Other Archaeological Sites / The Neolithic of the Levant (500 Page Book Online)
Chapter 6: Neolithic 4 BYBLOS (Pages 412-423)
Byblos continued to be inhabited throughout the final stage of the Neolithic and on into the Chalcolithic. The occupation which falls within Neolithic 4 has been divided into two phases, Neolithique Moyen and Neolithique Recent. The Neolithique Moyen settlement stood on a ridge to the north-west of the little valley crossing the site. There were also traces of occupation near the spring. The settlement thus lay to the south-west of the area occupied during Neolithique Ancien and was almost completely separate from it. Dunand found that the Neolithique Moyen settlement extended over no more than 1500 square metres, thus it was considerably smaller than even the modest village of Neolithique Ancien. The remains of the Neolithique Moyen settlement today end abruptly at the edge of the cliff on the seaward side so the site would have been somewhat larger originally.
In Neolithique Recent the focus of the settlement lay further north along the ridge nearer the spring. Here houses were built on the side of the ridge sloping down to the spring and on the flat floor of the little valley itself. It seems that the part of the settlement covered by the houses was not very extensive but the total area occupied in Neolithique Recent was 1.5 hectares so the settlement was much larger than that of Neolithique Moyen and bigger even than in Neolithique Ancien. The houses at the core of the village were surrounded by working areas and silos representing a division of activities within the confines of the settlement. The traces of these features probably account for much of the extent of the village.
The houses of the Neolithique Moyen settlement were similar in shape to those of Neolithique Ancien, differing only in certain details. The core of each house was a single rectangular room with stone walls. Usually these houses had another room at one end separated by an internal partition wall from the main room. Sometimes this second room might be built onto the exterior of the house. These houses were a little bigger than those of Neolithique Ancien, one for instance being 7.10 metres long and 4.35 metres wide. Their floors consisted either of trampled earth or chalk spread over a bed of stones. The fine plastered floors of Neolithique Ancien ceased to be made during this phase.
In Neolithique Recent the houses were built in much the same way as before but their plans were usually different. A few were single-roomed dwellings of similar dimensions to those in earlier phases but most while still rectangular were much longer, at least 12 metres in on instance and 17.8 metres in another. These large buildings had two or three rooms. The floors of two structures were made of a layer of clay but all the others were of trodden earth. Several houses had a low bench made of stones along the outside of one of the walls, another indication of the increasing elaboration of these structures.
That these buildings, both the smaller single-roomed ones and the long multi-roomed structures, were houses still seems to me to be their most probable function although there is an obvious difference in the size of the families which could have occupied these two types of dwelling. Several others buildings constructed in a similar manner to the houses have been identified by Dunand as religious structures. These were on the side of the little hill near the spring. The only difference between them and the other buildings was that they each had a low plinth set on the floor of the principal room. They were also the first structures to be built in places where a series of temples was constructed in the Chalcolithic and during the Bronze Age. One cannot be certain that these buildings had a religious function as their shape and contents differed so little from the houses. The argument concerning their position under a series of later temples carries some weight so it remans possible that they were simple chapels as Dunand has suggested.
Two other kinds of structure were common in the Neolithique Recent settlement. These were areas of stone paving and silos. The paved areas were often circular and grinding stones were found in association with several of them. This evidence suggests that some of them were used for preparing cereals while others may have been working surfaces for other activities. The silos were either shallow basins lined with stone slabs or hollows dug out of the subsoil and lined with clay. Both could have been used for storing food.
Neolithique Moyen burial practices had much in common with those of Neolithique Ancien. Most corpses continued to be laid in a crouched position in simple earth graves. Dead children were usually buried in jars, a mode of burial reserved exclusively for them, although a few were also buried in earth graves. Three graves only were found in which skeletal remains lay on beds of stone and all were atypical. They were not graves of people of demonstrably high social status in the community. Grave goods were placed in some of the earth graves but not apparently in all. It may be that those of higher social status were buried in the same kind of grave as other inhabitants of the village but that more objects were deposited with them.
There was a revival of the custom of secondary burial in Neolithique Moyen Byblos. A number of burials were found in which the skeletons were incomplete. Care had been taken to conserve the skull in several instances, an echo of the widespread practices of Neolithic 2. One house in particular was used for secondary burials though the building itself need not have a religious function as Dunand was inclined to believe.
Burial practices in Neolithique Recent followed those of the earlier phases quite closely although there were no more secondary burials. Earth graves were the usual mode of burial while the remains of children continued to be placed in jars. Several graves were found in which the body had been placed on a bed of stones or was surrounded by stones recalling the mode of burial used for persons of higher status in Neolithique Ancien.
The chipped stone assemblages of Neolithique Moyen comprised 494 pieces only so the relative proportions of different types of tools are of less diagnostic value than in the other phases. Sickle blades were the most abundant type. Most of these were segmented but their retouch varied considerably. Some had coarse, others fine denticulation along the cutting edge; some were backed, others not. Several sickle blades were retouched by pressure-flaking in this phase.
Axes and chisels formed 18% of the assemblage in Neolithique Moyen, a far greater proportion than in Neolithique Ancien. They were made of flint, limestone or sandstone and tended to be thicker and longer than in the preceding phase. Those with straight cutting edges predomonated. These were of two principal shapes, short and trapezoidal or long and rectangular. The others had a curved cutting edge and almost all of them were relatively long with parallel sides. The almond-shaped ones of Neolithique Ancien were no longer made. A few of these tools were asymmetrical and so were probably used as adzes. All were flaked first and some were partially polished. The chisels were made in the same way and, like the axes, had straight or curved cutting edges. The latter are characteristic of this phase only at Byblos. Three small axes made of greenstone, a black rock and amphibolite were aslo found in the Neolithique Moyen settlement.
Flint borers were much more common than in Neolithique Ancien. Some were quite delicate but others, though small, were robust and could have been used for drilling wood. The presence of these and numerous axes and chisels suggest that the cutting and working of timber grew in importance in this phase.
Burins were present in about the same proportons as before and the types were similar. End-scrapers on blades and flakes were more common as were side-scrapers though there were relativelty few of the latter.
The remaining flint tools consisted of arrowheads and denticulated blades and flakes. Arrowheads were less common than in Neolithique Ancien, forming only 6% of the total assemblage. Three types of arrowhead were found, Byblos points, Amuq 1 points and oval arrowheads. The marked reduction in the proportion of arrowheads is probably an indicator of a decline in hunting which may also be seen at other sites in Neolithic 4.
The Neolithique Recent assemblage was more abundant than that of Neolithique Moyen. Sickle blades while still quite numerous made up a smaller proportion than before, 13% of the total assemblage. Most were segmented with finely-denticulated cutting edges; coarse denticulation was not used in this phase. Some of the sickle blades had little or no edge retouch. The use of pressure-flaking for edge and back retouch fell out of use in Neolithique Recent; most backed sickle blades being retouched abruptly.
The proportion of axes and chisels in the assemblage remained about the same in Neolithique Recent as in Neolithique Moyen at 19%. Most were made of flint but a few were struck from limestone and two from basalt. All the axes and chisels had straight cutting edges. The axes were relatively longer and narrower than those of the preceding phase although their shapes were similar. Some had sliced sides. From the asymmetrical profiles of many of these tools it would seem that they were used as adzes rather than axes. Most of these tools were flaked but a few were shaped by hammering; their cutting edges were then usually polished. A number of small, polished greenstone axes and chisels were also found in Neolithique Recent levels which were probably functionally associated with the heavier cutting tools .
The proportion of borers made in this phase, 17%, was greater even than in Neolithique Moyen. Most were small drills while the remainder consisted of borers on flakes and blades with fine or coarse points. The drills were probably used for drilling wood and bone while the other borers could have had a variety of uses.
End-scrapers on flakes and blades were used more in this phase than before. Sidescrapers continued to be used in modest quantities and some of these tools were made on tabular flint. Burins, on the other hand, were less common than in the preceding phases.
The remaining tools consisted of notched and denticulated pieces and arrowheads. Tanged arrowheads and Amuq points were no longer made in this stage. The only arrowheads were tranchets and these were probably used for hunting in a different manner than the arrowheads of earlier phases. Similar tranchet arrowheads have been found on coastal sites in Palestine in both Neolithic 3 and Neolithic 4.
A few pieces of obsidian were found in Neolithique Moyen levels and 44 more in the Neolithique Recent settlement. Both of the Neolithique Moyen pieces which have been analysed came from the Van region, one from the 1g source and the other from 3a. Each of the three Neolithique Recent pieces analysed came from a different region, one from 1g near Lake Van, another from Nemrut Dag (4e) and the third from Ciftlik.
Querns, rubbers, mortars and pestles were of the same types in Neolithique Moyen and Recent as in Neolithique Ancien and equally abundant. Stone vessels continued to be made in small quantities during Neolithique Moyen. The principal forms were cups, bowls and dishes made of limestone and basalt. Two of the basalt dishes were each supported on a stem. Stone dishes were no longer made in Neolithique Recent but stone cups and bowls were relatively abundant. The shapes of the vessels were quite similar but more seem to have been decorated with lines incised around the rim. In addition to the range of limestone and basalt vessels there were two small steatite pots. Other stone tools found on both phases were maceheads, weights and polished stones.
The pottery of Neolithique Moyen was a little more developed than that of <>Neolithique Ancien. The fabrics of the vessels were similar but now were almost always fire buffed or brown, occasionally dark brown. The vessels were hand-made but sometimes finished on a turntable. Their surfaces were smoothed by hand and then burnished as before.
Small hemispherical bowls and cups continued to be made in this phase and many of these were decorated with deeply incised or excised designs. Flat-based dishes or plates were made for the first time as were bowls with straight flared sides and flat bases. Globular hole-mouth pots and jars were still used but most of the larger vessels now had collar necks with either round or flat bases. They often had loop handles at the junction of collar and body or pierced lugs at the widest point of the body. Another new shape was a tall jar with a narrow, flat base and relatively small mouth. It had loop handles on the upper part of the body or long vertical lugs pierced horizontally.
Many of these vessels were decorated with incised patterns, coloured slip or paint or burnish. The incised patterns included those common in Neolithique Ancien but there was a greater variety of stabbed patterns and zig-zag lines. Red or brown paint or slip was used to colour half or all of the surface of certain vessels and was then usually burnished. Sometimes this kind of decoration was combined with areas of stab marks. Paint was also appied in bands or in criss-cross lines. Some vessels were decorated with pattern burnish.
One small bowl with a flat base made of white plaster ware was found in a Neolithique Moyen level. No other white plaster vessels were found in this or subsequent phases.
The pottery of Neolithique Recent was simply a development of that of Neolithique Moyen. Fabrics were similar though many of the vessels were harder fired. The rims of more bowls and other vessels were finished on a turntable. A few vessels were decorated with incised lines but this was rare. Most were covered with red paint or slip and burnished. A few were painted in fine criss-cross or parallel lines. Some other vessels were decorated with pattern burnish.
Hemispherical and flat-bottomed cups and bowls were still common but bowls with straight splayed sides and a flat base were used more than before. Hole-mouth pots and jars usually with a flat base but sometimes curved were another common type. Globular jars were rarely made in this phase and the collared jars of Neolithique Moyen were also unusual. The most common large containers were tall jars with narrow flat bases. Their necks were collared or flared and they often had handles on the sides. The type was first made in the preceding phase but became the standard largs vessel in Neolithique Recent.
The bone tools of Neolithique Moyen were similar to those of Neolithique Ancien. There were borers in several sizes, some with quite delicate points and others that were more robust. Spatulae were another common type while among the more unusual tools were fish-hooks and hafts.
Bone borers were particularly abundant in Neolithique Recent. A number were found in close proximity as if they had been used together in some craft activity. Ther other bone tools tools included spatulae, a fish-hook and a needle. There were also a number of hafts and two fragments of animal scapulae with rows of notches similar to the one found in Neolithique Ancien.
A few spindle whorls were found in Neolithique Moyen and many more in Neolithique Recent. Most were made of baked clay but a few were of stone. Pottery and stone discs which may have had a related function were also found.
Stamp seals were quite rare in Neolithique Moyen. The pintaderas were no longer made but there were several seals of baked clay which were incised with the same simple geometric patterns. There were also at least one stone stamp seal which was similar in type.
Most of the stamp seals in Neolihique Recent showed marked evolution from those of the preceding phases. There were still a few baked clay ones with simple line patterns but more were made of stone. They often had steep ridged backs and were pierced for suspension. Some had patterns of incised lines as before but others had new motifs formed by a series of drilled holes.
Jewelry and other objects of adornment were quite rare in Neolithique Moyen but there were a few stone, bone and shell beads. There were also several stone and baked clay objects similar to those in Neolithique Ancien which I have suggested may have been nose adornments or labrets. These objects were rare in the Neolithique Recent settlement while beads and pendants were also scarce.
The only figurines found in the Neolithique Moyen settlement were two pebbles with a few lines scratched on them to indicate human beings. These were of the same type as those found in Neolithique Ancien. These pebble figurines were absent in Neolithique Recent, the only figurine found on those levels being a baked clay quadruped.
No carbon 14 determination have been made on samples from the Neolithique Moyen and Recent settlements at Byblos so in order to estimate their duration one has to rely on typological parallels with other dated sites. Unfortunately very few samples from contemporary sites have been dated so far so that any estimate may be imprecise. I have already suggested that Neolithique Ancien Byblos continued to be inhabited until about 5000 or 4800 BC when the transition to Neolithique Moyen took place. The material remains of the Neolithique Moyen settlement were realtively slight suggesting that the phase did not last long. This is borne out by the dating evidence obtained by Kirkbride at the site of Ard Tlaili in the Bekaa. The site is a small tell which has yielded some Halaf pottery and remains of a rectangular building. Accompanying the Halaf painted wares were many plain burnished and pattern burnished sherds as well as deeply-incised fragments which closely resembled Neolithique Moyen pottery at Byblos. In the upper levels of the site were sherds of red washed vessels more akin to the pottery of Neolithique Recent at Byblos. Three carbon 14 determinations were obtained from samples taken from the lower levels giving dates of 4920 +/- 130 BC K-1432, 4900 +/- 130 BC K-1433 and 4840 +/- 130 BC K-1434. The date from one sample from the upper level at Ard Tlaili was 4710 +/- 130 BC K-1431. Following these dates I would suggest that Neolithique Moyen at Byblos lasted until about 4700 BC or a little before. Thus the maxixmum duration of the phase would be 300 years and the minimum about one century.
There was no apparent break in the sequence of occupation at Byblos between Neolithique Moyen and Neolithique Recent even though the settlement altered so markedly. It follows therefore that Neolithique Recent may have begun about 4700 BC. The abundant remains of this settlement indicate that the phase lasted a long time but its terminal date can be little more than a guess. Neolithique Recent at Byblos has many similar cultural remains to level IIIC at Ras Shamra which is dated by a C-14 deermination of 4184 +/- 173 BC P-389. From this it would appear that Neolithique Recent lasted at least until the end of the 5th millennium. The succeeding phases at Byblos, Eneolithique Ancien and Eneolithique Recent followed Neolithique Recent directly. The material remains of these phases shared many traits with the Ghassulian in Palestine with which they were probably approximately contemporary. The transition to the latter began about 3750 BC and was complete by 3500 BC. Thus Neolithique Recent at Byblos may have lasted until the earlier centuries of the 4th millennium, perhaps 3900 or 3800 BC.
A number of other Neolithic 4 sites have been found on the seaward side of the mountains of Lebanon. Almost all are known only from surface finds but these can be dated by typological comparisons with Byblos Neolithique Moyen and Recent. Many other probable Neolithic sites have been identified in this region and elsewhere in Lebanon but insufficient material has been found on them for us to know during which phases of the Neolithic they were occupied. It is likely that most of these other sites were inhabited during Neolithic 3 or 4 and therefore that the number of sites discovered which were inhabited in these phases is significantly greater than those I am describing.
Several sites contemporary with Byblos Neolithique Moyen have been found on the hill slopes near the sea south of the Nahr Kelb. The most northerly of these is Dbaye I on top of the promontory at the mouth of the Nahr Kelb itself and about 1 kilometre north of the village of Dbaye ...