Household Archaeology and the Uruk Phenomenon

Household Archaeology and the Uruk Phenomenon:
A Case Study from Kenan Tepe, Turkey
Catherine Painter Foster
B.A. (University of California, San Diego) 2001
M.A. (University of California, Berkeley) 2003
A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the
requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Near Eastern Studies
in the
Graduate Division
of the
University of California, Berkeley
Committee in charge:
Associate Professor Marian H. Feldman, Chair
Assistant Professor Benjamin Porter
Professor Rosemary Joyce
Associate Professor Bradley J. Parker
Spring 2009
Household Archaeology and the Uruk Phenomenon:
A Case Study from Kenan Tepe, Turkey
© 2009
Catherine Painter Foster
Household Archaeology and the Uruk Phenomenon:
A Case Study from Kenan Tepe, Turkey
Catherine Painter Foster
Doctor of Philosophy in Near Eastern Studies
University of California, Berkeley
Associate Professor Marian H. Feldman, Chair
This dissertation examines the household–level economic and social networks at
Kenan Tepe, an ancient village community in the upper Tigris region of southeast
Turkey, to incorporate the study of daily lives into broader examinations of state
formation in Mesopotamia during the Late Chalcolithic (3600–3000 BCE). This was a
period of fundamental social change that witnessed the rise of more complex economic
systems of trade and exchange on an interregional level as evident in the proliferation of
similar architecture, ceramic styles, and accounting practices across the Near East. In
accessing the mechanisms behind this network of interaction, generally referred to as the
“Uruk Expansion” or “Uruk Phenomenon,” archaeologically the focus has remained on
centralized institutions such as the administrators of temples, public buildings and
storehouses that supposedly governed this overarching bureaucratic network. Notably the
domestic economy, defined as the daily production and consumption activities of
households, has been overlooked in favor of top–down theoretical approaches that place
control of resources and labor in the hands of small elite factions or specialized trading
guilds that monitored the flow of goods.
This dissertation instead highlights the important role that household groups play
in the structuring of community and regional economies. As a microcosm of society at
large, households and their daily activities are also shown to be a sensitive indicator of
broader sociopolitical change. The domestic modes of production and consumption for
four chronologically distinct fourth millennium households at the case study site of
Kenan Tepe are identified through the analysis of domestic artifact trends and intensive
microdebris sampling. These data are then interpreted within a framework of regional
interaction methodology and household archaeology with a holistic focus on domestic
dwellings and complex social systems at the village level. The results show shifts in
domestic economies that reflect a unique combination of economic degradation, internal
household decision making, and restructuring of household labor to subvert new
economic demands instigated by emerging systems of exchange that fueled the Uruk
List of Figures
List of Tables
Uruk-Warka: Key Site of the Period and the Problem
Eanna and Anu
The Uruk Countryside
A City Set Apart
Beyond the Uruk Heartland
The “Expansion” of Uruk Culture: Models and Theories
Setting the Stage
The Uruk World System
Trading Diasporas and Entrepreneurs
Political Collapse and Fragmentation
Household Archaeology in Theory and Practice
Definitions and Development
What is a House?
Household Anthropology in Action
Household Archaeology in the Near East
The Domestic Mode of Production and Consumption
Definitions and Uses
DMPC and the Uruk Phenomenon: Applications and Implications
Theoretical Foundations
Practical Applications in Near Eastern Archaeology
The Household Archaeology Protocol at Kenan Tepe
Excavation Methods and Procedures for Sample Collection
Microartifact Recovery and Analysis Procedures
Microartifact Preservation and Identification: Some Issues
The Upper Tigris River Valley
Geography and the Natural Environment
Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age Settlement and Material Culture
Kenan Tepe: A Brief Settlement History
Areas A, C, D, E and G
Area F
Late Chalcolithic House Lots
House Lot 1
House Lot 2
House Lot 3
House Lot 4
Household Level Production and Consumption
Food and Eating
Stone Tools
Stability and Change on the Household Level
Thematic Elements
Diachronic Shifts in the Domestic Economy
Conspicuous Absence
Mechanisms for Change
Sedentarization and Seasonality
Economic Degradation
Regional Considerations
Tabqa Dam
Tishrin Dam
Balikh Valley and Beyond
Birecik and Carchemish Dams
Atatürk Dam
Keban Dam and Beyond
Upper Tigris
Egypt and the Levant
Chapter 1
Map of the ancient Near East featuring selected sites mentioned in the text
(adapted from Nissen 1988, fig. 14).
The site of Uruk-Warka (adapted from Lenzen 1965, pl. 27).
The primary architecture of Eanna Levels V-IVb (adapted from Heinrich
1982, fig. 118; Lenzen 1968, pl. 27; Strommenger 1964, fig. 4).
The primary architecture of Eanna Level IVa (adapted from Lenzen 1968,
pl. 27).
Beveled-rim bowl from Eanna Level IVa (adapted from Lenzen 1965, pl.
23 n).
Stone inlay from Eanna Levels IVa-III (from Heinrich 1936, pl. 32a).
Sculpture and reliefs from Eanna Level III, believed to date to Level IVa
(from Strommenger 1964, pl. 18-19; Moortgat 1967, pl. 26).
Cylinder and stamp seal impressions from Eanna levels IV. Scale taken
from original publication (adapted from Heinrich 1936, pl. 17a, 18b, 19a,
c, e).
Tablet with archaic signs and numerical notations from Eanna level IVa
(from Falkenstein 1936, pl. 27 #323).
The Anu ziggurat and White Temple, Levels B (in outline) through D
(adapted from Heinrich 1982, fig. 83).
Settlement patterns in the hinterlands of Uruk-Warka and Nippur-Adad: A,
Early–Middle Uruk; B, Late Uruk (from Adams 1981, figs. 12 and 13).
Archways from Nineveh, “Vaulted Tombs 4 and 5” (from Campbell
Thompson 1932: pl. XLVIII no. 3).
Domestic architecture from Habuba Kabira-Süd, 1:200 (from
Strommenger 1980, 38 Abb. 16).
Chapter 3
HAP sample before excavation (UTARP Digital Archive).
Isometric drawing of Siraf-type flotation machine (from Nesbitt 1995,
128, fig. 1).
Ramazan Uĝur and Yosef Uĝur operating the flotation machine
(UTARP Digital Archive).
Drying of flotation material (UTARP Digital Archive).
Microartifact recording sheet.
Examples of microceramics: A, coarse ware; B, medium ware; C, fine
Examples of microlithic: A, chert; B, obsidian.
Examples of microshell.
Examples of microbone: A, rodent including lower jaw of subfamily
Gerbillinae (far left); B, burned bone; C, fish vertebrae (left) and scale
(right); D, bird; E, unidentified mammal.
Examples of A, microgrindstone; B, microcharcoal; C, microseed.
Chapter 4
Modern regions and provinces of Turkey (adapted from Dewdney 1971,
fig. 41).
Topography of southeast Turkey (adapted from Dewdney 1971, fig. 52).
Kenan Tepe facing east (UTARP Digital Archive).
Detail of Upper Tigris region with sites mentioned in text (adapted from
Algaze et al. 1991, fig. 2b).
Kenan Tepe facing northeast with Tigris River in foreground (UTARP
Digital Archive).
Topographic map of Kenan Tepe (UTARP Digital Archive, prepared by
Andrew Creekmore).
Fortification or retaining wall from Area A: A, cobblestone foundation; B,
mud brick superstructure (UTARP Digital Archive).
Late Chalcolithic ovens from Area D: A, trench D5; B, trench D9 (UTARP
Digital Archive).
Late Chalcolithic architecture from Area E trench 2: A, whole vessels in
situ adjacent to mud brick wall; B, large wall dissecting trench (UTARP
Digital Archive).
Top view of tandır oven from Area G trench 9 (UTARP Digital Archive).
Levels 6 and 7 in Area F (adapted from Creekmore 2007, fig. 3).
Late Chalcolithic oven from Levels 6 and 7; “House Lot 1” (UTARP
Digital Archive).
Architecture from Level 7 in trench F1 (UTARP Digital Archive).
Level 5 in Area F (adapted from Creekmore 2007, fig. 3).
Architecture from Level 5 in trench F1: A, phase A; B, phase B (UTARP
Digital Archive).
Packed mud pisé building in trench F9 (UTARP Digital Archive).
Level 4 in Area F (adapted from Creekmore 2007, fig. 2).
Mud brick structure from Level 4 phase B in trench F2 (UTARP Digital
Mud brick constructions from Level 4 phase A in trench F2 (UTARP Digital
Sunken hearth or fire pit from Level 4 phase E in trench F7 (UTARP
Digital Archive).
Mud brick wall from Level 4 phase D in trench F7 (UTARP Digital
Brick-lined burial and pit from Level 4 phase C in trench F7: A, before
excavation; B, detail of burial (UTARP Digital Archive).
Magazine structure from Level 4 phase B in trench F7 (UTARP Digital
Structure from Level 4 phase A in trench F7, facing southwest (UTARP
Digital Archive).
Brick-lined burial of an adult female adjacent to Phase B magazine
building in Trench F7 (UTARP Digital Archive).
Level 3 in Area F (adapted from Creekmore 2007, fig. 2).
Mud brick structure in trench F7, Level 3 (UTARP Digital Archive).
Levels 1 and 2 in Area F (adapted from Creekmore 2007, fig. 1). Note:
two burials from trench F6 not pictured.
Detail of Level 2 cobblestone surface and oven in trench F2 (UTARP
Digital Archive).
Tandır ovens from Area F Level 2: A, trench F2 L2002; B, trench F8
L8002 (UTARP Digital Archive).
Level 1 pit burials from Area F: A, trench F5 L5000/5005; B, trench F7
L7006 (UTARP Digital Archive).
4.32a House Lot 1, phase 1.
4.32b House Lot 1, phases 2 and 3.
House Lot 2.
Sunken bowl feature in House Lot 2 (UTARP Digital Archive).
House Lot 3.
Large plastered pit in House Lot 3: A, before excavation; B, after
excavation (UTARP Digital Archive).
Top view of heavily damaged structure from House Lot 3 (UTARP Digital
Partially preserved male individual south of Cell 1 in House Lot 1
(UTARP Digital Archive).
House Lot 4.
Brick oven from House Lot 4 (UTARP Digital Archive).
Late Chalcolithic ceramic assemblage from House Lot 1.
Seed count density compared across all house lots.
Late Chalcolithic ceramic assemblage from House Lot 3.
Example of andiron from House Lot 1 (F4.4023.4225; UTARP Digital
Microartifact count and weight densities for House Lot 1 by material type.
Percentage of microceramic based on count and weight densities for
House Lot 1 by fabric type.
Percentage of microbone based on count and weight densities for House
Lot 1 by species.
Late Chalcolithic ceramic assemblage from House Lot 2.
Microartifact count and weight densities for House Lot 2 by material type.
Percentage of microartifact types for House Lot 2 based on count and
weight densities.
Fish net weight from House Lot 3 (UTARP Digital Archive, drawing by
Marie Hopwood).
Pierced andiron from House Lot 3 (F7.7155.7; UTARP Digital Archive).
4.53a Microartifact count density for House Lot 3 by material type.
4.53b Microartifact weight density for House Lot 3 by material type.
4.54a Percentage of microceramic based on count and weight densities for
House Lot 3 by fabric type.
4.54b Microceramic count and weight densities for House Lot 3 by fabric type.
Microartifact densities through time based on count and weight densities
for House Lot 3 by type.
Microartifact count and weight densities for House Lot 4 by material type.
Late Chalcolithic ceramic assemblage from House Lot 4.
Percentage of microartifact types for House Lot 4 based on count and
weight densities.
Weight density of microcharcoal across all house lots.
Pair of tripartite chert blades embedded within a compacted pebble
walkway in House Lot 1 (UTARP Digital Archive).
Percentage of microlithic based on count and weight densities across all
house lots.
Selection of spindle whorls from House Lot 1 (UTARP Digital Archive).
Weights and diameters of whorls from House Lot 1.
Pierced stones from House Lot 1 as possible loom weights (UTARP
Digital Archive).
Cylinder seal impression depicting a ground loom and weavers (from Le
Breton 1957, 106 fig. 20 #20. No scale in original).
Bone pins or needles from House Lot 1 (UTARP Digital Archive).
Selection of shell and stone beads from House Lot 1 (UTARP Digital
Ceramic cylinder seal from House Lot 1, multiple views (UTARP Digital
Archive, drawing by Marie Hopwood).
Bronze pin from House Lot 1 (UTARP Digital Archive).
Various small finds from House Lot 2 (UTARP Digital Archive, drawings
by Marie Hopwood).
Microbead from House Lot 3.
Various small finds from House Lot 4 (UTARP Digital Archive, drawing
by Marie Hopwood).
Microslag from House Lot 4.
Zoomorphic figurines from all house lots (UTARP Digital Archive,
drawings by Marie Hopwood and Jennifer Henecke).
Miniature ceramic vessels from House Lot 3 (UTARP Digital Archive,
drawings by Jennifer Henecke and Diana Backus).
Chapter 1
Late fifth and early fourth millennium chronological scheme for greater
Mesopotamia (adapted from Wright 2001).
Chapter 4
Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze calibrated carbon dates from Kenan
Summary of Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age material culture at
Kenan Tepe.
Summary of Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age architectural features
in Area F at Kenan Tepe.
Late Chalcolithic house lots with their corresponding trenches and dates
from Area F.
Contextual information for botanical sample data presented in table 4.6.
Botanical sample data across Late Chalcolithic house lots based on
relative abundance.
Percentages of species across Late Chalcolithic Period house lots at Kenan
Tepe based on NISP of identified bones.
Composition of chert assemblage by house lot based on absolute counts.
Composition of obsidian assemblage by house lot based on absolute
This dissertation would not have been possible without the academic, financial
and moral support of many people and organizations. First I wish to extend my sincerest
gratitude to my advisor Marian Feldman for her guidance, support and unwavering
patience throughout my graduate career. I am also especially grateful to Bradley Parker
who was instrumental in giving me the opportunity to excavate at Kenan Tepe as part of
the Upper Tigris Archaeological Research Project (UTARP) and for allowing me
unrestricted access to the archaeological data. I extend my thanks to the rest of my
committee, Carol Redmount, Rosemary Joyce, and Benjamin Porter, for their guidance in
a number of arenas including examinations, grant proposals, writing, and the academic
field in general. I offer my sincere thanks as well to Aaron Brody, Director of the Badè
Museum of Biblical Archaeology, for ample laboratory space and steady employment.
My experiences as Curator at the Badè have been truly wonderful. I also wish to thank
Christine Hastorf who graciously read and provided comments for chapters 2 and 3.
Finally, though not an official member of my dissertation committee, David Stronach has
been an influential part of my graduate career. With three phone calls he single–handedly
secured me a job, a position in the UTARP team and introduced me to the archaeology of
Mesopotamia in general and Anatolia in particular.
