This volume contains 21 papers presented at Sessions 1 (The Neolithic–Chalcolithic transition in Upper Mesopotamia. Subsistence strategies, economy, society and identity; key note speaker M. Frangipane) and 2 (The Levant in the Bronze Age: crossroad or frontier between different cultures?; key note speaker A. Maeir) of the 5th edition of the “Broadening Horizons” Conference, which was held at the University of Udine from 5th to 8th June 2017. Broadening Horizons is an international meeting that aims to offer an opportunity for relatively informal discussion, especially (though not exclusively) for young/early
career archaeologists specialized in the ancient Near East and disciplines relevant to the main theme of each congress session. All the papers have passed a double blind peer-review process and provide significant contributions on a number of topics – among which material culture (e.g. pottery tradition and architecture), settlement pattern, social changes, cultural transmission and economic dynamics – that are of fundamental importance for the archaeology of Mesopotamia and the Levant.
Marco Iamoni is a research fellow at the Department of Humanities and Cultural Heritage of the University of Udine. He has been working in the Middle East since 1999, with excavations and surveys conducted in Syria (in particular at Qatna and Palmyra), Oman, Lebanon and Iraq (Kurdistan Region). He has authored several scientific works, among which a monograph entitled “The Late MBA and LBA Pottery Horizons at Qatna. Innovation and Conservation in the Ceramic Tradition of a Regional Capital and the Implications for Second Millennium Syrian Chronology” published in 2012 by Forum Editrice as the second volume in the series “Studi Archeologici su Qatna”. He has recently begun two joint research projects in Lebanon (the Northern Lebanon Project) and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (the Asingeran Excavation Project), that involve direct field investigations regarding his two current major research areas: the development of Bronze Age societies in the Levant and Western Syria, and the
onset and rapid growth of socio-economic complexity in Upper Mesopotamia.
Browsing 2. From the Prehistory of Upper Mesopotamia to the Bronze and Iron Age Societies of the Levant. Volume 1 by Issue Date
In 2009 and 2010, the Syrian-German mission excavated the richly furnished Tomb VII at Qaṭna which yielded an inventory dating to the Middle Bronze Age IIA-IIB. The inventory comprised a large assemblage of gold jewellery including pendants, rings, toggle pins and long bands. While some of these jewellery items represent types already known from Syria and the Northern Levant, other types from Tomb VII have previously been attested only in the Southern Levant. Hence, the jewellery assemblage from Tomb VII is composed of types referring to both the Syrian/Northern Levantine and the Southern Levantine region. In this study, a selection of the gold jewellery from Tomb VII will be discussed against the background of similar items from other sites in the Syro-Levantine region. This approach aims at embedding the assemblage from Tomb VII into its wider cultural context which will ultimately illuminate how the interregional relations between the Syro-Levantine states are reflected in the material culture of the ruling class of Middle Bronze Age Qaṭna.
The Orontes valley is a heterogeneous area located at the border of the humid Mediterranean zone and the dry Syrian steppe: surrounded by mountains, it has narrow valleys, deep gorges, marshes, extensive fertile plains, and marked differences in climate. All these factors have greatly influenced settlement in the region throughout its history. Their effects were exacerbated by the chaotic political situation that characterized the valley during the Late Bronze Age, when, along the river, the Great Powers of the time found themselves in direct contact for the first time. The paper tries to analyze how the region’s morphology and natural environment affected both the local settlements and areas of foreign influence.
The Ubaid represents a fundamental phase for the emergence of social complexity and is the first cultural phaenomenon
having spread throughout almost the entire Fertile Crescent. A long-lasting debate exists about the
modalities of this expansion, while its chronology – around the last quarter of the sixth millennium BC – is
generally considered as well established. However, recent reassessments of some ancient radiocarbon dates and
ceramic data from the whole Ubaid sphere clearly suggest that the chronology of the emergence of the Ubaid
is as controversial as the modalities of this process. On the basis of new data from northern Mesopotamia and
the northern Levant, this paper focuses on the Halaf-Ubaid Transition, as well as on the contact between the
Ubaid and other cultural entities in Levantine areas generally considered as external to the Ubaid sphere. Technical
and morpho-stylistic analysis of some sixth millennium assemblages seems to suggest that the Ubaid expansion
could have begun much earlier than generally imagined and could have implied very frequent and deep
cultural relations with other Mesopotamian and Levantine cultures.
