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Chapter 4: Neolithic 2 Distribution of Sites (Pages 260-265)

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:

Neolithic 2 sites have been found in almost all geographic zones throughout the Levant. There are sites in the Sinai Valleys, Jebel Meghara in northern Sinai, the High Negev (Har Harif G2), the Negev Valleys (Nahal Divshon) and the lowlands of the northern Negev (Halutza dunes and Nizzana). Others have been found in the dunes along the present coast of Palestine and Lebanon (Jaffa, Ashdod, Tell aux Scies); these sites were still some distance inland from the sea in Neolithic 2. The uplands of Mount Carmel (Nahal Oren and Iraq Barud) and the Judean hills (Abu Gosh and Tahuneh) were densely occupied and at least one site is known on the lower slopes of the Lebanon mountains (Dik el Mehdi II).

There are several sites along the whole length of the Jordan Valley (Jericho, Munhatta and Beisamun) and also one in the Bekaa Valley (Saaideh). Many have now been found on the Transjordan Plateau, in the extreme southeast at Kilwa, in southern Transjordan (Beidha and Ain Abu Nakheileh), in Gilead (Jerash) and far out on the eastern desert (Wadi Dhobai and Azraq). The Hauran and the Damascus basin (Tell Ramad and Tell Aswad) were occupied as well as the Anti-Lebanon (Nacharini and Mugharet Abde). In the north there is a site at Ras Shamra on the Syrian coast, further inland from the sea than it is now, and in the Jebel Alawiye (Slenfe). Many sites have been discovered on the Syrian plateau around Palmyra and in the passes leading to the Middle Euphrates (Khirbet Kum). Several more are now known in the Euphrates valley (Abu Hureyra and Buqras) and others in the Jazirah on the Balikh (Tell Aswad) and as far to the north-east as the Jebel Abdul Aziz and the Khabur (Tell Fakhariyah).

All regions were now occupied except the highest mountains of Lebanon, an area which was avoided now as it had been in the Mesolithic and Neolithic 1. There were also still relatively few sites at lower altitudes in the Lebanon, possibly because the country was rugged and still densely forested so unattractive for settlement. The Judean hills were much more intensively occupied than they had been in Neolithic 1. This was an area of Mediterranean forest which had already begun to thin out because of climatic changes. Sites in this area have yielded many stone axes, an indication that man was accelerating the natural decline of woodland through forest clearance, so helping to make the area more attractive for settlement.

Settlements in Neolithic 2 were much more widespread than in Neolithic 1. They extended beyond the open forest zone into the steppe and the Syrian plateau, in Transjordan and Sinai and in the extreme southeast of the Levant into the desert. These areas had not attracted settlement in Neolithic 1 and only rarely in the Mesolithic. The environmental changes of the 7th millennium brought about an expansion of the steppe at the expense of the forest zones. It might be thought that this trend would inhibit settlement in these semi-arid regions yet the reverse happened. The explanation for this paradox will become clear when we consider the changes that were taking place in the population of the Levant and its economy.

Sites in Neolithic 2 were more varied in type than in Neolithic 1. Some were simply stations occupied briefly by small groups engaged perhaps in hunting or foraging. The second type of site was a camp with remains of huts and a fuller artifact inventory testifying to longer occupation. Sites such as these were the Wadi Dhobai camps, Ain Abu Nakheileh, Nahal Divshon, Tell Farah (North) and Sheikh Ali. They were occupied by larger groups which were perhaps semi-sedentary or sedentary. A third type of site can be identified which had a more specialised function. These were factory sites for the preparation of flint artifacts. Douara, Abu Suwan and Etam are sites of this kind; they are all large for the Neolithic 2 knappers exploited the raw material over a wide area and returned to these sites time and again.

The fourth type of site was a settlement composed of a nunber of dwellings which was probably occupied all the year round. Beidha, Abu Gosh, Munhatta, Tell Ramad and Buqras were all sites of this kind. These were the typical villages of Neolithic 2 situated in the Mediterranean forest and open forest zones for the most part. The exceptions such as Buqras which was in the steppe zone were in particularly favourable local environments like the Euphrates valley.

One more type of site may be defined which is much larger than the typical village. I would include here sites such as Abu Hureyra, Jericho and possibly Ras Shamra. The remains found on these sites do not differ very much from those in the villages but their inhabitants would have had to accept a much greater degree of community organization in order to live together in such crowded conditions. It is the different level of community organization of these settlements, a function of their size, which distinguishes them from the villages. Size alone, however, is not enough for a site to be included in this group. Beisamun, for example, covers about 12 hectares but the buildings are dispersed in such a manner that they could not have formed a tightly-knit settlement nor does it appear that the whole area was occupied at one time.

The variations in size of Neolithic 2 sites were even greater than in Neolithic 1. A few like Nacharini which covered 90 square metres were very small but most of the surface stations and camps were a little bigger. Wadi Dhobai B was about 250 square metres (See Plate XXVI in *1 Below) while the largest of the surface sites near Abu Hureyra, site III, was of much the same size. Nahal Divshon which extended over 2500 square metres was several times bigger than these but still smaller than many of the villages. It seems that most of the surface stations and camps ranged from about 100 square metres up to 2000 or 3000 square metres.

The smaller villages were about the same size as some of the camps. Munhatta was somewhat more than 2000 square metres (See Page 271 in *2 Below) while the core of the village at Beidha was about 2500 square metres although the total area occupied here was probably 5000 square metres. Khirbet Khiam may have been about the same size but Adh Dhaman (1 hectare) and Shaqaret M'siad (1.8 hectares) were bigger. The largest villages like Tell Ramad and Buqras were 2 or 3 hectares in size. The very large settlements also varied greatly in size from the 4 hectares of PPNB Jericho to the 11.5 hectares of aceramic Abu Hureyra. The larger sites in this group were much bigger than any Neolithic 1 settlement.

Neolithic 2 sites thus ranged in size from a few tens of square metres up to 10 hectares or more. It is possible to define settlement types within this enormous size range but each type grades into the next and there are no distinct groups defined on size alone. The pattern is thus more complex than in Neolithic 1 or Mesolithic 2 where groups of small, medium and large sites could be distinguished. There was also a general increase in the size of settlements in Neolithic 2, the villages, for example, being larger than all but the biggest Neolithic 1 sites.

Neolithic 2 villages were occupied for much longer than most Neolithic 1 sites. This is clear from the substantial depths of deposit on these sites formed by the ruins of successive multi-rcomed mud-hrick and stone houses. We can see from the evidence of the C-14 determinations that these sites were often continuously occupied for several hundred years: Buqras for 400 years; Tell Ramad, Jericho and Beidha all for 500 years and Ras Shamra for about the same length of time; Ghoraife for 800 years and Tell Aswad perhaps 1300 years altogether from 7800 B.C. in Neolithic 1 down to about 6500 B.C. in Neolithic 2.

Neolithic 2 settlements were not only bigger and occupied for longer than Neolithic 1 sites but they were also much more numerous. I have listed 123 sites and alluded to several others. More have been found in surveys that are still taking place which have not yet been reported while the whereabouts of others found long ago is no longer known. These sites would considerably augment the list I have given so I would estimate that the true total of Neolithic 2 sites discovered exceeds 150 and probably approaches 200. These sites were all occupied in the millennium from 7000 to 6000 B.C. whereas the 23 Neolithic 1 sites known are all we have to fill the 1500 years of Neolithic 1 from 8500 to 7000 B.C. The flint artifacts on Neolithic 2 sites are easier to identify in surface surveys than those of Neolithic 1 and the Neolithic 2 village sites are more conspicuous than Neolithic 1 surface stations. Neolithic 2 sites tend to be larger and so easier to recognize than Neolithic 1 stations. For these reasons a greater proportion of Neolithic 2 than Neolithic 1 sites has been found of the total that once existed so one should not compare the sample we have of Neolithic 2 sites directly with those of Neolithic 1. Nevertheless when all allowances are made it is obvious that the landscape of the Levant in Neolithic 2 was much more thickly populated than in Neolithic 1. We have seen that Neolithic 2 developed from Neolithic 1 in each region of the Levant so there can be no doubt that this increase in the number and size of sites was caused by a great expansion of population. This growth of population was more rapid and more substantial than any which had occurred before. It came about partly as a result of changes that had taken place earlier in Neolithic 1. As the population grew in Neolithic 2 this process would have created new pressures on the economy and pattern of settlement. We might expect that the human response to these pressures would have included experiments in new ways of extracting sustenance from the environment. The increase in numbers might also have been partly accomodated by an expansion of settlement into land hitherto unoccupied. Almost certainly we have here an explanation for the spread of sites into the steppe of the Syrian and Transjordan plateaux and into Sinai .....

BIBLIOGRAPHY

*1 The Excavations at Wadi Dhobai
J. Waechter and M. Seton Williams (1938)
Volume 18 [Pages 172 - 186 and 292 - 298]
The Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society
Library of Congress # DS 101 P37

*2 Munhatta in Israel Exploration Journal
J. Perrot [1966] Voume 16 (Pages 269 - 271)
Library of Congress # DS 111 A1 I87

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium