Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

  • Sjur C Papazian

  • FB: Sjur Papazian

  • Recent Posts

  • Categories

  • Armenian Eternal Symbol

  • Forget-me-not

  • 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

    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.

  • Archives

Eastern Mediterrean II

Eastern Mediterrean II

Tell Halula

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.[1]
1 Excavation
2 Construction
3 Culture
3.1 Ceramics
4 Agriculture and animal domestication
5 Ancient DNA
6 See also
7 References
8 External links
The tell was first excavated in 1991 by the Spanish Archaeological Mission, directed by Miquel Molist, Professor of Prehistory at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.[2][3] Archaeological trenches have covered an area of approximately 2,500 square metres (27,000 sq ft).[3]
The large mound is located on the steppe of nearby mountains at an altitude of 349 metres (1,145 ft) above sea level and was found to be approximately 8 metres (26 ft) deep. It is situated between Wadi Fars and Wadi Abu Gal Gal on the right bank and fluvial plain of the Euphrates.[2] It is one of the largest neolithic sites yet found, described as a megasite, including the remains of twenty one rectangular houses of three to five rooms, nine with associated burials of at least one hundred and seven incomplete skeletons.[3] Burials were made under the floors of the houses, which were typically covered with a limestone plaster.[3]
Occupation of the site was detected from the middle of Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) at around 7750 BC into the neolithic around 6780 BC and has provided insight into the transitions during this period, especially the emergence of agriculture during the neolithic revolution.[2] Forty levels of occupation have been detected with levels one to twenty dating to the middle PPNB; twenty-one to thirty-four dating to the late PPNB; and two later levels, thirty-six and thirty-seven, showing evidence of the Halaf culture.[3] Various arrowheads were found which were largely classed as Byblos points. Several showed signs of lime plaster around the tangs, which has been suggested to have been the method of fixing to the arrow’s shaft.[2] Excavations revealed paintings of female figures on the floor of one of the buildings, which are suggested to be the oldest paintings of people in the Middle East.[4]
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.[5]
Agriculture and animal domestication
222 flint sickle blades were found, including the remains of a complete sickle found in one of the houses made of four blade elements fixed with bitumen, shaped in a curved edge approximately 30 cm in length.[2] Archaeozoological analyses of bovine tooth enamel show the development of herding and management practices of cattle.[6]
D. Helmer suggested that domestication of goats also occurred at this site during the middle PPNB, in a transition from hunting gazelles.[7] Farming of sheep and cattle took place in late middle PPNB stages with a decrease in size of cow noted as a sign of domestication. The prevalence of wild animals also reduced over this period.[8] Analysis of naked emmer wheat and spikelet bases has shown this crop to have been domesticated during the middle of PPNB period at this site.[9] The bottom levels of the tell revealed no evidence of wild crops, which suggests that the first people to occupy the site brought with them fully domesticated forms of wheat, barley and flax, which had been domesticated elsewhere.[10]
Ancient DNA
Eva Fernández Domínguez extracted samples of mitochondrial DNA from human bones from Tell Halula as part of the studies for her PhD thesis accepted at the University of Barcelona in 2005. The methodology used was later superseded, so a first publication of the results in 2008 was corrected in a subsequent publication in 2014. In the latter publication the mtDNA haplogroups were given as U, R0, K, HV, H, N and L3.[11][12]

Pottery Neolithic

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 and 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 BC, then the Bronze Age began about 3500 BC with the invention of writing, replacing the Neolithic cultures and starting the historical period.

The northern Mesopotamian sites of Tell Hassuna (6000–5000 BC) and Jarmo (7500-5000 BC) 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 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.

The northern Mesopotamian sites of Tell Hassuna (6000–5000 BC) and Jarmo (7500-5000 BC) 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 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.



Because of discoveries of earlier pottery traditions made starting in the 1990s, the time frame for the initial Late Neolithic ceramic period is thought to be roughly 7000-6700 BCE.[1] These earliest pottery traditions may be known in literature as ‘Initial Pottery Neolithic’ in the Balikh River area of Syria and Turkey, for example Tell Sabi Abyad.[2] Or it may be known as ‘Halula I’ in the Syrian Euphrates area; the main site is Tell Halula. Also, it may be known as ‘Rouj 2a’ in Northern Levantine Rouj basin (Idlib, Syria).[1][3]
By the earliest PN phase pottery was ubiquitous and it remained so for virtually all periods in the southern Levant until modern times. Exceptions were in desert areas where semi-nomads favored less heavy, fragile and bulky arrangements. Pottery styles, based mostly on form, fabric and decorative elements have been used to help identify chrono-cultural phases. White ware remained in use, but it seems to have remained rare and the vessels were often small and rather delicate. It is possible that not a few such vessels were found and identified as pottery.
The earliest PN phase is associated with the site of Sha’ar HaGolan in the Jordan Valley. This pottery is sometimes called “Yarmukian Ware”. The diagnostic pottery typical of this period is somewhat sophisticated. Its most outstanding aspect is the use of long, narrow, incised bands of lines filled with herringbone decoration, often painted red or yellow. Forms of vessels may be quite delicate and lug handles on small jars with long necks are not uncommon. More common, coarser and less well made vessels are also present but are less diagnostic for the period.
Common or cruder wares generally have simple shapes and are often less well finished and are not decorated. Vessel walls of this class are often of uneven thickness and look ‘lumpy’. This crude aspect is often further emphasized by grass-wiped exteriors and the negative impressions left by straw or vegetal tempers (i.e. chopped up dried grass or weeds) which combust and leave hollows after firing. These inclusion were either added intentionally, or are the unintentional result of poorly levigated (i.e. a process of purifying clay by removal of natural, non-clay inclusions such as stones and plant materials) or unlevigated clay, and are characteristic of this coarse Neolithic pottery. Later Neolithic pottery tends to favor the use of different tempers, sand, gravel, small stones and sometimes grog (ground up pottery). Much Neolithic pottery is low-fired and did not attain temperatures far above 600°C, which is more or less the minimum required for creating pottery from low-fired clays. Probably these vessels were pit-fired rather than fired in kilns, although such an hypothesis remains to be proven. To date there is no direct evidence in excavation based literature on how Neolithic peoples of the southern Levant fired their pottery.
Later Neolithic pottery has less distinctive features. Work at Jericho by K. Kenyon suggested to her two periods of Late Neolithic, based on the existence of coarser and finer pottery groups. The former, supposedly representing a less sophisticated and earlier occupation, was labeled PNA (Pottery Neolithic A); the latter was called PNB (Pottery Neolithic B). Many researchers now believe the difference to be one of function rather than evidence for chronological differences between these two groups, since examples of each are often found in contemporary contexts. Thus, PNB types are often designated as fine or luxury wares.[citation needed]
The site of Munhatta, excavated by J. Perrot, has contributed a large series of ceramic assemblages dated to the Neolithic period. In one phase there are some extraordinarily sophisticated ceramic vessels of especially finely levigated, highly polished or burnished (polishing of almost dry, leather hard, surfaces of unfired clay to produce a smooth surface that becomes shiny when fired), black fabric. Other pottery suggests that some potters in this period, dated later than an earlier, “Yarmukian” phase at the site (identified by Sha’ar HaGolan type pottery), were highly skilled craftspeople. One researcher, Y. Garfinkel, refers to this phase as “Jericho IX” after a stratum and associated pottery excavated by J. Garstang at Jericho (he excavated at Jericho prior to Kenyon). The decorated pottery of this period often has red paint in the form of stripes, sometimes in large, wide herringbone-like decorations.
Not all pottery from these phases is so chrono-culturally diagnostic. Most vessels are of plain wares and utilitarian types.[citation needed] In addition, other methods of decoration are known in the later Neolithic. They include the use of slips (color applied to an entire vessel), burnishing and incising (e.g. notching, combing, slashing, etc.). Wavy lines of combing, often combined with painting are one of the distinctive types of Late Neolithic decoration associated with the Rabah phase (see below). The use of red slips and paints is common in this and later periods, and is probably the direct outcome of clays used, which are rich in iron oxides that tend, under some conditions, to fire to earthy red tones ranging from brown to orange and brick-red. These same clays, when fired in a reducing atmosphere (i.e. devoid of oxygen) often become gray or black in color. Dark colored, gray to black cores on some pots indicate incomplete firing
The most recent PN phase is named after the site of Wadi Rabah, excavated by J. Kaplan. Y. Garfinkel relegates this final LN period to Early Chalcolithic. The distinction seems to be mostly a matter of terminology. Since there is no definitive break between Late Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic, each researcher must decide what is Neolithic and what is Early Chalcolithic. The situation is even more complicated because there appears to be considerable regional variation in Neolithic pottery assemblages and not a little confusion as to what constitutes chrono-culturally related assemblages. That is a function of the generally poor preservation of PN sites and the way in which they were excavated.
Summary: Neolithic pottery may well have arrived as a full-blown technological set from more northerly regions. Pottery appears to have become ubiquitous in the southern Levant by late in the 6th millennium and remained as an integral part of human material culture up to the present. Some local potters showed particular skill in their production, which suggests, as is the case with flint knappers, real craft specialization. That is related to skills in finding and preparing raw materials, fashioning pots, decorating them, and controlling the pyrotechnology needed to turn them into pottery. Some aspects of pottery, form, fabric, modes of decoration are relatively reliable diagnostic indicators of chrono-cultural identities of human society. Pottery, mostly in the form of sherds, often makes up the bulk of material culture artifacts found on excavated sites dating from the PN period.


