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Pottery Neolithic Yarmukian Culture

The Yarmukian Culture was first determined in the late 1940's by Moshe Stekelis at the site of Shaar Hagolan in the Central Jordan Valley. He recognized the unique character of the flint industry -- pottery -- art objects and designated the assemblage as the Yarmukian Culture after the nearby Yarmuk River (1).

The Yarmukian Culture flourished in the second half of the sixth millennium circa 5600-5000 BC. Unlike the 7th millenniun in which the entire Levant was characterized by the same Pre-Pottery Neolithic B tradition -- in the 6th millennium the Levant is characterized by regional cultures. In this period we also observe a decline in the amount of obsidian and other raw material transfer in the region. It appears to be a time of cultural segregation where all the sites emphasized themselves by distinct elements of its material culture.

[At first] excavations at Yarmukian sites and other Pottery Neolithic sites as well usually yielded pits without buildings. This gave a general impression of pit dwelling settlements. Thus although some structures were found in Pottery Neolithic sites like Munhatta and Jericho they were overlooked. Later clear evidence of construction activities in Yarmukian sites were published from Jebel Abu Thawwab -- Ain Ghazal -- Shaar Hagolan.

The Yarmukians are the first to use pottery in this part of the Levant. Their pottery vessels were varied in shape and size and could serve different needs of the daily household functions. A highly styled decoration technique was used to decorate the Yarmukian vessels which are clearly distinct from other contemporanious cultural units. In addition flint -- limestone -- basalt items were extensivly used in household daily activities.

The most interesting feature of the Yarmukian Culture is the rich collection of art objects discovered at the sites. In the site of Shaar Hagolan about 130 anthropomorphic figurines made either on clay or on limestone river pebbels were found. In the site of Munhata over 50 such figurines were unearthed in stratigraphic excavations. The Yarmukian figurines are one of the most impressive artistic achievements of the 6th millennium BC in the PreHistoric Near East. The quality and quantity of these items place Yarmukian sites as one of the major artistic Neolithic centers of the Near East (2).

(1) The Yarmukian Culture of the Neolithic Period (1972)
Moshe Stekelis -- The Hebrew University in Jerusalem
Library of Congress # GN 776.32 I75 S8413

(2) The Yarmukian Culture in Israel (1993)
Yosef Garfinkel in Paleorient 19/1:115-134

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium