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Chapter 5: Neolithic 3 Tell Hashbai (Page 346-349)

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Tell Hashbai lies on the west side of the Bekaa Valley at the foot of the Mountains of Lebanon opposite the sites I have considered so far (See Pages 64-5 in *1 Below). It too is near abundant running water since it is situated beside the Wadi Hashbai not far from its source at Ain Hashbai.

The site is large and was occupied as late as the Bronze Age. Among the Neolithic finds were tanged pressure-flaked arrowheads and coarsely denticulated sickle blades. A limestone pestle and basalt rubber were found and obsidian was present. The pottery included a variety of burnished sherds and some which had been covered in red slip.

The material from this site may once again be likened to that from Neolithique Ancien Byblos (See Page 87 in *2 Below) indicating that this site also was occupied in Neolithic 3.

All the sites I have discussed so far are situated at the sides of the Bekaa Valley near abundant water suppllies. Copeland has linked this distribution of sites to a phase of dry climate during the 6th millennium (See Page 91 ibid). We know that alteration in the pattern of settlement did occur in the 6th millennium partly because of environmental changes but it is not necessary to invoke such large-scale causes in this instance. These sites all lie in the central section of the Bekaa where deposition of soil on the valley floor has buried the early sites. The only ones that remain on the surface to be found are at the sides of the valley. Other Neolithic 3 sites have been found further north and south which are situated away from the feet of the mountains on either side. One would expect that Neolithic settlement sites would be located near a good water supply - as they were here - but the local geomorphology best explains the distribution of Neolithic sites found in surface survey in the Bekaa.

Although the bulk of the material from the sites I have mentioned resembles quite closely the finds from Byblos there are some differences in both the flints and the pottery. Many of the sickle blades were segmented and coarsely denticulated and sometimes backed like those at Byblos - others not. There were fewer heavy flaked tools on these sites than at Byblos and those that were found were often slightly different in shape.

Although the shapes of the pots were the same simple ones found at Byblos the finish was often much more varied. A greater range of fabric colurs was found on the Bekaa Valley sites because dufferent clays were used and the vessels were fired unevenly. There were also differences in the patterns of incised and impressed decoration - much less use of the cardium shell for example. This type of decoration was partly replaced by combing - a technique not used at Byblos. This first Neolithic pottery differs quite markedly from site to site even in the same area simply because it was all hand-made locally and baked in bonfires or pits. Nevertheless there are elements in the colour and decoration of these vessels which link the sites on which they were made so that we may speak of a Bekaa group of sites.

It should also be noted that more white plaster ware seems to have been made on the Bekaa sites - Tell Labweh and Tell Neba Faour I in particular - than at Byblos. This may be partly a matter of local custom but also a factor of chronology. Tell Labweh was certainly occupied early in Neolithic 3 before the Neolithique Ancien settlement at Byblos was founded and this may also have been true of Tell Neba Faour I. White plaster ware was used at the beginning of Neolithic 3 then gradually ceased to be made.

The Bekaa Neolithic 3 sites all belong with Byblos and Tabbat Hammam in a South Syrian group but the minor differences in material equipment between them and the coastal sites are sufficient for us to distinguish a Bekaa sub-group of settlements within the larger area.

Several more Neolithic 3 sites have been found in the Bekaa Valley but since the material recovered from them is scanty I will describe their locations briefly. Hermel IV is in the Bekaa a little to the south-east of Hermel near the Orontes River. The site has yielded some Neolithic 3 material as well as finds of later periods. There is a rock shelter 500 metres east of Ras Baalbek in the northern Bekaa in which Neolithic 3 flints have been collected - including a tanged pressure-flaked arrowhead - a burin and retouched blades. Tell Bab Zeitun overlooks the Wadi Yahfoufa to the east of Rayak in the central Bekaa; this site is not far from Tell Nebaa Faour I and is in a similar location.

The remaining sites are in the southern Bekaa. The Kaukaba station is in a low pass on the road from the Karaoun dam to Rachaya. The plentifull surface material from this site included obsidian - basalt vessels - flint adzes - axes - sickle blades and arrowheads; all of Neolithic 3 type. Tell Zeitun - the furthest south of these sites - is situated in the upper Hasbani Valley north-east of the village of Dnaybe. The site has been visited by several workers who have collected fragments of tanged arrowheads - segmented sickle blades and heavy flaked tools from the surface as well as material of later periods.

The Bekaa is part of the Rift Valley which may be traced from Maras in southern Turkey down through the Levant to the Gulf of Aqaba and Red Sea then on into East Africa. The section of the Rift Valley immediately south of the Bekaa is the upper Jordan Valley. The two sections are separated by broken hill country which may be traversed by way of the Hasbani Valley. The southern Bekaa and upper Jordan vallies have a similar environment being both hemmed in by mountains or high hills on the east and west. Several Neolithic 3 sites have been found in the upper Jordan valley - the material from which resembles that collected from the Bekaa sites I have just discussed. Such a correspondence stems principally from the geographical similarity of the two areas .....

BIBLIOGRAPHY

*1 Inventory of Stone Age Sites in Lebanon
Part 2: North - South - East Central Lebanon
(1966)
L. Copeland and P. Wescombe in Volume 42 (Pages 1-174)
Mélanges de l'Université Saint-Joseph (Beirut Lebanon)
Library of Congress # PJ 3001 B5

*2 Neolithic Village Sites in the South Beqaa Lebanon
L. Copeland (1969) Volume 45 (Pages 83-114)
Mélanges de l'Université Saint-Joseph (Beirut Lebanon)
Library of Congress # PJ 3001 B5

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium