THE MATURE NEOLITHIC OF THE LEVANT AND ANATOLIA (7000-5400 BC)
A. The Levantine Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB 7000-6000 BC)
1. Many southern Levantine sites were temporarily abandoned around 7300 BC at the end of the PPNA for reasons as yet unconfirmed although climatic change has again been suggested. This did not affect the northern Levant to the same extent so seems a local phenomenon. Many of the southern sites were resettled in the early 7th millennium. This did not affect the Zagros sites like Jarmo and Ali Kosh that had experienced continuous occupation throughout the period.
2. The succeeding PPNB period (7000-6000 BC) represents further development of the Early Neolithic in the Levant with indications of closer contact and more formal trading of obsidian, turquoise, jadeite, flint.
3. This was also a time when the Neolithic expands beyond the areas of initial settlement (Levant) into the areas of the Kopet Dags (Jeitun) and Mergahr in the Baluchi Highlands. While these areas are very distant from the main developments of the Fertile Crescent, they probably represent diffusion rather than independent innovation with connecting sites of the Iranian Plateau still to be found. (Notes: During this period the inhabitants of the Nile Valley continued to exist in a semi-sedentary, pre-Neolithic hunting and gathering way of life).
4. There are strong indications that in the PPNB hunting significantly diminished in most areas and that there is progressively greater dependence of domesticated food.
5. It is possible that incipient irrigation developed in desert sites like Jericho and Beidha in the Southern Levant and Cuyonu and Catal Huyuk in Anatolia (a little later), to sustain the food needed to feed their greatly expanded populations.
6. In the PPNB there were closer similarities in burial customs between the various Levantine sites than previously. This is mostly seen in the sub-floor secondary burial of skulls. One theory is that this practice came from the north as part of the PPNB cultural emergence.
1. The general adoption of pottery throughout the regions by 6000 BC with a clear development of local styles reflects emergence of specific modes of decoration and cultural identity.
2. There is growing evidence of differential socio/economic choices among the peoples of the area. Thus:
3. There was strengthening of the nomadic pastoralist way of life that probably emerged from descendants of the groups that rejected sedentism at the end of the Natufian, like the Harifian Culture (see earlier lecture notes). Thus nomadic camps have been identified throughout the Southern Levant and Sinai. This period clearly consolidates the dichotomy that emerged from the Epi-Palaeolithic and persists till today - permanent dependence on agriculture and farming opposed by an equally strong nomadic pastoralist tradition.
4. There was continued regional experimentation among the PPNB towns of the Levant. Jericho (15 acres) and Catal Huyuk (32 acres) dwarf such sites as Jarmo (3 acres) and its Zagros contemporaries. Jericho with its massive walled settlement and earlier (fortification?) tower represents a level of labor and administrative organization not seen elsewhere until possibly Catal Huyuk in Anatolia late in this period (after 6500 BC).
5. Also there is evidence that at PPNB Jerich an emerging formal religious system with below floor secondary burials of skulls (ancestral?), figurines of animals and humans (mostly female), ans possible a special “shrine” heralded the formal systems that emerged throughout the Middle East in later periods.
6. Jericho was sharing in an emerging resource distribution network with obsidian coming from Anatolia (Catal Huyuk), and shell from the Red Sea.
7. Both of the large Levantine/Anatolian sites contrast with the smaller villages of the Zagros where the Jarmo pattern of small farming village continued unabated.
8. These regional patterns illustrate that during the earlier Neolithic Periods various local groups, even when they shared in a general pathway toward settled agricultural life, developed their own identities and strategies befitting their needs - physical and spiritual. This experimentation & diversity was facilitated by the relative isolation of the early villages, especially in the mountainous areas of Anatolia and the Zagros and further east.
9. Around 6000 BC well-documented environmental disruption (drying) caused breakdown of the Southern Levantine PPNB and most sites were abandoned for 500 years. Only in the north and later in the east did the Neolithic further evolve.
The Anatolian Mature Neolithic and Catal Huyuk (6500-5400 BC)
1. Catal Huyuk is located in the Konya Plain of central Anatolia. This is an area of abundant wild cattle and wheat with lesser numbers of sheep. These formed the basis of settled life with accompanying hunting and wild plant gathering.
2. The emphasis on cattle again shows a local adaptation of the Neolithic as does the actual settlement pattern of Catal Huyuk.
3. Catal Huyuk overlaps the late PPNB of the Levant and continues down to 5000 BC.
4. It was a large "town" of 32 acres of clustered rectangular mud-brick houses with common courtyards but no alleys or streets.
5. Interior spaces included adobe platforms (sleeping), and a kitchen area with hearths, domed oven, storage bins and niches. Frequent burials (mostly secondary) were placed in the platforms or under the floors with special attention to skulls which were often separated from the body and placed in special niches in tombs or walls. Residential burials showed little evidence of rank - just bead, shell, some copper, personal ornaments.
6. Shrines. The residential area of Catal Huyuk contains many rooms with bulls horns and heads, modelled plaster reliefs of cattle heads and human breasts, placed on the walls. Walls were often painted with scenes of hunting, topographic scenes, dead bodies with vultures etc. Burials in the shrines do indicate some social differentiation with weapons (daggers and arrows), polished stone bowls, obsidian mirrors, mace-heads, etc.
8. Figurines. Many female figures have been recovered from Catal Huyuk. They are often associated with wild felines, children and birth.
- Subsistence was based on raising wheat, cattle breeding and continuing hunting of deer, wild boar, bear and ass. There may have been small-scale irrigation. Also continued use of wild plants.
- Probable trade in obsidian from a source near the Konya volcano, also probably trade in skins and wheat.
- Technology developed an accomplished lithic inventory of flint and obsidian with a lot of elaborate ground-stone. There was also a diversified bone tool kit. This is still essentially a Neolithic tool inventory. However, simple metallurgy in the form of lead, and copper (smelting by 5500 BC.) occurred to some extent. Pottery consisted of simple bowls that were undecorated early but later painted.
8. Craft Organization. There is no good evidence for craft specialization - no workshops or evidence of central technical or storage facilities. It is probable that a basically generalized economy existed in which people were both food producers and household craft specialists with only at best incipient central organization.
Catal Huyuk and Urbanism
1. Given the unparalleled size of Catal Huyuk, its several thousand inhabitants, dense settlement, and probably long distance economic contacts, the town has often been termed the first instance of urbanism in the World(although earlier PPNA/B Jericho has also been given this distinction).
2. It is probably better described as a primary example of the socio/economic experimentation that characterizes the Neolithic with people distributed in well-separated villages, each developing its own version of sedentary society. Catal Huyuk and possibly Jericho went furthest in developing the social organizational capacity to integrate large populations and develop the required related economic bases. However, they ultimately proved to be exceptions to the basic Neolithic rule of small self-dependent villages, and disappear without obviously affecting the broader evolution of the Neolithic into later urban civilization.
3. The ultimate transition to urbanism came much later and in the river valleys that had not to any significant degree participated in the major Levantine and Anatolian experiments of the Neolithic, deriving from the more modest village, small-farming base in the Zagros foothills.
1. The arrangement and nature of the symbolic/religious features at Catal Huyuk tell us much about the general emphasis of the group ideation of the early Neolithic.
2. The Neolithic was an emerging way of life in which the domesticated and safe was not yet dominant over the wild and threatening. There was thus a constant awareness of fragility and insecurity. This opposition of wild and domestic was recognized and mediated through the symbolic use of art and space.
Opposition of Life and Death at Catal Huyuk.
1. In symbolism there is a dichotomy of Female/Life/Domestic opposed to Male/Death/Wild. This doesn't necessarily relate entirely to task roles or personalities. It does, however, use some of general qualities of each to oppose the two dominant and antagonistic aspects of Neolithic life.
2. This opposition occurs within several symbolic categories. Thus, female figurines commonly show nude females, sometimes giving birth, seated on wild leopards. Wall sculptures sometimes show human breasts with the beaks of vultures or jaws of foxes set into them. In murals vultures are associated with death (vultures flying over headless corpses) and males. Houses combine areas devoted to the two contrasting qualities in the same room. Thus there is a stress in all symbolism of the close relationship and separation of life and death/ wild and domestic.
3. Taking this into the architectural sphere, we see a similar juxtaposition in the arrangement of these symbols in the residential spaces.
4. Most obviously, domestic areas are located near the entrances of houses and contain ovens, hearths, no murals and large quantities of pottery. Further into the interior of houses are the benches in which burials occur - women nearest the entrance and the domestic area, men further back, often buried with hunting equipment. In the back area around male burials are the murals depicting death, hunting, wild animals.
7. Thus the domestic/female/life is segregated from the wild/male/death grouping and encloses it within the confines of the Neolithic home. This indicates growing control by the domestic over the wild as do the figurines with their symbolic taming of wild animals by life-giving females. Here male/female is used as a symbolic dichotomy – it doesn't necessarily mean that in daily life men were seen as death figures or women purely domestic. This expresses the growing importance of the Neolithic way of life over the nomadic hunting/gathering.