Recent excavations at the site of Tell Atchana, ancient Alalakh, have clarified the presence of Iron Age periods. Despite being at the centre of these changes, the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition at Alalakh and in the Amuq remains poorly understood in terms of chronology and its social impact. A key question is the degree to which changes evident in the archaeological records should be credited to population movements or to the reorganization of social, economic and political structures by the local population. This paper considers the assemblage from a functional point of view to discuss any change or continuity in habits and actions evident from the Late Bronze Age to the Iron Age and during the Iron Age. In particular, this article aims to be a first attempt to propose a functional study of pottery from the Amuq Valley, thus linking the documentation of Northern Syria with that of Southern Anatolia. Furthermore, it will try to establish a set of morphological and physical characteristics of pottery vessels that, within limits, can be used to define how well suited particular vessels are to perform particular tasks.
The existence of marked regionalism in the material culture of the southern Levant in the Early Bronze Age
I is a long-established fact; however, the nature of the relationships between the different sub-regions is still a
matter of debate. The paper analyses the EBI regionalism in the southern Levant from the perspective of cult
and ritual in order to investigate the nature of the connections – or the lack thereof – between the various subregions
also in comparison to the main Late Chalcolithic sanctuaries to have an overall look at the fourth millennium
cultic habits. Architectural aspects of the main southern Levantine sanctuaries from this period will
be taken into account, as well as the material culture and ritual practices. New data from excavations at Jebel
al-Mutawwaq, Jordan, will be included in the analysis. Through the examination of the archaeological data, the
paper seeks to recognize differences due to isolation of the different sub-regions from one another and/or similarities
which may suggest that there were contacts and connections between the different areas of the Southern
Levant in the Early Bronze Age I.
Ancestor worship is a combination of many distinctive elements, beliefs and rituals that had an important social meaning in ancient societies. Remains of ancestors and associated beliefs and rituals have been found in numerous archaeological sites of the Near East and the role of ancestors in ancient communities should not be underestimated.
This paper examines the characteristics of ancestor worship, with a focus on the archaeological remains found in the major geographical centres of Mesopotamia dated to the third millennium BCE. Through the analysis of this phenomenon this article argues that the study of ancestor worship could be used to investigate many different aspects of ancient societies, such as changes in the political, economic and religious systems and the movements of populations or cultures.
Halaf pottery is one of the core elements defining Late Neolithic Middle Eastern societies. This article presents the preliminary results of organic residue analyses performed on a small set of Late Halaf painted and plain Fine wares from Sector 49 in Tell Halula (Syria). Data obtained from lipids embedded in the clay matrix suggests the existence of type-content variation possibly related to food display and commensality practices.
The Middle Bronze Age in the Near East was a period of particular commercial and political developments. Numerous polities rose in the Levant as a result of internal and external triggers. The material culture and finds from this area, which had no fixed boundaries or clear identity, reveals a continuous and vibrant interaction and exchange with the stronger surrounding cultures. This is clearly reflected in the architecture of the excavated palaces. A mélange of local and foreign features could be identified: Aegean frescoes, Egyptianizing wall paintings, Mesopotamian architecture and Anatolian building technique. The architecture of these palaces was used by the Levantine Elites to communicate their political power and reach to their peers. But what was the intention and motivation of the various elites to integrate selected foreign features in the architecture and decoration of their palaces? This paper seeks to answer this question by identifying the preferences and the choices of foreign styles and features. Through defining the local or regional trends, some insights are gained about the nature of the relationship between the Levantine polities and their neighbors, and the various zones of influence.
The paper focuses on the analysis of the so-called tholos, a circular building widespread – but not exclusively – during the Halaf period. Taking into account most of the remains of tholoi present at many Halaf sites (31 in all), including data relating to the transitional periods (Proto-Halaf and Post-Halaf/HUT), in the first section a classification of types of tholos is proposed and their possible functions are discussed, with reference to previous work. The second section deals with some related socio-economic issues, considering settlement layout and the distinction between sites with long and short occupation, and small and larger villages. Particular attention is given to: family structure or pattern, that is the arrangement in extended or nuclear households; storage facilities, i.e. the adoption of communal or domestic storage practices; the type of mobility, namely the compatibility of the current interpretations with models of long-term and short-term mobility on one hand, or with certain models of ‘nomadism’ and pastoralism on the other. A final question concerns to what extent these aspects are related to differences in pottery production recognizable, in part, at local and regional scales – and therefore to the issue of ‘socio-cultural identity’.
Exotic objects between distant regions frequently constitute bases for interpreting them as evidence of direct interaction. This tendency is especially widespread in archaeological research of late prehistoric periods. Excavations of nine late Early Bronze I (EB I) burial caves at el-Khirbe in a modern quarry at Nesher-Ramla (NRQ = Nesher Ramla Quarry) has yielded various imported objects. Six are of Egyptian origin and a seventh is an extremely rare import from the Middle Euphrates Valley. The current paper presents these artifacts, proposes the manner in which they were likely imported and offers a broad interpretation of the phenomenon of including such objects as grave goods.
The study of the “ancient mind”, with its implications to the material culture and the actions of humans in the past, is currently ongoing. However, only a few segments of the archaeological research are advancing applications of cognitive studies in the field and producing insights inferred from their application. Transformations and variations in the archaeological data, as are figurative representations on objects, could benefit from a non-representational investigation and shed light on areas of the research still under debate. This paper, drawing upon the theory of material engagement, notions of extended and embodied cognition, material symbols, and material agency stemmed from anthropology, aims to introduce a brief outline of how iconographic motifs and styles have the capacity of guiding and influencing human becomingness. From this perspective, novel ways of examining the past may help to trace processes of becoming and to shed light on the interaction between Near East and Egypt at the end of the fourth millennium. Notably, the contribution focuses on how the presence of Mesopotamian motifs on specific Egyptian objects actively shaped and produced the basis for the creation of an elite in Egypt. Mostly due to lack in sources of data, the logic behind the processes of simplification and the birth of the Egyptian elites is still partially obscure. However, those periods of change are able to illuminate the importance between people and their cognitive environments and to give us more insights into the processes behind change and stability in the material and social worlds. Through an analysis of objects as partaking to a certain style, it is here advocated that a cognitive approach to figurative motifs has the potential to produce novel insights about social and cultural transformations among people, materials, and their environments.
The project of the Italian Archaeological Expedition in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (MAIPE) of the University of Milan focuses on a small part of the Erbil plain, namely the area of Helawa/Aliawa, 27 km south-west of Erbil. In 2013 and 2015, a topographic survey with differential GPS was carried out at Helawa. The ensuing GIS-based spatial analysis of diagnostic materials made it possible to reconstruct the site’s main occupational phases and estimating its extension at different times in its history. In this paper, we will focus on additional aspects that emerged from our spatial analysis. The distribution of selected categories of finds (e.g., furnace wasters, lithic artefacts) throughout the site points to possible functional distinctions. Furthermore, our analysis of morphological data bears witness to processes of multilayer deposition and erosion, which contributed to shaping the site’s mound morphology through time.
In the Late Bronze Age, the Near East saw the Babylonian intellectual heritage expansion throughout the region.
Although previous works only studied this phenomenon from the Babylonian perspective, recent trends
and methodologies prefer to present it from the reception sites. One of them was the Levantine city of Ugarit.
This kingdom developed an active and profitable international commerce as well as intense diplomatic contacts
with the cradles of that knowledge, Babylon and Assyria. On this matter, clay tablets that belong to Babylonian
tradition were unearthed in several private houses whose owners were important merchants and administrators
of the Kingdom. Some of these texts reveal that these houses were also schools where Babylonians and Assyrians
worked as teachers.
Recent study of the Philistine culture of the Iron Age Southern Levant has enabled to suggest a much more
complex and multi-faceted understanding of the origins, composition and development of this fascinating culture,
first appearing in the transition between the Late Bronze and Iron Ages. In this paper, I discuss the entangled
identities that can be identified in Iron Age Philistia, and caution from previous, and in some cases, contemporary,
simplistic definitions and understanding of the identity matrix of the Philstines and their relations
with neighboring groups and cultures.
The paper tries to apply a developmental and comparative approach to the analysis of the processes bringing to the first hierarchical societies in Upper Mesopotamia by focusing on their Neolithic roots and analysing the structural similarities and differences with the contemporary societies in two other regions of the Near East: South Mesopotamia and Central Anatolia. This comparison is aimed at evidencing, on the one hand, similarities and differences with an area – South Mesopotamia– whose features differed widely in the sixth millennium BCE but with which the Upper Mesopotamian communities were closely related for millennia. On the other hand, the author examines the profound structural differences with Central Anatolian communities, where the subsistence strategies, environmental contexts, and the resulting economic, social, and political organization seem to have differed substantially from the Mesopotamian ones. Whereas the comparison with Central Anatolian developments therefore essentially focused attention on structural features and differences, the analysis of the relationship with Southern Mesopotamia also considered the nature and effects of the intensive “contacts” that linked together the two Mesopotamian regions and were relevant to the developments of both societies.
The subject of this paper is the study of a pottery shape known as the “husking tray”, whose functional interpretation
is the main topic of my doctoral research.
The husking trays are usually very large trays, made of a coarsely straw-tempered clay, characterized by a very
wide oval base and low sides; they were used by the communities living in Northern Mesopotamia during the
seventh and the first half of the sixth millennium BC.
The most interesting feature of this kind of vessel is the presence of incisions and impressions on their interior
Several scholars have suggested various hypotheses about how the husking trays could have been used and what
specific function they could have had, but these suggestions have remained merely theories so far.
In the paper it will show a first experimental analysis which has revealed that the husking trays could have been
pans used to bake bread and the incisions/impressions on their inner surface could have been anti-adhesive
The Levant has always been a crucial zone for contacts between Egypt and the ancient Near East. During the Late Bronze Age (the ‘international period’) and the Iron Age, pharaonic Egypt, the Hittite empire, and later the Neo-Hittite and Aramaic states shared many occasions of exchange and interaction, testified both by texts and artefacts: among them, luxury objects like ivories. This paper aims to retrace the circulation of some iconographic motifs of different origins attested on the ivories of Arslantaş/Hadātu (near the border of modern Syria and Turkey), comparing this material with other ivories found in sites of the Levantine area (Ugarit, Byblos, Megiddo): a journey through precious items from Egypt to Anatolia, across the Levant throughout the Bronze and Iron Age, to the rediscovery of those people who, despite geographical distances, travelled, circulated and interlaced relationships.
Spinning bowls are known especially from Egypt, but several examples have also been found in the Palestine area; they are spread from the Middle Bronze Age to the Late period. According to the traditional view the most ancient spinning bowls are those from Egypt, which do not predate the Middle Kingdom, while the Palestinian specimens were derived from the Egyptians’, but some evidence challenges this dating. A spinning bowl kept in the Museo Egizio in Turin was traditionally dated to the New Kingdom, but it shows several features which suggest an earlier dating. Study of Schiaparelli’s excavation notes and comparison with similar objects from Tell el-Farkha suggest that a Predynastic date is more plausible. Egyptian spinning bowls were thus probably introduced at least in late Predynastic times. Excavations in Jordan have shown that in that area these items existed as early as the late Chalcolithic period. Different types of morphologies and specimens that are only partially preserved can make the identification of these bowls quite challenging.
Scholarly tradition has connected the second half of the third millennium BC with the question of contacts between the northern and southern Levant suggested by the spread in the south of given elements of material culture inspired by northern prototypes. Current explanations of connectivity across the Levant during Early Bronze IV, framed within the context of formation, crisis and regeneration of early urbanism, centre on the role of nascent states in Inland Western Syria – Ebla in particular – in structuring regional agro-pastoral strategies and triggering cultural transfer to the south. This article reviews the available chronological, archaeological and textual records in order to achieve a greater definition of the chronological resolution and geographic scale of possible patterns of interactions among the northern and southern Levant during the second half of the third millennium BC that have not been considered thus far. The article will discuss whether current explanations of connectivity between the northern and southern Levant during Early Bronze IV fit the data available and will explore possible alternative scenarios.