Shir (German transcription according to the German Oriental Society [DMG]: Šīr/Arabic: شير) is a Late Neolithic site in western Syria, located 12 km northwest of Hama, capital of the province by the same name. The settlement of Shir is situated upon a 30-m high terrace formation above the Nahr as-Sārūt, a tributary of the Orontes River (Arabic: Nahr al-‛Asi).

The settlement of Shir was discovered in 2005 during a local survey in the central Orontes area[1] and archaeologically investigated from 2006 to 2010 within the framework of a cooperation project by the Damascus Branch of the Orient Department of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) and the Direction Générale des Antiquités et des Musées de la Syrie.[2] The natural conditions of the central Orontes characterise the region as one of the favourable areas in the Near East, which must have played a decisive role during the process of Neolithisation (Neolithisation: the transition from economical forms marked by hunting/gathering nomadic way of life to food producing sedentism, which occurred between 10,000 and 7000 B.C.). Comparatively few Neolithic sites are known in this region thus far.
According to radiocarbon datings, the settlement of Shir was inhabited between 7000 and 6200/6100 calBC (calibrated data). The site was abandoned towards the end of the 7thmillennium B.C. and thereafter – possibly due to climatic change – never permanently populated again. Because of this circumstance, particular areas of the 4-ha large settlement could be excavated extensively, allowing specific lines of inquiries to be followed. Thus, in the southern area the stratigraphic sequence was investigated over a surface of 400 m²; in the central area the two latest settlement layers covering a surface of 1,000 m² were exposed; and in the northeastern area two buildings with specific functions and encompassing some 700 m² were examined.
For the time span between 7000 and 6450 B.C. the stratigraphic sequence in the southern area covers six subsequent building phases, each showing diverse sub-phases. A differentiated settlement development could be confirmed in this area, which is characterised by its distinct conceptual planning. Particularly remarkable is the fact that at a later time stone material was removed from all layers and evidently reused. Building activities noted in younger layers of the central area are characterized by numerous heterogeneous forms of house complexes, whose relationship to one another is disturbed by pits. These buildings date back to ca. 6300/6200 B.C. In the northeastern area an apparently planned building complex consisting of two northwest–southeast oriented structures with altogether 16 rooms was recorded; it was presumably abandoned around 6200/6100 B.C. These buildings were probably two-storied. The structure and room contents of the preserved and excavated ground floors indicate their primary usage as storerooms, which could be accessed only through the upper floors with the help of ladders. These buildings could have functioned as communal storerooms as well as a combination of living and storage space for a person or a group of persons of high social status.
Northeastern area
As a rule, the foundation walls of the buildings in Shir are built of limestone, which occurs naturally in this region, while the few remains of the brick walls are generally made of clay or rammed earth (pisé). Most remarkable in all layers are the massive, carefully created lime plaster floors. The technique in floors was already known in the Early Neolithic (10th–8th century B.C.) and is characterized by a high demand on burning material. Consequently, a certain degree of environmental destruction in settlement’s vicinity cannot be excluded.
The ecological conditions for the settlement were extraordinarily favourable, because at least two bountiful habitats were present for use: the surrounding, open oak forest and the dense floodplain forest of the Sarut as well as the Orontes rivers, flowing ca. 4 km west of the settlement. Water supply was secured by the perennial Sarut River. Raw materials for constructing buildings and producing items for everyday use, such as limestone and basalt stone, flint and clay, were available in the immediate vicinity of the settlement. The region’s fertile terra rossa soils allowed profitable agricultural activities. As paleobotanical data show, all of the important grains and pulses were grown in Shir: barley, emmer/einkorn wheat, hulled wheat, lentils, field peas, chickpeas and bitter vetch. Wild plants included pistachios, figs and almonds, among others. Aside from domesticated animal species like sheep, goats and cattle, the spectrum of animals also comprised hunted animals like gazelle and deer.
Baby funeral
There are numerous burials within the excavated part of the southern settlement area. Most of them were the graves of infants and young children, which were found in buildings under walls and stretches of lime plaster. Burials of adults were seldom, appearing mostly as individual graves outside of the houses. In the youngest layer of the central area was a larger space with numerous burials, which possibly can be addressed as an extramural necropolis. All of the burials contained only few grave goods. Turquoise beads are an exception and were found only in the graves of infants.
Vessel of the Dark Faced Burnished Ware
Ceramic finds already appear in Shir in the oldest settlement layer, dated to ca. 7000 B.C.[3] This pottery thus belongs to the earliest ceramic finds in the Near East. Made of fired clay, the vessels represent one of the most important innovations that occurred at the transition from the Early to Late Neolithic around 7000 B.C. The oldest ceramic vessels known so far already display a very high quality. They are the so-called Dark faced burnished ware (DFBW), which is tempered with minerals and highly polished; the dominant forms in Shir are small pots and bowls, which were likely produced in small quantities only. A special type of DFBW is pottery decorated with cord and textile impressions.[4] This cord-impressed ware also provides important information about Neolithic textile production. From ca. 6500 B.C. onwards pottery was produced in significantly greater quantities, yet of lesser quality. The so-called Coarse Ware has a high content of mineral temper and is rarely decorated. The production of large vessels that reach heights of 0.80–1.00 m can be considered as the most important innovation during the second half of the 7th millennium B.C. These vessels were probably used as storage containers for foodstuffs.
Flint tip of Amuq-Type
Next to pottery, flint tools make up the bulk of the spectrum of archaeological finds. Noticeable within this range of tools is the comparatively large number of sickles, which were used for harvesting basic subsistence crops. Points of the Amuq- and Babylos types form a further outstanding, but small group of artefacts. The spectrum of tools is dominated by a very large number of so-called ad hoc implements, i.e. simple flint flakes lacking any elaborated form. The reason for this decline in distinct forms is likely the advantageous position of Shir for acquiring raw materials: high-quality flint occurs in the terraces directly below the settlement. Another reason could have been a decrease in hunting activities. The obsidian used to produce the small number of such flakes and tools found in Shir originated in Central Anatolia.[5]
Bone flute
Other small finds include weapons, such as sling stones and bolas, as well as utensils for preparing food, such as grinding stones, mortars and pestles, all of which are especially well represented. Similarly, artefacts that were most likely implemented in textile and leather processing, like sewing needles, awls and scrapers, appeared frequently. Initially, these artefacts were probably produced when needed in the individual homes; mass finds of semi-finished products (for example, sewing needles made from animal bones) appear in younger settlement phases, signalling a specialisation in crafts. One remarkable bone artefact is perforated and flute-shaped. Typical articles of jewellery comprise different forms of pendants and beads; finger rings and bracelets as well as lip plugs. Especially noteworthy are so-called butterfly beads made of greenstone and small cylindrical beads made of turquoise. These stones are not native to the area of Shir; hence, their presence at the site supports the assumption of Shir’s participation in far-reaching exchange networks, from southeastern Anatolia to the Sinai Peninsula.
Investigations at Shir have enabled comprehensive insight into the development of a Neolithic village over a time span of almost 800 years. The recorded data provide evidence of complex architecture, the differentiated use of raw materials and elaborate techniques employed in constructing buildings and manufacturing artefacts. Furthermore, excavations at the site have shown that Shir was integrated in the Neolithic network of exchange and communication that extended from Anatolia to the Red Sea. In comparison with other coeval settlements in the Levant, northern Mesopotamia and the Anatolian region, the finds from Shir exhibit a strongly regional component of the cultural development during the Late Neolithic period.

In the past decade or so, new research projects have significantly progressed our understanding of Late Neolithic ceramic production and consumption in the northern Levant. Apart from Shir, work has been undertaken on the Pottery Neolithic deposits at Tell Nebi Mend on the Orontes, Tell el-Kerkh in the Rouj basin, Tell Kurdu in the Amuq, and Yumuktepe on the Turkish Mediterranean.

At these sites, meticulous stratigraphic excavations, the dedicated collection of a large series of radiocarbon dates and state of the art approaches to ceramic analysis are delivering detailed site-specific micro-studies of pottery. There is great potential for follow-up studies that bring together the results from several northern Levantine sites to probe provenance and patterns of ceramic exchange, and to put individual sites into a broader, inter-regional interpretative framework. Conceptually, the northern Levant is especially attractive for such investigation, as it connects several neighbouring regions in which the Neolithic period has been well researched.

At Shir, sustained pottery production is attested from the earliest level at the site (level I), dated around c. 7000 cal BC. However, the very low densities suggest ceramic containers had limited, though probably multi-functional, uses. The earliest pottery was ‘visually conspicuous’ and may have held significance in specific commensality events in which pot-cooked food played a role. The full integration of pottery containers with the Neolithic economy occurred several centuries later (levels IV–VI). This integration, in effect the emergence of the ‘Pottery Neolithic’ package as traditionally understood, appears to have progressed quite gradually. Associated with the rise of coarse thick-walled vessels and the gradual development of plant-tempered ‘Coarse Ware’, storage came increasingly to the fore as an important activity, dependent on ceramic containers. By the end of the period, Late Neolithic villages across the larger region were packed with movable-yet-durable ceramic storage vessels in a wide range of shapes and sizes (Nieuwenhuyse in press ain press b).

The consumption of pottery containers at Shir began with what is called Dark-Faced Burnished Ware. Recent provenance studies suggest that those who settled the early levels at Shir brought these small, portable containers from elsewhere. Future studies should scrutinize this preliminary interpretation, and seek to identify the origins of the early vessels. Speculating, some of the early DFBW may have travelled to the site from contemporaneous Tell Nebi Mend (and vice versa), but it is too early to draw such specific conclusions.

The early ceramic assemblage from Shir is certainly not unique. It falls within a heterogeneous yet identifiable ceramic-cultural horizon in the northern Levant. Good comparisons come from the tell at Hama (Period M), the lower levels of Tell Sukas and Ras Shamra period VB (Nieuwenhuyse 2009). Closer by are the contemporaneous sites of the Rouj Valley (period 2a; Tsuneki and Miyake 1996) and the basal levels of Tell Nebi Mend (Mathias 2015). The latter site is especially intriguing as both it and Shir produced DFBW with a basalt temper; future study may further explore the possibility that these sites maintained networks of exchange at the dawn of the Pottery Neolithic.

The initial ‘DFBW phase’ at Shir was followed by what appears to be local production on an increasing scale. Interestingly, at a general level a similar situation is observed on the northern Syrian plains, where provenance studies at many initial Pottery Neolithic sites show that the early mineral-tempered wares were very frequently exchanged.

Here too, this initial situation was followed by local production of plain, thick-walled coarse pottery. In sum, ceramic developments in the 7th millennium BC show a quite significant (sub) regional variability, but with broader, supra-regional trends becoming apparent. This suggests that at some level ceramic containers gained comparable roles in various Late Neolithic societies.

The ‘non-local’ varieties are particularly associated with the early levels at the site (levels I–III) suggesting that the earliest inhabitants of Shir acquired their ceramic containers through exchange. Interestingly, two examples of basalt-tempered DFBW were attested, perhaps pointing to a relationship with the basalt-tempered ceramics from the slightly later site of al-Marj to the south (Ibáñez, pers. com., December 2009), or with Tell Nebi Mend on the Orontes. In sum, the present work suggests a combination of local production and interaction with networks of ceramic exchange to explain the DFBW pottery at Shir.

A distinctive type of DFBW surface manipulation in levels IV–VI is known as ‘cord-impressed’ pottery. Defined by the characteristic impressions suggestive of cord imprints, it was first identified by Frank Hole at the site of Tabbat al-Hammam on the Syrian coast. It was subsequently identified at several sites inland and in the central Orontes Valley, including, in spectacular format, Tell Nebi Mend.

The adjective ‘plain ware’ is certainly no exaggeration when describing CUW. However, by level IVb sustained production of decorated pottery containers is attested for the first time. Common decorative techniques include: stabbing, impressing or incising the vessels with combs or other sharp tools, applied decoration showing mostly abstract non-figurative motifs, and red slipping (Fig. 12: 16–26).

CUW containers appear to have increasingly gained roles in signalling social identities. Interestingly, the supra-local affiliations of these decorative styles suggest connection to both upper Mesopotamia and the southern Levant. In Upper Mesopotamia, closely comparable styles are found with plant-tempered ceramics during the Pre-Halaf or Proto-Hassuna stages.

To the south, Neolithic communities first began making pottery during the Yarmukian period, which overlaps chronologically with the upper levels of the Southern Area of Shir. Yarmukian pottery containers often carry red slips and incised-impressed decoration, sometimes resembling the contemporaneous examples from Shir.

Important changes manifested themselves in the upper strata excavated at the Southern Area, levels IV–VI. Perhaps the most fundamental change was the much greater availability of ceramic containers. As expressed in the reconstructed sherd densities, the use of ceramic containers had increased five-fold in just a few centuries (Fig. 7). Ceramics were a relatively rare find in the early levels in this area, but the later upper levels produced overwhelming quantities of pottery. In this regard Shir is far from unique; the huge quantitative increase in the presence of pottery in the later 7th millennium BC appears to be typical across the northern Levant and upper Mesopotamia (Nieuwenhuyse in press b).

The bulk of the ceramic assemblage recovered from the upper levels belongs to a category of coarse and unburnished pottery that we termed, simply, Coarse Unburnished Ware (CUW). For CUW, the epithet ‘coarse’ is certainly no exaggeration. Vessels attributed to this category were rarely smoothed to an even or regular surface; more typical was a coarsely smoothed surface that showed traces of the shaping process. Many sherds seem to have been deliberately roughened. In the words of Robert Braidwood (Braidwood and Braidwood 1960: 78), who excavated closely comparable materials in the 1930s in the Amuq, many of them almost feel like ‘sandpaper’ (Fig. 10

Investigating Late Neolithic ceramics in the northern Levant: the view from Shir

Pre-Pottery Neolithic C

Work at the site of ‘Ain Ghazal in Jordan has indicated a later Pre-Pottery Neolithic C period, which existed between 8,200 and 7,900 BP. Juris Zarins has proposed that a Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex developed in the period from the climatic crisis of 6200 BCE.

This, partly as a result of an increasing emphasis in PPNB cultures upon animal domesticates, and a fusion with Harifian hunter gatherers in Southern Palestine, 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.

Genetical Landscape

Pre-Pottery Neolithic B fossils that were analysed for ancient DNA were found to carry the Y-DNA (paternal) haplogroups E1b1b (2/7; ~29%), CT (2/7; ~29%), E (xE2, E1a, E1b1a1a1c2c3b1, E1b1b1b1a1, E1b1b1b2b) (1/7; ~14%), T (xT1a1,T1a2a) (1/7; ~14%), and H2 (1/7; ~14%).

The CT clade was also observed in a Pre-Pottery Neolithic C specimen (1/1; 100%). Maternally, the rare basal haplogroup N* has been found among skeletal remains belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B, as have the mtDNA clades L3 and K.

DNA analysis has also confirmed ancestral ties between the Pre-Pottery Neolithic culture bearers and the makers of the Epipaleolithic Iberomaurusian culture of North Africa, the Mesolithic Natufian culture of the Levant, the Savanna Pastoral Neolithic culture of East Africa, the Early Neolithic Cardium culture of Morocco, and the Ancient Egyptian culture of the Nile Valley, with fossils associated with these early cultures all sharing a common genomic component.

Time Frame

Agricultural and husbandry practices originated 10,000 years ago in a region of the Near East known as the Fertile Crescent.

There is a linear relationship between the age of an Early Neolithic site and its distance from the conventional source in the Near East (Jericho). On average the Neolithic spread is at a constant speed of about 1 km/yr. More recent studies confirm these results and yield the speed of 0.6–1.3 km/yr at 95% confidence level.

Since the original human expansions out of Africa 200,000 years ago, different prehistoric and historic migration events have taken place in Europe. Considering that the movement of the people implies a consequent movement of their genes, it is possible to estimate the impact of these migrations through the genetic analysis of human populations.

The spread of the Neolithic in Europe was first studied quantitatively in the 1970s, when a sufficient number of 14C age determinations for early Neolithic sites had become available. According to the archaeological record this phenomenon, known as “Neolithic”, rapidly expanded from these territories into Europe. However, whether this diffusion was accompanied or not by human migrations is greatly debated.

Mitochondrial DNA – a type of maternally inherited DNA located in the cell cytoplasm- was recovered from the remains of Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) farmers in the Near East and then compared to available data from other Neolithic populations in Europe and also to modern populations from South Eastern Europe and the Near East.

The obtained results show that substantial human migrations were involved in the Neolithic spread and suggest that the first Neolithic farmers entered Europe following a maritime route through Cyprus and the Aegean Islands.

Amuq Valley

The Amik, Amuk, Amaq or Amuq Valley (Arabic: الأعماق‎, al-ʾAʿmāq) is located in the southern part of Turkey, in the Hatay Province, close to the city of Antakya (Antioch on the Orontes). Along with Dabiq in north western Syria, it is believed to be one of two possible sites of the battle of Armageddon according to Islamic eschatology.[1][2][3][4][5]
It is notable for a series of archaeological sites in the “plain of Antioch”.[6] The primary sites of the series are Tell al-Judaidah, Çatalhöyük (Amuq) (not to be confused with Çatalhöyük in Anatolia), Tell Tayinat, Tell Kurdu, Alalakh, and Tell Dhahab.[7] Tell Judaidah was surveyed by Robert Braidwood and excavated by C. MacEwan of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in the 1930s.[8][9]

Tell Judaidah

Tell Judaidah (Tell al-Judaidah, Tell Judeideh) is an archaeological site in south-eastern Turkey, in the province of Hatay. It is one of the largest excavated ancient sites in the Amuq valley, in the plain of Antioch. Settlement at this site ranges from the Neolithic (6000 BC) through the Byzantine Period.
1 Excavations
2 Tell Dhahab
3 Sources
4 See also
5 Notes
6 Bibliography
7 External links
The first excavations at Tell Judaidah began in the 1930s, conducted by the American archaeologist James Breasted of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.[1]
Excavations were continued by Robert Braidwood, and revealed the existence of human settlements in the Amuk valley in the Neolithic period as early as 6,000 BC. Rich discoveries of pottery helped to establish the sequence of successive ceramic shapes in the areas of the Eastern Mediterranean.[2]
Archaeological discoveries at Tell Judaidah included crucibles with tin rich copper encrustations, indicating a very early use of advanced metallurgical techniques around 4500 BC, including the use of metal alloys.[3]
Excavations in 1995 revealed the remains of a thick (1.5 m) wall of mud bricks on stone foundations, dating to the fourth millennium BC.
Very early bronze statuettes were discovered here dating to the period of 3400-2750 BC. These are known as ‘Amuq G figurines’. ‘Wheel-made Plain Simple Ware’ was also discovered dating to the same Amuq G period.[4]
Tell Dhahab
Tell Dhahab is located in near proximity to Tell Judaidah and is associated with it. It was excavated in 1938 in conjunction with the original Chicago expedition to Tell Judaidah. In recent decades, the site sustained serious damage. Scott Branting visited and evaluated the site in 1995 and 1998 seasons. Distinct stratigraphic phases were observed starting with Amuq Phase A. The following pottery styles were found,
Dark Faced Burnished Ware
Washed Impressed Ware
Plain Simple Ware
Reserved Slip Ware
Red Black Burnished Ware appeared in Amuq Phase H.[5]
%d bloggers like this: