HOME / Table of Contents = Civilizations - Cultures - Areas - Regions - Prehistory
Other Archaeological Sites / The Neolithic of the Levant (500 Page Book Online)

Chapter 5 -- Neolithic 3 DISTRIBUTION OF SITES (Pages 385-388)

Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:

The north Syrian plain is a huge area of fertile land stretching away south from the hill country between the Amanus and the upper Tigris. The northern strip of this plain was relatively well-watered in Neolithic 3 making it attractive for settlement. Neolithic 3 sites have been found from as far east as the headwaters of the Khabur westward to the Aleppo (Tell Halaf, Tell Aswad [Balikh], Judaidah Jabbul). Further west beyond the plateau lies the Amuq plain which was densely settled in Neoloithic 3 (Tell Judaidah, Tell Dhahab, Wadi Hammam). The fertile plain of western Syria also received adequate rainfall and this area too was settled in Neolithic 3 (Hama and Homs). Just to the west lay the Ghab section of the Rift Valley and at least one site is known to have been occupied here (Qalat el Mudiq). Sites have been found high in the Jebel Alawiye between the Orontes and the coast (Janudiyeh) and then in the series of small plains between the mountains and the sea (Ras Shamra, Tell Sukas, Tabbat Hammam). This pattern of coastal settlement extended further south into Lebanon (Byblos and Kubbah I) and Palestine with sites near the sea (Givat Haparsa, Nizzanim, Ashkelon) and also further inland on the coastal plain (Lydda and Wadi Rabah). The whole of the Bekaa was settled (Tell Labweh, Tell Nebaa Faour I, Kaukaba) and also its southern extension, the upper Jordan Valley (Beisamiun, Tannur, Hagosherim). The Damascus basin east of the Anti-Lebanon was also occupied (Tell Ramad). In Palestine as well as the sites on the coastal plain there were settlements in the foothills (Teliuliot Batashi) and in the Judean mountains themselves (Abu Gosh). Further north the Plain of Esdraelon was inhabited (Megiddo) and the valleys running eastward to the Jordan (Beth Shan). Several more settlements were situated in the Jordan Valley itself (Jericho, Wadi el Yabis, Munhatta, Shaar Hagolan).

Nearly all these sites were situated in areas of fertile land with sufficient rainfall for agriculture. They were also usually on terraces in river valleys, on the edge of inland plains or on the plains along the coast and near running water or springs. Their catchments thus included a high proportion of arable land. The pattern of Neolithic 3 settlement was quite dense in the most favoured areas such as the Amuq plain, the Bekaa and the Jordan Valley. In contrast very few sites were to be found in the hill country and mountains of the Levant, certainly far fewer than in Neolithic 2. The few sites known in these upland regions, Janudiyeh, Tannur, Qat and Abu Gosh for example, were different types of site from those in the lowlands with little arable land nearby. Except for these upland sites most Neolithic 3 settlements throughout the Levant were similarly located in positions that offered good arable land, reliable rainfall and a permanent water supply. This settlement pattern existed in Neolithic 2 but only as part of a much more generalised distribution of sites in every environment zone.

There was a great displacement of settlement in the Levant and in the north-east of Syria during Neolithic 3. We have seen that at the outset there were settlements along the Euphrates from Abu Hureyra as far downstream as Buqras at the confluence with the Khabur. This area ceased to be inhabited early in Neolithic 3. The steppe zone east and west of the Euphrates was also abandoned. This included the area around Palmyra in which many stations had been inhabited in Neolithic 2; only El Kum which was located in a unique position near a permanent source of water on the route through the hills from Palmyra to Risafe and Raqqa continued to be occupied into Neolithic 3 but even this site seems to have been abandoned during the 6th millennium. Only one site, Tell Ramad, is known to have been occupied in the Damascus basin in Neolithic 3. Further south the Trans-Jordan plateau was abandoned completely so far as we know from present evidence. There were no sites to the east of the Wadi Arabah in the Jafr basin or further to the south-east as there had been in Neolithic 2. One or two surface stations in the Negev and Sinai may have been occupied during Neolithic 3 but otherwise this vast area, known to have been inhabited in Neolithic 2, was also abandoned. In Palestine itself occupation ceased almost completely for several centuries and settlements were only gradually founded later in Neolithic 3. Such a major alteration in the settlement pattern took place in response to important changes in the climate, vegetation and economy as I shall explain later in the chapter.

Almost all Neolithic 3 sites were in the open, the only exception known to me being et-Tauamin and Wadi Hammam, the second of which was low-lying with good access to well-watered agricultural land like most of the other settlements. The types of sites were somewhat different from those of Neolithic 2. There were very few, if any, hunting stations, the only possible ones being several surface sites in Palestine which may have been occupied in Neolithic 3. Other specialised stations such as factory sites were also rare, Sepphoris being the only sure sample. Every other Neolithic 3 site that I have described was a settlement with a wide range of material equipment and, on the excavated site, remains of houses and other kinds of habitation. A full artifact inventory and traces of dwellings in several instances have even been found on the upland sites.

The settlements varied greatly in area. Hamadiya was 100 square metres, Tell Turmus apparently about 300 square metres and Abu Gosh perhaps 1000 square metres but these were unusually small. Most were larger although since so many lie beneath great tells or are known only from surface surveys we cannot be sure how extensive they really were. Tell Ramad was at least 1 hectare and Byblos 1.2 hectares as no doubt were many other Neolithic 3 sites. Several settlements were comparable in type to the very large ones of Neolithic 2. Jericho covered 4 hectares and Abu Hureyra between 5 and 6 hectares before it was abandoned. Tell Judaidah may have been of the same order of magnitude. Hagosherim also extended over several hectares but does not seem to have been so densely populated as the other very large sites. The Neolithic 3 settlement at Ras Shamra covered at least 8 hectares as had its Neolithic 2 predecessor making it the largest known site of this stage in the Levant.

Neolithic 3 lasted about the same length of time as Neolithic 2 and approximately the same proportion of sites that once existed in both periods have probably been found. One may thus deduce what change in population, if any, took place between Neolithic 2 and Neolithic 3. I have mentioned 80 sites which I believe were occupied in Neolithic 3. This is fewer than the 123 Neolithic 2 sites I listed in the previous chapter. Accurate information about the sizes of Neolithic 3 sites is scarce but I believe that many of the settlement sites were somewhat larger than those of Neolithic 2. Some were occupied only briefly but many such as Tell Judaidah, Ras Shamra, Byblos and Jericho were inhabited for at least half and in certain instances all of Neolithic 3. There thus seems to be no evidence of any marked increase or decrease of population in the Levant as a whole even though the Neolithic 3 settlement pattern was so different from that of Neolithic 2.

This conclusion while valid for the Levant in general does not hold true in Palestine. I have listed 20 Palestinian sites known to have been occupied in Neolithic 3 whereas the total for Neolithic 2 was about double this number. Moreover many of the Neolithic 3 sites were occupied relatively briefly as we have seen. The population here did apparently decrease in Neolithic 3

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium