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Chapter 5: Neolithic 3 (Pages 294-296)

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:

About 6000 B.C. there is evidence in the archaeological record of marked changes in material remains, economy, settlement patterns and social organization signifying the emergence of a new stage in the Neolithic of the Levant which I shall call Neolithic 3. The Neolithic 2 tradition of building rectilinear single or multi-roomed mud-brick houses was continued on some Neolithic 3 sites but on others the inhabitants lived in sub-circular pit dwellings. Other large pits which may have served as working or cooking hollows are another conspicuous feature of many Neolithic 3 settlements.

The characteristic flint industry of Neolithic 2 was modified in Neolithic 3 though many of its general features were preserved. The emphasis of Neolithic 3 flint production remained the manufacture of blade tools but they were usually smaller than in Neolithic 2. Pyramidal cores were now preferred which yielded shorter blades than the double-ended cores of Neolithic 3. Arrowheads were usually smaller though in Syria and Lebanon several types of very large arrowheads continued to be made throughout Neolithic 3. Short, regular, segmented sickle blades hafted in composite sickles were now used rather than the large blades of Neolithic 2. These segmented sickle blades had a serrated or denticulated cutting edge and cut most effectively when the sickle was used with a sawing motion. A new feature of the flint industry on some Neolithic 3 sites was the manufacture of large axes, adzes, picks and other heavy flaked tools. These tools were apparently developed to cut timber and prepare land in areas which had not previously been favoured for permanent settlement.

The principal cultural innovation in Neolithic 3 was the making of pottery. Pottery was first used on sites in Syria and Lebanon about 6000 B.C. At the beginning it was made in small quantities but the craft flourished so that soon after its introduction pottery became an item of every day use throughout the central and northern Levant although pottery was not used in the southern Levant until several centuries later. From the outset there was much variety in fabric and decoration. Pottery is such a conspicuous item in the archaeological record that its introduction is the principal indicator of innovations in material culture. Other important changes were taking place in economy and the pattern of settlement at the time that pottery was introduced. These changes in artifacts and way of life are the main evidence that a new stage of the Neolithic was developing. Pottery is the most easily recognisable new artifact and for this reason the moment when its manufacture began is the most convenient point at which to date the beginning of Neolithic 3. Although the introduction of pottery was such a striking innovation the changes in the buildings and flint industry were simply a modification of the Neolithic 2 tradition. In general there was cultural continuity from Neolithic 2 to Neolithic 3 in the Levant, evidence for which has been found at Abu Hureyra, Buqras, Ras Shamra, Tell Ramad and Tell Labweh. In Palestine the Neolithic pattern of existence was disrupted and the Neolithic 3 way of life there, when finally established, was somewhat different from further north.

The Neolithic 3 economy differed in several ways from that of Neolithic 2 though it developed from it. There was a stronger emphasis on agriculture in the vilages of Neolithic 3 than in Neolithic 2. Herding grew markedly in importance on some sites while hunting and the gathering of wild plants contributed less to the diet of the settled population than before.

The settlement pattern underwent considerable modification in Neolithic 3. The expansion of settlement into the semi-arid areas of central Syria, Transjordan and in the extreme south-east of the Levant which had taken place in Neolithic 2 was reversed. No permanent Neolithic 3 settlements have been found in these areas and they seem to have been occupied no more than intermittently by mobile groups. On the other hand a considerable expansion of settlement took place in western Syria and Lebanon in areas that were quite thinly populated in Neolithic 2. New sites were founded and old sites enlarged along the Syrian and Lebanese coasts and in the Bekaa and Orontes Valleys. There was also settlement expansion in the Amuq basin and northwest Syria to the West of the Euphrates.

In Palestine the old settlement pattern was considerably disturbed. Most Neolithic 2 sites were abandoned then new sites were founded later in slightly different positions. The population of the Negev and Sinai was much reduced although there are indications that these areas continued to be inhabited.

Having briefly mentioned the most important developments that took place in Neolithic 3 I shall now consider the archaeological evidence in detail taking each region in turn ...

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