The Pre-Pottery Neolithic B was a time of great interaction and innovation across the ancient Near East. This period began with hunter-gatherers living in villages for some or all of the year in many parts of the Near East, but still reliant on collecting their food around the landscape. By the time this period ends, some 1500 years have passed and we have settled farming villages across the Near East with a wide range of domesticated plants and animals, as well as sophisticated techniques for both freshwater and ocean fishing.
People still lived in villages, although some of these had grown into massive megasites full of densely packed clusters of internally complex, sometimes multi-story houses. The farming and the fishing continue after the end of the PPNB, from about 7000 cal BCE. In terms of what else continues though, it very much depends on where in the Near East you look, because after this point we stop seeing common patterns and developments between the different regions of the Near East. This integrated ‘PPNB world system’, whether it was ever one single system or an overlapping series of different groups, breaks apart after the end of the PPNB. Raw materials and jewellery stops travelling all over the Near East over long distances. The megasites disappear – although everyone in small villages still lives in small villages – and in some areas sites are abandoned and others are founded in new locations.
In some parts of the Near East, such as northern Mesopotamia, pottery comes into common use for the first time. In other parts of the Near East, such as the southern Levant, pottery has not yet come into fashion – although it has been turning up very occasionally for a few hundred years already. Perhaps there was no real need for it just yet. Perhaps this was just a preference, and pottery had yet to come into fashion. Or, perhaps pottery technology had not yet improved enough to make it a useful thing to invest your time into making.
One thing which also starts to change – although not at the same rate or in the same way in all regions – is the way that stone tools were made. In some areas, such as the southern Levant, naviform blade technology goes out of fashion. The new fashion is for unidirectional flake and blade technology, and a lot more use of flakes. People also took up a fashion for pressure-flaking – using the careful application of slow pressure to surfaces to ping off tiny slivers of stone. This meant that tools could not only be re-sharpened, but could also be given a serrated edge for extra cutting power.
Pressure flaking was already around a little bit in northern Mesopotamia during the PPNB. After about 7000 cal BCE, though, it does become a bit more common, but doesn’t lead to a major turnover of stone tool technology like we see in the southern Levant. At least, not yet…
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3 thoughts on “Episode 16: Collapsing the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B”
I was sorry to hear that you have not been well. I hope you are on the mend, Jane. I gobbled up this podcast which I appreciated very much. There really isn’t anything like this out there in the podcast world for we frustrated followers of archeology. Your storytelling style is informative and engaging. Thank you. I hope that there are more episodes to come!
I really enjoy your narrative interpretation and your sense of humor. Hope you’re feeling better
I am absolutely riveted and fascinated by your work! I’m also sorry that you haven’t put your name on it and that you’ve been feeling poorly, I feel like praise and renown should rain down upon you!
If you ever do a reader-mailbag episode, I have some questions! 1) Could you talk about currently occupied cities like Paris or Cairo. What do you think are the chances that they were occupied in neolithic and paleolithic times? What’s under, for instance, Paris, and do we have any hope of finding out? 2) Megafauna extinctions. You mention them quite often, and also megafauna replacements, say, boars for mini hippos. Can you talk about what you see vis a vis interrelations between megafauna and people – do people need megafauna, or is that uncertain? 3) Finally, I’d love to hear your thoughts on pre-history boats and undersea archaeology. Like here: https://en.natmus.dk/historical-knowledge/denmark/prehistoric-period-until-1050-ad/the-mesolithic-period/the-dugout-boat-from-broksoe/the-dugout-boats-of-the-stone-age/ I know that’s not the near-east, but I bet you have thoughts! And thanks for all this, your podcast is a true joy. I know it must take hours and weeks to do each one, I really appreciate all your work and time!