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Chapter 4: Neolithic 2 (Pages 226-230)

Relationships Between Palestinian - West Syrian
and Middle Euphrates Sites in Neolithic 2

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:

The Neolithic 2 sites in Palestine which I have discussed are closely related culturally to Jericho and may be dated by the PPNB Jericho Carbon 14 determinations. Thus all of them appear to have been occupied during the 7th millennium which makes them broadly contemporary with the Neolithic 2 West Syrian and Middle Euphrates sites. The Palestinian Neolithic 2 sites and those further north share certain general cultural traits like the rectilinear buildings vith plaster floors and burial customs which embrace single inhumations, secondary collective burial and special treatment of skulls. Their flint industries are based on the same core techniques and the same range of tool types is found on most Neolithic 2 sites, tanged arrowheads everywhere, sickle blades in abundance on Palestinian and West Syrian sites, end-scrapers, angle and dihedral burins, borers and flaked and polished axes and adzes on some sites. Ground stone rubbers and querns are ubiquitous as are fine stone bowls and dishes.

The Palestinian sites thus form part of a single Levantine cultural entity in Neolithic 2 yet in their material remains they show considerable individuality. The plans of the buildings at Jericho, Nahal Oren and Munhatta are different from those at Tell Ramad and Abu Hureyra for example. There are certain variations in burial rites on the Palestinian sites, not least the practice of modelling faces on skulls of the deceased which seems to have been confined to sites in Palestine and Tell Ramad only a little to the northeast. The flint industries of the Palestinian sites have their own idiosyncracies, one of which is the making of tanged and winged arrowheads, a type rare anywhere else. Tranchet axes are another Palestinian type rarely found on sites further north. The stepped, open-ended querns are found on most Palestinian sites but only at Tell Ramad to the north. On the other hand the white plaster ware which is so common on later Neolithic 2 West Syrian and Middle Euphrates sites is not found in Palestine, unless a report of a few fragments being found at Munhatta is corroborated. These cultural differences are sufficiently marked for us to place the Palestinian sites in a third regional group within Neolithic 2 of the Levant.

Although the Palestinian sites form a distinct regional group some of their characteristic cultural traits are found at Tell Ramad and other sites in the West Syrian group. These two regional groups have particularly close cultural links and form almost a cultural continuum along the coast and immediate hinterland of the Levant.

When Kenyon excavated Jericho it became apparent that there was a long gap in occupation between the PPNA and PPNB settlements. The material remains of the PPNB settlement also appeared to be quite different from those of the PPNA. Jericho was the only site in Palestine which provided a long and well-defined Neolithic sequence. All the other sites were either settlements occupied for much shorter lengths of time or surface stations and none of them had as full an artifact inventory as Jericho. Their cultural and chronological position could only be fixed by the Jericho sequence. None of them appeared to provide a link between the PPNA and PPNB at Jericho so it was that the PPNB was a culture that had originated elsewhere and been introduced into Palestine by immigrant groups. When excavations began at Hacilar and Catal Huyuk in Anatolia archaeologists noted that PPNB Jericho had certain general traits in common with these sites. It was then suggested that some unknown culture in Syria provided a link between the Anatolian and Palestinian sites and that the PPNB in Palestine was introduced from there (See Page 159 in *1 Below).

Since then many Neolithic sites have been found in Syria and some of them have been excavated. The Neolithic sequence is fairly clear now, at least in the Damascus basin and along the Euphrates. These two regions enjoyed an unbroken local development of culture within the wider Levantine province throughout Neolithic 1 and 2. It can now be seen that the PPNB at Jericho was distinct from Neolithic 2 further north and could not have developed from it for both crystalized about the same time.

Jericho is still the type-site for the Neolithic in Palestine but more is now known about other sites in the region. Although there was a long gap in occupation at Jericho between PPNA and PPNB there was no such sharp break in the sequences at Nahal Oren and El Khiam. When the material from these two sites is considered and also that from Jericho now that the study of it is far advanced we can see that there was considerable continuity of culture from Neolithic 1 to 2 within Palestine. Some characteristics of the Neolithic 2 chipped stone industry in Palestine had already been developed at these sites in Neolithic 1. Double-ended cores were used at both Nahal Oren and Jericho in Neolithic 1 and a number of true blade tools had been made on the products of these cores. Squamous pressure-flaking was also used at these two sites. Flaked tranchet axes were first made in Neolithic 1 although they are usually thought of as typical of Neolithic 2 in Palestine. Many of the ground stone tools and stone vessels were similar in Neolithic 1 and 2 as were the bone tools. The typical burial customs of Neolithic 2 were also developed earlier for at both Jericho and Nahal Oren skulls were removed from skeletons in Neolithic 1.

The most striking difference between PPNA and PPNB at Jericho was the plan of the buildings. This is still true but there is no longer any need to look further than the southern Levant for the origins of the new rectilinear style of construction. At both Nahal Oren and Beidha there was a swift change from circular to rectangular structures and the change was equally rapid at Mureybat in the north even if at each site the change happened at a different time. It seems that the alteration in building plan took place on Palestinian sites during the centuries when Jericho was unoccupied and that when the site was resettled about 7000 B.C. the inhabitants built their houses in the then current rectilinear style. The gap in the sequence at Jericho is still marked but there is no reason to suppose that all cultural development ceased in Palestine during this period. Quite the reverse seems to have occurred: the culture of Neolithic 1 in Palestine was transformed into that of Neolithic 2 within the region as was happening further north. Palestine continued to be occupied during the transition even if most of the known sites were inhabited for such short periods that long cultural sequences are rarely found.

I will now-briefly review the evidence for Neolithic 2 occupation at other sites in Palestine. The sites are many but most of them are only known from surface survey. Intense exploration of this region is continuing and new sites are being discovered every year but information about these discoveries is disseminated slowly. Other sites were discovered long ago and remain unpublished, their surface collections dispersed. Some of these have doubtless been forgotten. Since our information about these sites is so uneven I shall not attempt to mention every one discovered but simply those in each area for which information is readily available in the published sources and in unpublished museum collections which I have examined .....


(Only References in English are Included)

*1 The Origins of the Neolithic [1969]
K. Kenyon Number 128 (Pages 144 - 160)
The Advancement of Science
Library of Congress # Q 41 B812

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium