THE MATURE AND LATER NEOLITHIC IN MESOPOTAMIA (6000-3500)
1. After Catal Huyuk the center of development east of the Nile shifted to the regions bounding the Tigris Euphrates river plains to the east. For descriptive purposes this area can be separated into two climatic zones located north and south of Baghdad. In general the area to the north is on the edge of the 250 mm rainfall limit below which rain-based (dry) farming is not possible. The second zone, south of Baghdad comprises the hot rainless plains of southern Mesopotamia where irrigation is vital for farming.
2. In this region the final developments that led to urban civilization took place in the 1500 year period 6000-45000 BC in the context of an evolving Neolithic culture of essentially small villages based on dry farming giving way to large towns subsisting on irrigation.
3. Overall development (Nissen 1988) begins with hunters needing a very large "catchment area' to ensure enough food an extensive space for wild, migrating animals. This changes with the introduction of farming so that villages become more stable and produce more food near their homes, allowing more and closer settlements. Finally in the full-blown irrigation agricultural phases intensive occupation is possible with various scales of settlements co-existing in the same region.
4. The Mesopotamian Late Neolithic sequence leads from a single innovative village - Umm Dabaghiya (see below) through three chronologically overlapping archaeological "cultures" identified originally largely through their pottery styles - Hassuna, Samarra - to the initial move to the southern alluvium and urbanism in the Ubaid period (4500-2600 BC)
5. During this period, although the excavated site inventory remains sparse, we see moves toward closer interregional connections in the context of continuing regional/local differences. This involved the probable emergence of multi-settlement cultural units whose members shared in concepts of belief, technology, social organization and art, increasing social complexity, and the emergence of embryonic institutions of the southern Mesopotamian pattern of urban life.
6. Archaeologically, these later Neolithic trends are most apparent in the changing pottery inventories.
7. First we see that, following the settlement-specific Early Neolithic styles (suggesting purely local cultural norms as applied to and expressed through pottery), there was a gradual move toward regional styles (Hassuna), and supra regional styles (Hassuna/Ubaid) -suggesting a sharing of taste, style, and to some extent cultural identity as well as trade growth.
8. In terms of production organization, we see crude undecorated or decorated household products (Catal Huyuk, Umm Dabaghiya) giving way to individual specialists who crafted and carefully decorated the entire pots (Hassuna/Samarra/Halaf), to the invention of the slow wheel and specialized pottery workshops in the Ubaid. This represents the gradual growth of specialization that probably also involved expansion of trade, administration, irrigation, technology and religion.
Umm Daghabiya (6500-6000)
1. This site is located in northern Iraq in an area of marginal rainfall, contemporary with later Catal Huyuk. It appears to be another of the rather examples of important Neolithic sites developing its own self-dependant economy while sharing in increasingly intensive connections.
2. Umm Daghabiya is a small site (6 families) with a mostly animal subsistence base (domesticated animals plus wild onager and gazelle). The site is located in a marginal area for dry farming, thus the emphasis.
3. There is abundant plain pottery, copper, and Anatolian obsidian.
4. The residential area contains similar religious iconography to Catal Huyuk - murals of onager (wild ass) hunts and special burial treatment of skulls.
5. The archaeological record contains huge quantities of onager bone relative to other animals, indicating specialization in hides stored in the special cell-like room blocks with roof entrances that characterized the settlement. Diana Kirkbride, the excavator, believes that this indicates trade with Anatolia for obsidian.
6. Umm Daghabiya is a typical mature Neolithic site in terms of its distinctive specialization and economy but with intensifying distant links that forecast the subsequent developments.
Hassuna Culture (6000-5200 BC)
1. This archaeologically culture, defined by its ceramic style, encompasses a large number of small villages set largely just within the 250mm rainfall belt of Northern Iraq and easternmost Anatolia and sharing a number of cultural traits for first time. Its mixed economy generally includes greater reliance on cereal production.
2. Houses of mud slabs and thatch with 3-4 rooms, sometimes around courtyard with parching ovens and grain bins show the continuing development of Neolithic technology (used to separate husks from kernels)
3. A shared ceramic style - first crude like Umm Dabaghiya, later with coarse painting is distributed around its "culture area." and leads into Samarran and Halafian Cultures.
4. There is no evidence of social differentiation like the succeeding Samarran Culture just small simple "rustic' villages of a few kin-linked family groups in the typical Neolithic pattern.
Halaf Culture (5500-4800)
1. The Halaf range includes the northern parts of Mesopotamia, Syria and southern Anatolia. Ecnomy was based on dry farming and stockbreeding.
2. The elaborate Halaf pottery style spread across the entire northern region to the Mediterranean, indicating intensive sharing of stylistic concepts through cultural contact or trade although there appear to be different varieties of this style, indicating against any form of wider political unity.
3. Halaf was related to, and may well have grown out of, Hassunna and Umm Daghabiya in the north as part of a general cultural/ social Neolithic pattern whose most elaborate expression was seen at Catal Huyuk.
4. Halaf sites are in general small like those of the Hassuna Culture of North Iraq. Like Catal Huyuk, Umm Dabaghiya and Hassuna suggest no strong signs of administrative bureaucracy or social differentiation, except for its specialized pottery. This contrasts with the contemporary Samarra Culture further south.
Samarran Culture (5500-4800)
1. The Samarran settlement distribution demonstrates that communities of settled farmers were moving into the fringes of the northern alluvium. This move necessitated simple irrigation to enable adequate food production in this dry area. There is progressive lessening in importance of hunting at the Samarran sites of Tell-es Sawaan and Chogi Mama.
2. The area of Samarran pottery distribution includes the entirety of northern Iraq north of Baghdad. It represents a style comprising brown-painted geometric style pottery.
3. Trade is indicated by turquoise, carnelian and obsidian. Alabaster and copper was also used.
4. Female figurines continue into the tradition. They are different from site to site, suggesting distinctive local forms of the same wide belief system. Elaborate burials offer greater evidence for social stratification.
Samarran Social Organization
1. Both Tell-es Sawaan and Chogi Mama were surrounded by large buttressed walls with indirect entrance. This suggests the presence of inter-site raiding. It also suggests emergence of the organizational systems required for raiding parties, labor, administration, and irrigation.
2. There is now a clear differentiation of house types with residential buildings being usually rectangular as opposed to a second house form that was used later by both private and religious institutions as the focus of their moves toward economic and political hegemony. This was a T-shaped building used for storage of grain and residence, containing elaborate female figurines which indicates ritual connection. This suggests that important kin-groups/families were communally owning produce and building their own status on such ownership.
3. This room-type later became the T-shape room that is better known on one hand as the temple form and on the other hand as the residence of the extended private family. This large family group was the forerunner of the feudal Sumerian households (oikos) headed by an important landowner and including his sons, their families and retainers. Samarran culture at 5500 was developing in a more hierarchical direction than contemporary Catal Huyuk.
4. Later, in Uruk and Early Dynastic Periods, this dichotomy between temple and important landowners grew into a contest for control that was ultimately won by the latter.
Ubaid Culture (4500-3600)
1. Marks the true initiation of settlement in the Tigris-Euphrates alluvium.
2. Ubaid Culture probably developed from the Samarran. The Ubaid further developed the use of irrigation technology, land management (corporate family ownership), overall religious centralization around a community temple (and divinity) and long-distance trade, to create a way of life that grew upon its Neolithic past to establish a new urban pattern fitted to life in the alluvial plains.
3. Original Ubaid settlement comprised scattered small villages located along riverbanks of the southern alluvium. This settlement may well have been made possible by the lowering of water levels in the Gulf and the opening of new areas that were still seasonally flooded, permitting easy irrigation agriculture.
4. However, the late 4th millennium saw a major and rapid move toward large, nucleated cities clustered around temples, initiating large-scale irrigation projects to reclaim desert land for farming.
5. The earliest example is Eridu where elite residences and specialist potters clustered around a temple creating the temple precinct that characterized later periods and the tradition of a sacred place that retained its importance in Mesopotamian for millennia in many cases.
6. The temple influence was still countered by private feudal estates. Here extended family members lived in large homes that included several distinct living complexes (Father and sons).
7. The Ubaid spread throughout the entire region including the north, replacing Halaf cultural influence there, and south along the shores of the Persian Gulf.
8. However, the superficial supra-regional similarities of the Ubaid overlay persisting differences between north and south Mesopotamia (originally seen in the Samarran/Halafian distinction) that became evident again later. Thus, the south developing urban society of the Uruk period while the north retained closer connections with its Neolithic past in the form of smaller farming villages. Similarly the small Ubaid towns in Arabia later reverted to a chiefly hunting lifeway with cultural expressions distinct from those of Mesopotamia.
Late Neolithic Summary
1. The Mature-Late Neolithic reveals a move from very local and differential adoption of domestication in the context of small isolated clusters of homes, to large towns incorporating sharing religious, economic and social organizational features at the inception of the "Urban Revolution."
2. The long process involved:
- origins in the Levant.
- regional and local distinction:
: use of resources
: subsistence strategies
: social organizational strategies
: population sizes and densities
: religious belief
- At the end a move toward more formal connections through shared:
: belief systems
: settlement patterns
: cultural connections
All this led to transformation on the Tigris-Euphrates plains with the beginnings of the Urban Revolution in the Ubaid.