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PREHISTORIC NEAR EAST CHRONOLOGY

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

Prologue: To understand current research on the subject of the Ancient Near East I think it is necessary to delve into its historiography or the history of research in the recent past; the terminology -- stratigraphy -- typology -- etcetera ...

Overview: The generation of scholars who laid the foundations for pre-historic research in the Near East introduced their European chronology. The term Paleolithic was used for the description and dating of Pleistocene lithic [stone] industries. The term Mesolithic was adopted for a certain microlithic industry which was considered also to be post-glacial. Finally the term Neolithic - whose inception was of the geologic Holocene era - has had to be expanded in certain years in order to incorporate pre-pottery (aceramic) assemblages because of the similarity of stone artifacts (See Prehistory of the Levant by Ofer Bar-Yosef 1980) ...

Gelogical Time: The Quaternary Period is divided into the Pleistocene (1.8 million to 11000 BP) and the present geological age or Holocene (11000 BP) Epoch which coincides with the end of the last Ice Age and the ushering in of dramatic climatic and geographic changes (See After the Ice Age: Holocene Hunter-Gatherers) ...

Stone (Lithic) Ages: The Paleolithic Period (Palaeolithic) or Old Stone Age dates from approximately 2.5 million years ago. Subdivisions include the Lower (2.5 million to 200,000 BP) : Middle (200,000-40,000 BP) : Upper (40,000-15,000 BP) ...

The Mesolithic Period or Middle Stone Age (15,000 BP until ~8500 BC) sites were first discovered in the Near East in Palestine and the cultural sequence has since been established more securely there than anywhere else. The earliest group of these sites determined on the evidence of stratigraphy and comparative typology was called Kebaran after the site where this phase was first defined in excavation by Turville-Petre (JSTOR). The second phase was called Natufian since its type-site - Shukbah - was situated in the Wadi Natuf on the western edge of the Judean hills ... (See A Below)

Objections to the term Mesolithic have been raised by a number of archaeologists. Braidwood (Oriental Institute) for example has said that there was no Mesolithic in western Asia in the sense that the term is used in northern Europe ... Some archaeologists prefer to call this stage the Epi-Palaeolithic to emphasise that the microlithic industries developed from the Upper Paleolithic European Aurignacian Culture. At a conference in London in 1969 a number of archaeologists accepted this reasoning and agreed to use this name in future ... (See A Below)

A) Chapter 2 -- The Mesolithic of the Levant (Pages 34-36) ..... The Neolithic of the Levant

The Mesolithic Period seems to have come to an end about 8500 BC throughout the Levant and I shall take this date as the beginning of the Neolithic Period or New Stone Age ..... The change in culture at the end of Mesolithic 2 was first established stratigraphically by Dame Kathleen Mary Kenyon at Jericho where the Natufian site was abandoned and then succeeded by other settlements with somewhat different cultural remains to which the names Proto-Neolithic and Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) were given ...

B) Chapter 3 -- Neolithic 1 (Pages 84-87) ..... The Neolithic of the Levant

Addendum: With the further development of calibration (standardization) curves all dates from the Proto-Neolithic and Neolithic cultures of the Middle East can now be calibrated ... The period with Proto-Neolithic cultures began around 12500 calibrated BC and lasted for more than 4000 years until circa 8400 calibrated BC ... The advent of the true Neolithic in the Near East - with agriculture and livestock breeding - can reasonably be dated a little before 8000 calibrated BC; or more correctly between 8300 and 8000 calibrated BC during a phase that is called Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) in the Levant (See Radiocarbon) ...

Note: We can see a priori from this reliable source that the Proto-Neolithic (Sub-Period) includes the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) (stratigraphy or stratum) of the Levant and also from the dating that the Mesolithic (Period) somehow subsumes them both ..... Actually the authors are probably using the term Proto-Neolithic as a catch-all term or generalization to include everything after the Paleolithic and before the true Neolithic began ...

The last prehistoric period is the Chalcolithic or Copper Stone Age which lasted from approximately 4500 BC until the beginning of the Bronze Age circa 3100 BC ...

This chronology is for the most part of Levantine origin and should in no way be taken as an absolute for the entire Near East ..... Indeed there is so much dissension on the subject that I think that one should see it from an intuitional level - a veritable quasi-pseudo-equilibrium process involving the juxtaposition of time and space - especially when dealing with calibrated and uncalibrated dates etcetera ...

Selected Excerpts on the Pre-Historic Near East

I: Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times
Donald Redford -- Princeton University (1992)

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

III: The Neolithic of the Near East
James Mellaart (1975)
GN 776.33 N4 M44

IV: Last Hunters - First Farmers (1995)
School of American Research Press
Edited by T. Douglas Price and Anne
Birgitte Gebauer (GN 799 A4 L37)

Chapter 1: New Perspectives on the Pre-Historic
Transition to Agriculture
by the Editors

Chapter 2: The Origins of Agriculture in the Near East
Ofer Bar-Yosef and Richard Meadow

Introduction / The Near East and its
PaleoClimate Record

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium