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Other Archaeological Sites / The Neolithic of the Levant (500 Page Book Online)

Chapter 6: Neolithic 4 Tell Arslan (Pages 425-427)

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Tell Arslan lay in the dunes or Sands 8.5 kilometres south of Beirut and about 800 metres east of the present shoreline. The site was a mound covering about 1 hectare and was situated on a low rise just north of the Nehr Ghedir. Bergy found the site in 1930 and collected much material from it. Fleisch gathered a great deal more in 1948 when the site was levelled during the construction of Beirut airport. All this material is now in the Universite Saint-Joseph.

The site seems to have been a Neolithic village which was also occupied in Roman times. The extant Neolithic material from the site consists of flints and pottery. About 25% of the flint tools were axes and chisels. The axes were particularly varied, a majority having straight and the remainder round cutting edges. Those with straight edges were usually trapezoidal although a few rectangular. Most were relatively small but there were a few large ones. The axes with rounded edges were either oval or almond-shaped. A number of the trapezoidal and rectangular ones were asymmetrical in cross-section and thus adzes rather than axes. A series of other asymmetrcal ones, both trapezoidal and oval in outline, had heavily worn cutting edges. Cauvin has concluded that these tools were used as hoes, an interpretation with which I agree. Similarly shaped tools have been found on the other Neolithic 4 sites I have described but none have such clear traces of heavy wear; in fact few of these heavy tools show any signs of wear at all to the naked eye. It would seem probable that some of these asymmetrical axes were used as hoes on the other sites but not long enough for the traces of wear to be so readily visible.

The chisels from Tell Arslan were narrow and usually oval in cross-section. They have round or straight edges. These tools were probably for wood working as were many of the axes and adzes. Borers and picks which might also have been used in carpentry were less abundant in the collections from Tell Arslan than on some other contemporary sites.

The two other main classes of tools were arrowheads and sickle blades. The arrowheads, like the axes, were particularly varied since they included both kinds of Amuq point, tanged arrowheads of the Byblos type and even a few notched examples. Most thought not all the sickle blaeds were segmented and many were backed. They had either finely-serrated or coarsely denticulated cutting edges. The other tools consisted of a few burins, end and side-scrapers, knives and notched and denticulated pieces.

The few probable Neolithic sherds from Tell Arslan had a quite hard, evenly fired fabric with some grit and straw filler. There were fragments of flat bases and a strap handle as well as a few sherds with incised decoration consisting of parallel lines and stab marks.

In his study of the Tell Arslan material Cauvin concluded that the flints and sherds were all sufficiently similar to Neolithique Moyen artifacts at Byblos for the two sites to have been inhabited contemporaneously. I would accept that for many of the flint tools and perhaps the sherds this may be so but both the heavy tools and the arrowheads include several types that were more common in the Neolithique Ancien phase at Byblos. This is especially so of the short trapezoidal axes and Amuq arrowheads. The few notched arrowheads would appear to come from a Neolithic 2 context contemporary with Tell aux Scies which was also in the Sands. There are other flint tools in the collections from Tell Arslan which are more archaic still, perhaps even Upper Palaeolithic in date, which suggests that groups visited the site in much earlier times. The history of the site probably began with such temporary camps and then a small settlement may have been established there in Neolithic 3. This grew and became much more extensive in the earlier centuries of Neolithic 4 at a time contemporary with Neolithique Moyen at Byblos, after which the site was probably abandoned ...

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