Now that we have had a look at the seventh millennium BCE in Anatolia, the Levant and Mesopotamia (the Ceramic Neolithic, Pottery Neolithic or late Neolithic, depending on where you are) there are a few common things which we can see happening across these regions.
While this time period is best known for the breakup of the earlier Pre-Pottery Neolithic B Interaction Sphere into a series of regional and local cultures – each following its own patterns – there are still common trends that we can see across the range of local cultural developments that make up these regions.
One of these is pottery, which turns up across all of these regions between about 7000 and 6500 cal BCE. In all of these regions pottery turns up first in more limited numbers, and in a more basic set of shapes. Over time (whether quickly or slowly depending on the region) pottery becomes a more common part of daily life, and the numbers of pottery sherds found in excavations of these sites increases. The range of shapes and types of decoration which we see on the pottery of any given area also goes up, generally speaking.
While the appearance of pottery is very important for archaeologists studying these later parts of the Neolithic in the Near East (and also for all time periods which come after the Neolithic), the appearance of pottery may very well not have been the most important change that we see happening to human societies during the seventh millennium.
While pottery is very good for looking at which settlements were communicating with each other – through their shared common use of different types of pottery and also through the trade in pottery from one area to another – it is the growth of the idea of private property which would have had a more profound change on the groups of people living in villages across at least these parts of the Near East during the seventh millennium.
We can see evidence across these regions during the seven millennium BCE for the development of the idea of property as belonging to individual people (or individual families) rather than to the village or community as a whole. This evidence is not the same in every part of the Near East, but takes different forms depending on the region. In some parts of the Near East, such as Anatolia and the southern Levant, we can see the houses in villages changing to form smaller groups rather than one large cluster or a couple of large neighbourhoods. In some cases this takes the form of clusters of houses spread out together around each village, and in others it takes the form of larger walled houses for an extended family surrounding a private courtyard. Regardless of the specific form, we see an increase in clusters of small groups of one or a few families, often with their own private storage built into each cluster. In other areas, such as the northern Levant and northern Mesopotamia, private property is suggested by the use of stamped seals to marks and close off stored resources which may have then been either privately or communally stored.
This growth in the idea of private property gives us the idea of MINE – of food and other resources belonging to an individual person or family rather than to the village as a whole. This means that it becomes possible for individuals or families to have possessions, and wealth, and that individuals or families might be able to built up more possessions and wealth than their neighbours. This makes it possible over time to develop families of different degrees of wealth, and of different status. In future we will see the development of societies where people have different degrees of status – such as the rise of elites. The development of the idea of private property ultimately allowed for these later changes to societies, allowing them over time to become more complex – all beginning here in the seventh millennium with the idea that there are some things which are MINE.
Akkermans, P.M.M.G. 2013. Living space, temporality and community segmentation: interpreting Late Neolithic settlement in northern Syria. In O. Nieuwenhuyse, R. Bernbeck, P.M.M.G. Akkermans and J. Rogasch (eds.), Interpreting the Late Neolithic of Upper Mesopotamia. Turnhout: Brepols: 63-76.
Bernbeck, R. and Nieuwenhuyse, O. 2013. Established paradigms, current disputes and emerging themes: the state of research on the Late Neolithic of Upper Mesopotamia. In O. Nieuwenhuyse, R. Bernbeck, P.M.M.G. Akkermans and J. Rogasch (eds.), Interpreting the Late Neolithic of Upper Mesopotamia. Turnhout: Brepols: 17-37.
Çilingiroğlu, Ç. 2009. Of stamps, loom weights and spindle whorls: contextual evidence on the function(s) of Neolithic stamps from Ulucak, Izmir, Turkey. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 22(1): 3-27.
Duistermaat, K. 2010. Administration in Neolithic societies? The first use of seals in Syria and some considerations on seal owners, seal use and private property. In W. Müller (ed.), Die Bedeutung der minoischen und mykenischen Glyptik: VI. Internationales Siegel-Symposium, Marburg, 9–12 Oktober 2008 (CMS Beiheft 8). Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern: 167-182.
Duistermaat, K. 2013. Private matters: the emergence of sealing practices in Neolithic Syria. In O. Nieuwenhuyse, R. Bernbeck, P.M.M.G. Akkermans and J. Rogasch (eds.), Interpreting the Late Neolithic of Upper Mesopotamia. Turnhout: Brepols: 315-322.
Düring, B.S. 2000. The Prehistory of Asia Minor: From Complex Hunter-Gatherers to Early Urban Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Düring, B.S. 2006. Constructing Communities: Clustered Neighbourhood Settlements of the Central Anatolian Neolithic ca. 8500-5500 cal BCE. Leiden: Nederlands Institut Vor Het Nabije Oosten.
Garfinkel, Y. 2006 The social organisation at Neolithic Sha’ar Hagolan: the nuclear family, the extended family and the community. In E.B. Banning and M. Chazan (eds.), Domesticating Space: Construction, Community and Cosmology in the Late Prehistoric Near Neast. Berlin: Ex Oriente: 103-111.
Gopher, A. (ed.) 2012. Village Communities of the Pottery Neolithic Period in the Menashe Hills, Israel: Archaeological Investigations at the Sites of Nahal Zehora. Tel Aviv: Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University.
Green, A.S. 2020. Debt and inequality: comparing the “means of specification” in the early cities of Mesopotamia and the Indus civilisation. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 60: 101232.
Guilbeau, D., Kayacan, N., Altınbilek-Algül, Ç., Erdoğu, B. and Çevik, Ö. 2019. A comparative study of the Initial Neolithic chipped-stone assemblages of Ulucak and Uğurlu. Anatolian Studies 69: 1-20.
Karul, N. 2019. Early farmers in northwestern Anatolia in the seventh millennium BC. In A. Marciniak (ed.), Concluding the Neolithic: the Near East in the Second Half of the Seventh Millennium BC. Atlanta, GA: Lockwood Press: 269-286.
Maeda, O. Cultural affinities and the use of lithics during the 8th to 7th millennia cal BCE in the northern Levant and northern Mesopotamia. In O. Nieuwenhuyse, R. Bernbeck, P.M.M.G. Akkermans and J. Rogasch (eds.), Interpreting the Late Neolithic of Upper Mesopotamia. Turnhout: Brepols: 267-276.
Miyake, Y. 2013. Recent progress in the Neolithic investigations of the Anatolian Tigris Valley. In Y. Nishiaki, K. Kashima and M. Verhoeven (eds.), Neolithic Archaeology in the Khabur Valley, Upper Mesopotamia and Beyond. Berlin: Ex Oriente:171-187.
Nieuwenhuyse, O. 2013a. The social uses of decorated ceramics in Late Neolithic Upper Mesopitamia. In O. Nieuwenhuyse, R. Bernbeck, P.M.M.G. Akkermans and J. Rogasch (eds.), Interpreting the Late Neolithic of Upper Mesopotamia. Turnhout: Brepols: 135-145. Nieuwenhuyse, O. 2013b. The Proto-Hassuna culture in the Khabur headwaters: a western neighbour’s view. In Y. Nishiaki, K. Kashima and M. Verhoeven (eds.), Neolithic Archaeology in the Khabur Valley, Upper Mesopotamia and Beyond. Berlin: Ex Oriente: 110- 137.
Umurtak, G. 2008. Some observations on a group of buildings and their finds from the Early Neolithic II/2 settlement at Bademağaci. Adalya 11: 1-23.