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Chapter 5: Neolithic 3 Tabbat Hammam (Pages 340-343)

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:

Tabbat Hammam is a mound situated beside the sea 17 kilometres south of Tartous. It was occupied in various periods from the Neolithic to the Hellenistic and at times a much wider area than the tell itself was inhabited (See Page 187ff in *1). Braidwood excavated a series of trenches on the site and in the vicinity in 1938. One of these - TT-I - was a step trench dug on the seaward slope of the mound. The lowest level on bedrock - designated section I floor 1 - was about 50 centimetres deep and contained Neolithic material (See Page 197 ibid). Several floor surfaces and hearths could be discerned in this level but no structures.

A small collection of flint and obsidian tools and pottery was recovered from TT-I Level I and is now in the Oriental Institute of Chicago where I have seen it. At least four pieces of the obsidian have been analysed and all came from Ciftlik (See Page 60 in *2 and Page 81 in *3 and Page 26 in *4 Below). 53 of the 322 flints recovered were sickle blades (See Page 160 in *5 Below). These were made on segmented blades which had been snapped and occasionally retouched at the ends. Most had nibbled or slightly retouched cutting edges but a few were denticulated. Some had retouch along both edges but none had steep backing. The 16 burins were of several types: single blow - dihedral - burins on preparation and multiple burins (See Page 162 ibid). Notched and denticulated blades and flakes were all quite common. Only 12 arrowheads were found - most of them broken. All were tanged (See Figure 5 ibid) and partially pressure-flaked. Both Amuq 2 and Byblos arrowheads were present but the tang of one other arrowhead and parts of others were retouched abruptly (See Figure 5:1 ibid). The other chipped stone tools consisted of flake scrapers - borers on blades - a tabular flint knife - two picks - an adze and two chisels. The adze and chisels were flaked all over and had polished cutting edges (See Page 164 ibid); the adze was oval and the chisels trapezoidal in cross-section. Two double-ended cores were found (See Page 174 ibid) together with a core tablet and crested blades. There was also a fragment of a spherical macehead.

The closest parallels for these tools are to be found at Byb1os where the chipped stone core technique - the arrowheads and heavier flaked tools all similar. The use of abrupt retouch on some arrowheads is a slightly older technique still used in northern Syria early in Neolithic 3 at such sites such as Abu Hureyra and Tell Judaidah. Tha macehead is like several found at Byblos. The only similarity between the Tabbat Hammam and Byblos sickle blades on the other hand is that they were segmented. They are much more like those of Tell Judaidah which were also segmented but lightly retouched along the cutting edge and unbacked.

The pottery was buff - brown or grey-black in colour; most of the sherds being various shades of brown. The fabric had sand and grit filler with a little straw. The ware was usually medium fired but the variation in colour on the surface of some pots indicates that the firing was not well-regulated. The vessels consisted of globular hole-mouth jars and bowls some of which were carinated (See Page 154ff ibid). A few of the jars had collar necks or everted rims. Some of the larger vessels also had ledge handles - knobs or even strap handles for carrying. Most of the pots were burnished and some had incised or impressed decoration. These included horizontal lines and herringbone patterns. Many of the sherds had been decorated with cord impressions. A few sherds had been coloured with red wash as on sites further north and two had been painted. The latter are more like Halaf pottery than anything found in Neolithic 3 and may be intrusive since there was much disturbance of the early levels. One piece of a white plaster bowl was also recovered.

The pottery was quite varied in finish as is most of the hand-made pottery from Neolithic 3 sites. The shapes of the vessels and their decoration - especially the cord impressed vessels - are very like the Byblos material. The similarity of much of the pottery and flints to the artifacts of Neolithique Ancien Byblos places Tabbat Hammam within the South Syrian group even if there are a few traits better paralleled further north; Tabbat Hammam is after all not very far south of Ras Shara and Tell Sukas. The use of abrupt retouch on some of the arrowheads hints at a relatively early date within Neolithic 3 so it may be that Tabbat Hammam was first occupied at the beginning of this stage.

The sites in the South Syrian group which we have considered so far are all on the coast. A number of other sites in the Bekaa Valley are known to have been occupied in Neolithic 3 and I shall consider them next. Their remains - though generally quite similar to the material found at Byblos and Tabbat Hammam - differ in certain details. These differences can largely be explained by the separation of these sites from those on the coast by the Mountains of Lebanon .....


*1 Report of Two Songages on the
Coast of Syria South of Tartous

R. Braidwood (1940) in Syria
Volume 21 (Pages 183 - 226)
Library of Congress # DS 94.5 S8

*2 Obsidian and Early Cultural Contact in the Near East
Renfrew et al (1966) Volume 32 (Pages 30-72)
Proceedings PreHistoric Society
Library of Congress # DA 670 E13 P8

*3 Further Analysis of Near Eastern Obsidian
Renfrew et al (1968) Volume 34 (Pages 319-331)
Proceedings PreHistoric Society
Library of Congress # DA 670 E13 P8

*4 Obsidian Analysis and Pre Historic
Near Eastern Trade
: 7500 - 3500 BC
G. Wright (1969) Number 37: Anthropolgy Papers
Museum of Anthropology (University of Michigan)

*5 A Reanalysis of Basal Tabbat Hammam in Syria
F. Hole (1959) Volume 36 (Pages 149-183) Syria
Library of Congress # DS 94.5 S8

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium