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Neolithic Abu Hureyra

Selected Excerpt on Abu Hureyra

The Neolithic of the Levant (1978)
A.M.T. Moore (Oxford University)

Chapter 4: Neolithic 2 Abu Hureyra (Pages 163-175)

Between 6500 and 6000 B.C. Tell Abu Hureyra relied on a mixed economy with agriculture supple­mented by hunting. Tell Abu Hureyra is settled at this period and the small initial colony soon expands into a large village covering 11.5 hectares (28.5 acres). The mud-brick houses are clustered tightly together around courtyards and narrow lanes. The houses are facing south and south­west to catch the winter sun, a habit which has persisted in present modern villages of the area. The walls are thin suggesting that the structures were single-storied. They are made of rectangular bricks of various sizes. The plan of the houses includes a series of rooms, as many as five in some instances. The various rooms were separated by parti­tions which could include a rectangular port­hole doorway. The houses were faced with mud plaster sometimes protected by a white wash. They were entered by a high sill and a mud-brick linteled doorway (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology).

A tell site on the Euphrates River in Syria 120 kilometers east of Aleppo. The site was excavated in 1972-3 as a rescue excavation in advance of flooding by the Tabqua Dam. Two major phases of occupation are documented: (1) labelled either Epi-Paleolithic or Mesolithic and dates to the 9th millennium BC; (2) it was later reoccupied after a long period of abandonment in the 7th millennium by a settlement of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B culture. It was finally abandoned circa 5800 BC. The earlier settlement is particularly important because of the light it sheds on the early development of farming in the Levant.

The plant remains include large quantities of einkorn wheat and some grains of barley and rye; there were also pulses such as lentils and vetches and a wide range of other edible fruits, nuts and seeds. The plant remains were all morphologically wild but it seems likely that the einkorn at least was being deliberately cultivated. Many seeds of weed species were found typical of cultivated fields in the area today. Most of the meat food came from gazelle and onager and it is suggested that these animals were being either selectively hunted or perhaps herded. It is clear that the 9th millennium BC community at Abu Hureyra was already involved in incipient farming activities.

The Neolithic settlement of the 7th millrennium BC is also of great importance because of its enormous size (15 hectares): larger than any other recorded site of this period (even Catal Huyuk). Rectangular houses of pise were built up into a mound circa 5 metres high; both floors and walls were sometimes plastered and some wall plaster bears traces of painting. Most of the Neolithic levels were aceramic but in the uppermost levels after circa 6000 BC a dark burnished pottery appears ... (AHSFC)

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