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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Northern Mesopotamia II

Northern Mesopotamia

Tell Sabi Abyad

Bouqras

Bestansur

Tell Maghzaliyah

Jarmo

Hassuna

Tell Shemshara

Halaf

Tell Arpachiyah

Yarim Tepe

Kul Tepe

Domuztepe

Tell Sabi Abyad

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. Tell Sabi Abyad is one of the important sites of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period. The area of Mesopotamia proper was not yet settled by humans.

There have been extensive excavations at Tell Sabi Abyad I, II and III. Surveys were conducted at the fourth mound, but excavations were not possible because of its use as a local cemetery. The excavations have shown that these sites were inhabited 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. It has been discovered that around 6700 BC, pottery was already mass-produced. Remarkably, the earliest pottery was of a very high quality, and some of it was already painted.

Archaeologists discovered what seems like the oldest painted pottery here. Later, the painted pottery was discontinued, and the quality declined. 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.

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.

Pottery found at the site includes Dark Faced Burnished Ware and a Fine Ware that resembled Hassuna Ware and Samarra Ware. 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.

Significant cultural changes are observed at c. 6200 BC, which seem to be connected to the 8.2 kiloyear event. Nevertheless, the settlement was not abandoned at the time. The change involved new types of architecture, including extensive storehouses and small circular buildings (tholoi); the further development of pottery in many complex and often decorated shapes and wares; the introduction of small transverse arrowheads and short-tanged points; the abundant occurrence of clay spindle whorls, suggestive of changes in textile manufacture; and the introduction of seals and sealings as indicators of property and the organization of controlled storage.

An unusual “Burnt Village” was discovered here. It was destroyed by a violent fire ca. 6000 BC. Numerous artefacts were recovered from the burnt buildings; they include pottery and stone vessels, figurines, and all sorts of tools. There were also many storehouses.

A sort of an ‘archives’ building was found, which contained hundreds of small objects such as ceramics, stone shells and axes, bone implements, and male and female clay figurines. Particularly surprising were the over 150 clay sealings with stamp-seal impressions, as well as the small counting stones (tokens) — indicating a very early, well-developed registration and administration system.

The site has revealed the largest collection of clay tokens and sealings yet found at any site, with over two hundred and seventy-five, made by a minimum of sixty-one stamp seals. Such exchange devices were first found in level III of Mureybet during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and are well known to have developed in the Neolithic.

Tell Sabi Abyad II measured 75 metres (246 ft) by 125 metres (410 ft) by 4.5 metres (15 ft) high. Artefacts found evidenced a very early occupation with calibrated dates of around 7550 and 6850 BC. The PPNB horizon is present; later the site shows an uninterrupted sequence from the pre-pottery to ceramic phase.

Tell Sabi Abyad I, the biggest of the sites, was first occupied between 5200 and 5100 BC during the Neolithic. It showed a later phase of occupation, termed “transitional” by Akkermans, between 5200 and 5100 BC, which was followed by an early Halaf period between 5100 and 5000 BC. Architecture featured multi-room rectangular buildings with round structures called tholoi that were suggested to have been used for storage.

In the Halaf period, Tell Sabi Abyad had a fully developed farming economy with animal domestication of predominantly goats, but also sheep, cattle and pigs. A small number of gazelle were also hunted, although evidence for hunting and fishing is not well attested at the site.

Trees that would have grown at the time included poplar, willow and ash. Domesticated emmer wheat was the primary crop grown, along with domesticated einkorn, barley and flax. A low number of peas and lentils were found compared to similar sites.

Tell Sabi Abyad II measured 75 metres (246 ft) by 125 metres (410 ft) by 4.5 metres (15 ft) high. Artefacts found evidenced a very early occupation with calibrated dates of around 7550 and 6850 BC. The Pre-Pottery Neolithic B horizon is present; later the site shows an uninterrupted sequence from the pre-pottery to ceramic phase.

Later remains of a massive structure called the “Fortress” were dated to the Middle Assyrian period (Late Bronze Age) between 1550 and 1250 BC. Domestic buildings were also found, suggesting that the settlement was an Assyrian border town where a garrison was stationed. The Fortress structure contained eight rooms with 2.5-metre-wide (8.2 ft) walls constructed of mud bricks and featured a staircase that led to a second floor.

Bouqras

Bouqras is a large, oval shaped, prehistoric, Neolithic Tell, about 5 hectares (540,000 sq ft) in size, located around 35 kilometres (22 mi) from Deir ez-Zor in Syria. The mound was found to be approximately 4.5 metres (15 ft) deep and showed evidence of 11 periods of occupation spread over at least 1000 years between ca. 7400 and 6200 BC.

The earliest levels, 11 to 8, showed early Neolithic aceramic occupation developing on to stages with pottery in levels 7 to 1, from which over 7000 sherds were recovered. Material from later levels was visible on the surface when first discovered.

The layout and arrangement of houses seems to have been well ordered with similar arrangements of rooms, entrances, hearths and other features. Houses were made of mud bricks and generally rectangular with three or four rooms.

Bouqras seems to have developed in comparative isolation with few other settlements near the area. Interiors of the buildings featured white plastered walls with occasional use of red ochre for decoration with some images of birds. By later stages of the settlement, it was likely inhabited by as many as 700 to 1000 villagers.

Large quantities of obsidian was found suggesting links with Anatolia. A distinctive group of limestone, alabaster and gypsum vessels was also found made from local materials. Rounded or cylindrical beads were also found made of bone, shell, greenstones, carnelian and dentalium. An alabaster bracelet fragment and pendant were recovered as forms of personal decoration.

Several stone stamp seals including one of alabaster and one of jadeite were found with incised rectilinear patterns along with a few clay figurines. Pottery started to be found from the third level of habitation including a white plaster vessel.

Other materials were varied with coarse and fine sherds made with mixed straw and sand. Some sherds were burnished or painted red, one with a triangle on it. Arrowheads recovered included Byblos points and two types of Amuq points along with two other distinctive designs. Flints were usually of a fine dark grey or brown type found locally.

Paleobotanical studies were carried out by Willem van Zeist on carbonized plant remains recovered via water flotation. This has shown rain fed agriculture was practiced at Bouqras including cultivation of Emmer, Einkorn and free-threshing wheat, naked and hulled barley, peas and lentils.

Sickle blades, querns and pounders appear in the early stages at Bouqras, but not in later stages. White Ware was found suggested to have been used as basket covering to make them impermeable.

Sheep and goat comprised approximately 80% of the 5800 identifiable fragments of animal remains found. Other fauna included pigs and cattle, the domestication of which is uncertain. Deer, gazelle and onager were also hunted.

Bestansur

Bestansur is a Neolithic site located on the edge of the Shahrizor Plain, 30 km to the south-east of Sulaimaniyah in the western Zagros foothills in the Sulaimaniyah province, Iraq. The archaeological site consists of a 2.5km wide 7m high settlement mound, with occupation dating to the Early Neolithic period, 7600-7100 BC, and the Neo-Assyrian and Sasanian periods. Bestansur is on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.

Excavations have been undertaken at Bestansur since 2012. Surface survey has recorded evidence of a spread of Neolithic artefacts, including chert and obsidian. Test trenches were excavated to establish the extent of Early Neolithic occupation. A gradiometry survey has recorded evidence for Neo-Assyrian activity.

Occupation at the site consists of mud-brick and pisé rectangular buildings. The use of plaster has been recorded. A large-porticoed building, Building 5, contained a large oven. Evidence for activities taking place in the external areas surrounding the buildings include hearths, butchery and stone-working waste.

Tell Maghzaliyah

Tell Maghzaliyah (Tell Maghzalia) is a prehistoric aceramic Mesolithic and Neolithic site situated near the Abra River, a tributary of the Habur River, which eventually drains into the Euphrates River.

It is 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.

Other early sites with metal are also Ali Kosh in lowland Iran, and Tol-e Nurabad and Tepe Sialk in the Iranian Zagros Mountains. Also in the Iranian Zagros, near Marvdasht, are located the sites of Tall-i Mushki, and Tall-i Jari showing evidence of early metallurgy. All these settlements date to the late 7th/early 6th millennia BC.

Jarmo

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.  It is also one of the oldest Neolithic village sites to be excavated.

The Jarmo archeological site was one of the first means of documentation for the way of life of civilization’s first farmers and herders. For a long time it was known as the oldest known agricultural community in the world, dating back to 7000 BC.

The excavations exposed a small village, covering an area of 12,000 to 16,000 m², and which has been dated to 7090 BC, for the oldest levels, to 4950 BC for the most recent. The entire site consists of twelve levels.

Jarmo appears to be two older, permanent Neolithic settlements and, approximately, contemporary with other important Neolithic sites such as Jericho in the southern Levant, Çatal Hüyük in Anatolia, or the Neolithic stage of Shanidar.

The high point is likely to have been between 6,200 and 5,800 BC. This small village consisted of some twenty five houses, with adobe walls and sun-dried mud roofs, which rested on stone foundations, with a simple floor plan dug from the earth.

These dwellings were frequently repaired or rebuilt. In all, about 150 people lived in the village, which was clearly a permanent settlement. In the earlier phases there is a preponderance of objects made from stone, silex—using older styles—and obsidian.

The use of this latter material, obtained from the area of Lake Van, 200 miles away, suggests that some form of organized trade already existed, as does the presence of ornamental shells from the Persian Gulf. In the oldest level baskets have been found, waterproofed with pitch, which is readily available in the area.

Agricultural activity is attested by the presence of stone sickles, cutters, bowls and other objects, for harvesting, preparing and storing food, and also by receptacles of engraved marble. In the later phases instruments made of bone, particularly perforating tools, buttons and spoons, have been found.

The people in Jarmo reaped their grain with stone sickles, stored their food in stone bowls, and possessed domesticated goats, sheep, and dogs. They also grew emmer and einkorn wheat, barley, and lentils. In addition to their agriculture, they also foraged for wild plants such as the field pea, acorns, pistachio nuts, and wild wheat.

The later levels of settlement contained evidence of domesticated pigs and clay pottery. Since many of their tools were made of obsidian from beds 300 miles away, a primitive form of commerce must have existed. Bone tools, especially awls, were abundant from the site. Carefully made bone spoons and beads were also found.

Further research has shown that the villagers of Jarmo grew wheat of two types, emmer and einkorn, a type of primitive barley and lentils (it is common to record the domestication of grains, less so of pulses).

Their diet, and that of their animals, also included species of wild plant, peas, acorns, carob seeds, pistachios and wild wheat. Snail shells are also abundant. There is evidence that they had domesticated goats, sheep and dogs. On the higher levels of the site pigs have been found, together with the first evidence of pottery.

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.

Tell Maghzaliyah

Tell Maghzaliyah (Tell Maghzalia) is a prehistoric aceramic Mesolithic and Neolithic site situated near the Abra River, a tributary of the Habur River, which eventually drains into the Euphrates River.

It is 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.

Other early sites with metal are also Ali Kosh in lowland Iran, and Tol-e Nurabad and Tepe Sialk in the Iranian Zagros Mountains. Also in the Iranian Zagros, near Marvdasht, are located the sites of Tall-i Mushki, and Tall-i Jari showing evidence of early metallurgy. All these settlements date to the late 7th/early 6th millennia BC.

Jarmo

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.  It is also one of the oldest Neolithic village sites to be excavated.

The Jarmo archeological site was one of the first means of documentation for the way of life of civilization’s first farmers and herders. For a long time it was known as the oldest known agricultural community in the world, dating back to 7000 BC.

The excavations exposed a small village, covering an area of 12,000 to 16,000 m², and which has been dated to 7090 BC, for the oldest levels, to 4950 BC for the most recent. The entire site consists of twelve levels.

Jarmo appears to be two older, permanent Neolithic settlements and, approximately, contemporary with other important Neolithic sites such as Jericho in the southern Levant, Çatal Hüyük in Anatolia, or the Neolithic stage of Shanidar.

The high point is likely to have been between 6,200 and 5,800 BC. This small village consisted of some twenty five houses, with adobe walls and sun-dried mud roofs, which rested on stone foundations, with a simple floor plan dug from the earth.

These dwellings were frequently repaired or rebuilt. In all, about 150 people lived in the village, which was clearly a permanent settlement. In the earlier phases there is a preponderance of objects made from stone, silex—using older styles—and obsidian.

The use of this latter material, obtained from the area of Lake Van, 200 miles away, suggests that some form of organized trade already existed, as does the presence of ornamental shells from the Persian Gulf. In the oldest level baskets have been found, waterproofed with pitch, which is readily available in the area.

Agricultural activity is attested by the presence of stone sickles, cutters, bowls and other objects, for harvesting, preparing and storing food, and also by receptacles of engraved marble. In the later phases instruments made of bone, particularly perforating tools, buttons and spoons, have been found.

The people in Jarmo reaped their grain with stone sickles, stored their food in stone bowls, and possessed domesticated goats, sheep, and dogs. They also grew emmer and einkorn wheat, barley, and lentils. In addition to their agriculture, they also foraged for wild plants such as the field pea, acorns, pistachio nuts, and wild wheat.

The later levels of settlement contained evidence of domesticated pigs and clay pottery. Since many of their tools were made of obsidian from beds 300 miles away, a primitive form of commerce must have existed. Bone tools, especially awls, were abundant from the site. Carefully made bone spoons and beads were also found.

Further research has shown that the villagers of Jarmo grew wheat of two types, emmer and einkorn, a type of primitive barley and lentils (it is common to record the domestication of grains, less so of pulses).

Their diet, and that of their animals, also included species of wild plant, peas, acorns, carob seeds, pistachios and wild wheat. Snail shells are also abundant. There is evidence that they had domesticated goats, sheep and dogs. On the higher levels of the site pigs have been found, together with the first evidence of pottery.

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.

Umm Dabaghiyah Sotto

The Umm Dabaghiyah Sotto culture is the oldest found group of the Ceramic Neolithic in Northern Mesopotamia. The decisive finding places are named 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 used as a direct preliminary stage of the actual Hassuna culture. So far, there has been no generally accepted agreement to designate this epoch.

At least since the excavations in the Jazīra in the early 1970s by Diana Kirkbride (Umm Dabaghiyah) and Nikolai O. Bader (Tell Sotto), evidence has increasingly been found, the characteristic features of which reveal a uniform cultural group that has existed in the centuries before the appearance the Hassuna pottery populated the northern Mesopotamian plain.

However, due to the lack of reliable radiocarbon data, clear dating is difficult and is largely based on comparisons. For example, an early construction phase on Tell 2 in Telul eth-Thalathat could be identified with the Umm Dabaghiyah-Sotto culture and can be traced to 5,850 ± 80 BC.

The main occupation levels of Thalathat mounds are assigned to the 7th to the 2nd millennium BC. Thalathat II was mainly occupied in the Sotto-Umm Dabaghiyah to the Gawra periods with an apparent break in the Halaf period.

There are also C14 evaluations for a layer of the settlement hill Kashkashok II, which spanned a period of 5,930-5,540 BC. and include a rough time frame for the Proto-Hassuna goods contained therein.

No radiocarbon values ​​exist for Umm Dabaghiyah and Sotto. However, with the latter, the constant development of ceramics can be understood very well – the finds from layers 1–6 show strong parallels to Umm Dabaghiyah, while the ceramics of layers 7–8 have a striking similarity to the archaic Hassuna goods and thus the first phase of the subsequent culture in northern Mesopotamia has already been documented. These indications provide at least approximate indications, so that a period of around 6,000–5,750 BC BC has established.

While earlier cultures mainly populated the hill areas that enclose northern Mesopotamia in the shape of a crescent moon, more settlements now emerged in the fertile plains of the Euphrates and Tigris. The material legacies of these communities extend across much of the Jazira from the foothills of the Zāgros Mountains in the east to the banks of the Chabur in the west.

However, the focus is on the area on the upper Tigris south of the Jabal Sindschar in the region around Mosul. Umm Dabaghiyah, about 26 km west of Hatra, is the southernmost of these facilities and is a kind of outpost for hunting purposes. Sotto is located 2 km west of the Yarim Tepe excavation site on the northern edge of the Upper Mesopotamian plain in the immediate vicinity of the Kül Tepe sites in the west and Telul eth-Thalathat about 40 km away in the east.

In the northeast of Syria, the Kashkashok II and Khazna II plants are located near al-Hasakah on Chabur. The eastern border is marked by Gird Ali Agha on the Great Zab.

A few older sites, such as Jarmo or Maghzaliya, already had knowledge of the production of ceramics and are therefore considered classic representatives of the Ceramic Neolithic before the heyday of the Umm Dabaghiyah-Sotto type, but did not achieve their diversity in their legacies. From about 6,000 BC Chr. Is not only a widespread use of ceramic goods in northern Mesopotamia to record, there are also greater similarities between the finds from the individual settlements and shape the image of a coordinated network.

The ceramic vessels in this group of finds are primarily simple in design, have a thick, lean wall and have been fired at a low temperature. Their rough shapes were created by hand using the bead technique, since the potter’s wheel had not yet been invented. In addition to this coarse-grained goods, ceramics made of finer material were also found, which may have been imported. [7] Although the vast majority of the vessels found are unadorned, there are also some specimens painted with ocher, others have been polished or decorated with incisions. Simple motifs such as dots, circles, ticks, triangle or herringbone patterns, which are usually attached below the edges of the vessel, dominate. Bowls with a grooved base, which were probably used for peeling legumes, can also be found in the Hassuna ceramics. Particularly noteworthy are finely modeled, practically designed decorative elements that represent, for example, human eyes and ears, animal heads, snakes, anthropomorphic figures or crescent moon. Examples are round or oval vessel shapes, simple pots, bowls and bowls, but also double-conical containers with a height of up to 50 cm.

The production of objects made of stone was still part of the general picture. Tools for scraping, cutting and drilling were made from locally available Silex and obsidian – mostly finished – imported from Lake Van or Göllü Dağ from Anatolia. With the exception of Umm Dabaghiyah, an overweight of sickle blades and ordinary tees is noticeable. Axes, hatchets, picks and pricks were created e.g. B. made of marble and basalt; Mostly stalked projectile tips can be found in small numbers at most sites. In addition, polished vessels made of soft stone such as alabaster or marbled limestone were dug out, but also carefully shaped products made of hard stone – there were also grinding stones and club heads. Gypsum was used for plastering architecture, but also for modeling, lining baskets or the production of simple shells. The special finds include female clay figurines, some of which were painted or decorated with carvings. Slingshot projectiles were also excavated in large numbers, such as a weapons warehouse with over 2,400 fired clay balls of up to 15 cm in diameter was found in Umm Dabaghiyah. Weaving weights made of plaster, earthen spinning whorls and awls and needles made of bone testify to the textile and leather processing. Pearls for bracelets and collars were created from various minerals and rare finds of copper document the first metallurgical work in northern Mesopotamia. [5]

Hassuna

The Hassuna culture is a Neolithic archaeological culture located 22 miles south of Mosul in northern Mesopotamia dating to the early sixth millennium BC. in Iraq. Other sites where Hassuna material has been found include Tell Shemshara.

It is named after the type site of Tell Hassuna, which may have been surrounded by a stream on three sides. It is one of the earliest Mesopotamian sites, which dates back to late 7th millennium to late 6th millennium BC. The relationship of Hassuna pottery to that of Jericho suggests that village culture was becoming widespread.

Hassuna inhabitants, who used chipped stone hoes, represent some of the earliest farmers in northern Mesopotamia. Their culture flourished about 6000-5250 BC. They had no form of writing, so we do not know what their language was like.

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).

The Tell Hassuna people had a settled lifestyle. Their communities varied in size; the maximum population of their towns was about 500. Most were small villages that covered areas of 2-8 acres. The houses were rectangular and most had more than one room. Mudbrick formed the composition of most of the buildings.

Residences typically had yards with walls around them. The residents did much of their cooking in outdoor ovens. However, there were also some indoor ovens with chimneys. Floors were plastered and niches in walls were used for storage.

Archaeologists have excavated several sites of this culture. Tell Hassuna is the largest community. It had some large central buildings that were divided into small square rooms. These structures had dirt floors and no hearths. The evidence indicates that they were used for storage.

An archaeological team found 2,400 clay objects that are thought to have been projectiles propelled by slings. There were also about 100 large balls made of baked clay; these items may have been used as weapons.

Farming provided much of the food. The Tell Hassuna people raised barley and wheat. They also did a considerable amount of hunting. The game that they hunted included onagers (wild donkeys) and gazelles. It is obvious that they did not domesticate donkeys or horses.

There is evidence for the domestication of animals such as sheep, goats, and pigs. They lived in houses made of tauf, or packed mud, surrounding open courtyards. In the central area of the site, the buildings were larger in size and seemed to have specific purposes other than housing inhabitants.

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.

Some material remains uncovered from previous excavations have included ovens used for baking, pots for grain storage possibly lined with bitumen or gypsum plaster to keep out moisture, and grinding stones to process grains such as emmer and barely.

They used stamp seals to make images on clay and created an enormous amount of pottery. Alabaster and terracotta were commonly used for making pottery. Red paint was used to make linear designs on the pots, bowls, and goblets. Banded designs were common; the stripes were horizontal on some vessels and vertical on others.

The pottery found at the site is called Hassuna pottery and is characterized by red slip on cream-colored clay. Herring-bone lines decorate the pottery. Stamp seals, which may have been used for indication of contents or ownership, usually accompany the pottery.

There is evidence of turquoise in Hassuna, which would have been imported, and is an unusual find at early sites in Iraq. Other pottery included grey-burnished pieces which were probably attained through trade. At earlier levels there is a considerable amount of stone objects, flint, and obsidian. Beads, pendants, and other small pieces of jewelry have also been found.

Evidence found at Tel Hassuna excavations indicates a reverence for the afterlife. Female figurines have been related to worship and jar burials within which food was placed related to belief in afterlife. A dozen pottery-jar infant burials have been found alongside more jars containing food and drink meant to sustain the child in the afterlife.

Many statuettes were created by the Tell Hassuna people. These figurines were often made of alabaster or terracotta. The small sculptures frequently represented female figurines of a “mother-goddess” form made from reddish clay have been found. One figurine had a headdress created for her, molded from a type of green clay.

The site of Umm Dabaghiyah (Umm Dabaghiyah-Sotto-Kultur), in the same area of Iraq, is believed to have the earliest pottery in this region, and is sometimes described as a ‘Proto-Hassuna culture’ site. Other related sites in the area are Sotto, and Kul Tepe (Iraq). Another pre-Hassuna or proto-Hassuna site in Iraq is Tell Maghzaliyah.

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.

Pre-Proto-Hassuna refers to the Late Neolithic period in Upper Mesopotamia when the ceramic containers were just being introduced, and the pottery vessels were still very few in number in these early settlements. At that time, the main emphasis was on the pottery with a mineral temper, as opposed to the plant-tempered pottery which came to predominate later.

The time frame for this initial Late Neolithic ceramic period was about 7000-6700 BC, and at this time stone vessels and White Ware were still being used in addition to pottery. Because of the narrow local emphasis in many pottery studies as of now, these earliest pottery traditions may be known in literature as,

Initial Pottery Neolithic (in Balikh River area, for example Tell Sabi Abyad). Transitional (in Turkish Euphrates area; main sites are Mezraa Teleilat and Akarcay Tepe, with pottery dated to c. 6800 BC). Halula I (in Syrian Euphrates area; the main site is Tell Halula). Rouj 2a (in Northern Levant); several archaeological sites are located in the Rouj basin, Idlib, Syria). Nevertheless, all of these nomenclatures may refer to quite similar types of pottery, depending on some specific geographic region of Upper Mesopotamia.

Tell Shemshara

Tell Shemshara is an archaeological site located along the Little Zab in Sulaymaniyah Governorate, northeastern Iraq. The site was first recorded in 1955 during an archaeological survey of the Ranya Plain, which was to be flooded by the reservoir of the planned Dukan Dam.

The site was excavated between 1957 and 1959 by Danish and Iraqi archaeologists and was inundated by Lake Dukan until recently. Shemshara is now partially submerged under Lake Dukan. It has lost 164,000 cubic meters of volume to erosion since 1957 and at high water levels becomes an island.

The excavations showed that the site was occupied, although not continuously, from the Hassuna period (early sixth millennium BCE) until the 12th-14th century CE. The excavations at the main mound revealed 16 occupation layers, ranging in date from the Hassuna period (early sixth millennium BCE) to the 14th century CE.

Layers 16–9 dated to the Hassuna period. This occupation was characterized by rows of stones that are interpreted by the excavators as foundations for mudbrick walls, a pebble floor and a clay basin in the final occupation layer.

Pottery, which has only been found in abundance in layers 13–9, shows stylistic links with that of Hassuna and Tell es-Sawwan. Obsidian was the preferred material for stone tools, with flint making up only 15 percent of the total assemblage.

Whereas the flint was procured locally, the obsidian was obtained from two sources in eastern Turkey – one as yet unidentified, the other one being the volcanic Nemrut Dağ more than 300 kilometres (190 mi) away from Shemshara.

A unique piece in this assemblage is a dagger of over 35.5 centimetres (14.0 in) in length, broken in four pieces due to a fire. Other artifacts that have been found at the site include stone bowls, bracelets and quern-stones and small objects made of bone.

Whereas the main mound seems to have been abandoned after the Hassuna occupation, scarce archaeological material from the Uruk (fourth millennium BCE) and Jemdet Nasr periods (early third millennium BCE) has been found on the lower town.

Both the main mound and the lower extension were re-occupied during the Middle Bronze Age (early second millennium BCE). Layers 8–4 on the main mound can be assigned to this period.

The excavations found a number of graves with bronze weapons on the main mound, as well as a mudbrick platform. In the lower town, a small part of a palace was excavated, and in three of its rooms a small archive of clay tablets was found from the Middle Bronze Age (early second millennium BCE).

The palace was destroyed by fire, and through analysis of the archive it has been proposed that this happened in year 30 of the reign of Shamshi-Adad I of Assyria in the first quarter of the 18th century BCE.

The archive consisted of 146 clay tablets or fragments thereof, of which a small part dealt with the administration of the town, whereas the majority consisted of letters written to a certain Kuwari. Some fragments were part of the clay envelopes in which these letters were sent.

The texts were written in Akkadian. These texts revealed that during this period the site was called Shusharra and was the capital of a small, semi independent polity called Utêm or “land of the gatekeeper” and that it was ruled by a man named Kuwari.

Chronologically, the archive can be divided in two parts, one covering the period during which Shemshara was the capital of a small semi-independent kingdom, and one covering the period after Kuwari became a vassal of Shamshi-Adad, who at that time had already conquered Mari and Shubat-Enlil and was now campaigning in the Zagros Mountains. Together, these two periods do not last longer than 3 years.

The letters in the Shemshara archive show that during this period, Kuwari had to deal with Turukkean refugees coming from the east and fleeing a war with Guteans; events which are also mentioned in the much larger archives found in Mari on the Syrian Euphrates.

Tell Shemshara sits along the Little Zab, a tributary of the Tigris. Its strategic location in the northeastern corner of the Ranya Plain in the Zagros Mountains gave Shemshara control over travelling routes in all directions, particularly toward the north and east.

Shemshara is a tell, or settlement mound, that can be divided in two parts; a high main mound and an elongated lower mound. The main mound is 60 metres (200 ft) in diameter and 19 metres (62 ft) high, whereas the lower town is 270 metres (890 ft) long and 6 metres (20 ft) high.

Halaf

A farming society emerged in northern Mesopotamia and Syria which shared a common culture and produced pottery that is among the finest ever made in the Near East in the period 6500–5500 BC. This culture is known as Halaf, after the site of Tell Halaf in northeastern Syria where it was first identified.

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.

The Halaf potters used different sources of clay from their neighbors and achieved outstanding elaboration and elegance of design with their superior quality ware. Some of the most beautifully painted polychrome ceramics were produced toward the end of the Halaf period. This distinctive pottery has been found from southeastern Turkey to Iran, but may have its origins in the region of the River Khabur (modern Syria).

Ceramics from Hacilar show similarities with those of the Halaf culture from about the same period. There are also similarities in their figurines. Numerous nude female figures, made of clay, are quite remarkable, and possibly represent some divinity.

How and why it spread so widely is a matter of continuing debate, although analysis of the clay indicates the existence of production centers and regional copying. It is possible that such high-quality pottery was exchanged as a prestige item between local elites.

The Halaf culture also produced a great variety of amulets and stamp seals of geometric design, as well as a range of largely female terracotta figurines that often emphasize the sexual features. Among the best-known Halaf sites are Arpachiyah, Sabi Abyad, and Yarim Tepe, small agricultural villages with distinctive buildings known as tholoi.

These rounded domed structures, with or without antechambers, were made of different materials depending on what was available locally: limestone boulders or mud and straw. The Halaf culture was eventually absorbed into the so-called Ubaid culture, with changes in pottery and building styles.

While the period is named after the site of Tell Halaf in north Syria, excavated by Max von Oppenheim between 1911 and 1927, the earliest Halaf period material was excavated by John Garstang in 1908 at the site of Sakce Gözü, then in Syria but now part of Turkey. Small amounts of Halaf material were also excavated in 1913 by Leonard Woolley at Carchemish, on the Turkish/Syrian border.

However, the most important site for the Halaf tradition was the site of Tell Arpachiyah, now located in the suburbs of Mosul, Iraq. The Halaf period was succeeded by the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period which comprised the late Halaf (c. 5400–5000 BC), and then by the Ubaid period.

Previously, the Syrian plains were not considered as the homeland of Halaf culture, and the Halafians were seen either as hill people who descended from the nearby mountains of southeastern Anatolia, or herdsmen from northern Iraq.

However, those views changed with the recent archaeology conducted since 1986 by Peter Akkermans, which have produced new insights and perspectives about the rise of Halaf culture. A formerly unknown transitional culture between the pre-Halaf Neolithic’s era and Halaf’s era was uncovered in the Balikh valley, at Tell Sabi Abyad (the Mound of the White Boy).

Currently, eleven occupational layers have been unearthed in Sabi Abyad. Levels from 11 to 7 are considered pre-Halaf; from 6 to 4, transitional; and from 3 to 1, early Halaf. No hiatus in occupation is observed except between levels 11 and 10.

The new archaeology demonstrated that Halaf culture was not sudden and was not the result of foreign people, but rather a continuous process of indigenous cultural changes in northern Syria, that spread to the other regions..

Although no Halaf settlement has been extensively excavated some buildings have been excavated: the tholoi of Tell Arpachiyah, circular domed structures approached through long rectangular anterooms. Only a few of these structures were ever excavated.

They were constructed of mud-brick sometimes on stone foundations and may have been for ritual use (one contained a large number of female figurines). Other circular buildings were probably just houses.

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.

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. In addition, the Halaf communities made female figurines of partially baked clay and stone and stamp seals of stone.

The seals are thought to mark the development of concepts of personal property, as similar seals were used for this purpose in later times. The Halaf people used tools made of stone and clay. Copper was also known, but was not used for tools.

Dryland farming was practiced by the population. This type of farming was based on exploiting natural rainfall without the help of irrigation, in a similar practice to that still practiced today by the Hopi people of Arizona. Emmer wheat, two-rowed barley and flax were grown. They kept cattle, sheep and goats.

Halaf culture ended by 5000 BC after entering the so-called Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period. Many Halafians settlements were abandoned, and the remaining ones showed Ubaidian characters. The new period is named Northern Ubaid to distinguish it from the proper Ubaid in southern Mesopotamia, and two explanations were presented for the transformation.

The first maintain an invasion and a replacement of the Halafians by the Ubaidians, however, there is no hiatus between the Halaf and northern Ubaid which exclude the invasion theory. The most plausible theory is a Halafian adoption of the Ubaid culture, which is supported by most scholars including Oates, Breniquet and Akkermans.

Tell Arpachiyah

Tell Arpachiyah (outside modern Mosul in Ninawa Governorate Iraq) is a prehistoric archaeological site in Nineveh Province (Iraq). It takes its name from a more recent village located about 4 miles (6.4 km) from Nineveh. The proper name of the mound on which the site is located is Tepe Reshwa. Tepe Gawra is also a contemporary neolithic site located in the Mosul region.

The site was occupied in the Halaf and Ubaid periods. It appears to have been heavily involved in the manufacture of pottery. The pottery recovered there formed the basis of the internal chronology of the Halaf period. Several Halaf structures have been uncovered, including tholoi and the “Burnt House”. An array of Halaf pottery and sealings were also found, along with some Ubaid burials.

Yarim Tepe

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 7 km 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.

The hill known as Yarim-Tepe I belongs to Hassuna culture.  Some objects found here are reminiscent of those of Tureng Tepe in Iran. There are more than 1500 rectangular furnaces and ceramic ovens used for cooking. The earliest known kiln, dating to around 6000 BC, was found here.

The findings also include ceramic vases, female clay figurines, and other items. Metal items were also found, such as a lead bracelet, copper beads, as well as copper ore, which represents some of the oldest metallurgy in Mesopotamia.

Yarim Tepe II is a settlement of the Halafian culture, belonging to the fifth millennium BC. It is located 250 m west of Yarim Tepe I, and is partly eroded by the nearby brook Joubara Diariasi. Almost all of the dwellings are small one-room mud brick houses of the tholos plan.

Ceramic figured vessels in the shape of elephants and women were found among other pottery. Some ceramic containers have pictures of fish, birds, gazelles and other animals on them. Some pendant seals were also discovered, including a very old copper seal. The burial customs included cremations, and the burials of skulls.

Yarim Tepe III is located right next to Yarim Tepe II. The hill is 10 m high. The pottery is typical for Northern Ubaid and Halaf. At least three Ubaid building levels are found here on top of several Halaf levels. The uppermost levels of the Halaf cultural deposits are analogous to the Arpachiyah levels TT-6 to TT-8, and Tepe Gawra levels XVIII-XX. Three stone seal-pendants have also been found.

Metal was already quite common at Yarim Tepe; as many as 21 examples of worked copper or copper ore were found in the lower levels of the settlement. Even more remarkably, the earliest use of lead is also documented. As native lead is extremely rare, such artifacts raise the possibility that lead smelting may have begun even before copper smelting.

Kul Tepe

Kul Tepe (Iraq) is a related site located about 6 km 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.

Domuztepe

Domuztepe (meaning Pig Hill in Turkish) was a large, late Neolithic settlement in south east Turkey, occupied at least as early as c. 6200 BC and abandoned c. 5450 BC. The site is located to the south of Kahramanmaraş. Covering 20 hectares, it is primarily a Halaf site of the 6th millennium BC and is the largest known settlement of that date.

The site was certainly founded by the Ceramic Neolithic (c. 6400 BC) but earlier occupation may well be present. Prehistoric occupation ended towards the end of the Halaf period (c. 5450 BC). The site was reoccupied during the Hellenistic period and was occupied by a significant settlement during the first millennium AD.

Recent research identified some Armenian obsidian at Domuztepe. Electron microprobe analysis and portable X-ray fluorescence were used. 15 artifacts from Domuztepe match de:Pokr Arteni, a common obsidian source in Armenia. Thus, the Late Neolithic settlement of Domuztepe traded over a walking distance of 800 km. Four other obsidian sources from the Kura-Araxes basin were also identified at Domuztepe.

 
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