Other Archaeological Sites / The Neolithic of the Levant (500 Page Book Online)
Chapter 5: Neolithic 3 North Palestine (Pages 368-380)
Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums
Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums
Megiddo was first inhabited towards the end of Neolithic 2 but was also occupied in the next stage. A layer of debris, designated Stratum XX, which contained a mixture of Neolithic and Chalcolithic material was found on the rock in Area BB on the northeast side of the mound. A number of post-holes and small pits, mostly about 1 metre in diameter had been cut in the rock here. Built on te rock were the fittings of a curved stone wall and also a mud-brick wall which may have been parts of dwellings originally.
There were no arrowheads among the flints from Stratum XX but there were a number of segmented sickle blades with fine or coarse denticulation. These are similar in type to the group of sickle blades found in Stratum XX. There were also two denticulated blades, an end-scraper on a blade, a piece of delicately retouched tabular flint and a fragment of obsidian. The sickle blades are the most dignostic type and these resmble examples from phases 1 and 2 at Jericho. One of the broad, segmented sickle blades with extensive retouch characteristic of phase 1 at Jericho was found on the surface at Megiddo in 1925 and is now in the Oriental Institute in Chicago. It probably originated in Stratum XX.
Both coarse and finer Neolithic pottery was found in Stratum XX at Megiddo. The most common vessel shapes were hole-mouth pots with knobs or lugs and collared jars with strap handles. Some of these pots had rounded bases. The fabric was tempered with white grit and straw. Some vessels were wiped over and their surfaces left rough but others were burnished. The pots were usually grey in colour on the surface. The finer vessels had thinner walls and were decorated with horizontal bands or rows of zigzag lines painted in red. The shapes of these vessels and the decoration of the finer ware resemble the pottery of Pottery Neolithic A at Jericho but the burnished grey finish of many of them is a northern feature found also at Kfar Giladi.
The similarities between the flints and pottery from Megiddo and material from Pottery Neolithic A Jericho and Kfar Giladi indicate that the site was occupied in phase 1. It is also fairly clear, despite the mixture of material in each stratum, that the phase 1 settlement of Stratum XX was inhabited not long after the Neolithic 2 occupation of Stratum XX. It is thus possible, though incapable of proof given the evidence we have, that Megiddo was continuously occupied from the end of Neolithic 2 into Neolithic 3.
Mallon found a Neolithic surface station at Sepphoris a little way north of Nazareth. He collected a number of flat flaked trapezoidal flint axes there on what seems to have been a workshop site used also in other periods. These axes are similar to some found at Abu Gosh, Tannur and Qat in Neolithic 3 so the flint at Sepphoris was probably worked then as well as at other times.
The great mound of Beth Shan was first occupied in this stage. The earliest habitations were large pits dug into the subsoil at the bottom of the site. Some simple pottery was found in these pits though very little was kept for later study. The sherds still in museum collections consist for the most part of a series of strap and other loop handles. One of these and several other sherds were painted with thin lines in chevron or criss-cross patterns. This pottery is quite like the phase 1 material from both Megiddo and Jericho in shape and decoration while the dwelling pits found at the site are another indication of Nelithic 3 occupation.
The site of Wadi Yabis is beside a spring on the west side of the road from Deir Alla to Khirbet Shuneh in the Jordan Valley. It was discovered when a cistern was made and all the material recovered came from this pit. No pottery was noticed but a number of flint and ground stone artifacts were recovered. The most diagnostic flints were denticulated, segmented sickle blades and a pressure-flaked tanged arrowhead though long nibbled blades, a burin on a a blade and several flake scrapers were also found. Most of the ground stone tools were made of basalt and the remainder of limestone. Among these were several hammers and pestles, a ring which may have been a weight and an axe with a stright edge and rounded butt.
The sickle blades indicate that the site was occupied in phase 1 but the arrowhead and nibbled blades taken together with the absence of pottery suggest that the site was occupied at the beginning of this phase, that is early in Neolithic 3. The ground stone tools would also fit such a context.
Munhatta was inhabited again in both Neolithic 3 and Neolithic 4. The deposits of these stages have been called phase 2. Phase 2 at Munhatta has been divided into a later sub-phase, 2A or the Wadi Rabah phase and two earlier sub-phases, 2B1 or the Munhatta phase and 2B2 or the Shaar Hagolan phase. The levels of 2A are later than the stage which we are considering in this chapter so it is only phase 2B which concerns us here.
In 2B2 the inhabitants seem to have lived in large pits 3 to 4 metres in diameter which contained paved areas, benches and hearths. There were also some bell-shaped pits about 1 metre deep which may have been used for storage. In 2B1 the large pits were replaced by hollow shallows which were as much as 10 or 12 metres in diameter. The floors of these hollows were pock-marked with smaller pits and depressions. One had a circular structure in the middle with walls of bun bricks on stone foundations.
The two principal flint tool types were segmented, denticulated sickle blades and tanged arrowheads. The sickle blades were quite abundant and included some relatively wide and flat ones like those found at Jericho. The tanged arrowheads were retouched by pressure-flaking and were mostly quite small. A few large flaked axes with rounded polished cutting edges were found in 2B2 but none in 2B1; they resemble examples from Abu Gosh and the sites in the Upper Jordan Valley. The only other stone tools were small flat basalt querns.
Some obsidian found in the phase 2 levels at Munhatta has been analysed. It may have come from the 2B settlement. Two pieces were from Ciftlik, one from Nemrut Dag and a fourth from near Lake Van.
The pottery of phase 2B was tempered with grit but relatively little straw compared with sites in the southern group. The shapes include collared jars with loop handles at the base of the neck, hole-mouth jars also with loop handles or lugs and handled cups. The pots were grey or buff in colour and their surfaces were scraped or wiped before firing. Some of the vessels were burnished. The fabric and surface finish of the vessels resemble the grey wares of Megiddo and Kfar Giladi. This pottery was decorated with incised designs or paint. The incised designs usually took the form of lines of herringbone incisions which ran around the vessel near the rim and in zigzag bands across the body. These designs were sometimes combined with areas of red wash. There were also many vessels painted with groups of lines with chevron patterns or bands of paint which formed simple patterns on the body. This painted decoration resembles that found at Jericho, Megiddo and Beth Shan in phase 1. The incised herringbone patterns are characteristic of phase 2 at Jericho and elsewhere but seem to have been used earlier on this northern group of sites. Several other kinds of objects were made of baked clay in Munhatta 2B2, among them rods with a conical end, animal and human figurines. The human figurines were females with pointed heads and eyes and ears made of applied pieces of clay, the eyes being shaped like coffe beans. These stylized figurines were made in the same way as those from Tell Ramad III and they are quite like the one from Kfar Giladi. It is also of interest that a number of pebbles were found in this level which had been marked with a few lines to represent human beings just like ones from Neolithique Ancien Byblos.
The large pit dwellings, the typology of the flint tools and pottery together with unusual objects found on other sites such as the human figurines in baked clay and on pebbles all indicate that Munhatta 2B was occupied in phase 1. There are changes in both the flint industry and the pottery as the settlement developed which imply that the site was occupied for longer than would seem to be the case on most of the sites I have discussed so far.
The site of Shaar Hagolan is situated about 3 kilometres south of the Sea of Galilee on the present course of the Yarkon River a little way upstream from its juction with the Jordan. It thus lies only 6 kilometres north of and across the valley from Munhatta. Additional material was collected in later years as more of the site was exposed when fishponds were made there. A little of the site has been tested in archaeological excavation but most of the considerable amount of material collected has been picked up from these other disturbances. The principal phase of occupation was in the Neolithic from which stage most of the artifacts date but the site was also inhabited in periods as late as the Bronze Age.
A wide variety of flint tools has been found on the site. The arrowheads were usually tanged or leaf-shaped and retouched by pressure-flaking. At least two Amuq points were collected and one arrowhead with a swollen tang, types familiar in Neolithic 3 contexts futher north, particularly on sites in the North Syrian group. The numerous sickle blades were segmented and most were narrow with coarse denticulation. The other tools included some burins, flake-scrapers and very many small flake borers. These tools were made on flakes and blades struck off prismatic, pyramidal and also double-ended, hump-backed cores.
A considerable number of core tools have also been found at Shaar Hagolan. Most of these were relatively small, often between 5 and 7 centimetres in length and flaked all over although a few had polished cutting edges. The principal types were axes, chisels and picks. These core tools are usually found on phase 1 and 2 sites though rarely in such quantities as at Shaar Hagolan.
The pottery at Shaar Hagolan consisted of collar jars with loop handles at the base of the neck and deep hole-mouth jars with lugs or loop handles at the rim; all had flat bases. The fabric of these vessels was relatively well levigated with grit and straw filler. Their surfaces were grey or brown in colour, hand smoothed or scraped and then burnished in some instances. Many of the collared jars and a few of the other vessels were decorated with incised or incised and painted decoration. The incised paterns were usually bands of oblique dashes or herringbones between parallel lines running horizontally or in zigzag fashion around the pots. The bands were sometimes outlined with red paint. A very few pieces were decorated with lines of red paint alone, occasionally on a cream slip.
The remaining artifacts from Shaar Hagolan included a range of bone borers and hafts, hollow querns and many small stone cups and dishes. There were also numerous incised pebbles, spindle whorls and a conical-ended rod like those from Munhatta. Many of these incised pebbles were stylised human beings similar to those from Munhatta and Byblos. Another link with Munhatta, Tell Ramad III and other sites was a group of clay figurines with pointed heads, coffee bean eyes and applied ears.
When discussing Shaar Hagolan in my earlier article I placed it in phase 2 because I thought the pottery with its characteristic herringbone patterns was contemporary with similar pottery found at Jericho at the phase 2 stage there, Neolithic Pottery B. I thought that certain typologically earlier elements in the flints, notably the Amuq and other tanged arrowheads and the double-ended cores, were evidence of an earlier Neolithic 2 occupation not recognized when the site was found. In reviewing the evidence I believe this interpretation should be modified. Firstly, most of the flints and pottery seem to form a homogeneous group with the exception of certain obvious Chalcolithic, Bronze Age and other elements not discussed here. Secondly this material is matched closely in the stratified deposits of Munhatta 2B and there are general parallels also for much of it in Byblos Neolithique Ancien, Tell Ramad III and at the Neolithic 3 sites at the head of the Jordan Valley and in the Bekaa. Thirdly, there is none of the fine red wash and red burnished ware at Shaar Hagolan typical of Pottery Neolithic B Jericho, Munhatta 2A and other phase 2 sites all over Palestine.
The presence of relatively early elements among the flint tools such as Amuq arrowheads and double-ended cores would indicate that the site was first settled early in Neolithic 3 at a time when Beisamun, Tannur, Qat and Abu Gosh were probably inhabited. The pottery resembles that from Munhatta 2B, Megiddo and Kfar Giladi though there is very little of the painted pottery found at Munhatta and Jericho in Pottery Neolithic A. It now appears to me that the grey incised pottery typical of Shaar Hagolan, Munhatta and other sites in the Northern Palestinian group came into use earlier there than at Jericho though it continued to be made well into phase 2 as the evidence of Pottery Neolithic B Jericho makes clear. Shaar Hagolan, then, was probably quite early in phase 1 on the evidence of the flints and may have been inhabited as late as phase 2 since its characteristic pottery was made in both phases.
One other phase 1 site has been excavated at Hamadiya east of Beth Shan on the edge of the Jordan Valley. Some pits, floors and hearths were found here and also a chipping floor on which sickle blades were made. These sickle blades were segmented and coarsely denticulated. The pottery was in general like that from Shaar Hagolan although there were some painted and coarse sherds more like those from Pottery Neolithic A Jericho. Among the other finds were baked clay spindle whorls and female figurines.
It will be clear from the descriptions I have given of phase 1 sites in Palestine that they form a distinct group somewhat different from Neolithic 3 sites further north. The only habitations found on most of them are pit dwellings and buildings of any sort are rare whereas further north the normal type of house is a rectilinear structure with several rooms. The phase 1 flint industry has much in common with sites further north since its core technique and several types of tools such as the tanged arrowheads and segmented denticulated sickle blades are similar to those of Neolithique Ancien Byblos, Tell Ramad III and other sites in the South Syrian group. Nonetheless the phase 1 industry differs in certain details from that of these sites: for example the arrowheads are mostly quite small, the large arrowheads of the Byblos and Amuq types being absent on most sites. On the other hand the small winged Palestinian arrowheads are rarely found further north.
The difference between the pottery of the Palestinian sites and those further north are more striking. There is a link between the grey, incised burnished pottery of the North Palestine group of sites and that of Kfar Giladi, then at a greater distance Tell Ramad III, Labweh and Neolithique Ancien Byblos. The painted pottery, particularly of the South Palestine group, is a local development not seen elsewhere in the Levant.
Certain unusual objects provide a cultural link with sites in the South Syrian group. These are the human pebble figurines of Shaar Hagolan and Munhatta which are found at Byblos and also the distinctive baked clay figurines which are matched at Tell Ramad III and Kfar Giladi. The sites in the Upper Jordan Valley, Kfar Giladi, Hagosherim, Tannur and the others, provide a cultural link between the sites in Palestine proper and those further north in the Bekaa, on the Lebanes coast and east of the Anti-Lebanon. Phase 1 in Palestine thus appears to be a distinctive local variant of Neolithic 3 in the rest of the Levant and is probably broadly contemporary with it
The question of chronology is of importance for another problem connected with the beginning of Neolithic 3 in Palestine. It will be apparent from my description of Palestine phase 1 or Neolithic 3 sites that the remains on most of them, their structures, flint industry and other finds, are different from those on Neolithic 2 sites in the region. The same is true of the settlement pattern since although a few Neolithic 2 sites were also occupied in Neolithic 3 most were not and the majority of Neolithic 3 sites are in different locations. There is thus apparently a cultural break and an abrupt change in settlement pattern between Neolithic 2 and Neolithic 3 in Palestine more complete than anything that took place in Syria. We may now ask how long did this cultural break last and was Palestine partly or completely abandoned during that period? I will discuss these questions now and consider the reasons for this cultural break and its implications for the economy and society of the inhabitants of the region later in the chapter.
The fact that there was a cultural break, hiatus or gap in the Palestinian sequence between Neolithic 2 and Neolithic 3 has been accepted by most archaeologists for some time although views have differed on the degree of depopulation that this implied. When discussing the problem in my earlier article I could see no evidence of settlements in Palestine which followed on directly from those of Neolithic 2 and so reluctantly accepted that Palestine was completely abandoned. I argued then that this gap in occupation must have lasted at least 1000 and perhaps as many as 1500 years, that is from about 6000 BC to 5000 or 4500 BC. I arrived at these dates by comparing the Palestinian sequence of phases 1 and 2 with sites in Lebanon which were dated by C-14 determinations. The most important of these was Byblos with two determinations for the Neolithique Ancien phase.
There is now new evidence to take into account in discerning the question of chronology and we also know more about the cultural changes that took place at the end of the 7th and during the 6th millennia BC. Firstly as I mentioned earlier in the chapter following the definitive publication of the Byblos dates by the Groningen laboratory it now appears that Neolithique Ancien Byblos was settled about 5600 or 5700 BC, perhaps four centuries earlier than we had thought. I also think that the transition from Neolithique Ancien to Moyen at Byblos took place around 5000 or 4800 BC rather than 4500 BC as was once supposed. The two original C-14 determinations from which I have derived these dates were made long ago and so could be greatly in error. In any case it is unsatisfactory to have to rely on only two C-14 determinations for the chronology of Neolithic 3 not only in Lebanon but also in Palestine. Although this remains a serious difficulty fortunately we do not have to depend upon these dates alone. There is now a great deal of evidence from the material remains of the South Syrian group of sites to indicate that they were occupied approximately contemporaneously with those in the North Syrian group, that is during the 6th millennium, and with this my proposed dating for Byblos accords very well. Within the South Syrian group itself there is supporting evidence for this dating. Tell Ramad III was probably occupied soon after Ramad II or even as a continuatuion of it. The site was then inhabited until perhaps 5500 BC. The material from Ramad III has always seemed to be like that of Neolithique Ancien Byblos yet Byblos was believed to be so much later in date and so out of step in its cultural development. On the new dating which I am proposing the Neolithic 3 occupation at the two sites would be almost contemporary which fits the cultural sequence much better. We have seen that there are resemblances between the material remains on Neolithic 3 sites in Palestine, particularly those on the northern group, and those in the South Syrian group, especially Byblos. Neolithic 3 in Palestine probably began a little after the earliest developments in southern Syria and certainly well after the abandonment of late Neolithic 2 sites such as Munhatta in Palestine. Bearing in mind the new dates for Byblos I would now suggest with due caution that this might have happened about 5500 BC.
The second factor which needs to be considered when discussing the length of the gap in occupation between Neolithic 2 and Neolithic 3 in Palestine is the effect of calibration on the few C-14 determinations that we have. I have not calibrated the C-14 determinations discussed in this thesis since I do not believe that it is possible yet to do so, as I explain in the Appendix. Calibration would however alter the apparent length of the gap between Neolithic 2 and Neolithic 3 in Palestine so in this instance its effects should be considered. The published calibration curves, for example those at Switsur, Ralph et al and Clark, all extend back in time no further than the mid 5th millennium BC at which time the difference between the C-14 determinations and the corrected dates obtained from them is between 700 and 850 years. Although the graphs published so far extend no further back in time they do indicate that the difference between the C-14 determinations and the corrected dates is slightly reduced in the earlier 5th millennium. It is thought that this trend continues during the 6th and 7th millennia until a point is reached at which C-14 determinations are believed to give the approximately correct absolute dates. Thus there would still be a difference of several hundred years between a mid 6th millennium C-14 determination and the calibrated date but this difference would be a few centuries less in the 7th millennium. This means that the apparent difference between the Byblos date of 5410 +/- 70 BC GrN-1544 and the dates for middle and late Neolithic 2 sites in the 7th millennium would be greater before than after calibration perhaps by as much as two or three centuries. Thus an apparent gap of 500 years between the end of Neolithic 2 and the beginning of Neolithic 3 in Palestine would be significantly reduced if these figures were converted to absolute dates. Given the uncertainties surrounding the dates themselves it would not be helpful to attempt to give precise figures in absolute years for this gap except to say that it may have lasted no more than a few centuries.
Was Palestine completely abandoned during that time? Now that we know more about Neolithic 2 and Neolithic 3 it seems that there was some continuity of occupation though on a much reduced scale, a possibility that Perrot indicated some years ago using other evidence. It is clear that occupation continued on sites in the Upper Jordan Valley from late in Neolithic 2 well into Neolithic 3 though these sites belong within the Syrian zone both culturally and geographically. The chipped stone assemblage in the surface layer at Abu Gosh resembles that of the sites in the Upper Jordan Valley quite closely so it would seem that it was occupied very early in Neolithic 3 as they were even if we do not know for certain that Abu Gosh was inhabited continuously from late Neolithic 2. The presence of Amuq arrowheads, double-ended cores and even tranchet axes at Shaar Hagolan indicates that this site too was inhabited at the end of Neolithic 2 or the beginning of Neolithic 3. There was certainly a long gap in occupation between the Neolithic 2 and Neolithic 3 settlements at Munhatta but since the large flaked and polished axes found in Munhatta 2B2, though not in later phases, are similar to those at Abu Gosh and the Upper Jordan Valley sites it may be that this site too was occupied very early in Neolithic 3.
The evidence from these three sites; Abu Gosh, Shaar Hagolan and Munhatta, suggests that Palestine was not completely abandoned between Neolithic 2 and Neolithic 3 but that the area continued to be inhabited albeit by much smaller groups. We can also see an element of typological continuity between the flint industries of Neolithic 2 and Neolithic 3 in Palestine at these sites which means that the culture of Neolithic 3 could have developed locally, at least in part, and need not have been brought in completely from further north by new colonists. This helps us to explain the strictly local style of painted pottery made on sites in the South Palestine group and also some of the Palestinian idiosyncracies in the Neolithic 3 chipped stone industry.
I do not think there was a complete gap in occupation between Neolithic 2 and Neolithic 3 in Palestine but it remains true that there is very little archaeological evidence of any settlement in Palestine between about 6000 and perhaps 5500 BC on the carbon 14 chronology. Most sites were deserted during this period so that one must suppose there was a serious disruption in the way of life practiced in Neolithic 2. It should also be noted that relatively few sites were inhabited in Neolithic 3 and some of them only quite late in the period so that Palestine was not occupied so intensively as before ...