.

Among the occupation sequence of the site with well-defined architectural phases, the Late PPNB settlement (late 8th to early 7th millennium cal. BC) is characterized by an extensive mud-brick architecture, which comprises large multi-roomed rectangular buildings and gypsum-plastered floors.

The oldest Pottery Neolithic of Upper Mesopotamia, including the Khabur basin, has long been believed to be represented by the Proto-Hassuna (Sotto-Umm Dabaghiyah) entity. The excavations at Tell Seker al-Aheimar revealed that a Pottery Neolithic phase predating the Proto-Hassuna existed on the Khabur, characterized by a distinct set of pottery as well as architecture and lithic technology.

The long uninterrupted sequence at Tell Seker al-Aheimar shows that this cultural entity, referred to as “Pre-Proto-Hassuna”, was derived from a local Pre-Pottery Neolithic of the East Wing of the Fertile Crescent and gradually developed into Proto-Hassuna. Radiocarbon dates for this phase indicate the early centuries of the 8th millennium BP, a period prior to that of Proto-Hassuna settlements in both northeast Syria and northern Iraq.

Tell Halula is a large, prehistoric, neolithic tell, about 8 hectares (860,000 sq ft) in size, located around 105 kilometres (65 mi) east of Aleppo and 25 kilometres (16 mi) northwest of Membij in the Raqqa Governorate of Syria. The ceramic sequence in Halula begins early in the 7th millennium BC.

The introduction of Halaf culture painted Fine Ware is documented for the ‘Halula Phase IV’ period; this took place at the end of 7th millennium. Prior to that, there was the ‘Pre-Halaf’ period covering a very long initial stage of pottery production; the excavators break down this long period as Halula Phases I to III.

Archaeologists discovered what seems like the oldest painted pottery here. Remarkably, the earliest pottery was of a very high quality, and some of it was already painted. Later, the painted pottery was discontinued, and the quality declined.

Our finds at Tell Sabi Abyad show an initial brief phase in which people experimented with painted pottery. This trend did not continue, however. As far as we can see now, people then gave up painting their pottery for centuries. Instead, people concentrated on the production of undecorated, coarse wares.

It was not until around 6200 BC that people began to add painted decorations again. The question of why the Neolithic inhabitants of Tell Sabi Abyad initially stopped painting their pottery is unanswered for the time being.

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