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Chapter 4: Neolithic 2 Beidha (Pages 243-256)

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:

Beidha enjoyed its most flourishing period as a settlement during the occupation of levels VI to I. The buildings of the settlement were made of stone because this was the material most readily available in the neighbourhood but superstructures and roofs were made of timber, clay, brushwood and reeds. These materials were all used in the structures of Level VI. A ring of posts about 4 metres in diameter was first erected then a stone wall built around to form an irregular circle (See Page 6 in *1 Below). The interior face of the walls and the posts were plastered over to give a smooth surface. The floors of these rooms were below ground level and there was a post in the middle which supported the roof. These circular rooms were built so close together that they formed a cluster with interlocking walls. Four such clusters have been found separated by open spaces with plastered surfaces. There were other less substantial structures in these open courts.

A wall at least 1 metre high ran along the southeast side of the village (See Page 92 in *2 Below). It acted as a terrace wall to support the buildings of the village which stood on the sandy deposits of the earlier levels. A stairway in the wall gave easy access from the outside up into the village.

At the extreme eastern end of this wall beyond the limits of the village there was a group of three single-chambered structures unlike the buildings within the settlement (See Page 93ff ibid). One was sub-circular and the others sub-rectangular in shape. The walls were built of stone and the floors were paved with stones or gravel. In and around these structures were several large flat slabs of sandstone and a shallow basin. There were indications that these buildings had been modified over a period of time but we do not yet know during which levels of occupation in the settlement they were used. This group of structures with its associated slabs and basin is different from the dwellings within the settlement and so presumably served another purpose. Kirkbride has suggested that the structures may have been shrines in which ritual activities were performed (See Page 96 ibid). There seems no particular reason why this should have been the case but it is quite likely that the remains may have been connected with some industrial or craft activity such as tanning or dyeing cloth which the inhabitants preferred to carry out beyond the limits of the settlement. These processes can be unpleasant and so are best conducted at some distance from any houses. The slabs could have been used as surfaces on which to dress hides or stretch and dry cloth and the basin for tanning or dyeing.

One complete building has been excavated in Level V that incorporated some of the construction techniques of the Level VI structures. This had a single room 6.5 metres in diameter with a paved floor sunk below ground level like all the structures at Beidha (See Page 8 in *1). The room was constructed of posts set in a stone wall but the structure as a whole was freestanding. The roof was made of wooden poles, brushwood and clay supported by a vertical post in the floor and the entrance was down a flight of steps. Other buildings constructed in a similar way were found in Level V but there were also approximately rectangular structures whose walls were built of stone without the ring of posts.

There were three types of building in Level IV, all with a single room but different in size and shape. The first group was situated on the eastern side of the settlement. These were rectilinear structures, some of which had slightly curved walls and rounded corners; (See Page 18 in *3). The buildings were entered down a flight of three stone steps. The floors and walls were plastered over and there were plastered hearths on the floors. Some of these structures were separated from each other by open yards.

A much larger rectangular building was found towards the centre of the mound. This was 5 metres wide and 6 metres long with a plastered floor, hearth and walls (See Page 8 in *1 Below). Two stone bowls were set in the floor on either side of the hearth (See Page 17 in *3 Below). One large circular building, House XXXI was found in this level (See Page 9 in *1 Below), the only one resembling the plan of the structures in earlier levels. Although most of the buildings in Level IV were thus rectangular rather than circular several of them still had rounded corners. Much less timber was used in their construction than before and hearths were set inside the buildings for the first time.

There was another change in architecture in Level III. Two of the three types of building in Level IV were completely superseded although the third, the large rectangular structure, may have been rebuilt (See Page 18 in *3 Below). All the other buildings were a new type, rectangular in overall shape but vith unusual interior arrangements. These new buildings, though characteristic of Level III, were not well preserved because only a few courses survived beneath the Level II structures.

Exactly the same buildings, many of them orientated north-south, were found over much of the site in Level II. They were about 6 metres long by 5 metres wide and entered down a flight of three steps. The interior had a central passage about 1 metre wide from which usually three pairs of chambers opened off, each about 1.5 metres by 1 metere in size (See Page 14 ibid). These chambers were separated from each other by rock size stone buttresses which took up a good deal of the floor space within the buildings. The buttresses stood about 1.5 metres high and their tops were capped with plaster (See Page 138 in *4 Below). Plaster fragments and artifacts which had fallen fron an upper storey were found in the fil1 of these chambers (See Page 15 in *3 Below). These buildings were really the ground floors of two-storeyed structures, the upper floors of which were supported by the buttresses. The upper storey was probably where the inhabitants lived while the ground floors had another function. Kirkbride has suggested that because the basements contained many artifacts they were really workshops. Certainly interesting collections of animal bones, rubbers and other artifacts (See Page 139 in *4 Below) were found in several of them but as most of these objects seem to have fallen in from above it is more likely that the cramped basements were used simply for storage and that the crafts and domestic activities for which the artifacts provide evidence were carried out on the floors of the dwellings above.

These houses were grouped around a large rectangular building which was 9 metres long and 7 metres wide (See Page 11 in *3 Below). The building had a single room with a plaster floor entered down a flight of steps. To the left of the doorway was a hearth with a stone seat or table beside it. This building was surrounded on two sides by an L-shaped yard or room. The nature of this complex is not clear but as only one example was found in Level II it may have been a communal building.

Level I has been disturbed by later human activity and erosion so that not much could be learned about its layout. One building, 4 by 3 metres in size, had a single room with a plaster flcor. This may have been a house, in which case another major change in architecture had taken place, or some other kind of building.

The dead at Beidha were buried beneath the floors of the houses, in abandoned buildings and in the open spaces between (See Page 23 in *3 Below). Most of the children were buried complete but the skulls of several of the adults were detached and buried seperately. Some of the skeletons were also in disorder following secondary burial but most were intact. The teeth of the adults were heavily worn (See Page 16 ibid).

The flint tools were made from nodules obtained from the nearby wadi and tabular flint from Jebel Shara to the east (See Page 14 in *5 Below). The industry was predominantly one of blade tools and the blades were struck off double-ended cores. Some of the flakes came from discoid cores but prismatic flake cores were much were numerous and many of these had been reused for chopping.

Arrowheads were the largest single class of tool, forming 20 to 29 percent of the retouched artifacts (See Page 45 ibid). Most of these had pointd tangs which were formed either by a simple narrowing of the blade or with a notch at either side to make a shoulder. A few of the arrowheads had short tangs and pairs of notches like those from Tell Aswad and Tell Ramad. Most of the tanged arrowheads were retouched around the tang, under the tip and occasionally along part of the blade. Pressure-flaking was used on some of the tangs and a few arrowheads had quite extensive squamous retouch; this technique became more common at Beidha later in the occupation sequence (See Page 26 ibid) as on the Damascus basin sites.

Borers were another particularly common tool at Beidha, forming a higher percentage of the retouched tools here (15 - 25 percent) than on most other contemporary excavated sites. They were made on both blades and flakes and could be divided into three functional categories. The first was short points on flakes and blades (See Figure 20 ibid) which could be used for making wide holes in thin materials. The second was very thin long points, a numerous class particularly suitable for drilling holes in beads (See Figure 22 : Type B7 ibid). The third group also had a long point but it was more robust and frequently blunt (See Figure 22 : Type B9 and Figure 23 : Type 10 ibid); these borers were probably drills or reamers.

The third major class of tools (13 - 20 percent) was retouched blades and flakes described as knives (See Page 32 ibid). This was not a homogeneous group and it is doubtful if all these tools were used in the same way. Most of them had only a little edge retouch.

Sickle blades and flakes were not very numerous but present in much the same proportions (8 - 12 percent) throughout the sequence. There were a few sickle flakes in Level VI and V (See Figure 38 ibid) but blades were usually preferred. The blades had nibble or finely denticulated retouch along the cutting edge.

Burins were quite rare tools at Beidha. They were all dihedral and angle types (See Page 29 ibid), the usual varieties found on other contemporary sites. Scrapers were also quite uncommon (7 - 11 percent). Most of these were end-scrapers on blades and flakes. There was also a group of notched flakes and blades (See Page 36ff ibid).

Two interesting groups of tools wwere identified at Beidha which have so far been recognised at very few other sites. One was interpreted as firestones or strike-a-lights (See Page 38ff ibid). These were thick blades and flakes with signs of heavy battering at one end or along part of the side of the piece. Mortensen has identified similar tools at Labweh. The other group was retouchers thought to have been used in pressure-flaking (See Page 40ff ibid). These were blades and crested blades with signs of heavy wear at the proximal end.

Large core tools were rare at Beidha as on the Euphrates sites but in contrast with those in the West Syrian Group. The axes and adzes were usually trapezoidal or oval in shape with a flaked or polished cutting edge (See Page 42 ibid). A few had been sharpened with a tranchet blow. Some core tools which had a narrow cuttind edge have been interpreted as chisels (See Page 41 ibid). The other types of core tools were picks and spherical hammer-stones (See Page 43 ibid). The hammerstones were flint spheroids covered with heavy battering marks. These may indeed have been used as hammers but could also have been used as weights, perhaps for bolas. This class of artifact was abundant at Abu Hureyra and examples have been found on other Neolithic 2 sites although they were not common everywhere.

Only three pieces of obsidian were found at Beidha. When analysed the two pieces in Level IV and V were found to be from Ciftlik and the one in Level II to be from one of the 4c sources in eastern Anatolia (See Page 325 in *6 Below).

The inventory of other artifacts from Beidha was rich, the greatest variety of types coming from the upper levels. Stone grinding tools were ubiquitous and rubbers and querns especially numerous (See Page 32ff in *3 Below). Some of the querns were open-ended and the remainder had a depression worn in the centre. Most of the rubbers were oval with a plano-convex section and some had been used for grinding ochre. A few pestles and mortars were found but stone bowls were quite rare at Beidha. These heavy stone tools were made of limestone, basalt and granite all of which were available in the vicinity of the site.

One or two small polished axes were found (See Page 35 ibid) but almost all the other axes and adzes were larger tools about 10 centimetres long made of basalt. These were pecked out and the cutting edge ground down to produce a straight or rounded edge.

Among the other stone tools were a number of weights which had a large hole bored at one end. An identical example was discovered at Tell Ramad. Their fuction is uncertain although there size tells us something about their likely use. They were too small to have been used as roof weights, for example, but about the right size for loom weights in an upright loom which is one possible explanation of their purpose.

The remaining stone tools included several types hardly known elsewhere. There were a number of thin rectangular pieces of sandstone with a hole for suspension bored at one end. These were polished on both sides and one had been scored repeatedly with a flint tool as if it has been used as a cutting surface. Another unusual artifact found in small numbers was a stone slab with two rows of small holes in the surface and other markings which may have been used as a gaming board or simply asa a base for a bow drill.

Bone tools were numerous throughout the Beidha sequence from Level VI up. The usual kinds were borers of varying sizes (See Page 30 ibid) but spatulae were also quite common. A few of the latter were quite delicate as were several other small bone pins and spoons.

Beads and other decorative objects were also common at Beidha. Shell was a particularly favoured raw material (See Page 28 ibid) and was imported from both the Mediterranean and Red Sea. Cowrie, mother of pearl, dentalium, cockle and other species were all used for this purpose. The bone and stone beads were usually cylindrical in shape but some flat amulets were also made.

Clay figurines were not very common at the site but both humans and animals were modelled. Several fragments of ibex were particularly naturalistic (See Page 26 ibid). One or two small clay vessels were also found. Some of these objects were baked but whether intentionally or not was unclear.

Good evidence was found for the use of wooden containers and baskets at Beidha (See Page 10 in *1 Below). Traces of several wooden boxes were noticed in the sandy occupation levels, one of which had contained 114 flint arrowheads and points. Some of the baskets had been lined with plaster or bitumen either to make them watertight or more resistant to penetration by rodents.

The raw materials used at Beidha were quite as varied as on contemporary sites elsewhere. Pumice from the Mediterranean was used as an abrasive (See Page 51 in *3 Below), haematite for polishing, ochres and malachite as coluring matter. Few of these materials, however, were imported from far away because they could be obtained from the vicinity of the site. The exceptions were the marine products, obsidian and a little steatite. Beidha, therefore, enjoyed less extensive regular contacts through exchange than other sites further north.

The length of time that levels VI and I were occupied has been determined fairly satisfactorily from a series of 14 C-14 dates. The dates are as follows:

These dates cluster close together over four centuries between 6600 B.C. and 7000 B.C. The earliest date, P-1380 from Level IV, takes the sequence a little further back but one might still estimate that Level VI was first occupied about 7100 or 7000 B.C. and the site finally abandoned about 6500 B.C. If one attempts to date each level in the archaeological sequence from these determinations considerable difficulties arise. This is because the dates from individual levels, particularly VI and IV, are spread over several centuries. The reason for this is in part the nature of the material analysed which ranged from carbonized pistachio nuts to oak and juniper charcoal (See Pages 323ff:10:1968 in *7 Below). The nuts might be expected to have been buried about the year they were harvested but the timber could have already been old when it was burned. This makes it impossible to date the occupation sequence in more detail even though so many determinations have been made unless much more information about the nature of the carbon samples and their stratigraphic location becomes available. One more point should be remembered and that is that the Neolithic occupation at Beidha probably began well back in Neolithic 1 so that the settlement may already have been several centuries old when the first Level VI buildings were constructed.

We must now consider the relationship between the occupation at Beidha in Levels VI to I and other sites in the Levant. From Level V on the inhabitants began to construct rectilinear buildings with plaster floors and this development links Beidha with Neolithic 2 sites further north such as Jericho, Tell Ramad and Abu Hureyra. Burial customs at Beidha also have much in common with these other sites. The flint industry, based as it is on large blades usually, struck from double-ended cores, is in the Levantine Neolithic 2 tradition. The range of tools and the arrowheads in particular can all be matched on Neolithic 2 sites further north. Most tools had very little retouch, a link between Beidha and sites like Aswad II which like Beidha is dated early in the 7th millennium.

The richness of the remainder of the artifacts is another hallmark of Neolithic 2 sites when compared with those of Neolithic 1. As elsewhere the bone tools are particularly abundant. The typology of the flints, the evolution of the architecture and the C-14 dates all indicate that Beidha VI to I was inhabited in the first half of the 7th millennium early in Neolithic 2.

The general relationship between Beidha and other Neolithic 2 sites in the Damascus basin and the Euphrates region is clear but there are certain aspects of the remains at Beidha which are unique to the site. The most obvious example of this is the development of the architecture. The circular houses of Level VI, while bearing a general resemblance to the circular stone huts of Neolithic 1 Nahal Oren and the mud-brick houses of PPNA Jericho, are built differently with a ring of posts set in the walls. Some of the simple rectilinear buildings are like those at Tell Ramad, Labweh and elsewhere but the two-storeyed houses with chambered basements are unique to Beidha. The changes in building types took place rapidly yet there is no suggestion that the sequence of occupation at the site was interrupted. On the contrary the preliminary study of the flint industry shows only gradual changes through time as though the same group of people continued to inhabit the site throughout the occupation sequence (See Page 47 in *5 Below). The architectural sequence at Beidha thus appears to have been a local phenomenon even though in the most general sense it mirrors a trend apparent throughout the Levant in the 8th and 7th millennia.

Kirkbride carried out a surface survey around Beidha and found three more Neolithic 2 sites in the area. Two, Shagaret M'siad and Adh Dhaman, were in the hills near Beidha. Shaqaret M'siad lay in a valley a little to the north (See Page 54 in *3 Below). The site was about 1.8 hectares in area and consisted of the remains of rectilinear stone buildings some of which had plaster floors. The finds included querns and stone grinders as well as an abundant flint industry with tanged and notched arrowheads.

Adh Dhaman lay south of Beidha near a spring (See Page 55ff ibid). The site was perhaps 1 hectare in area with the remains of rectilinear stone-walled structures on the surface, some of which had plaster floors. Among the finds were rubbers, querns and tanged and leaf-shaped arrowheads.

The third site, Bir et-Taiyiba, lay almost due west of Beidha near a spring on the floor of the Wadi Arabah. There were traces of occupation deposit here but no structures and among the finds were tanged arrowheads.

These three sites appear to belong to Neolithic 2 and should be 7th millennium in date. Their precise cultural affin1ties are unknown but Shaqaret M'siad and Adh Dhaman seem to have much in common with Beidha and Bir et-Taiyiba was probably also occupied in the 7th millenniun.

Another Neolithic 2 site in this region is Ain Abu Nakheileh which lies in the Wadi Rum at the foot of Jebel Rum near the Spring which gives the site its name (See Page 231 in *8 Below). Much of the plan of the site could be discerned from the surface. It was composed of stone-walled multi-roomed buildings of both circular and rectilinear plan; the floors of the circular ones at least lay below ground level. The chipped stone industry was composed of blade tools of which pressure-flaked leaf-shaped arrowheads were the dominant type. Hollow querns, grinders, pestles and other ground stone tools were also found. The typology of the arrowheads would suggest that the site was occupied late in Neolithic 2 while the plans of the buildings can be paralleled at Beidha and Wadi Dhobai B.

The German expedition to Kilwa in the Jebel Tubaiq discovered at least one surface Neolithic station, site 19. The inventory consisted of numerous flake tools as well as blades aad blade tools. The blades had been struck off double-ended and prismatic cores with crested blades as a by-product. These can be exactly paralleled at Beidha as well as on sites further north. Among the blade tools were angle and dihedral burins, abruptly retouched reamers and tanged arrowheads. The arrowheads had well-defined shoulders and one or two were winged but none was notched. Several had extensive squamous retouch. There were also a number of small oval points that may have been arrovheads.

The flake tools included a number of scrapers, some of which were on tabular flint. There was also a series of bifacial ovates and other flake tools which may hive been scrapers together with triangular, trapezoidal and oval axes and picks. A number of other flake tools were found which had been extensively retouched with pressure-flaking.

This assemblage appears to be homogeneous and good parallels for the blade tools and some of the flake tools can be found at Beidha and other excavated Neolithic 2 sites. The general shape of the Kilwa arrowheads conforms very well to those at Beidha but they are more extensively retouched than most Beidha examples. The numerous bifacial tools, also extensively retouched, are not so readily matched at Beidha or any other excavated site although they are similar to surface finds from Kharaneh IV. The use of so much pressure-flaking suggests that site 19 may postdate Beidha and so have been occupied relatively late in the 7th millennia but many tools in the assemblage are clearly in the same tradition as those at Beidha and Wadi Dhobai B.

Fewer Neolithic 2 sites hae been found in southern than in northern Transjordan because the area is relatively remote and much of it difficult of access but since sites with quite rich remains have been found as far to the south-east as Kilwa it is probable that the whole area was occupied. It is also likely that occupation extended into northern Arabia in regions not yet examined for Neolithic remains.

Although so many sites are known in Transjordan only Beidha has a long sequence of occupation, well-preserved buildings and a comprehensive artifact inventory. All the others lack the full cultural assemblage and without this one cannot assign them with certainty to Neolithic 2 regional groups. It is fairly clear that the flint industries from most of the stations have much in common with Palestinian Neolithic 2 sites even if in certain details such as the rarity of winged or notched tanged arrowheads there are differences. Much of the material at Beidha can also be paralleled on Palestinian sites yet, as we have seen, there is much individuality in the buildings and certain of the artifacts from the settlement. If we knew more about the remains from Neolithic 2 sites other than Beidha in TransJordan we might be able to define another regional group but as we lack such detailed information it is best for the moment to note such differerces as there are between the sites in TransJordan and Palestine and to place all the TransJordanian sites in a sub-group closely linked with Neolithic 2 sites in Palestine .....


*1 Beidha 1965: An Interim Report
D. Kirkbride (1967) [Pages 5 - 13]
Palestine Exploration Quarterly
Library of Congress # DS 111 A1 Q57

*2 Beidha 1967: An Interim Report
D. Kirkbride (1968) [Pages 90 - 96]
Palestine Exploration Quarterly
Library of Congress # DS 111 A1 Q57

*3 Five Seasons at the Pre-Pottery Neolithic
Village of Beidha in Jordan: A Summary

D. Kirkbride (1966) [Pages 8 - 72]
Palestine Exploration Quarterly
Library of Congress # DS 111 A1 Q57

*4 The Excavation of a Neolithic Village
at Seyl Aqlat - Beidha - Near Petra

D. Kirkbride (1960) [Pages 136 - 145]
Palestine Exploration Quarterly
Library of Congress # DS 111 A1 Q57

*5 A Preliminary Study of the Chipped
Stone Industry From Beidha

P. Mortensen (1970) Volume 41 [Pages 1 - 54]
Acta Archaeologica: CC 1 A2

*6 Further Analysis of Near Eastern Obsidian
C. Renfrew et al (1968) Volume 34 [Pages 319 - 331]
Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society
Library of Congress # DA 670 E13 P8

*7 Radiocarbon: American Journal of Science Supplement
Library of Congress # QC 798 D3 A48

*8 Ain Abu Nakheileh (1960)
D. Kirkbride - Volume 67 [Pages 231 - 232]
Revue Biblique: BS 410 R3

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium