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Tell Halaf Culture

A tell (mound) site in the Khabur Valley in northeast Syria close to the Turkish border which has given its name to a widespread culture of north Mesopotamia and Syria with radiocarbon dates in the range 5500 - 4500 BC. It is characterized by a fine painted pottery with designs in black, red and white on a buff background. The finest polychrome Halaf vessels come from the potter's workshop at Arpachiyah. This site and Tepe Gawra have produced typical Eastern Halaf ware while a rather different Western Halaf version is known from such Syrian sites as Carchemish and Halaf itself.

Although no Halaf settlement has heen extensively excavated some buildings have been excavated: the misleadingly named tholoi of Arpachiyah, circular domed structures approached through long rectangular anterooms. These buildings, constructed of mud-brick sometimes on stone foundations may have been for ritual use (one contained a large number of female figurines) but other circular buildings on this and other sites were probably simply houses.

The Halaf population practised dry farming (based on natural rainfall without the help of irrigation) growing emmer wheat, two rowed barley and flax; they kept cattle, sheep and goats. As well as their fine painted pottery the Halaf communities made baked clay female figurines and stamp seals of stone; these latter artefacts are often thought to mark the development of concepts of personal property (because at a later date seals are used to produce marks of ownership). The Halaf culture was succeeded in northern Mesopotamia by the Ubaid Culture (AHSFC)

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