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Pre-Historic Ubaid Culture

Radiometric data suggest that the whole Southern Mesopotamian Ubaid period, including Ubaid 0 thru 5, is of immense duration, spanning nearly three millennia from about 6500 to 3800 B.C. (1)

Tell (mound) Ubaid near Ur in southern Iraq has given its name to the prehistoric culture which represents the earliest settlement on the alluvial plain of south Mesopotamia. The Ubaid culture has a long duration beginning circa 6500 BC and lasting until the beginning of the Uruk Period. In the mid 5th millennium BC the Ubaid culture spread into northern Mesopotamia replacing the Halaf Culture. The Ubaid culture is characterized by large village settlements and the appearance of the first temples in Mesopotamia. Equipment includes a buff or greenish coloured pottery decorated with geometric designs in brown or black paint; tools such as sickles were often made of hard fired clay in the south but in the north stone and sometimes metal were used for tools (A).

An understanding of the rise of complex cultures in southwest Asia should begin with the Ubaid Period which falls chronologically between the origins of agriculture and the rise of urbanism. During the Ubaid a new social order was evolving in southern Mesopotamia and the Susiana Plain (Elam) of southwest Iran out of which emerged complex societies with a centralized state structure. During the fifth millennium BC the Ubaid culture spread northward up the Tigris-Euphrates drainage as far west as Cilicia and the Amuq. This foreshadows a similar expansion of what has been interpreted as Uruk trading colonies or enclaves established to obtain essential raw materials lacking in the alluvial plain (B Page 166).

(1) Beyond the Ubaid: Transformation and Integration in the Late Prehistoric Societies of the Middle East
Edited by Robert A. Carter and Graham Philip (PDF)
The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (2010)

(A) Macmillan Dictionary of Archaeology: Editor -- Ruth Whitehouse (1983)

(B) The Amuq Valley Regional Project (1995-1998)
K Aslihan Yener -- Christopher Edens et al
American Journal of Archaeology (2000) (JSTOR)

Photograph: The Rise of Civilization by David and Joan Oates (1976)
Painted Jar of the Latest Ubaid Phase of the Late Fifth
Milennium BC from Arpachiyah in Northern Iraq ...

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium