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Chapter 6: DISTRIBUTION OF NEOLITHIC 4 SITES (Pages 465-469)

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:

Neolithic 4 sites were located in every geographical zone except the high mountains from the Levant coast as far east as the edge of the steppe plateau, that is up to 110 kilometres inland. Thus there were sites all along the coast of Lebanon (Kubbah I - Byblos - Adlun II) and more have been found on the seaward slopes of the mountains up to an altitude of a 1000 metres. Almost the whole lenrth of the Bekaa was occupied from Baalbek to the headewaters of the Jordan (Tell Ard Tlaili - Tell Jisr - Ard Saouda - Kfar Giladi). No Neolithic 4 sites are known in the Anti-Lebanon but two in the Damascus basin were inhabited (Tell Khazzami - Tell Ramad).

The pattern was similar in Palestine where sites have been discovered all along the coast and on the coastal plain (Kabri - Wadi Rabah - Ziqim). The Plain of Esdraelon was settled (Hazorea) and the way east to the Jordan Valley (Beth Shan). Several Neolithic 4 sites have been excavated in the Judean hills (Tell Farah (Morth) - Shechem - Murabbaat) while others are known along the Jordan Valley (Sheik Ali - Munhatta - Tell Saidiyeh Gharbi - Jericho). Only one site, Salihi, has been discovered in the hills east of the Jordan Valley and none on the Trans-Jordan plateau. The southern limit of known Neolithic 4 settlement was the Wadi Ghazzeh (Sites D - M - O). No trace of settlement or camp sites has been found in Sinai in any of the recent surveys which have been carried out so the area was apparently unoccupied though perhaps occasionally visited in Neolithic 4. This is despite the fact that there is evidence of contact between Palestine and Egypt in this stage; presumably travelers followed the coast leaving no trace of their journey.

This distribution of settlements was generally similar to that of Neolithic 3. The only difference was the greater number of sites situated on the slopes of the Mountains of Lebanon, in the Galilee hills and the Judean uplands. Sites in the Mountains of Lebanon were also to be found at a higher elevation than in earlier Neolithic stages. Other sites were in the areas of fertile land, that is on valley terraces or plains, and usually near a permanent source of water such as springs, streams or rivers. The catchments of these sites consisited for the most part of arable land with some grazing implying that agriculture was the economic basis of these settlements. They needed not only a permanent source of water for drinking and watering flocks but also adequate rainfall for their crops. This is the reason for the confined distribution of sites in this period and the abrupt limit of settlement to the south towards Sinai and to the east at the edge of the Syrian and Trans-Jordan plateau. During this period the rainfall decreased. The temperature approached its post-glacial maximum during the 5th and 4th millennia and may have been higher than it is today toward the end of Neolithic 4. Thus the amount of effective moisture avavilable was also reduced. The effect of the two factors, the drop in rainfall and rise in temperature with its consequences, was that Sinai and the plateau to the east were even drier than they had been in Neoithic 3. The forest zones shrank still more because of the reduction in rainfall and man's activities so that Sinai and the inland plateau were now open steppe. Rainfall was still sufficient to support agricultural settlement in and near the coastal hills and mountains but not beyond.

Settlement types were almost the same in Neolithic 4 as in Neolithic 3. Most sites were hamlets or villages with houses, other structures ans a full artifact inventory. The Palestinian villages came to resemble their counterparts further north during Nelithic 4 since rectangular houses were adopted as the usual form of dwelling. Traces of dwellings have been found at Shechem and Tell Farah but the sites in the hills and on the slopes of the mountains seem to have been less substantial than those on the plains and in the valleys. Nevertheless the range of material found at Muktara, Kfar Giladi and Khallet Khazen III and IV was sufficiently varied to suggest that these sites had been inhabited as settlements even if for relatively short periods.

These small upland settlements and some on lower ground were near Heavy Neolithic stations such as Karaoun II, Douwara and Wadi Farah. The Heavy Neolithic sites were factory stations at which flint artifacts, particularly axes, adzes, picks and other bulky tools, were roughed out. They were probably complimentary sites to the settlements in the hills while thir products occasionally found their way to other settlements on the plain. These Heavy Neolithic factory stations were a Neolithic 4 phenomenom since factory sites of any kind in the hill country were rare in earlier stages.

Nearly all Neolithic 4 settlements were open sites. The few inhabited caves such as Adlun II, Jiita I and Murabbaat were as exceptional as those occupied in Neolithic 3. Hunting sttations were equally rare; the only group of these were those surface sites along the coast of Palestine which may have been inhabited during this stage.

There is very little accurate information about the size of Neolithic 4 sites. Some of the smaller settlements and many of the surface stations probably ranged from several hundred to several thousand square metres in area. Tell Arslan was about 1 hectare while Byblos covered 1.5 hectares for much of Neolithic 4. Tell Khazzami was of similar size extending over 1.76 hectares. Wadi Rabah was larger than these sites since it covered about 2.43 hectares but we do not know if the whole area was occupied in Neolithic 4. Jericho was much bigger again since it spread over 4 hectares; it is the only known Neolithic 4 site that was large enough to be called a town. No other very large sites have been discovered though there may be a few hidden at the heart of some of the great tells. It would seem that there was a little less variation in the size of Neolithic 4 settlements than in Neolithic 3 and much less than in Neolithic 2 though this can only be a provisional conclusion until we have further evidence.

Was the population of the central and southern Levant the same in Neolithic 4 as in Neolithic 3? Neolithic 4 lasted for approximately the same length of time as Neolithic 3. The settlements were quite similar in size so ar as we know. Some Neolithic 4 sites were occupied only briefly but others like Byblos, Jericho and Munhatta were inhabited for much or all of this stage. Thus the sites of each stage are broadly comparable and it is likely that an approximately equal proportion of those that once existed has been discovered. I have listed 110 Neolithic 4 sites but 32 of these were Heavy Neolithic factory sites which must be discounted in any comparison of density of settlements. That leaves 78 sites which were occupied for part or all of Neolithic 4. The total for Neolithic 3 was 81 but 38 of these were north of the latitude of Homs and so should be excluded. Only 43 Neolithic 3 sites are known from Lebanon, the Damascus basin and Palestine compared with the 78 settlements I have listed for Neolithic 4. Even when full allowance is made for all the errors that can arise when sites are compared in this way the difference is striking. It appears that there was another marked increase in population in Neolithic 4.

This increase in population is probably the reason for the only significant difference in settlement distribution between Neolithic 3 and 4, the considerable increase in the number of sites to be found in the hills and on the mountain slopes. As the population increased it was unable to expand south and east since the environment of these regions was unsuitable for settlements based on simple agriculture. A greater proportion had to be supported on the avalable land on the plains and in the valleys while other settlements could only be established at higher altitudes in the Mediterranean forests. We find new settlements in the Mountains of Lebanon, the broken hill country of the southern Bekaa and Galilee uplands as well as in the Judean hills. Accompanying these new settlements were the Heavy Neolithic factory sites where the large cutting tools needed to clear the forests were roughed out ...

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium