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

Chapter 4: Neolithic 2 Khirbet Kum (Pages 185-187)

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:

The site of Khirbet Kum is near a well and modern village of the same name which lie on the track from Sukhne to Risafe in the pass between the Jebels Abu Rujmein and Bishri. It was first excavated by Laurisson Ward in 1938 who made a collection of flints and plaster vessel fragments which is now in the Peabody Museum at Harvard. He also discovered another surface Neolithic site - almost certainly occupied in Neolithic 2 - 10 km south of Risafe. El Kum was rediscovered by Doctor and Misses Buccellati who surveyed the area in 1966 and found many other prehistoric sites in the pass.

The site is a large mound about 25 metres high. A brief excavation was carried out there in 1967 in which it was discovered that the bottom 10.35 metres of deposit consisted of aceramic Neolithic with a further 4.85 metres of ceramic Neolithic above; remains of a later period of occupation were found in the top layers of the mound. The structures in the aceramic levels consisted of clay walls and mud plaster floors with fragments of red burnished plaster that could have been either from floors or walls. Two superimposed rectilinear clay-walled buildings were found in the ceramic levels; each had several rooms with white plastered floors and walls. An unusual feature of the upper building was that it contained a staircase connecting rooms on different levels.

The flint industry was composed of blade and flake tools. The blades were large parallel-sided ones struck off double-ended hog-backed and keeled cores. There were some tanged arrowheads with a little abrupt retouch or pressure-flaking on a few pieces. Burins on blades were much more common - consisting for the most part of angle burins. Backed blades with abrupt retouch were also quite numerous. Sickle blades and end-scrapers on blades were present in small quantities. There were also many flake scrapers made on quite thin flakes which were then retouched around the edge. The industry seems to have changed very little throughout the long period in which the site appears to have been occupied.

Polished fragments of limestone and alabaster bowls were quite abundant in the Neolithic levels. The vessels were hemispherical in shape - ranging in size from small cups to larger dessert bowls. Bone points and spatulae were also found throughout. Then there were a variety of other artifacts such as a polished stone chisel - a stone weight and other holed stones - a baked clay stamp seal and beads.

The two other major classes of finds were fragments of plaster vessels and potsherds. Both appear only to have been found in the ceramic Neolithic levels although it is possible that plaster vessels were used earlier and not recovered in the small area excavated. Many pieces of plaster vessels were collected - more than at any other excavated Levantine site. Most of these vessels were large open quite deep circular jars with flat bases. A few were more squat and hemispherical - one or two were rectangular and there was a large flat platter. The walls were usually thick and made of several layers of plaster. Often a thin layer of plaster had been carefully applied to the surface perhaps to make the vessels impervious to moisture. Many of the vessels retained impressions of matting on their bases and coiled baskets on their sides. From this one can see that these vessels were often made inside a large basket of coiled straw or rushes which gave support until the plaster had set. This is also excellent evidence for use of basketry and matting at the site.

Pottery was abundant in the ceramic Neolithic layers. The ware had a buff finish with much straw temper although a few vessels had a flint chip and grit filler. Many of the sherds were undecorated but some had been painted red all over. A proportion of both the plain and red painted vessels had then been burnished.

El Kum is a large site with a very substantial depth of deposit built up from the collapse of the buildings of what appears to have been a concentrated settlement. Not enough is known about the site to say much about how its inhabitants lived but it is clear that their buildings and artifacts were broadly similar to those on the sites we have already discussed. The closest parellels for the flint industry are to be found at Abu Hureyra and Bouqras although the proportion of tools found differed from both these sites and flake tools seem to have been more common at El Kum than elsewhere. The use of stone bowls and white plaster vessels also links El Kum with the Euphrates sites. Aceramic El Kum should thus be contemporary with the later aceramic Neolithic at Abu Hureyra and Bouqras I and II. The ceramic Neolithic layers are probably of the same date as Bouqras III and the ceramic Neolithic at Abu Hureyra but occupation at El Kum seems to have continued later than at the other two sites. The aceramic Neolithic at El Kum falls within Neolithic 2 in the Levant but with the introduction of pottery occupation at the site entered a new phase ...

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium