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Neolithic villages

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  1. Neolithic villages Jericho and Catal Huyuk Ancient Studies

  2. “When human beings brought plants under cultivation and animals under domestication, they dramatically altered the natural world and steered human societies in new directions” (Bentley and Ziegler 19).

  3. Neolithic=new stone age • The term was used because of types of tools archaeologists found: “polished stone tools ... rather than the chipped implements characteristic of paleolithic sites” (19). These tools were used in societies that relied on cultivation rather than foraging. • “Today the term neolithic era refers to the early stages of agricultural society . . ..” (19)

  4. Social and cultural changes • Population explosion (estimates: before 10,000 BCE, 4 million humans; by 5000 BCE, 5 million, by 3000 BCE, 14 million) • Permanent villages and towns (Jericho c. 8000 BCE may have had 2000 residents; farmed wheat and barley; water from an oasis north of Dead Sea; traded salt and obsidian-a hard, volcanic glass from which ancient peoples fashioned knives and blades; surrounded circular mud huts with a formidable wall and moat-“a sure sign that the wealth concentrated at Jericho had begun to attract the interest of human predators”) (Bentley and Ziegler 24) • Specialization of laborMost residents cultivated crops or kept animals. But others manufactured pots, baskets, textiles, leather, stone, and metal tools, wood carvings, carpets, beads, and jewelry, for example, at Catal Huyuk. (24)

  5. Three craft industriesthat emerged in the neolithic era: pottery, metallurgy, and textile production • Pottery– Paleolithic societies had no use for it—didn’t store food, couldn’t carry it with them, etc. But a food-producing society needs pots for storage of surplus foods. By 7000 BCE, neolithic villagers were making fire-hardened waterproof clay pottery and etching designs into the pots. • Metallurgy – First, neolithic metalworkers worked with copper, a malleable metal. “By simply hammering the cold metal it was possible to turn it into jewelry and simple tools” (Bentley and Ziegler 25). By 6000 BCE, they discovered that when heated, copper became more workable. By 5000 BCE, they were melting copper to pour into molds. Then they made not only jewelry, but knives, axes, hoes, weapons. Later, they applied the same techniques to gold, bronze, iron. • Textile production– Natural fibers decay more easily than pottery or copper, so dating is imprecise. After cultivation of plants and domestication of animals, “[T]hey then developed technologies for spinning the fibers into threads and weaving the threads into cloth.” Probably the work of women—able to spin and weave while tending children at home, etc. (25)

  6. Grindstones (to make cereal grains edible, the husk must be removed; grains were ground up to make flour) Hearths Storage pits Archeological evidence of the transition from hunting and gathering to farming: Source: Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East, by Michael Roaf (NY: Facts on File, 2000), p. 27.

  7. By 9,000 B.C.E., a settlement had grown up near an abundant spring in the Jordan river valley at Jericho. I. Jericho

  8. People at Jericho lived in round huts (made of mud brick) about 5 meters across. As many as 2,000 people might have lived at Jericho.

  9. An artist’s rendering of what Jericho might have looked like during the Neolithic era. Source:

  10. Walls in the Neolithic era were often made out of mud that had been mixed with straw and dried in the sun. • Advantages of mud-bricks: • --cheap, readily available, structurally sound, good insulator • Disadvantages of mud-bricks: • --easily eroded by running water; needs annual maintenance

  11. Do tell. Mud-bricks were not reused when a building fell into ruin. Rather, people built on top of the former site, in layer upon layer. Eventually, mounds formed where building had occurred over a long period of time. These mounds, or hills, are called tells in Arabic (huyuk in Turkish). • Jericho is also known as Tell al-Sultan.

  12. In addition to the round mud-brick huts, Jericho was surrounded by a stone city wall, with a stone tower attached to the inside. The tower had a staircase inside of 22 steps, each made of a single block of stone.

  13. Source:

  14. Burial rituals in Jericho and other Neolithic villages “Often, headlessbodies—sometimes with the lower jaw still attached to the skeleton—were buried beneath the floors of the houses, and the skulls deposited elsewhere in groups. . . . Occasionally the skulls were decorated. Some had been scraped with a sharp blade, others painted with red ocher or bitumen, and a few had shells placed in the eye sockets with the features modeled in plaster.” Source: Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East, by Michael Roaf (NY: Facts on File, 2000), p. 33.

  15. Source:

  16. One interpretation of Jericho skulls: ancestor worship The skulls may be evidence of a form of worship “in which the dead ancestors . . . Probably exercised a powerful influence over their descendants and had to be pacified by prayer and sacrifice.” Source: Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East, by Michael Roaf (NY: Facts on File, 2000), pp. 33-34.

  17. II. Catal Huyuk c. 6500 B.C.E.

  18. Catal Huyuk Source: Source:

  19. “Catal Huyuk is a city which dates from 6500 BC to 5400 BC. It was excavated by James Mellaart from 1961 to [1965]. It was a Neolithic city located in central Turkey. The site covers 32 acres making it the largest Neolithic settlement in the Near East. The site had rectangular houses with shared common walls. The houses contained a hearth and mudbrick platforms for sleeping or work area. The economy of Catal Huyuk was based on simple irrigation agriculture, sheep and cattle breeding, and the trade of obsidian, textiles, skins, food items and information. The obsidian (volcanic rock) was used to make projectile points, daggers and obsidian mirrors. The use of bone for tools and pendants were also found. The ceramics consisted of oval bowls and jars.” Source:

  20. This is an artist's recreation of the village of Çatal Hüyük in what is today Turkey. The village had a population of between 5,000 and 6,000 people and was built around 6800 B.C. Notice that the houses were built so close together that one had to enter each house through a hole in the roof. Source:

  21. Evidence of culture at Catal Huyuk • Shrines • Wall paintings • Figurines

  22. Drawing of wall painting of vulture and corpses, Level VII, late 7th millennium. Source:

  23. Reconstructed view of Level VI house ("shrine") with wall-relief figure of female giving birth. Source:

  24. Excavation view of actual horns set into a pedestal, Level VI. Source:

  25. Grave beneath floor of house. Source:

  26. Sources • Bentley, Jerry H. and Herbert F. Ziegler. Traditions & Encounters: A Global Perspective on the • Past. Third Edition. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2006.

  27. Additional resources Catal Huyuk official dig website: Virtual tour of Catal Huyuk: