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Teleilat Ghassul Culture

Selected Excerpts on Teleilat Ghassul

The Neolithic of the Levant (1978)
A.M.T. Moore (Oxford University)

Chapter 4: Neolithic 2 Teleilat Ghassul (Page 233)

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

A Palestinian site north east of the Dead Sea consisting of several low mounds. Four main occupation layers were revealed by excavation, all belonging to the Chalcolithic Period of the 5th and early 4th millennia BC. This site has given its name to the local Chalcolithic culture which is known as the Ghassulian. The settlement consisted of simple mud brick houses, irregular in plan, built on stone foundations. Some walls were decorated with remarkable painted wall plaster; the motifs include geometric designs and representations of stylized dragons, human figures and hirds, and a sailing boat with oars. Burials were in cists, made of stone slabs and covered by stone cairns. (AHSFC)


The fourth season of renewed excavations at the large Chalcolithic settlement of Teleilat Ghassul near the northeast Dead Sea coast has uncovered significant new evidence that may credibly push back the roots of 'urbanism' nearly a thousand years earlier than generally assumed.

The four week 1999 season of digging at Teleilat Ghassul has produced three main observations according to dig director Stephen Bourke of the University of Sydney (Australia):

- a) the settlement started life as a small village around 5000 BC; there after expanding slowly and steadily for the next 1500 years;

- b) the important sanctuary area of the settlement was repeatedly remodeled during a thousand year occupational history; and

- c) excavations at the eastern end of the site have revealed large multi-room multi-purpose complexes -- providing further evidence for an economically diverse, complex, stratified society displaying many of the aspects held to be indicative of urbanism, but in the middle Chalcolithic era (circa 4500-4000 BC), a thousand years before the generally assumed start of urbanism in the Early Bronze Age.

- Bourke says this very early development of an economically diverse, complex urban society at Teleilat Ghassul may be explained by a unique combination of landform (gently sloping plains allowing irrigation), mineral resources (salt), and early domestic crops (especially olives).

- He believes the evidence from Ghassul indicates that a number of different regions were developing similar trajectories towards civilization but that some (the southern Levant and Nubia) had this process cut short probably through environmental collapse. However in Egypt the process continued and strengthened, eventually flowering into the majesty of the Old Kingdom

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium