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The Neolithic of the Levant

  • Halaf (5500 BC - 4700 BC)
    • After people had been making the fancier Hassuna style pottery for about 500 years, a new style called Halaf developed in roughly the same area, and spread further east, west, and south, along the southern slopes of the Zagros mountains
    • For several centuries, both the Hassuna and Halaf styles were used, maybe by different ethnic groups
    • But the Hassuna style faded from use as the Halaf style continued on
    • The lives of people who used Halaf style pottery were basically similar to that of those who used Hassuna pottery, concerning subsistence, town size, etc.
    • All within area of possible dry farming (i.e. no irrigation needed)
      • wheat (emmer and einkorn) and barley
      • sheep, goats, cattle
    • Together with Samarran pottery to the south, the Halafian style was the first really widespread cultural "horizon"
      • Not just isolated fancy pieces, but 80-90% of the pottery assemblage at any site is virtually identical to that from any other site
        • house styles, other artifacts also very uniform
      • Ceramic paste studies (neutron activation) show pots from a single clay source are found as much as 600 miles (about 1000 kilometers) apart
        • that is, some pots moved at least 300 miles...
        • indicates long-distance trade in ceramics
        • not just the spread of a style that influenced local potters
        • although presumably most of the pottery was made locally, by local potters who learned to work in the regional style
      • Looks like a complex pattern of exchange
        • people in larger towns conducted long-distance exchange between themselves
          • mostly or only for fancier, high-status goods
          • probably elites or trade specialists trading with each other
        • while simpler, "cheaper" versions were produced in the large towns and exchanged over shorter distances with smaller towns nearby
        • this flow of goods suggests that centers may have controlled production of some craft goods
          • one possibility: elites in larger towns may have supported specialist potters ("attached specialists") who produced the fancy items that the elites used in their long-distance exchanges with other elites
      • implies some sort of increased communication
        • probably mostly between elites in the larger towns
    The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium