HOME / Table of Contents = Civilizations - Cultures - Areas - Regions - Prehistory
Other Archaeological Sites / The Neolithic of the Levant (500 Page Book Online)

Chapter 6: Neolithic 4 (Pages 475-478)


Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:

The inhabitants of most excavated Neolithic 4 settlements lived in seperate rectangular houses sometimes with one but usually with two or more rooms. This arrangement was broadly similar to that of Neolithic 3 even if at certain settlements such as Byblos the size of the houses was different in succeding phases. These houses were probably still inhabited by nuclear families which continued to form the basic units of village society. The large houses of Neolithique Recent Byblos could have housed quite extended families including perhaps members from several generations. These famiies would have been linked to the other households in the village by complex social relationships. They were probably still the fundamental economic unit as in preceding stages.

This pattern was characteristic not only of settlements in the South Syrian group but also in Palestine, at least in the latter part of Neolithic 4. There is good evidence from Jericho, Munhatta and other sites that rectilinear houses were adopted once more by the inhabitants of settlements in Palestine superseding the pit dwellings of Neolithic 3. Thus the social organization of Neolithic 4 villages was similar to that of settlements in the central and northern Levant in Neolithic 3.

On the settlements in which several buildings have been excavated none differed markedly from the others in its basic plan. Thus none stands out as having possibly served a communal function with the exception perhaps of those buildings in Neolithique Recent Byblos which Dunand suggested may have been chapels. Even these looked no different from the others which I have interpreted as houses. It is possible that communal buildings with a different plan may yet be found on other sites if they are more extensively excavated but for the moment we have no certain evidence that they were built. The inhabitants of Byblos and other relatively large Neolithic 4 villages may simply have used a structure built like one of their houses for communal purposes should they have felt the need. This is the custom in modern peasant villages throughout the Levant in which a house built like the others may be reserved as a meeting place and for the use of guests.

There would have been the same strong social ties between the inhabitants of Neolithic 4 villages in each region as I suggested for Neolithic 3. These communities were probably grouped in tribes. The cultural groups and sub-groups that I have identified corresponded quite closely with the different regions of the central and southern Levant. It is likely that the sites of each cultural sub-group were inhabited by members of each tribe. Thus one tribe may have occupied the central and northern coastal strip of Palestine, another the Bekaa, a third the Damascus basin, a fourth the southern Jordan Valley and hills to the west and a fifth the northern Jordan Valley.

Byblos is the only site at which more than a few human burials were found. Even here there is reason to suspect that the dead were usually buried beyond the limits of the settlement. This may also have been so at other sites in which few or no burials were found, unless the dead were disposed of by other means, as I have postulated for Neolithic 3. Some of the burials at Byblos were in simple earth graves but there were other collective, secondary burials. This revival of a custom common in Neolithic 2 was also followed at Ein Jarba where a secondary burial was found. Prominent in this internment was a group of skulls and skulls were [also] given special attention in some burials at Byblos. Burials were found in and under buildings at Kabri but elsewhere the custom of burying the dead within the settlement seems to have been rarely practised.

There was little evidence of any differences in social status among the burials at Byblos. The informaton from other sites is too meagre for any conclusions to be drawn. Most of the buildings at Byblos were of a similar type and no house stands out as having been larger or more elaborately finished than the others. Objects of adornment and artifacts made of rare materials from exotic sources are no more numerous here or on other sites than in the previous stage. Thus there seems to have been no marked differences in wealth or status between families either at Byblos or on other sites in Neolithic 4. Society was still broadly egalitarian.

There is evidence that the same crafts were practised as in Neolithic 3. The pottery was better made everywhere and more durable. Probably as a result of this stone bowls were made less frequently on most sites; at Byblos they ceased to be used during Neolithic 4. Other crafts and daily activities seemed to have continued with little change from the preceding stage. It is as if a plateau had been reached in the development of material culture. Not until the next stage, the Chalcolithic, was there any further elaboration when, with the coming of the use of metal [copper], new crafts developed and new kinds of artifacts became available.

The villages of Neolithic 4 continued to obtain raw materials from sources a short distance away. Limestone and basalt were frequently used for stone tools. Flint was also exchanged in small quantites. These were materials which were freely available and in everyday use. A little obsidian continued to reach sites in the central and southern Levant. Of the five pieces analysed from Byblos four came from Van and only one from Ciftlik. Renfrew has visually examined several pieces found on the surface of the Bekaa tells and has concluded that they came from sources in the Van region and Cappadocia. If these results accurately reflected the pattern of exchange then more obsidian was apparently being obtained from Van then Cappadocia, a reversal of the trend in Neolithic 3. The number of samples analysed is too few to be certain; we can only be sure that obsidian from both Cappadocia and eastern Turkey was being obtained.

The exchange of other materials from distant sources diminished further in both quantity and variety during Neolithic 4. Greenstones continued to be used for small axes and chisels. These have been found at Byblos and other sites in the South Syrian group, then as far south as Ein Jarba if the axes from there really came from the basal layer. The raw material for these objects originated either in north-west Syria or the Taurus. A few steatite objects were found at Byblos but no other artifaacts made of exotic materials nor minerals have been reported from any Neolithic 4 site. Nothing seems to have been obtained from Sinai, probably because it was still uninhabited, and regular exchange with regions far to the north-west ceased. We see here one result of the coming of Halaf. For the time being contacts between the Levant and other regions sensibly diminished ...

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium