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Chapter 5: Neolithic 3 Tell Ramad (Page 357-359)

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

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Deposits of the third phase of occupation at Tell Ramad (Level III) have been found near the summit on the west side and on the shelf in the south-east corner of the mound. Much of Level III had eroded away so that these deposits were no more than 1 metre deep when found. It would appear that the Level III settlement once covered at least half the mound - an area of about 1 hectare - but may have been more extensive. There is no evidence of a break in occupation between Levels II and III but the nature of the structures altered markedly in Level III. No buildings could definitely be attributed to this level although a number of floor surfaces and hearths were recognised in it. The principal remains were several large pits which were as much as 2.5 metres deep and filled with ashes and other burned material.

The flint industry of Level III did not differ greatly from that in Level II. The sickle blades were usually segmented with coarsely denticulated cutting edges and were sometimes backed. The arrowheads were tanged and pressure-flaked like Byblos points. Another common tool was a large flake knife with a serrated edge. There were also a few flaked and partly polished flint axes and a number of small polished greenstone axes. Obsidian continued to be imported in Level III. A few stone bowl fragments and basalt grinding tools belonged in this level.

Most of the pottery in Level III was a medium or hard-fired ware with some grit temper. The pots were usually brown or grey in colour although some were fired buff or red. The two main vessel shapes were a hemispherical bowl or cup - sometimes with a ring base - and a jar with a collar neck or everted rim. Some of the jars had lugs or handles. These pots were either burnished all over or around the rim. Some had incised or combed decoration and a few were even scraped with a shell in a manner reminiscent of vessels from Neolithique Ancien Byblos. A few vessels were coated with white plaster. A number of the bowls had been burnished very thoroughly so that they resembled the dark polished ware found on some North Syrian sites.

A large number of fragments of white plaster ware was found in Level III. Vessels of this substance thus continued to be made at Tell Ramad after the introduction of pottery as was also the case on a number of other Neolithic 3 sites.

The other artifacts in Level III consisted of bone borers and spatulae together with a limestone stamp seal. A few fragments of baked clay animal figurines were found and several baked clay stylised human figurines have also been attributed to this level; they had rod heads with little pieces of clay applied to represent the eyes - nose and ears. The surface of these figurines was burnished.

The cultural affinities of Tell Ramad III are more with the South Syrian group of sites than those further north. Tell Ramad has the same segmented sickle blades and arrowheads as Byblos and several of the Bekaa Valley sites. The shapes and decoration of much of the pottery are also quite similar though here we should note that some of the burnished Ramad bowls - particularly the dark polished ones - are more like pottery from Ras Shamra or Tell Judaidah. The Ramad pits have much in common with those in the ceramic Neolithic level at Abu Hureyra and also - as we shall see - on several Palestinian sites; these pits are not a nornal feature of other South Syrian sites. Tell Ramad III thus has certain distinctive traits in common with sites to the north and south even if culturally it belongs to the South Syrian group. It is best thought of as a settlement which belongs to a third sub-group within the South Syrian complex even if for the time being no other contemporary sites are known in the Damascus Basin.

We do not know exactly when or for how long Tell Ramad III was occupied. The one carbon 14 determination for this Level is 5930 55 B.C. GrN-4823 which is virtually the same as the date at which Tell Ramad II was first occupied. The Tell Ramad II settlement probably lasted for several centuries so Tell Ramad III cannot have been inhabited before 5800 or 5700 B.C. if even then. The affinities of the material from Tell Ramad III are mostly with sites occupied in the early or mid 6th millennium B.C. The inhabitants may finally have left the site about 5500 B.C. or a century or two later but this is no more than an estimate.

I now wish to consider the Palestinian sites which were occupied in Neolithic 3. The material found on these sites differs sufficiently from that on settlements further north for them to be regarded as a third regional group ...

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