There are many people I wish to thank whose efforts in the field and laboratory
were essential for this project. I am especially grateful to all past and present members of
UTARP who excavated, photographed, drew, and washed pottery over eight seasons at
Kenan Tepe. While the total list of participants is extensive, I wish to thank a few
individuals in particular for their hard work and assistance: Diana Backus, Marco Baldi,
Peter Cobb, Kris Butler, Liz Clark, Lynn Dodd, Andy Creekmore, Melissa Eppihimer,
Jenni Henecke, Dave Hopwood, Marie Hopwood, Mila Hover, Jason Kennedy, Bradley
Parker, Ashely Sands, Sibel Torpil, Barış Uzel, and Jon Vidar. I also extend my thanks to
Lynn Rainville for her guidance with microarchaeological methods and procedures early
in the project. I am grateful to Rachel Marks and LaTasha Johnson who spent a year
sorting microsamples through the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP)
at UC Berkeley. My deepest gratitude is reserved for the UTARP specialists whose
analyses were vital to my project: Sarah W. Kansa (faunal), Elizabeth Healey (lithics),
Alexia Smith (botanical), Lynn Dodd (metals and ceramics), Bradley Parker (ceramics),
Andy Creekmore (mapping, ceramics), and Marie Hopwood (ground stone). Finally, this
project would not have been possible without the kind permissions offered by the Turkish
Ministry of Culture and Tourism and staff of the Diyarbakır Museum, in particular
Necdet Đnal, Nevin Soyukaya, and Mehmet Arif Bilici.
I would also like to thank a host of individuals who, among other things, have
provided me with lasting friendship, academic growth, inspiration, and comic relief: my
colleague and friend Brian A. Brown, Rebecca Hisiger, Stephanie Langin-Hooper, Jean
Li, Dana DePietro, Cindy Ausec, Elizabeth Minor, Roy Fisher, Sabrina Maras, Terri
Tanaka, Anaita Khudonazar, Emily Chung, Sedigheh Keshavarzi, and Dan Thompson. In
addition my thanks to Sharon Steadman and Jennifer Ross for opening the doors to the
Anatolian Archaeology session at ASOR and allowing me to present my work. Thank
you as well to John Hayes for the steady semesters of teaching and to Jan Eklund and
Samantha Zhu at the UC Berkeley History of Art slide library for gainful employment
and a quiet corner. Last but not least, a large amount of gratitude is owed to my family
who has always supported my decision to pursue archaeology and have remained a
constant source of love and encouragement. This is especially true of my parents, Charles
and Carol Painter, and my husband Brandon for whom this dissertation is dedicated.
There are several funding agencies I wish to thank who provided financial
assistance for all stages of this project. My primary fieldwork at Kenan Tepe between
2004 and 2008 was made possible by generous grants from the UC Berkeley Graduate
Division, the Stahl Endowment Fund for Archaeological Research, the American
Research Institute in Turkey, and the American Schools of Oriental Research. This
research was also funded in part by a National Endowment for the Humanities
Collaborative Research Grant (#RZ-50222-04). Funding for laboratory equipment and
analysis was provided by the Paul J. Alexander Memorial Fellowship and the George
Franklin Dales Foundation. Because of the Dorot Foundation and UC Berkeley Center
for Middle Eastern Studies, I was able to present preliminary and final results of this
project at the annual meetings of the American Schools of Oriental Research and Society
for American Archaeology. Finally several grants from the UC Berkeley Near Eastern
Studies department made it possible for me to research and compose the majority of this
While several comments and suggestions have been made by a number of patient
reviewers to earlier drafts of this document, any errors that remain are solely my
This dissertation examines theoretical models for social complexity established by
scholars investigating the Uruk Phenomenon—a designation that refers to the
archaeologically attested distribution throughout much of the Near East of distinctive
categories of material culture associated with southern Mesopotamian civilization or,
more specifically, the site of Uruk–Warka during the Late Chalcolithic period (3600–
3000 BCE). These models, including World–Systems Theory (Algaze 1993), trade
diasporas (Stein 1999a), and political upheaval (Johnson 1988/89), focus on the
fundamental social changes this material culture represents and the various mechanisms
by which it supposedly spread throughout the region via trade, colonization, occupation,
or conquest.
While these models support large–scale economic systems controlled by a
bureaucratic elite both in the core state of Uruk–Warka and its hinterland (a
macroregional approach), little has been done to explore the ways in which local
exchange networks functioned during this time (a microregional approach) or how this
larger Uruk Phenomenon affected the fundamental units of society: households. By
applying the theoretical approach of household archaeology and the methodological
framework of microarchaeology, I provide an alternative view to the traditional
conceptions of the Uruk Phenomenon by charting the complex economic and social
relationships that exist between households and regional/interregional economies. My
goal is to highlight the various levels at which different societies simultaneously interact,
paying close attention to changes in the domestic economy at the case study site of Kenan
Tepe, located in the upper Tigris River valley of southeast Turkey, as an indicator for
large sociopolitical shifts occurring throughout Mesopotamia during this time.
As stated previously, the Uruk Phenomenon is characterized by the distribution of
a distinctive material culture assemblage. This includes architectural styles, ceramics,
accounting practices, artistic conventions, and the earliest writing and pre–literary forms
like bullae, impressed clay balls, and tokens. These categories appear together as a
complete assemblage, or separately at a number of ancient sites stretching from the
southern alluvial plains of Iraq, east to Susiana and the Iranian plateau, northwest to the
semi–arid desert and steppe lands of northern Iraq and eastern Syria, and further north
into the Euphrates and Tigris River valleys of southeastern Turkey. The degree or amount
to which this distinctive cultural assemblage is present at sites has characterized for
various scholars the amount of cultural interaction present between these peripheral
polities and the southern alluvial urban centers, the largest being Uruk–Warka.
Distinguished by a stratified government, multifaceted economy, urbanization,
and an interregional trading network, fourth millennium BCE Uruk–Warka (discussed in
detail in chapter 1) has occupied a pivotal position for scholars interested in the
emergence of complex societies both in the Middle East and around the world.1 Yet the
exact nature of this early state—how the political and economic administration was
organized, the role of religion in government, and the degree of foreign relations with
neighboring communities—continues to be highly debated. For example, any discussion
regarding the Uruk Phenomenon is often centered on elucidating the exact nature or,
For example, Andean scholar Terence D’Altroy (2001, 445; original emphasis) has stated that, “because
of the precocious sociopolitical and economic formations of Greater Mesopotamia and the ingenuity of the
scholars who have worked to explain them, Uruk has stood as the model for the rise of state society for
several decades.”
more specifically, degree of interregional interaction, how these cultural and social trends
developed, for what reasons these interactions took place and the causes for their
apparent downfall in the early part of the third millennium BCE.2
The central theory explaining the motivations for this interaction focuses on the
dichotomy in the distribution of natural resources between the core of southern Iraq and
its neighboring territories, whereby the establishment of colonial enterprises in these
periphery regions was crucial to the procurement of resources such as wood, stone, and
metals (see chapter 1 and Algaze 1993). This model favors a passive periphery whose
sociopolitical and cultural development derived not from indigenous factors, but through
contact via cross–cultural interaction with a more advanced Uruk system. The terms core
and periphery themselves imply a certain level of Uruk–centrism when applied to
analyses of late fourth millennium BCE cultural interactions.
However research in these outlying regions, specifically southeast Turkey and the
Tigris and Euphrates River basins, has uncovered a tapestry of advanced social networks
that both interacted with, and were independent of, interregional trading systems
penetrating from the south. For example, work at Hacınebi on the Euphrates River
suggests distinct groupings of households based on material culture assemblages that
attest to a dynamic system of interaction with possible foreign traders along with a fairly
complex economic system that predates contact by an Uruk network (see chapter 1 and
Stein 1999a, 1999b, 2002a, 2002b; Stein et al. 1996a). Another example is the site of
Arslantepe, a five hectare mound roughly fifteen kilometers outside the modern city of
Since arguments abound as to what exactly this distribution of material culture or ideas is to be called—
Uruk Phenomenon (Collins 2000), Uruk Expansion (Algaze 1989a; Emberling 2002; Steadman 1996; Stein
2002b) or “informal empire” (Algaze 1986a, 1993)—in this dissertation I retain the most recent and widely
used designation of Uruk Phenomenon that carries less undertones and implications of meaning than
“expansion” or “empire” (see also Postgate 2002; Rothman 2001).
Malatya, where monumental local style architecture, mass produced bowls, and a
developed economic system reflects a fairly well developed indigenous system of
accounting, centralized production, and large building projects (see chapter 1 and
Frangipane 1997a, 1997b). More recently, a large urban center has been uncovered at
Hamoukar on the upper Khabur River along with hundreds of stamp and cylinder seals
displaying north Syrian artistic styles, industrial–sized ovens, and most remarkable,
evidence for early warfare that brought about the demise of the Late Chalcolithic
settlement there (see appendix and Gibson et al. 2002a). Many more examples are
discussed in greater detail in chapter 1.
Despite this new and exciting research, the traditional picture of cultural
development and exchange during the late fourth millennium BCE remains unbalanced in
three ways. First, the majority of surveys and excavations in southeast Turkey focus on
the upper Euphrates River valley and Urfa Plain. This geographic imbalance is partly due
to the scheduling of dam projects that threaten archaeological sites in these areas. For
example, many of the archaeological and historical sites in the Euphrates River valley are
already flooded by the Birecik, Atatürk, and Keban dams, thus necessitating initial
research in these areas (see appendix). However the upper Tigris system of southeast
Turkey remains archaeologically unknown for the Late Chalcolithic period. Because of
this, data from the Euphrates valley sites have been used as a type set for the material
cultural of the entire region. This is a dangerous assumption as the community
organization and economy of the Tigris River valley may have been uniquely different
from surrounding areas due to environmental factors or differential access to natural
resources. Without comparative examinations from both riverine systems, an inherent
bias exists that skews interpretations of ancient trade routes (Algaze et al. 1994), regional
ceramic styles, even the role of villages and rural populations in the rise of social
complexity (Bermann 1994; Schwartz and Falconer 1994).
Second, in attempting to elucidate the nature and degree of cross–cultural
interaction during this time, scholars studying the Uruk Phenomenon have rarely
discussed in detail ancient settlements that, throughout their history of occupation, did not
share any characteristics with southern Mesopotamia—that is, show no evidence for
colonization, trade, exchange, or interaction visible in the archaeological record (for
exceptions, see Rothman 2004; Steadman 1996). Though these indigenous settlements
may appear outside the Uruk system or sphere of influence, they serve as key elements
for understanding the function of this trade system by highlighting the multifaceted
nature of interaction between communities of various sizes and levels of complexity
throughout the Near East.
Third, in most investigations concerning the Uruk Phenomenon, the primary focus
has been the elite, understanding the overarching processes of state formation, and
elucidating interregional economic systems that seem deterministic at best and
hegemonic at worst. This focus overshadows the actions and participation by nonelite
individuals within local community networks in shaping these larger processes. As
Reinhard Bernbeck and Susan Pollock (2002, 178) note, “almost all narratives about the
fourth millennium are concerned with large scale institutions and whole social groups and
classes…viewing them from a functional perspective—of people who are at the apex of a
political, religious or other hierarchy.” This imbalance has also been identified by other
scholars who have called for more multivocal analyses from both bottom–up and top–
down perspectives (Rothman 2004, 106; Stein 2002a). This would include recognizing
individuals, human agency, and most importantly, the diverse network of economic,
social, and political relationships that exist within any one community.
In order to combat these shortcomings in the current scholarship of the Uruk
Phenomenon, this dissertation examines a smaller–scale indigenous settlement in Upper
Mesopotamia: Kenan Tepe. This site was chosen as the primary case study for a number
of reasons. First, although the area has been thoroughly surveyed (Algaze 1989b; Algaze
et al. 1991, 1994; Ay 2001), Kenan Tepe is the first Late Chalcolithic settlement to be
systematically excavated in the upper Tigris River valley of southeast Turkey. Second,
the material culture assemblage excavated at Kenan Tepe reflects a strong affiliation with
local southeast Anatolia with little intrusive elements. This is interesting since, based on
the generally accepted model of resource procurement and colonization (chapter 1 and
Algaze 1989a, 1993, 2001b), Kenan Tepe should have occupied a prime niche within the
sphere of southern Mesopotamian contact. The site lies in an important resource zone; not
far from the vast copper mines at Ergani Madden, in an area that was heavily forested in
antiquity and contained sources of semiprecious stones. Likewise the site lies on a major
thoroughfare for transportation and communication, the Tigris River, making it easily
accessible to foreign and local traders alike. Kenan Tepe could be one example of how
trade for natural resources, as is most often suggested (Algaze 1993; Kohl 1987; Weiss
and Young 1975) was not the only reason for contact. Third, Kenan Tepe is also ideal for
conducting a nonelite examination of the daily activities carried out by households of the
Late Chalcolithic through the application of microarchaeological techniques. The striking
preservation of several multiphase, superimposed architectural units (“houses”) as well as
open courtyard areas, animal pens or barns, allow for analysis of long term use of space
and household–level economic development.
The theoretical foundation for this research is drawn from the anthropology of the
house or domestic sphere, whose characteristics have been adopted by archaeologists and
applied to ancient contexts in the form of household archaeology (chapter 2). This
specialized form of spatial analysis provides archaeologists with a way to study past
peoples whose activities and behaviors have left behind residues in the form of material
artifacts, such as charred bone from a feast or pieces of obsidian discarded during tool
making (Allison 1999; Kent 1984; Wilk and Ashmore 1988; Wilk and Rathje 1982). Yet
material culture has a richer function than simply a passive reflection of human behavior
(Tringham 1991, 1995). Houses and public areas serve as spaces in which social
relationships and identities are defined, created and negotiated. Furthermore household
relationships and actions are not isolated from the rest of society, nor do they merely
react passively to changes imposed from outside (Hendon 1996, 47). My research
considers the active role that households play in shaping social relationships, both
internally within local Late Chalcolithic communities in southeast Anatolia, and
externally with regional neighbors.
This dissertation is further theoretically informed by the seminal work of Richard
Wilk and William Rathje (1982, 618) who emphasize that households are the level in
which adaptation can be directly studied because, as social groups, households articulate
directly with economic and ecological processes. My research project builds on this
notion by analyzing Late Chalcolithic households along with the more visible
administrative and religious evidence (“elite” contexts) that typically constitute the major
body of evidence in studies on the Uruk Phenomenon. I assert that only when microlevel
approaches that incorporate evidence from households are taken into consideration, can
cultural processes occurring during this crucial phase of social and economic
development be fully understood.
Methodologically I use an integrated approach that draws from artifact patterning
and macroartifacts analyzed within a household archaeological framework. I also build
upon the work of Wendy Matthews (1995a, 2001b, 2005), Arlene Rosen (1989) and Lynn
Rainville (2005)—three pioneers in the scientific application of microdebris analysis and
micromorphology to ancient Near Eastern sites (chapter 3). These techniques are based
on the recovery of microartifacts, minute pieces of bone, stone, ceramics and shell that
represent primary refuse from past activities like cooking or tool making. Because of
their size, microartifacts are less affected by the cultural and natural formation processes
that alter archaeological deposits such as cleaning, artifact removal during abandonment,
and erosion. Microarchaeological research in general is still relatively underutilized and
has never before been applied to examinations of the Uruk Phenomenon. For example,
though an unprecedented amount of domestic buildings were uncovered at the famous
Late Chalcolithic/Late Uruk period site of Habuba Kabira-Süd in Syria (chapter 1;
Kohlmeyer 1996; Strommenger 1980), discussions of houses and households were
limited to purely architectural descriptions and final use patterns for spaces based on
visible archaeological evidence or macroartifacts found within rooms.
To summarize, this dissertation is motivated by three concerns. First, to provide a
counterpoint to traditional studies of the Uruk Phenomenon that focus on evidence
derived from the Euphrates and lower Tigris River basins, leaving the upper Tigris a
veritable terra incognita for Late Chalcolithic period research. My first goal therefore is
to allow for comparative examinations of material culture between the Euphrates and
Tigris River valleys. Second, it is my intention to investigate the development of an
indigenous community in a resource–rich zone that, based on archaeological evidence,
did not fall within the Uruk system of colonization or trade. Kenan Tepe as a case study
will emphasize the vital role that villages and other small–scale settlements played in the
development of social complexity in Upper Mesopotamia. Third, I wish to complement
data derived from elite contexts that are cited as evidence for expansion, colonization,
and trade with data on household–level social relations. This dissertation highlights small
scale institutions—households—to underscore the variety of social and economic
networks operating within any population. I will show that understanding domestic
economies and localized networks is imperative to adequately interpret large–scale
developments, such as state formation, which are often shaped by community–based
cultural norms.
To introduce this research, in chapter 1 I first explore the primary evidence from
which all discussions of the Uruk Phenomenon derive, the site of Uruk–Warka itself, to
highlight the severe limitations in terms of scope and detail inherent in this particular
dataset for discussing interregional trade and interaction. I then discuss the archaeological
evidence beyond the Uruk heartland and critique the various theories and archaeological
data surrounding issues of the Uruk Phenomenon.3 Within this discussion I highlight the
collective shortcomings of these approaches, namely the reinforcement of top–down
views of social, political and economic histories and developments, the exclusion of
While the archaeological data is discussed only in brief and for a small selection of ancient sites, a full
accounting of the settlement histories and material culture are presented in the appendix.
evidence from sites outside the Uruk sphere of influence/interaction, and the neglect of
multiscalar approaches that draw from villages, households and individuals, not just the
core and subsidiary settlements.
In chapter 2 I discuss the methodological foundation for my research beginning
with the overarching framework of household archaeology. This includes its conceptual
and methodological development as a subfield, definitions of house and household, the
history of household–based research in Near Eastern archaeology, and the relationship
between household economies and regional interaction spheres. I then define and discuss
the development of microarchaeological techniques, their theoretical foundations and
practical applications in chapter 3. I conclude this chapter by outlining the procedures
used to conduct a microarchaeological examination of households at Kenan Tepe
including excavation methods, sampling, and microartifact recovery, identification and
In chapter 4 I present general background on the site of Kenan Tepe: its
environmental context, occupational history, and general settlement patterns and material
culture for Late Chalcolithic sites in the upper Tigris River valley. I then discuss the
architectural data of four chronologically distinct Late Chalcolithic house lots. Next I
chart the domestic mode of production and consumption—the domestic economy—in
terms of types of activities and degree to which they were practiced in these spaces. This
economy is generated from multiple activities including agriculture, food preparation and
eating, chipped stone technologies, cottage industry and symbolic systems.
In chapter 5 I interpret this unsynthesized evidence within a collective framework
designed to incorporate all aspects of the archaeological remains found within the
household contexts at Kenan Tepe. I primarily rely on a diachronic approach that
evaluates core elements and significant shifts in the domestic modes of production and
consumption between the four household groups. The mechanisms behind these changes
in the domestic economy will be considered within the scope of indigenous conditions
and circumstances and also within a wider system of socioeconomic trends by comparing
archaeological data retrieved from Kenan Tepe with neighboring sites. The results show
that the domestic economy of these household groups experienced economic degradation
and production restructuring, specifically in terms of diet and animal husbandry, to
circumvent the centralization of resources—a hallmark of state/Uruk economy—that
occurred at the end of the fourth millennium at Kenan, likely instigated by local elites.
Uruk Mesopotamia has been a topic of study in the archaeological community for
over one hundred years since the Deutsche Orient–Gesellschaft first broke ground at
ancient Warka at the beginning of the twentieth century. Since then Uruk–Warka,
located three hundred kilometers south of Baghdad in the alluvial lowlands of southern
Mesopotamia (figures 1.1, 1.2), has remained the focus of scholarly attention due in part
to its links with the development of key attributes that, to both modern and ancient
minds,2 are the building blocks for civilization. These include, among other things,
urbanism and cities, the first writing, advanced economic systems, huge agricultural
yields, and specialized crafts. Due to these preconceived notions and the fact that it was
one of the earliest sites to be excavated in the Near East,3 Uruk–Warka has remained the
touchstone for understanding Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium BCE, reinforced by
both the naming of an entire archaeological phase after the site (“Uruk Period”) and
The modern name for Uruk is Warka and you will often see, as in this dissertation, the ancient city
referred to as Uruk–Warka. This is done for several reasons, the most important of which is to distinguish
the ancient city/site from that of the archaeological period by the same name (Uruk Period) and references
to the general culture and people “of Uruk.”
The Standard Version of the Epic of Gilgamesh (George 1999) features Uruk–Warka as the center of
civilized life. The city measured “[three square miles] and a half” ( Tablet I, I23), was surrounded by a
baked brick wall with a “parapet that none could copy” (Tablet I, I14) and was the location “where [men]
are engaged in labors of skill” (Tablet II, P63).
Uruk–Warka has enjoyed a lengthy period of excavations stretching for over one hundred fifty years since
1849 when the Englishman William K. Loftus first began work at the site (Loftus 1857). In 1912 the
directorship was handed over to Julius Jordan by Robert Koldewey, then director of the excavations at
Babylon, on behalf of the Deutsche Orient–Gesellschaft. This would signal the beginning of a long term
interest and commitment by the Deutsche Orient–Gesellschaft (later renamed the Deutsche Archäologische
Institut) at Uruk–Warka and expand on their already flourishing excavation and financing activities at
Hattuşa, Tell el–Amarna, Jericho, Babylon and Aššur (Jordan 1913, 1914). Excavations by Jordan and his
colleagues after World War I (1928–1939) and Heinrich J. Lenzen (1953–1967) and H.J. Schmidt (1967–
1977) after World War II are the most relevant campaigns for this discussion, though not the latest, as the
archaeological discoveries from these years were foundational in establishing Uruk–Warka as the premier
site of ancient cultural development.
especially as material culture related to Uruk–Warka was uncovered in sites throughout
the region during the last fifty years.
Figure 1.1. Map of the ancient Near East featuring selected sites mentioned in the text (adapted
from Nissen 1988, fig. 14).
Figure 1.2. The site of Uruk-Warka (adapted from Lenzen 1965, pl. 27).
As briefly described in the introductory chapter to this dissertation, that material
evidence—in the form of architectural styles, ceramic assemblages, economic and
administrative paraphernalia, and iconography—coupled with theoretical foundations for
interregional interactions, social hybridization, and cultural dominance have formed the
foundations by which scholars currently conceive of society in late fourth millennium
Mesopotamia in general, and Uruk society in particular. My goals for this chapter are to
present in more detail how exactly these data are used to formulate the sociocultural
character of Uruk Mesopotamia, an exercise that will reveal certain avenues of approach
to this subject that remain untested in the current scholarly literature.
In this chapter I argue that studies involving the Uruk Phenomenon have not
addressed the issue from multiscalar view points. As I will show below, the primary
evidence from Uruk–Warka itself and many sites in the periphery are limited both in
excavated area and overall scope such that the domestic modes of production and
consumption have received little attention. The inclusion of household archaeological
approaches can help fill this gap by bringing into focus sociopolitical and economic
systems of the nonelite.
Uruk–Warka: Key Site of the Period and the Problem
My title for this section has been purposefully drawn from Hans Nissen (2002) to
underscore a major point: Uruk–Warka stands as both a key site for the development of
state–level societies during the late fourth millennium and poses a serious problem for
truly understanding that radical development in human history. I contend that is because
three major issues surround the excavation and interpretation of the material from Uruk–
Warka: 1) only centralized elite contexts have been analyzed, 2) survey data has been
used to support the supremacy of Uruk–Warka within the southern alluvium and by
extension the larger region and 3) at the time of initial excavations in the early twentieth
century the material culture of Uruk–Warka was considered unique. These underlying
problems have skewed in many ways the identification of an Uruk Phenomenon and to a
larger extent the models by which scholars seek to understand it.
Eanna and Anu
Perhaps the greatest gift for, and likewise detriment to, understanding Uruk
society is the fact that the primary evidence from Uruk–Warka derives from only a
relatively small portion of the overall large site (250 hectares by the LC 5 period; table
1.1).4 This portion is what may be considered a primarily elite context, 5 and the nature of
its deposition creates problems for interpreting function and meaning.
Phase Name
Chronological Date
LC 1
Terminal ‘Ubaid
ca. 4300—4150 BCE
LC 2
Early Uruk
ca. 4150—3800 BCE
LC 3
Middle Uruk
ca. 3800—3500 BCE
LC 4
Middle Uruk
ca. 3500—3350 BCE
LC 5
Late Uruk
ca. 3350—3100 BCE
Table 1.1. Late fifth and early fourth millennium chronological scheme for greater Mesopotamia
(adapted from Wright 2001).
For the fourth millennium BCE, the academic literature presents a host of chronological schemes and
labels that include the traditional southern Mesopotamia Uruk Period (Porada 1965), protoliterate period
(Delougaz and Lloyd 1942), the Amuq sequence phases A through J (Braidwood and Braidwood 1960),
Chalcolithic sequence (Vértesalji 1987), a northern Mesopotamia chronology (Gut 1995), Late Chalcolithic
I and II (Rova 1999–2000), Northern Uruk chronology (D. Oates and J. Oates 1994), the School of
American Research (SAR) LC 1–5 (Rothman 2001), and standard calibrated dates. In this dissertation I
retain the use of SAR’s chronological framework LC 1–5 whose dates derive from the most recent 14C
dates from various sites throughout Mesopotamia. Thus they are not solely contingent upon Uruk–Warka
and the south, nor purely a northern chronological system (see table 1.1).
However the most recent work at Uruk–Warka involving aerial photography, geophysical survey, and
geomorphologic analysis of drill cores (Boehmer 1991; Becker and Fassbinder 2001; Fassbinder et al.
2003) is allowing scholars to answer long–standing questions about the city of Uruk, not just the
religious/administrative center found at the Eanna precinct and Anu Ziggurat area (discussed in the
following pages). The evidence current researchers are finding is exciting and includes residential city
planning, traffic routes along streets, and water channel systems. With the onset of the Second Gulf War in
2003 however, the progress of work at the site remains speculative and seriously dependent on the future
political situation in Iraq.
Levels dating to the fourth and early third millennium BCE were excavated in two main
areas located in the center of the site: the so–called Eanna6 precinct dedicated to the
goddess Inanna, and the area of the Anu Ziggurat dedicated to the sky god. These two
areas were most likely separate mounds in antiquity but joined together by the end of the
fourth millennium to create what was then the heart of the Uruk–Warka urban landscape.
The architecture uncovered in the Eanna precinct covers an area of 80 by 50 meters with
the most relevant occupational levels being Level V (ca. 3600 BCE; LC 3), IVb (3500–
3200 BCE; LC 4)7 and IVa (ca. 3200–3000 BCE; LC 5).
Eanna Level V begins the late fourth millennium sequence, built atop at least
twelve earlier levels of ‘Ubaid period constructions. This level, as with subsequent ones,
is characterized by monumental architecture that most likely represents public buildings
as opposed to private dwellings although this fact is debated. For example, while many of
the buildings uncovered in Eanna were named by the excavators as temples, there is little
contextual information to support this claim.
The largest of these Level V buildings was the so–called Limestone Temple
(Kalksteintempel) that measured 76 by 30 meters and was constructed of large whitish
gray limestone slabs 10 centimeters thick on a mud brick foundation (figure 1.3; Lenzen
1974a, 112). Limestone is not local to Uruk–Warka or its environs, in which case it had
to be imported from outcroppings that lay approximately 70 kilometers away. This
building was of the Mittelsaal–type, so called by the excavators because it featured a
tripartite floor plan consisting of a long central hall flanked on either side by a series of
In Sumerian, meaning “House of Heaven.”
Based on wood samples from Temple C (Level IVb; discussed in the following pages) that provided a
calibrated date of 3545–3295 BCE based on a 14C half–life of 5,730. See Adams 1981, 348 note 2 for this
correction of the originally published date of 2815 ± 85 BCE (Lenzen 1965, 20).
Figure 1.3. The primary architecture of Eanna Levels V-IVb (adapted from Heinrich 1982, fig.
118; Lenzen 1968, pl. 27; Strommenger 1964, fig. 4).
four smaller rooms. These rooms were accessible from the exterior as well as the interior
and it was through these series of lateral doorways that one entered the structure. In two
of these rooms there was evidence for staircases. An additional set of three rooms was
located at the far southwest end of the building that lay at a perpendicular (right) angle to
the rest of the structure. These rooms were only accessible through the long central space.
The limestone superstructure was corrugated with niches and buttressing on both the
interior and exterior of the building—a decorative feature that will come to symbolize
Mesopotamian architecture.
A second monumental building lay at the far western end of the precinct. Called
the Stone Cone Temple (Steinstifttempel),8 this building also spans Eanna Levels V
through IVb (figure 1.3).9 The 28 by 19 meter building stood within a specially built
court with a limestone enclosure wall that was recessed with deep niches. This building
also carried a tripartite plan with a long central hall or courtyard with a fireplace flanked
by subsidiary rooms and topped on the northeast by a narrow perpendicular room. The
structure was composed of a limestone block foundation sealed with bitumen that
supported a molded brick superstructure made of mud and crushed gypsum plaster. Stuck
into this brickwork were elaborate mosaics composed of brightly colored cones made of
slate blue, pink and white stones.10 Excavations in 1989 of a 50–meter–long trench
stratigraphically link the Steinstifttempel with a nearby square feature—the Great Court
(Grosser Hof)—whose edges were also sealed with bitumen (Boehmer 1991, 468).11
These two large buildings were accompanied in Level IVb by two smaller temples
(A and B) and a poorly preserved corridor of a building (the Red Temple) constructed
atop the remains of the Kalksteintempel that yielded a wealth of inscribed clay tablets that
will be discussed below.12 The most extensive architectural feature for Level IVb was a
large building complex located southwest of the Red Temple. Called by various names in
Also called the Stone Cone Mosaic Temple by Roaf (1989, 61) and Stone Mosaic Temple by Nissen
(1988, 97).
I have found great confusion in the literature as to which level this building belongs. Collins (2000, 34)
discusses the Steinstifttempel in the context of Level V but does not note that it continues into later levels.
Both Roaf (1989, 61) and Nissen (1988, 98) place it with Level IVb and IVa respectively. Based on the
architectural drawings and discussion by Lenzen (1950, 1974a, 112) and others (UVB XV, 8 if., taf. 36,
37), the Steinstifttempel is shown to have foundations within Level V that continued into Level IVb, but not
beyond, as suggested by the construction of the so–called Riemchengebäude on top of it (discussed later
this chapter).
Bitumen–colored (black) limestone, red sandstone and white limestone and alabaster respectively
(Lenzen 1974a, 115).
This use of bitumen to render the building foundations watertight have led to the interpretation of the
“Stone Cone Temple” as the seat of an early water cult (Boehmer 1990, 1991).
The Red Temple and Temple A are not depicted in figure 1.3.
the literature,13 the Cone Mosaic Building (Stiftmosaikgebaude) and/or Round Pillar Hall
(Rundpfeilerhalle) consisted of a raised terrace with two rows of columns bordering a
rectangular sunken court (figure 1.3 and Nöldeke 1932, 12, pl. 8; Lenzen 1974a, 116).
These features were built of small square–sectioned, sun–dried mud bricks, called
Riemchen bricks by the excavators, which were characteristic of Uruk period southern
Mesopotamia and used in the majority of building constructions during this period.14 The
bricks were thickly coated with mud plaster into which small baked clay cones, whose
heads were painted in black, red and white, were positioned and arranged into intricate
diamond, zigzag and triangular patterns.
The final building of note for Level IVb is a huge square construction, called
variously Temple E or Palace E (Lenzen 1974a; “Empfangspalastes”) that measured 30
meters square in size and was made of mud brick on a limestone foundation (figure
1.3).15 The floor plan was unique with a central courtyard (20 meters square) surrounded
by pillared porticos that led to sets of three small rooms, each of which opened to the
outside (Lenzen 1974a, 121 pl. XVI; 1974b pl. 31). The pillars, doorways and exterior
façade were all richly decorated with niche and recessed designs reminiscent of other
Eanna constructions like the Kalksteintempel and enclosure wall of the Steinstifttempel,
though for the square building it is niched brickwork and not stone.
Called the Mosaic Court or, confusingly, the Pillar Temple by Roaf (1989, 61) and incorrectly the
Steinmosaikgebäude (“Stone Mosaic Building”) by Leick (1988, 234) despite the fact that the cones used in
the decorations here are made of clay and not stone. She is perhaps confusing this building complex with
either the Steinstifttempel (“Stone Cone Temple”) of Levels V/IVb or the Pfeilerhalle (“Pillared Hall)” of
Level IVa.
Except of course for the stone buildings discussed above for Levels V–IVb. Riemchen bricks are highly
distinct of the period, much like the “plano–convex” bricks used in constructions of the Early Dynastic
period in Mesopotamia (see Delougaz 1933).
This building has also been called simply “Square Building” in Roaf (1989, 63).
At the conclusion of Eanna Level IVb there was a radical architectural shift
within the precinct. A wall was built that partially enclosed the area with access through a
gateway in the southeast. While two buildings continued into at least the beginning of the
following Level IVa (“Palace E” and the Steinstifttempel),16 the Stiftmosaikgebaude and
precinct, including the mosaic courtyard, and Temples A and B were systematically filled
in and leveled to created a huge platform on which two new buildings were erected for
Level IVa. The most complete of these was Temple C with a distinctive cruciform floor
plan composed of two parts (figure 1.4). The first was a central hall (Rumpfbau) with
three fireplaces: two round and one panhandle in shape.17 This hall was flanked by two
series of small rooms with doorways on either side allowing access from the outside into
the inner hall. The second part was an upper hall (Kopfbau) set on a perpendicular axis
from the central hall.18 The Kopfblau was also flanked by subsidiary rooms, one of which
was designated as the long, narrow cella. Some niching decorated the brickwork inside
this structure, but none was visible on the exterior. This is in contrast to a larger
neighboring building, designated as Temple D, that featured elaborate niching and
buttressing to its exterior (figure 1.4). This building, although only partially preserved,
likely measured 80 by 52 meters and lay at an angle perpendicular to Temple C,
encompassing the platform on which the Stiftmosaikgebaude and courtyard once stood
for Level IVb and the east corner of Palace E. The excavators reconstructed Temple D
The stratigraphic relationship of these buildings to the rest of the complex is quite perplexing, due in part
to the early excavation styles and the confusing nature of building and re–building of monumental
architectural works over centuries in the same location. Suffice to say, it appears that Palace E and the
Steinstifttempel appear at the beginning of Level IVa and are later cut into (and hence, go out of use) by
later Temple D and the Riemchengebäude respectively (see Lenzen 1974a,1974b). The most visual
example of this comes from UVB vol. XXV pl. 31 where Palace E is labeled as “Uruk IVb – IVa.”
UVB XXI, 16 f., pl. 31, 32.
It is possible that these halls were actually two stand–alone units (Lenzen 1974a, 123).
also with a cruciform floor plan, though the surrounding rooms were only accessible from
the central hall.
Figure 1.4. The primary architecture of Eanna Level IVa (adapted from Lenzen 1968, pl. 27).
Northwest of Temples C and D lay two more monumental constructions
collectively called the Pillar Hall and Hall Building (Pfeilerhalle und Hallenbau). The
smaller Pfeilerhalle was more like an open porch with four cornerstones and eight pillars:
three on the each long side and two on each short side (figure 1.4).19 The pillars were
decorated with clay cone mosaics of black and red arranged in triangular, diamond,
UVB XXI, 19, pl. 31, 32.
zigzag, checkerboard, and hourglass patterns. Constructed slightly later on the north side
was a larger pillared hall 40 meters long and 18 meters wide.20 The middle corridor of
this building was lined by two rows of thick pillars with deep niches cut into them on the
exterior side. Between these pillars were 1 meter wide corridors that allowed access from
the outside into the middle hall. Southwest of the Pfeilerhalle was the Great Court
(Grosser Hof), a nearly square installation whose function remains enigmatic. As with the
Steinstifttempel discussed above, the Grosser Hof has been linked to some kind of
structure that utilized water, such as a pool or garden, based on the presence of a
preserved water pipe and baked mud brick lining set in bitumen around the edge of the
square that ensured a watertight seal (Matthews and Wilkinson 1991, 182).
In the far northwest corner of the precinct lay a final building called the
Riemchengebäude based on its construction with the ubiquitous square–sectioned
Riemchen brick. This rectangular building (18 by 20 meters) was dug into the remains of
the Steinstifttempel, using the limestone blocks as a foundation. The nested floor plan
consisted of a central room surrounded on all sides by a narrow corridor and bordered on
the south by an additional long, narrow hall. Evidence for wall murals were uncovered
(Nunn 1985) along with a huge amount of objects (discussed below) that had been
packed inside and burned. The entire structure was then re–plastered and sealed. At the
close of Level IVa, the entire Eanna precinct was once again filled in and leveled to make
way for Level III constructions of the Jemdat Nasr period, though remains of these
buildings and a large terrace are fragmentary.
Debate continues as to the validity of the excavators’ initial designation of these
monumental buildings as temples. No in situ artifact remains were found inside any of
UVB XXIV, pl. 27, 29.
these buildings, save for the Riemchengebäude, that can offer evidence to their function
or use. With each succeeding phase of architecture within the Eanna precinct, the
buildings were leveled and filled in with rubbish and other debris (derived from these
buildings? from elsewhere?) in order to create a platform on which more constructions
could be built (Nissen 1988, 2002). Thus any material objects discovered within these
rubbish heaps are not stratigraphically connected to the building within or on top of
which it was found. Seen in this light, the function of these monumental structures will
perhaps never be known for sure.
However their size and the labor involved in their construction belay their
probable public function. The tripartite plan so common throughout these buildings and
others more securely labeled as temples,21 hint at a religious connection despite the fact
that no altars or obvious platforms were found inside any of the Eanna buildings. One is
also reminded that domestic structures, like those at Habuba Kabira–Süd (discussed this
chapter), can carry a similar tripartite arrangement complete with central fireplaces. It is
also most likely that our modern categories of temple, palace and house as separate
entities do not apply to the ancient Near East where there is often a blurring of religious,
political and domestic spheres.
As noted above, no in situ remains were discovered within the archaic level
buildings leaving us only able to speak in generalities of the material culture sequence of
late fourth millennium Uruk–Warka. These materials, most importantly ceramics and
accounting and glyptic assemblages, have served as the primary basis of comparison for
cultural assemblages outside of the Uruk–Warka heartland in terms of contact and
Such as the Eridu temple sequence (Safar et al. 1981) or the White Temple atop the Anu ziggurat at
Uruk–Warka dated to the Jemdat Nasr period (discussed this chapter and also Heinrich 1937).
interaction. Yet these objects also derive from very specific elite contexts, leaving one to
wonder if the same materials, ceramic forms in particular, are being used in the lower,
nonelite sectors of the city?
In brief, the ceramic assemblage is characterized by a combination of handmade
and wheelmade vessels. When compared with earlier levels, there is a noted decline in
the production or use of plain handmade pottery beginning in Level V and continuing
throughout Level IV. Ceramic types range from plain–simple to red and grey wares with
a number of distinctive shapes. These include spouted jars (UVB IV, 44 pl. 19Cc), bottles
with slender bodies and bent spouts (“water bottles;” UVB IV pl. 19Da), four–lugged jars
in which the lugs are pierced (UVB IV pl. 19Dn, o), and conical cups with string–cut
bases. Decorative techniques include burnishing, incising with crosshatch or fingernail
designs (UVB IV pl. 19Dw), and slips of red or cream. Reserved slip is also common, a
result of either wiping the slip away or wet burnishing during production.
Perhaps the most iconic of the Uruk–Warka assemblage however is the beveled–
rim bowl (Glockentöpfe), a mass–produced vessel with a sloping rim made from highly
coarse, often porous materials inside a mold of relatively standard size (figure 1.5; UVB
IV, 43).22 The function of this vessel is highly debated in the literature with theories
ranging from their use as ration containers (Nissen 1970) to holders of votive offerings
(Beale 1978; Campbell Thompson and Mallowan 1933), bread molds (Millard 1988),
food containers (Forrest 1987), or used in salt production (Buccellati 1990). The reasons
for such keen interest in this relatively inferior ceramic type are the overwhelming
This standardization has been challenged by Beale (1978) who says the capacity of the bowls varies too
widely both within the assemblage at Uruk–Warka and between other sites in which they are found to have
been a standardized unit of measurement.
abundance of beveled–rim bowls at sites across the greater Mesopotamian region23 and
thus, what they symbolize in terms of cultural interaction.
Figure 1.5. Beveled-rim bowl from Eanna Level IVa (adapted from Lenzen 1965, pl. 23 n).
Documentation by Heinrich (1936) of the small finds from Levels V–IVa in the
Eanna precinct highlight a rich assemblage of arts and crafts. Several glazed relief tile
fragments used to decorate furniture or walls, jewelry made of semiprecious stones, and
gold leaf attest to the level of sophistication in craft production and consumption by the
residents of Uruk–Warka (figure 1.6). Continuation of this artistic talent can be found in
the following Level III (Jemdat Nasr period) with the most well–known examples being a
life–sized stone mask representing a woman (the “Lady of Uruk”), the “Warka Vase”
with a carved relief depicting plants, animals, tribute bearers, and the goddess Inanna
(Heinrich 1936 pl. 2, 3), and the basalt “Lion Hunt” stela featuring a “priest–king” figure
firing a bow and arrow (figure 1.7). Although these objects derive from Level III, it is
Interestingly beveled–rim bowls are not accounted for in the deep sounding report from Uruk–Warka for
Levels V–IV (von Haller 1931), which correspond to the time this vessel type is found in abundance
throughout the region. This could either be due to the actual lack of beveled–rim bowls within the deep
sounding or, more likely, the failure of the excavators to record this undesirable ceramic type.
believed they represent heirloom pieces that originated in Level IV based on their
naturalistic designs and motifs (Goff 1963).
Figure 1.6. Stone inlay from Eanna Levels IVaIII (from Heinrich 1936, pl. 32a).
Figure 1.7. Sculpture and reliefs from Eanna Level III, believed to date to Level IVa (from
Strommenger 1964, pl. 18, 19; Moortgat 1967, pl. 26).
Similar iconography can be found in the large corpus of stone stamp and cylinder
seals from Uruk–Warka, although more seal impressions were found than actual seals.
The visual representations on these devices are broad and include geometric and linear
designs (figure 1.8 A), files of domestic and wild animals (figure 1.8 B), building façades
(figure 1.8 C), kings or local rulers (figure 1.8 D),24 “cultic” paraphernalia (figure 1.8 E),
bound captives (UVB XV pl. 28a, 30a), and images of commercial activity including
boats filled with cargo and animals being herded by their caretakers.
Figure 1.8. Cylinder and stamp seal impressions from Eanna levels IV. Scale taken from
original publication (adapted from Heinrich 1936, pl. 17a, 18b, 19a, c, e).
The most distinctive being a bearded male wearing an ankle–length skirt and rounded cap with his hair
gathered at a low chignon (Heinrich 1936 pl. 15b, 17a–c; Seal W14772c 1 (pl. 17a) is from the later Jemdat
Nasr period [Level III]).
Evidence for the beginning of writing and its various stages of development also
come from this assemblage including tally stones (clay balls used for counting), tokens,
clay envelopes impressed with seal designs, and the earliest clay tablets with proto–
cuneiform writing (figure 1.9 and Falkenstein 1936; Nissen 1986; Nissen et al. 1993).
One of the more famous texts is a fragment from the Professions List, the complete form
of which is found in multiple copies in the succeeding phase and is further recopied many
times up until the Akkadian period. As its title might imply, the text is a collection of a
grouping of signs that represent the titles of officials and names of professions.
Figure 1.9. Tablet with archaic signs and numerical notations from Eanna level IVa (from
Falkenstein 1936, pl. 27 #323).
The second elite area from which scholars derive primary evidence about Uruk
society is the Anu Ziggurat, a mud brick platform 13 meters high with buttresses, that is
the culmination of continuous rebuilding since the ‘Ubaid period (figure 1.10 and
Heinrich 1937, 61–63 Abb.78–90; Lenzen 1941; Perkins 1963). A ramp on the eastern
side of the platform provided access to a flat open area on top occupied by a series of
Figure 1.10. The Anu ziggurat and White Temple, Levels B (in outline) through D (adapted from
Heinrich 1982, fig. 83).
temples that had been rebuilt over consecutive levels.25 The White Temple (Level B), so–
called because its mud brick walls were covered with bright white gypsum plaster,
represents the final phase of these buildings and likely dates to Eanna Levels IVa or III.
The building measured approximately 22 by 17 meters and sat on top of a socle of asphalt
40 centimeters high. The tripartite floor plan had a central hall and two rows of rooms
flanking on either side that were punctuated by three doorways. Two raised platforms in
the central hall likely served as an altar and offering table while two narrow rooms on the
south side likely held staircases that led to the roof. Being approximately 500 meters due
west of the Eanna complex, the Anu Ziggurat and White Temple were physically and
These included an area demarcated by postholes for some kind of structure (“Posthole Building”) and
another raised platform with a building plan marked in red paint (“Line Building”). See Perkins (1963,
110–114) and Heinrich (1982) for a detailed and comprehensive review of this architectural evidence.
stylistically akin to the buildings at Eanna with elaborate niching, buttressing and other
decorative elements. The similar building plans signal some level of cultural continuity,
leading me to hypothesize that the White Temple was the religious focal point and the
buildings in the Eanna complex were public, administrative structures (or both). That the
White Temple was set apart could also mean it was only used at certain times of the year
for special rituals or festivals.
The data presented here is the primary physical evidence by which archaeologists
have traditionally interpreted the core of Uruk society. Certainly the textual evidence
discussed above coupled with large, centralized administrative and/or religious structures,
cylinder seals and other accounting practices, mass production of standardized vessel
forms, and even the possibility of smelting workshop areas (see Nissen 1988, 82; 2001,
155) suggests that at Uruk–Warka during the fourth millennium BCE there is a ranked,
well organized central administration perhaps capable of controlling a highly stratified
economic system. This interpretation has been left largely unchallenged and
unscrutinized allowing the above mentioned evidence, derived from limited contexts
relative to the overall size of the ancient settlement, to speak for the entirety of the site
and specifically for the upper echelon of Uruk society—namely those who occupied these
structures and/or had the control of resources to enable their construction. Meanwhile the
nature and function of nonelite Uruk society is currently unavailable to us.
Focusing on the centralized areas by the early excavators was perhaps due in part
to the enormity of the city itself, which during the LC 5 expanded to a size of 250
hectares with a postulated population of twenty to fifty thousand inhabitants with further
expansion to 600 hectares by 2900 BCE (Nissen 2002, 7). For the initial excavators, for
whom the technology of geomorphological survey, GPR or resistivity was not available,
the prospect of investigating domestic quarters on any broad scale was daunting at best, if
not outright impossible. The attentions paid to centralized areas of the mound are also
likely connected with research strategies of early twentieth century excavators (along
with some modern ones) that revolved around questions involving the upper strata of
ancient societies and their associated treasures so that the high mound of any site was the
first (and oftentimes only) area to be heavily investigated. Thus while many strands of
evidence have been used to solidify the centrality of Uruk–Warka as a social, political,
economic and cultural core, without evidence from the rest of society, namely the
nonelite and households, the mechanisms by which this society developed and was
managed remain hidden from scholars.
The Uruk Countryside
The cultural milieu represented by the monumental architecture, mass–produced
pottery, and higher–level accounting at Uruk–Warka has also been interpreted within a
progression of larger settlement growth and distinct patterning that seemingly favored
this polity to the detriment of neighboring sites. The settlement pattern in the immediate
hinterlands of Uruk–Warka reflects the supremacy of that huge site as the dominant
centralized entity that overshadowed and possibly stymied the growth and development
of surrounding settlements. For example there is an explosion in the number of
settlements, from eighteen to over one hundred, between the Early Uruk and LC 1–5 but
there is a dramatic shift in the patterning of these settlements (figure 1.11 and Adams
1981; Adams and Nissen 1972). Whereas before rural villages and small towns were
Figure 1.11. Settlement patterns in the hinterlands of Uruk-Warka and Nippur-Adad: A, Early-Middle Uruk; B, Late Uruk (after
Adams 1981, figs. 12 and 13).
relatively isolated from one another and evenly dispersed, by the end of the fourth
millennium they exhibit contraction and centralization into a pattern of distinct settlement
size hierarchy (Adams and Nissen 1972, 11–18). This was organized into a tripartite
grouping of sites that range from small (less than 8 hectares) to medium (18 to 14
hectares) to large (20 hectares or more) with Uruk–Warka, at 250 hectares by the LC 5,
being set apart completely (Pollock 2001, 187).26
This clustering also shows a distinct pattern relative to Uruk–Warka, such that
settlements at a distance of 15 kilometers or less from the site are consistently no larger
than 2 hectares in size. Medium to large polities only existed outside of this buffer zone
reinforcing what Adams and Nissen (1972, 27) suggest as the inhibiting tendency by the
main center of Uruk–Warka toward urban growth among its dependencies. Interestingly
this distinct settlement pattern is not reflected to the north in the Nippur–Adab area. Here
instead a handful of large sites were established at least by LC 2 and coexisted with
medium–sized settlements in a relatively dense conglomeration. By LC 5 however sites
become increasingly isolated in a trend that is opposite of what is occurring around
Uruk–Warka during the same period (Pollock 2001, 190–92).
These data, coupled with the archaeological evidence discussed above, have
served as the foundation for scholarly theories concerning the Uruk Phenomenon that
necessarily revolve around the centralization of populations and resources, and possibly
even cultural knowledge and social ideology (Collins 2000). Survey data from the
Nippur–Adab region however show that the settlement situation in southern
Mesopotamia during this time was not homogenous, reinforcing that Uruk–Warka is, in
Adams (1981, 71–75) differentiated sites into two size groupings while Johnson (1975) visualized a
four–tiered hierarchical system that has been adopted by others (Algaze 1993, 2001a).
many respects, a unique case. Likewise the contraction and clustering of settlement
groups, as viewed in the survey data of the heartland of Uruk–Warka, most likely reflect
the movement of populations within the area or possibly emigration outside of it and not
necessarily conglomeration within a single center (see Johnson 1988–89; Pollock 1999
and later this chapter). Research in outlying village sites, and the households contained
within them, would enlighten this survey data by presenting more rigid physical evidence
for the movement of populations and their changing socioeconomic positions in relation
to what scholars currently perceive as centralization of communities and resources at core
A City Set Apart
A final problem that the excavations of Uruk–Warka have presented to scholars of
the Uruk Phenomenon lies in the virtual isolation in which the site was excavated at a
time substantially prior to the discovery of other fourth millennium sites outside of
southern Mesopotamia (Nissen 1988, 110). Because of this, Uruk–Warka was treated as a
site from a unique culture with its own characteristic material and unique set of problems
to be solved using the field methods appropriate to it.28 This is best exemplified by the
primary excavators Nöldeke, Heinrich, Lenzen, and von Haller who, as architectural
historians and not trained archaeologists, paid strong attention to building forms and
architectural details and less to ceramic seriation for example. Publication of the deep
sounding at Uruk–Warka (von Haller 1931) does not give any indication that the ceramic
Apart from this dissertation, this type of research has already been done at sites like Abu Salabikh
(chapter 3) in the Nippur–Adad region and Kurban Höyük in southeast Turkey (Algaze 1990; Wattenmaker
1994a; Wilkinson 1990a).
A similar critique of the excavation methods and recording procedures for Uruk–Warka has been offered
by Hans Nissen (2002).
assemblages presented there represent all or most of the ceramics found. Nor is the record
accurate or comprehensive. For example, second millennium sherds were included
among the fourth millennium ceramics derived from Eanna Levels IV and III (Nissen
2002, 5) and only a single beveled–rim bowl is recorded for the entire 19 meter deep
sounding (von Haller 1931, Taf. 18Ac); a curious fact when one considers that this vessel
type is prolific in the assemblages of neighboring settlements (see appendix).
The reality of this situation is that the ceramic sequence at Uruk–Warka is
unreliable and incomplete for the entire fourth millennium BCE. This has obvious
repercussions for debates concerning the Uruk Phenomenon since the primary phases of
cultural development from which excavators at sites outside of the southern alluvium
draw comparisons is not available. Nor is there any other ceramic sequence to take its
place. As noted by Nissen (2002, 5), the Nippur deep sounding material has not been
fully published and the sequence from Abu Salabikh is not long enough. Thus it is
impossible for Uruk–Warka to stand as the type site for precise chronological
considerations of the fourth millennium BCE.
Instead it seems much more productive to work within regional typological and
chronological schemes as many have already done. This vital shift has had the added
effect of highlighting the subtle local and regional characteristics of ceramic assemblages
that are, in many ways, more productive in charting sociocultural developments than
focusing on interregional comparisons alone. The same can be said for iconography and
glyptic styles whose primary evidence from cylinder seals and sealings derive from more
secure contexts at sites like Brak and Hacınebi (see appendix) and are thus more reliable
chronological indicators.29
In summary it is unlikely the early excavators could have realized the significance
of their findings, especially the ceramic sequence, nor foreseen the great importance this
site would play in further arguments concerning the “spread of Uruk culture.” On the
other hand, as will be discussed below, the very fact that Uruk–Warka was excavated first
allowed its material culture and perceived social structure to set the tone for later
excavations beyond the southern Mesopotamian heartland.
Beyond the Uruk Heartland
The physical evidence derived from several key sites beyond the Uruk heartland
set the stage for what would later develop into observations, interpretations, and
hypotheses about the movement of Uruk material culture, and subsequently cultural
influence, throughout greater Mesopotamia. While these excavations certainly shed light
on the interactions between regions, the methodological focus by which these sites were
unearthed and their material assemblages examined severely altered the ways in which
this Uruk Phenomenon has been traditional viewed.
For example the general information we have about Uruk period occupations,
especially in southern Iraq, outside of Uruk–Warka is based on limited exposures at a
handful of sites and broader, more thorough investigations of a small number of key
mounds. Sites like Nippur (McCown and Haines 1967; Wilson 1986), Ur (Woolley
1955), Jemdet Nasr (Matthews 1989, 1990, 2002), and Khafajeh (Delougaz and Lloyd
Of course stylistic data such as with seal iconography is not without problems especially in terms of
heirlooms and archaizing.
1942) have material evidence derived solely from deep soundings, step trenches or
surface surveys30 that reveals connections with their southern Mesopotamia cultural
sphere especially in terms of ceramic assemblages. At more intensely excavated sites like
Eridu the evidence derives primarily from the temple precinct much like at Uruk–Warka;
a very narrow window in which to perceive the whole of Uruk (and Eriduan) society.
Thus naturally the evidence from Eridu—massive stepped platforms of Riemchen bricks
that supported two protoliterate temples (I and II) and a large plastered building of
Mittelsaal–type with parabolic archways—solidified for early excavators a coherent
southern Mesopotamian material culture assemblage that reflected the monumental
architectural works, artistic motifs and ceramic typology from the Eanna precinct. 31
Excavations in western Iran and northern Iraq at sites like Susa32 and Nineveh
further reinforced the extension of “Uruk culture” beyond the southern alluvium while
relying on very limited contexts (figure 1.1). At Nineveh on Kuyunjik, one of the primary
citadel areas at the site, a massive mud brick building with thick piers that supported a
system of parallel archways encircling a central courtyard was built (or abandoned?)
sometime at the end of the fourth millennium, based on the ceramic assemblage
comprised of mostly beveled–rim bowls (figure 1.12).33 Whether this structure was truly
a complex of tombs34 or served a public function is unknown, but it currently stands as
the only tangible piece of architectural evidence for the Late Chalcolithic at Nineveh.
With the exception of Khafajeh whose remains dating to the end of the fourth millennium BCE derived
from the earliest Sin Temple (I) (Delougaz and Lloyd 1942, 9–14).
See appendix (Iraq) for details about the excavation history, material culture, and full bibliography for
To be discussed later in this chapter and in detail in the appendix.
See Appendix (Iraq) for details about the excavation history and material culture of Nineveh.
Campbell Thompson and Hutchinson 1931, 81; Campbell Thompson and Hamilton 1932, 78.
Apart from this single building, the deep sondage at Nineveh offered over 12
meters of occupational debris representing the Uruk period alone. The ceramics derived
from this context not only provided the basis for the earliest northern Mesopotamian
chronology, the so–called Ninevite 1 through 5 (I–V), but also solidified the presence of
southern Mesopotamian Uruk ceramic forms outside of the southern alluvium. The deep
sounding offered a window into diachronic change throughout the end of the fourth
millennium in terms of ceramic sequence that was (and still is) not possible at Uruk–
Figure 1.12. Archways from Nineveh, “Vaulted Tombs 4 and 5”
(from Campbell Thompson 1932: pl. XLVIII no. 3).
Warka as discussed previously. For example, while the Ninevite 3 phase (LC 4) is
characterized by mostly wares and forms typical of Syria, Anatolia and local northern
Iraq sites, the following Ninevite 4 (LC 5) has almost exclusively southern
Mesopotamian forms including drooping spouted vessels, flat dishes, and beveled–rim
bowls en masse.35 But again the only evidence that can be derived from such a narrow
context is the development of ceramic and glyptic typologies, and perhaps the waxing
and waning of specialized elements like accounting (e.g., tablets, tokens), chipped stone
technologies, and symbolic systems. Furthermore this evidence is uncontextualized
within the broader scope of Ninevite society that is a crucial dataset for understanding
how “Uruk” ceramic forms began to be used at the site and what exactly these data mean
in terms of regional interactions and possible exchange.
Finally perhaps one of the most crucial excavations outside of the Uruk heartland,
and one that has offered a broader scope than the material evidence at Eridu and Nineveh,
is Habuba Kabira–Süd (South) within the Tabqa Dam area of north Syria (figure 1.1).
Habuba–Süd was an 18 hectare town over 900 meters long surrounded on three sides by a
huge wall composed of Riemchen bricks.36 Three building levels were distinguished by
excavators on this virgin site who estimated a total occupation of six to eight thousand
people over a span of one hundred fifty years all carbon dated to the LC 5 (Strommenger
1985, 86).
Habuba–Süd is important for several reasons and offers three major lines of
evidence that other Late Chalcolithic period sites cannot. First, it is the only large–scale
example of Late Uruk residential architecture with evidence for town planning and a
drainage system. The densely built houses averaged 300 square meters in size and were
composed solely of Riemchen bricks with most floor plans being of the Mittelsaal–type
The following Ninevite 5 phase exhibits another complete shift in the ceramic repertoire to elaborate
painted and incised wares that will itself become the type assemblage for the Jemdat Nasr and very Early
Bronze Age ceramics across the region.
See appendix (Syria: Tabqa Dam) for details about the excavation history, material culture, and full
bibliography for Habuba Kabira–Süd.
seen at Uruk–Warka and elsewhere (figure 1.13 and Strommenger 1980, 36). Second, the
citadel area of Habuba–Süd, called Tell Kannâs/Qannas, was the administrative and
religious center for the site, on par with monumental constructions from Eanna Levels V–
IVa. It included a grouping of public buildings (the North and South Temples), with
tripartite floor plans, interior decorative niches, and basins (Finet 1975, 1977, 88–90). A
third large building was uncovered in the central sector that was also tripartite in plan
with an attached magazine filled with storage jars. Inside these structures a wealth of
objects were recovered, from cylinder seal–impressed jar stoppers to traces of bitumen,
and alabaster vases that resemble southern Mesopotamian forms of four–lugged jars.
Figure 1.13. Domestic architecture from Habuba Kabira-Süd, 1:200
(from Strommenger 1980, 38 Abb. 16).
Third, along with architectural elements, the material culture assemblage at
Habuba–Süd and Kannâs is completely foreign to the local Syrian assemblages seen at
neighboring sites (e.g., Tell Brak), instead exhibiting the full corpus of southern
Mesopotamian wares and forms along with numerical tablets, clay balls with tokens, and
clay bullae with cylinder seal impressions reminiscent of designs from Godin Tepe, Susa,
Chogha Mish and Uruk–Warka (see appendix and later this chapter). The broad
horizontal exposures of domestic and public architecture alike at Habuba–Süd also
allowed excavators to detect production and consumption activities on a general site–
wide basis. Chipped stone recycling, ceramic production, metal working, storage
facilities or tools for agricultural production were notably rare (Strommenger 1980, 55)
and likely support the assumption that products, especially agricultural products, were
provided by people from the countryside (Sürenhagen 1986, 21). These wider contextual
data have allowed archaeologists to comfortably contend that Habuba–Süd was a
relatively short–lived settlement founded by a group (or groups) from a non–local
population that were reliant on their neighbors, but also involved in higher level
recording of these or other products.
The evidence derived from excavations at Habuba–Süd has offered a unique
picture of Uruk society beyond the heartland derived from domestic and public/religious
contexts. But this evidence has both formulated the occurrence of an Uruk Phenomenon,
whereby there were interregional interactions during the last half of the fourth
millennium, while at the same time only scratching the surface regarding the nature and
mechanisms behind this event. For example, the houses at Habuba–Süd provided a
wealth of detail about city planning and common architectural types, but little mention
has been made to the artifacts found within the houses and how they reflect the usage of
spaces within and between them (chapter 2; Kohlmeyer 1996). This household approach
to the domestic modes of production and consumption would be invaluable to assess
variability between household groups and provide a more nuanced picture of daily life in
the town. This microlevel approach could also help sustain (or refute) claims made about
the general reliance on rural neighbors for such staple products as stone tools and
agricultural goods. Finally, examinations on the individual and collective household–
level at Habuba–Süd would be important for charting diachronic trends over the three
occupation phases determined by the excavators. Changes in the domestic and elite
economies could shed light on a number of unanswered questions like: what was the
relationship between the residents of Habuba–Süd and their neighbors? Who built the
enormous city wall and monumental structures of Kannâs? And perhaps most
importantly, why was the site suddenly abandoned (and never reoccupied) at the close of
the LC 5?
The material culture assemblages derived from excavations of Uruk–Warka, later
Nineveh and finally Habuba Kabira have served as the substantial beginning dataset for
understanding the late fourth millennium in greater Mesopotamia.37 The material and
scholarly focus on Uruk–Warka has led to its primary position as the central polity from
which culture supposedly spread as exemplified in the foundation of Habuba–Süd, the
product of a seemingly transplanted cultural group(s) that clung to the practices,
traditions and tastes of the homeland. These excavations however have only identified
contact—whether through trade, colonization, or influence—and not the holistic picture
of the motivations or structure of this Uruk Phenomenon. At Uruk–Warka, Eridu,
The comprehensive dataset can be found in the appendix.
Nineveh and even Habuba–Süd, the monumentality and centrality of datasets like temples
and public buildings have necessarily dictated an elite–focused agenda whereby the
means of interaction were controlled by the select few. Household approaches are an
appropriate and productive avenue by which to reinforce or refute the true centralization
of resources or social ideologies, for example, by examining the ways that the nonelite
(e.g., the majority of the population) responded to changes in their local communities.
The “Expansion” of Uruk Culture
Setting the Stage
Early excavations at sites like Uruk–Warka, Eridu, Nineveh and Habuba–Süd
have thus far provided evidence for, at some level, shared cultural practices as reflected
in ceramic types, iconography, accounting practices and architecture. Continued
excavations at settlements throughout greater Mesopotamia, especially in north Syria and
southeast Turkey, have highlighted the extent to which these shared cultural practices
stretched (see appendix). These excavations have also revealed that this sharing is neither
consistent nor ordered, leaving scholars to grapple with recognition of the overall
pattern(s) of interaction that define the Uruk Phenomenon.38
As Dan Potts (2004) has rightly remarked, over the last ten to twenty years there
has emerged a veritable cottage industry of publications presenting various
interpretations, models and hypotheses to explain the mechanisms behind, and the
organizational nature of, the Uruk Phenomenon. These include long–distance exchange
The frustration and challenge of figuring out this pattern is best exemplified by Gregory A. Johnson
(1987, 126) who whimsically remarked, “What happened? Fourth millennium specialists have a tendency
to hide under their desks if they think that someone might ask them this question.”
by merchant colonies (with roots in the ‘Ubaid period: Alden 1982; Lebeau 1989; Lupton
1996; J. Oates 1993; Stein 1999a, 1999b; Sürenhagen 1986), immigration (Amiet 1986),
political and economic expansion (Adams 1981; Nissen 2001), acculturation, emulation
and hybridization (Helwing 1999; Pittman 2001; Rothman 1993; Stronach 1994),
agricultural opportunities, commerce and staple finance (Frangipane 1997a, 1997b;
Frangipane and Palmieri 1987; McCorriston 1997; Schwartz 1988b), social ideologies
(Collins 2000), political collapse and fragmentation (Johnson 1988/89; Pollock 2001,
Zagarell 1986), ecological catastrophe (Hole 1994), and core/periphery models of an
Uruk world system (Algaze 1989a, 1993, 2001b).39
The reasons behind this flowering of debate concerning the Uruk Phenomenon
and what it represents is likely due to an academic (and public) fascination with the
social, economic, political and religious atmosphere whereby the world’s first cities,
bureaucracies, and writing systems emerged. As more research is conducted it is
becoming increasingly clear however that the foundations of the Uruk Phenomenon lay
before the first states in the fifth millennium communities and networks of interaction (J.
Oates 1993; Schwartz 1988b). This is not to say that the systems in place during the
fourth millennium were identical to those in the fifth millennium, but that the
groundwork had already been laid for these types of interregional interactions. So too are
approaches to this subject changing as scholars realize that the primacy and trajectory of
Uruk society is intricately tied to the early date in which Uruk–Warka was excavated.40
They also recognize the indigenous growth of these same elements of statehood—
A well–organized summary of each of these approaches along with a detailed history of the Uruk
Phenomenon debate has been compiled by Pascal Butterlin (2003).
This primacy of excavation of Uruk–Warka, where work began in 1849 and continues intermittently to
this day, has in many ways affected how archaeologists perceive the transfer of culture and social
centralized administration, accounting, monumental architectural works—in polities of
northern Mesopotamia.
Despite the wide attentions paid to the Uruk Phenomenon, many of the models
and approaches to understanding the nature and mechanisms behind this interregional
trade and interaction in the late fourth millennium share foundational elements that fall
short of arriving at comprehensive explanations. These collective shortcomings include
the reinforcement of top–down approaches to sociopolitical and economic histories in
greater Mesopotamia that are essentially elite–focused. Even investigations outside of the
Uruk–Warka heartland that offer evidence for indigenous development of socially and
economically complex communities draw largely from centralized and elite data.
Furthermore, in the quest to elucidate ethnic groups as either “Uruk” or “local,” scholars
have done little to investigate the socioeconomic circumstances of smaller village
communities that were decidedly outside this interregional sphere of influence and
contact. A final issue is one of resolution, where truly multiscalar approaches have not
been used to incorporate the domestic economies of villages and individual households
into discussions of larger, centralized economic systems. Each of these shortcomings is
best represented below in three distinct models used to understand the Uruk Phenomenon
to which I will now turn.
complexity. If for example Tell Brak had been excavated first, would scholars be instead discussing and
debating the “Brak Phenomenon?” A particularly poignant quote by Robert Braidwood seems appropriate
for reflection here: “I am haunted by the specter of how for years afterwards quite accidental priorities of
discovery may influence culture–historical generalizations” (Braidwood 1974, 79).
The Uruk World System
The macroscale model of an Uruk world system has been proposed by Guillermo
Algaze and stands as the principle example of a top–down, elite–centered approach to the
Uruk Phenomenon based on a theory of world systems. The World–Systems Theory
(hereafter “WST”) is derived from the work of Immanuel Wallerstein (1974), whose
primary goal was to analyze and interpret the type of economic and political system in
place for European colonial expansion beginning in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries CE. Wallerstein focused on a core/periphery dichotomy to explain the nature of
interaction between the “homeland” and the “colonized,” eventually highlighting an
overall unequal exchange where peripheral areas—seen as underdeveloped economically,
socially, and in some cases culturally—immediately benefit from the interaction with a
more culturally complex core. In principle, however, this exchange system is
asymmetrical and in time the periphery’s reliance on specialized goods and economic
systems based on the core eventually leads to the system's downfall, either locally within
the periphery community or at the core level.
Despite Wallerstein’s assertions that this theory cannot be applied to ancient
societies or social systems—he believes that the only true world systems were able to
come about with European expansion—the WST has been widely used by many fields
including Sociology, Political Science, and Archaeology. Examinations by Paynter
(1981) and Kohl (1987) have considered the applicability of this theory to archaeological
investigation and have found, through slight modifications, that it is a useful
methodology to be employed by archaeologists. This sentiment is also expressed by
Chase–Dunn and Hall (1997), who see the WST as applicable but caution against
applying the model wholesale. For example, a component of the WST is the exchange of
bulk goods that are the most important for the generation of economic complexity within
the state. However the trade of preciosities must not be overlooked as these can be
politically charged elements in a growing bureaucratic system.41
As already mentioned, the WST has been used by Guillermo Algaze (1986a,
1989a, 1993, 2001a, 2001b) to explain the nature and mechanisms behind sociocultural
interactions throughout Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium. In fact his 1989 Current
Anthropology journal article42 spearheaded the idea of the physical movement of Uruk
culture throughout the greater Mesopotamian region, an “Uruk Expansion” in this case.
Hailed by some as merely an attempt to systematize old hypotheses,43 others saw
Algaze’s arguments as a “rich tapestry of archaeological data within an important
conceptual framework” (Lamberg–Karlovsky in Algaze 1989a, 595). That framework
focused on the emergence of politically and economically distinct polities in the southern
alluvium centered on the city of Uruk–Warka, whose lack of primary natural resources
like stone, metals, and wood was the primary catalyst for expansion into the resource–
rich, but culturally underdeveloped, periphery of the northern and eastern borders of
Mesopotamia. His argument is based on a three–tiered system of enclaves, colonies, and
trading posts whose locations on direct lines of north–south and east–west trade and
Wallerstein (1996, 294) himself concurs, saying there must be a distinction between trade in luxury and
bulk goods. This is especially true for prehistoric cases where, before modern transportation capabilities,
long distance trade was necessarily in low bulk, high profit goods like luxuries/preciosities.
This article was a condensed version of his unpublished monograph entitled, “The Uruk Expansion:
‘Momentum towards Empire’ in Early Mesopotamian Society,” a revision of his doctoral dissertation
(Algaze 1986a).
See Burchard Brenties and other comments following Algaze 1989, 591–602. See also Lamberg–
Karlovsky (1984), who also argued for the colonial implantation of periphery regions during the “First
Conjuncture” of his longue durée view of ancient Near Eastern cultural development.
communication ensured for the Uruk core that resources could be harnessed, controlled,
and applied for the welfare of urban political elites in the south.
The primary evidence from which Algaze drew is first based on settlement pattern
data derived from surveys both in the southern alluvium (see previously this chapter and
Adams 1981; Adams and Nissen 1972) and western Iran (Johnson 1973). Second is the
physical archaeological evidence that, for Algaze, pointed to a developing system of
political control and cultural infiltration. Along with the evidence from Uruk–Warka
itself discussed previously, Algaze looked east to sites in the Susiana/Khuzistan plain of
Iran that exhibited a dramatic shift in material culture and settlement plan at the end of
the fourth millennium that, for Algaze, was the result of colonization. The site of Susa,
for example, during the earliest Late Chalcolithic phase (Susa I or A; dated LC 1–3)
featured a monumental multi–roomed building (Bâtiment de Suse I) with 2 meter thick
pisé walls on the central Apadana mound, a large low mud brick platform containing the
buried remains of approximately two thousand individuals (massif funéraire) in the deep
Acropole sounding and a later 10 meter high stepped mud brick platform (haute terrasse)
decorated with inlaid ceramic cones, clay models of goat horns and plaque mosaics
(Canal 1978; Pollock 1989).44 These unusual and seemingly local cultural traditions are
disrupted in the following phase (Susa II or B; dated LC 4–5) where, after a large
destruction, ceramics of southern Mesopotamian Uruk type begin to be used along with
accounting elements (e.g., bullae with tokens, numerical tablets) and glyptic repertoires
echoed at neighboring Uruk–Warka.
See appendix (Iran: Susiana/Khuzistan) for details about the excavation history and material culture of
Susa. An extensive bibliography for excavations at Susa can also be found in Carter and Stolper 1984.
From here colonies of Uruk traders were established at newly founded settlements
like Jebel Aruda and Habuba–Süd along the Euphrates River in Syria. Both of these sites
are characterized by the complete suite of southern Mesopotamian material culture
including Mittelsaal architectural types, ceramic forms, elaborate systems of accounting
and economy, and cylinder seal motifs that hearken back to designs used at Uruk–Warka
and Susa. Enclaves were also established at pre–existing sites like Nineveh (discussed
previously), Tell Brak, Samsat, Carchemish and Hacınebi (discussed below). Finally a
sprinkling of outposts were embedded within settlements or in remote locations close to
resource locations. For example, Godin Tepe, located in the Kangavar Valley of the
Zagros Mountains in Iran, contained a supposed merchant community living within a
heavily fortified oval enclosure on the citadel mound above the local village that engaged
in the trade of semiprecious stones and wine along the Khorasan Road (Badler 2002;
Weiss and Young 1975).45
The idea of an Uruk world system has been critiqued by many (inter alia
Frangipane 1997b, 2001; Joffe 1994; Pollock 1992; Rothman 2004; Stein 1999b, 2002a)
for numerous reasons that I am in agreement with. There is, as yet, no physical evidence
for the trade in items like metals, timber or semiprecious stones, though more recent work
on organic residues is offering interesting results.46 The Uruk world system model also
assumes a passive, underdeveloped periphery that has since been shown to be false as
more and more excavations in north Syria and southeast Turkey reveal indigenous
See appendix (Iran: Luristan) for details about the excavation history and material culture of Godin Tepe.
For example, Virginia Badler (1996, 2002) with her colleague Patrick McGovern (2003, 40–63)
successfully identified the presence of wine in jars from buildings inside the Oval Enclosure at Godin Tepe.
Similarly McGovern and others (1996) have discovered chemical evidence for wine residues at fourth
millennium Uruk-Warka.
development of cultural complexity at sites like Arslantepe, Tell Brak and Hacınebi (see
below and appendix).
The initial work of Algaze also opens the door for critique in the use of analogy
and incorporation of methodology from fields outside that of Near Eastern Archaeology
for use in understanding the Uruk Phenomenon. Analogy—or drawing a comparison to
show a similarity in some respect between two or more situations, occurrences, or
states—has long been a contentious issue for its practical use in Archaeology where for
many it is a matter of degree as to how many similarities must be present in order to
justify use of a particular analogy. In the field of prehistoric Archaeology, analogy is
especially attractive in spite of the fact that modern–day examples, such as Marsh Arabs
in southern Iraq, would not necessarily exhibit the exact types of habits, personalities, or
life choices as those in the fourth millennium BCE southern alluvium.
Yet with the Uruk world system model, analogy goes hand in hand with the use of
outside methodology, where the hypothesis concerning relatively modern societies (in
Wallerstein’s case, fifteenth and sixteenth century Europe) in a particular sociological
framework regarding colonization, indigenous development, and core/periphery
relationships is being placed on fourth millennium BCE cultural communities. This idea
is further reinforced by the language used not only in Algaze’s published work, but by
many scholars for whom the “Uruk Expansion” equates to exactly that: an infiltration of
culture materials and social structures.47 This line of analogy also places too much
emphasis on the continuity and similarities of world systems throughout time, even
millennia, and expects the observer to equate the European economic and political system
Though I have not come across any who would be so bold as to liken this expansion to early or informal
empire as Algaze (1989a, 1993) does. In my mind, the term “informal empire” is never fully defined in the
first place.
with that of a tribally based, developing urban city–state landscape. In a unique reversal
of Orientalizing, Mesopotamian societies as a whole are thus turned into copies of present
Western “civilization” (Bernbeck and Pollock 2002, 189).
Most of all, the idea of an Uruk world system reinforces a top–down approach to
sociopolitical and economic histories. A better approach to fourth millennium
Mesopotamia would incorporate the microscale by examining the multitude of smaller
networks of interactions and relationships that exist below this wider umbrella of a world
system. It is most likely that scholars will discover that these smaller networks
interweave to create a tapestry of interaction and not a single “world wide” system.
Examinations on the microscale also address the need for multiscalar approaches that
focus on the various levels at which humans interact: from region to village to inner
communities to households (and if one is daring, even individuals). Framing the ancient
world within a core/periphery dynamic inevitably presumes the passivity of groups
outside of the central core and necessarily glosses over the more nuanced relationships
within and between regions, communities and individuals of multiple social groups and
classes. It is here that a reinsertion of the theoretical foundations of peer polity interaction
(Renfrew 1986) would be most useful, if anything to remind scholars that not all
interactions are based purely on economic concerns but also include aspects of culture,
religion, ideology, or all of the above.
Trading Diasporas and Entrepreneurs
A primary reaction against the Uruk world system model has been to highlight the
level of socioeconomic complexity preexisting in periphery regions before incursions of
Uruk peoples, material culture, and/or influence during the LC 4–5 (Frangipane 1997b,
2001; Rothman 2004; Stein 1999b, 2002a, 2002b). While these types of rebuttals and
renewed frameworks have significant merit because they highlight regional (as opposed
to strictly interregional) networks of interaction, most remain elite–focused with little
consideration for the dynamic relationship between centralized administration and
distribution of resources and domestic modes of production and consumption. Thus these
approaches reinforce the elite nature of these interactions that characterize the Uruk
Phenomenon while simultaneously challenging the cultural dominance of a single core
state at Uruk–Warka.
A primary critique against the Uruk world system (or core/periphery) model is the
assumption the core holds military, technological, ideological, economic and/or
organizational domination over the periphery. This type of approach to the Uruk
Phenomenon focuses on an external dynamic explanatory framework that glosses over
any constituent political units to favor the whole (Stein 1999b, 9). Thus the fundamental
unit of social change is the world system and not the society or social groups that
comprise it (Stein 1999b, 25). The asymmetrical exchange, power relations, economic
influences and ideological forms inherent with a core/periphery relationship also
downplay the role of the periphery in sociocultural developments, essentially rendering it
as a passive recipient of more advanced culture from the core.
This passivity, however, is not visible in the Uruk periphery as exemplified by a
number of key sites spread throughout north Syria and southeast Anatolia that offer
primary evidence for local developments of cultural complexity.48 One example is
Arslantepe, a 5 hectare mound located 15 kilometers west of the Euphrates River and 6
See appendix for a comprehensive discussion of all relevant sites in these areas.
kilometers northeast of the modern city of Malatya, Turkey.49 During the earliest Late
Chalcolithic phase (Period VII; dated LC 3) the site’s inhabitants built a large tripartite
mud brick structure (Building XXIX) with painted walls and mud columns that contained
mass–produced ceramics (Frangipane 1993; Frangipane and Balossi 2004). In the
following phase (Period VIA; dated LC 4/5) they constructed a “palace–temple” complex
comprised of four terraced buildings with evidence for administrative and redistribution
activities, specifically stockpiles of stamp and cylinder seal–impressed bullae and clay
fragments. There is also evidence for metal smelting and casting, textile weaving, and
ceramic production. While there is a minimal inclusion of characteristically southern
Mesopotamian elements (mostly ceramics), the general material culture assemblage at
Arslantepe during this phase retains an overwhelming local Anatolian character (see
Similarly at Tell Brak in north Syria there is evidence for a well developed
socioeconomic system that involved higher–level accounting, localized production of
specialist goods, and monumental architecture including temples (inter alia Mallowan
1947; J. Oates 2002; J. Oates and D. Oates 1997).50 This average 65 hectare site (and up
to 100 hectares in LC 3) contains 10 meters of occupation that span the mid–fourth to the
early third millennium. During the LC 2, there was a massive perimeter wall around the
settlement with a monumental gateway and a probable temple with niched façade. The
LC 3 settlement was characterized by well–built houses, some with high status goods like
ivory objects, carnelian and gold beads, “eye idols,” and a tripartite–plan public building.
See appendix (Turkey: Keban Dam and Beyond) for details about the excavation history and material
culture of Arslantepe.
See appendix (Syria: Khabur) for details about the excavation history, material culture, and full
bibliography of Tell Brak.
A final example is Hacınebi, a 3 hectare site located in the Euphrates River valley
north of Birecik in Turkey, where during the earliest Phase A (dated LC 2) the inhabitants
built a monumental terrace and platform complex, storage buildings, and a 3–meter–wide
enclosure wall with buttressing and a massive mud brick raised platform. There is also
evidence for all stages of metal production including special smelting pit furnaces,
crucible fragments, open–faced casting molds, and final products like copper chisels and
pins. Engraved stamp seals, seal blanks and impressions whose iconography is paralleled
across the piedmont zone from Değirmentepe to Gawra to the Khuzistan plain (Pittman
1999, 45) attest to higher level accounting and interactions within a local and regional
These multiple levels of exchange and interaction are perhaps better explained
through a model of trade diasporas as opposed to a single world system (Cohen 1971;
Stein 1999). Instead of being core–centric, a trade diaspora model explains variation in
exchange systems from the perspective of the participants such as foreign traders and
indigenous hosts. Thus a colony can be seen instead as a kind of trade diaspora (like at
Hacınebi for example), part of an interregional exchange network composed of merchant
groups that are culturally distinct from their host communities, but there is no political or
economic control of the periphery by the core. A trade diaspora model also encourages a
more focused study of household–level activities that can help distinguish distinct groups
within any one social unit such as a small village, community or city.
While I admire the focused attention on the agency of local communities that the
trade diaspora model introduces, it reinforces the broader perspective of a core/periphery
dynamic, albeit with a less domineering political and economic agenda. The foundational
evidence for “complexity in the periphery” and trade diasporas derives from highly elite
and centralized contexts, especially at sites like Arslantepe where the economic system
coordinated through centralized administrative buildings has seemingly overshadowed
any discussions of domestic modes of production and consumption that were assuredly in
place at the settlement. In the case of Hacınebi, domestic modes of production and
consumption have thus far been examined individually (e.g., chipped stone,
spinning/weaving, agriculture), but not as a collective whole whose separate elements
interlace together to form a domestic economy (see chapters 2, 4, 5). Following the trends
in the domestic economies of households over time would help push examinations of the
Uruk Phenomenon at this site and others beyond simply identifying cultural or ethnic
minorities within indigenous populations to how these groups interacted on social,
economic, and political levels. For example, Stein (2002b, 152) has claimed there was a
peaceful existence and economic autonomy between the indigenous population and Uruk
colony at Hacınebi with little cultural mixing between the two groups. This is based on a
general picture of household activities and patterns such as diet and tool production and
use across the site. However I suspect that if one was to examine these data on a minute,
house by house basis and compare individual domestic economies, there would likely be
evidence for differentiation based not just on ethnicity, but also gender and social and
economic class defined by, for example, differential access to resources.
Finally, many of the sites in the periphery regions that have been incorporated
into discussions of the Uruk Phenomenon provide some kind of evidence, largely in the
form of ceramics or glyptic, for interactions with Uruk–Warka, western Iran, or the
southern alluvium in general. While this may seem a logical mode of examination, it has
become an exceedingly atomistic one. In particular while scholars have been busily
deciphering the pattern behind the locations, types, and degrees to which interactions
were occurring at these periphery sites, there is likewise a pattern of settlements that were
not interacting with this wider network in a way that is at least visible archaeologically.
My point is that sites, especially smaller villages and towns, that do not exhibit effects
from the Uruk Phenomenon are just as important, if not more so, for teasing out
mechanisms and motivations for interaction. In fact these interactions may be nothing
more than the mobilization of staple resources between local polities naturally located on
major transportation routes and have nothing to do with Uruk colonies (Rothman 1993,
Political Collapse and Fragmentation
For a small handful of researchers, the Uruk Phenomenon and the end of the
fourth millennium does not represent a blossoming of interregional interactions and
explosive economies. Instead the appearance of colonies or enclaves implanted in greater
Mesopotamian communities represent refugees fleeing a catastrophic political
fragmentation and collapse generated in the southern alluvium.51 This approach has merit
in that it deviates from more traditional economic models of burgeoning trade and
interaction and loosely incorporates multiscalar evidence from villages as well as towns
and centralized polities. However these village data are unfortunately treated in a cursory
manner with hypotheses based on assumptions as opposed to detailed examinations of
domestic economies.
A similar model was proposed by Frank Hole for the fifth millennium, however in this case climatic
deterioration and environmental shifts (specifically rising seal levels in the Arabian/Persian Gulf) caused
the scattering of ‘Ubaid communities across Mesopotamia (Hole 1994).
Survey data is the primary point of departure for these approaches of political
collapse and fragmentation. Johnson (1988–89, 598) in particular, cautions that the
settlement data for the Uruk heartland interpreted by Adams, Algaze and others as rapid
growth, may instead be more the product of poor temporal resolution in the
archaeological data than population movements or a high growth rate. Instead of growth,
he sees severe population declines in the Late Uruk at sites like Ur (Adams 1981; Wright
1981), Nippur, and Eridu, which in fact was completely abandoned at the very end of the
LC. In Susiana there is a decline in occupied area by almost half during the LC 5 (129 to
52 hectares; Johnson 1973, 70–78) and similarly in the Deh Luran plain (Wright 1981). A
“buffer zone” in which no settlements of any size are present developed between Susa
(discussed previously) and the rival polity of Chogha Mish signaling hostilities between
the two. The 18 hectare settlement of Chogha Mish was the sister–city to Susa in terms of
cultural development in the region with monumental architecture, a densely packed urban
neighborhood, streets with drains, and probably a city wall (Delougaz and Kantor
1996).52 The ceramic assemblage, accounting practices, and seal iconography are closely
paralleled at Susa (Levels 17/18), Uruk–Warka VII–IV, and Habuba Kabira-Süd. A
hostile environment is apparent for this area as attested in military scenes on seals from
Chogha Mish (Delougaz and Kantor 1969, 25) and Susa (Amiet 1961, 251) and in the
increased density of sling bullets at an elite rural estate near Abu Fanduweh (Johnson
According to Johnson (1987), this conflict is based on competition for control of
rural labor and agricultural production, the two foundational elements that allowed one to
See appendix (Iran: Susiana/Khuzistan) for details about the excavation history and material culture of
Chogha Mish.
literally build an elite status through monumental architectural constructions, surplus, and
the establishment of commercial value to acquire elite commodities. The injection of
state control within the rural sector is suggested through a shift in the volume of ration
containers (e.g., beveled–rim bowls) that reflect attempts at standardization. At a critical
juncture sometime at the middle to end of the fourth millennium, demand on rural
settlements between these regional polities proved too overwhelming, forcing populations
to abandon the region.
Yet if peasant refugees are rushing to leave a political fallout in the south, then
who built the 900 meter long city wall of Habuba–Süd? Johnson contends that these
refugee groups were also composed of losing elites in the southern power struggles who
felt the necessity to guard themselves while in exile from their political rivals. In critique
of Johnson, huge walls do not necessarily serve as fortification nor do they denote fear
from outsiders, although this can certainly be argued for some cases. Walls can be a
physical manifestation of power and control over resources such as labor, raw materials
and time. They can also serve as boundary markers between urban and rural, ethnic
groups, and/or political entities. However the evidence at Habuba–Süd seems to indicate
that the peoples who lived there were not completely cut off from their neighbors. In fact
the agricultural evidence suggests they relied solely on the local population for their food.
Plus the idea that powerful elites from Uruk–Warka and Susa had the resources and
military prowess to pursue their (already defeated) political rivals in the northern reaches
of Mesopotamia seems improbable.
With that said, heated conflict does seem to be a real possibility. Warfare, the
evidence for which was once only available in military scenes on cylinder seals from the
Late Chalcolithic, now have physical archaeological evidence from the north Syrian site
of Hamoukar.53 This single hectare settlement (Ur 2002a, 2002b) reached its cultural
peak during the LC 3. At this time a large city wall that included four possible gateways
was built along with a monumental building complex of Mittelsaal–type with an adjacent
production area (Gibson et al. 2002a, 33). One of the structures also contained a large
kitchen with a series of grinding stones embedded in clay benches and a massive baking
oven. The entire complex was heavily burned and collapsed, sealing thousands of in situ
artifacts inside including carbonized grain, a bone facsimile of a dagger in a scabbard,
whole ceramic vessels, stamp seals and impressed sealings, unbaked solid clay balls and
over twelve hundred oval–shaped clay “bullets” used in hunting and combat that attest to
the violent destruction of the buildings.
Following the destruction of these buildings, a number of deep pits containing
southern Mesopotamian Late Uruk ceramic types, such as beveled–rim bowls, strap
handle cups, and four–lugged vessels, were dug into the destruction debris and along the
city wall. It is possible that an incursion by peoples using these pottery styles launched
the attack against the settlement at Hamoukar sometime at the end of the fourth
millennium BCE or, at least seemed to have benefited from the destruction of this well–
established, economically complex city.
While Hamoukar currently stands as the only evidence for actual warfare during
the late fourth millennium, the occurrence of sociopolitical strife is not an unfounded and
unimaginable possibility. Yet the real flaw in Johnson’s approach is that the major
upheavals instigated by elite factions of the population, namely the pressing of exorbitant
labor and tribute demands, are not examined in detail at the level where these economic
See appendix (Syria: Khabur) for details about the excavation history and material culture of Hamoukar.
shifts supposedly took place: the rural villages and households. Greater support for this
model could be garnered through a detailed examination of diachronic shifts in the
domestic modes of production, consumption or distribution for households within
neighboring village communities. A rapid increase in the production of specific
agricultural products like cereals or ovicaprines could support the growing requirements
to feed and supply emerging classes of specialist craftsmen or elites. Likewise a
consistent trend of economic growth or decline could signal either the prosperity or
deficiency of rural communities that could be due to any number of circumstances such
as environmental degradation, social upheaval or shifts in clan–based organization.
Understanding the complexities and organization of societies during this premier
phase of ancient Mesopotamian history has many challenges. One is the “type site” for
the fourth millennium Near East, Uruk–Warka, offers a narrow window by which to
perceive Uruk society that is limited to elite contexts like monumental buildings and
temples and further hampered by an unreliable and poorly understood ceramic sequence.
While surveys in the Uruk heartland have also underscored the possible centralization of
populations and resources around Uruk–Warka, continued surveys in the hinterland (at
Nippur–Adab in particular) have reinforced that perhaps this polity is a unique case as the
settlement pattern in the southern alluvium was not homogenous and likely ever–
The rather limited scope by which scholars have contextualized Uruk–Warka is
hampered by the limited exposures at a handful of sites in southern Mesopotamia that
have been excavated. Even these offer evidence for primarily the elite sectors of Uruk
society and not the social, economic and religious life of Uruk households. This trend
extends to sites in northern Mesopotamia at places like Nineveh and Habuba–Süd where
there is more complete evidence for ceramic sequences or domestic architecture, but no
specific information on the larger contexts from which both “local” and “Uruk” ceramics
derived (at Nineveh) or the activities of production, consumption, and distribution that
comprise a domestic economic system (at Habuba–Süd).
While these and additional sets of evidence have set the stage for the
identification of an Uruk Phenomenon, they have also altered the means by which to
understand it. Scholars have made significant advances toward uncovering the
mechanisms and motivations by which systems of interaction and exchange played out
during the fourth millennium BCE, whether through an Uruk world system, trading
diasporas, or political fallout. But these and other models have remained geared toward
single types of interaction that are elite focused and economically driven. Studies
involving the Uruk Phenomenon have not addressed the issue from multiscalar view
points that incorporate the nonelite, domestic, and multifaceted networks of relationships
that exist on the level of the individual, households, community, village, and broader
region. In the following chapters I will discuss exactly how the nonelite and domestic
contexts of Uruk society can be explored through the theoretical and methodological
frameworks of household archaeology, microdebris analysis and domestic modes of
production and consumption.
As the previous chapter has shown, the problem inherent in examinations of the
Uruk Phenomenon is the atomistic approach to economic and sociocultural networks that
develops when one does not take into account the nonelite, specifically domestic
household groups. Yet if the picture of Uruk and Late Chalcolithic society has been
formulated through the analysis of religious and centralized administrative factions, how
does one study the household? More specifically, how might the domestic modes of
production, consumption and interaction inherent within households be uncovered for the
Late Chalcolithic period? This chapter addresses these questions by providing
background on the theoretical field of household studies in general and Near Eastern
archaeology in particular. I then discuss the intimate ways in which household groups and
local economies are intertwined as manifest in a domestic mode of production and
consumption, all of which will serve as a basis for how household archaeology can be
applied specifically to assessments of the Uruk Phenomenon. I argue that by examining
the domestic economy of household groups, as a complement to traditional studies of
Uruk and local Late Chalcolithic systems of exchange that focus primarily on centralized
elites and specialist trading factions, we can arrive at a more holistic picture of the
mechanisms and nature of the Uruk Phenomenon.
Household Archaeology in Theory and Practice
Definitions and Development
Household archaeology can be defined as a subdivision of settlement pattern
archaeology specializing in the study of spatial patterning at the household level. As a
relatively recent focus of research, household archaeology can trace its foundations to the
cultural anthropological studies of family and kinship systems dominant in the early
twentieth century. However these traditional approaches to define the universality of the
family (Malinowski 1963 [1913]) or residence rules for the generation of household units
(Murdock 1949), brought researchers to the point that household forms were not the
result of variable patterns of behavior but instead simply the outcome of a system of
marriage and residence rules (Netting et al. 1984, xvi), all essentially non–material. Some
attempted to go beyond this to show that household structure was affected by many
interlocking factors. For example, Meyer Fortes’s (1949, 1958) developmental cycle for
domestic groups, defined as workshops of social reproduction, charted the evolutions in
form and function that every household group undergoes during its life cycle of internal
(e.g., marriage, inheritance, death) and external (e.g., conscription, public funerals)
systemic events. Yet how does this materialize archaeologically? Fortes and others are
quiet on this point, though indeed they are ethnographers and anthropologists, not
archaeologists. Thus this way of analyzing household structure did not prove as useful to
archaeologists who instead found ethnohistorical studies of domestic life and its material
manifestations better suited for constructing analogies between past and present
household structures.
The “real” birth of household archaeology coincided with the emergence of
processual archaeology in the 1960s and 1970s in North America, where archaeological
investigations were beginning to formulate research problems that could be tested
scientifically and where material culture was used as evidence of human behavior, rather
than an exercise of listing traits in an ethnographic format (Trigger 1989, 273). More
detailed discussions began to materialize, for example, about forms of domestic
structures and how these are determined through various internal and external systems
(Rapoport 1969, Whiting and Ayres 1968). In a foundational book, Kent Flannery
examined the origins of village life and households in Mesoamerica, including house
structure, specialized and gender–specific activity areas within households, and exchange
on village and regional levels (Flannery 1972, 1976). Early examinations of post–
depositional processes, disorganization and the decay of settlements also began to emerge
during this time such as Robert Ascher’s ethnographic work with the Seri in Baja
California (Ascher 1968).
Yet for terminology and application, the foundation of early archaeological and
anthropological household studies lay on uncertain ground. In all previously mentioned
studies, aspects of kinship and family structures still played a defining role in
investigations. This is especially true in the work of E.A. Hammel and Peter Laslett
(1974, 76) where the study of domestic groups—defined as a unit of people who share
the same physical space for eating, sleeping, leisure activities, growing up, child rearing
and procreation—can only be largely applied to historical examples where census
information is available for nuclear family units. Also the various usages of terms like
family, coresident, or domestic group was, and in many respects still is, not always
uniform across the anthropological field. Traditionally the family has been defined as a
self–identified kinship entity while households are residential units,1 though as was often
the case, the terms are used interchangeably (Bender 1967, 493). The basic assumption
was that households were made up of individuals who share the same living space and a
set of activities. These activities are traditionally labeled “domestic” and consist of food
production and consumption, housekeeping, procreation and childrearing.
This functionalist definition of the household is limited when we consider cross–
culturally that not all individuals who work together or perform domestic functions share
the same residence, nor do those who live together necessarily engage in collective
activities (Bender 1967, 494). Thus many anthropologists strived to employ alternative
designations for the groups that they were observing ethnographically. Households
became domestic groups where all members acknowledge authority in domestic matters
(Bulmer 1960) or budget units for a group of individuals who share a common fund and
exchange goods between themselves (Seddon 1976). Donald Bender (1967, 495)
substituted coresidential group for household in order to draw a clear distinction between
these groups and any functions they may perform. In this way Bender, like other
anthropologists, began drawing the line between kinship and propinquity as the essential
features that define membership in each of these respective groups in an attempt to avoid
a functionalist definition of the family. However Bender's definition of household as
consisting of coresidential groups and domestic functions is equally as obtuse. Domestic
activities, or in Bender's words, “the day–to–day necessities of living” (1967, 499) seem
to be purposefully vague and, as pointed out by Sylvia Yanagisako (1979, 196), not
This is not my definition of household as used in this dissertation. See subsection “What is a House?” in
this chapter.
cross–culturally valid. Likewise the definition of the nuclear family is not universal nor
can it be assumed as the ideal family type for every society.
It is from this anthropological foundation, imbued with terminological debate, that
the subfield of household archaeology emerged. The term “household archaeology” was
first used by Richard Wilk and William Rathje in their 1982 article in American
Behavioral Scientist, “Archaeology of the Household: Building a Prehistory of Domestic
Life.” They believed it was possible that a “theory of change in household organization
can bridge the existing mid–level theory gap" (Wilk and Rathje 1982, 617), that separates
grand theories of culture change and the pot sherds and stone tools of the archaeological
record. Wilk and Rathje characterized the household in explicit terms as being composed
of three elements: social, material, and behavioral. Social is the demographic unit that
includes the number and relationships of the members; material are the physical
dwellings, activity areas, and objects therein; and behavioral are the activities that the
household performs. This generally functionalist view sought to define the household as
an economically cooperative unit, distinct from a dwelling unit that is explicitly
coresidential. This builds on the work of Donald Bender (1967) and Jack Goody (1972)
who had previously acknowledged that groups living under a single roof can actually
constitute separate households since there is no economic cooperation. Overall Wilk and
Rathje were not concerned with the morphology of households per se—since this type of
investigation lead back to issues of kinship systems and family composition, all of which
are rarely recoverable or identifiable from the prehistoric archaeological record—but
more on what households do and how they function in their individual sociocultural
environments.2 They determined four primary functions of the household that are
applicable cross–culturally and which will serve as a baseline for investigations of
households in this dissertation: 1) production, 2) distribution, 3) transmission, and 4)
Production is human activity that procures resources or increases their value
(Wilk and Rathje 1982, 622). This can encompasses a number of activities like
agriculture, food processing, craft specialization and manufacture of tools, ceramics,
jewelry, and cloth. The level at which production activities take place within a single
household can vary considerably and is very often linked with the way that labor is
organized. For example, the scheduling of linear versus simultaneous tasks will
determine the number of household workers needed, time allowed and cost incurred to
complete a single task. Linear tasks require only a single individual to complete a
sequence of operations,3 whereas simultaneous tasks require many persons performing
the same operations at the same time or performing different operations (specialization)
in order to complete a specific, single product.
Distribution involves the moving of resources from producers to consumers
within the household unit (pooling) or between households or corporate units (exchange).
Often small households will find no advantage in pooling resources when production
within society is generally uniform or there is a large diversity in production between
individuals. In this case, producing individuals would have little incentive to pool with
those who did not produce (due to lack of jobs or skills) because there would be no
reciprocity in the action. Conversely large households can increase access to a broader
See also Ashmore and Wilk 1988; Wilk and Netting 1984.
Wilk and Rathje give the example of lithic reduction (1982, 622).
variety of goods while decreasing the variability of supply by pooling when overall
production is highly diversified, making the quantity of goods produced variable over
time. Thus in band and urban, state–level societies there is an overall emphasis on the use
of exchange between small household groups while agricultural societies and those with
mixed economies pool within larger, extended household groups.
Transmission concerns property, specifically the transferring between generations
of rights, roles, and land (Wilk and Rathje 1982, 627). Transmission is a specialized and
specific form of household distribution of assets that is determined by the accessibility of
property and goods. When resources are abundant, routes of transmission follow group
affiliation lines, such as residence or descent group membership. When resources are
scarce, the party that controls the resources defines more narrowly the rules of
transmission, specifically to households or individuals. Here we see the development of
partible and impartible inheritance depending on whether there are enough resources to
be split evenly between familiar heirs. It is within this context, especially with impartible
succession, that marriage becomes a strategy for the transmission of property or wealth.
Also household members who do no inherit become a landless class, a ready pool from
which craft specialists and military establishments can draw.
Reproduction is the rearing and socializing of children within the household.
Pooling of labor is often the way in which this time and labor intensive activity is
accomplished. This is especially true when women’s labor is most needed in an
agricultural subsistence economy. Allowing childcare to be handled by a select pool of
households frees female labor for production, assuming that women are the sole childcare
providers in that society. This situation is different for state–level societies where the
government, schools and social welfare programs take partial responsibility for the
childrearing from normally nuclear–sized family units. Reproduction can also apply to
the reproduction and transmission of cultural knowledge.
A fifth category that I would include is consumption. For households, this means
the actual use of the products of production through the eating of food or using of craft
goods for example. These products may have derived directly from internal household
production or by the process of distribution through a local or extramural network.
Overall consumption patterns offer the most information about individual domestic
economies and their local spheres of interaction since consumption is the outcome of all
productive activities (Hastorf and D’Altroy 2001, 8). Of these primary traits of
households, one must look not for a single functionality, but spheres of household
function that will vary between societies and levels on the developmental cycle (Wilk and
Rathje 1982). Variability will also be found between households as every household unit
is the product of a mix of strategies. This discussion serves as a theoretical base for the
examination of household groups, but how is it applicable archaeologically?
What is a House?
Before continuing my discussion of how households can be studied
archaeologically it is necessary to discuss several of the terms used in this dissertation to
outline for the reader my own definitions and with them, the associated possibilities and
limitations. The task of constructing precise and reduced definitions for terms like house,
household, and family is challenging since these terms ultimately represent inherently
complex, multifunctional institutions instilled with a diverse array of cultural principles
and meanings (Yanagisako 1979, 200). Perhaps for many, the easiest and most
recognizable is the house itself, what I define as the physical structure that serves a
myriad of functions: shelter from the elements, location of daily socioeconomic activities,
boundary between the public and private spheres of society, and a focal point for family
life including rituals, childrearing, education and enculturation. Just as the function of
houses varies cross–culturally, so too do the forms as determined by physical and cultural
forces (Rapaport 1969, 1986). Physically this includes environment, climate, location,
and available building materials—one cannot build an igloo in the desert, for example.
Yet the most defining factor is often culturally based and includes social organization,
economics, rituals, traditions and taboos. A third factor which may also be included here
is agency, both by individuals and household groups acting over generations.4
The house is not a static entity. Archaeological ethnography has demonstrated the
changing form and function of both houses and their internal spaces (Kramer 1982;
Watson 1979). The rate at which these changes take place varies from annually (re–
plastering mud brick walls) to daily (a living room becomes a sleeping room at night) to
hourly (flint knapping switches to weaving activities in the same courtyard). The house
also expands and contracts with shifts in social organization, so that the transition of
rooms from public to private use, addition of spaces and demolitions give each house a
life cycle mirrored by the development cycle of the domestic group that uses it (Bailey
1990; Fortes 1958). As human groups shape and are shaped by their physical
environments, cultural regularities will be imbued within the architecture of the house
As defined by Pyburn (1998) and Netting (1993). Accessing the individual in the past through the
archaeological record has been a topic of continuous debate in which some contend that uncovering the
ancient individual is unnecessary, if not impossible, since patterns of practices and behavior eventually
transcend single organisms (Dobres and Robb 2000; Gardner 2004; Morris 2004).
itself, an identifiable code that is able to be “read” in order to uncover the sociocultural
meanings behind these regularities (Bourdieu 1977; Hillier and Hanson 1984; Kent
1990). As mentioned previously, cultural factors do have a role in determining house
form and function; however we must remember that the house is a socially constructed
entity and yields a multitude of meanings for those who live, work, eat, and sleep within
its walls.5
Traditionally the real difficulty is in distinguishing houses from non–houses
archaeologically. If the built environment has ever changing form and function, how then
does one determine a building is a house and not a temple, store room, or stable? In Near
Eastern archaeology, location, size, and architectural style often separate the house from
other constructions. Though not always, houses are frequently smaller, both in square
footage and wall thickness, and exhibit “mundane” architectural styles free of
decorational details or embellishments such as niches, molded brick, mosaic, or paint.
They are located on the fringes of settlement outside the central areas or “high places.”
Often the repetition of domestic architectural styles distinguishes the house from
buildings that were created for a special function, and thus required a unique architectural
floor plan.6 The cultural assemblage within the house largely comprises domestic
activities materialized as spindle whorls, loom weights, and needles (cloth/clothing
production), cooking pots, storage jars and grinders (food production), clay sickles, flint
and obsidian blades (agricultural tools), and anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines
(household religion or childrearing). Many non–portable features such as ovens, hearths,
Not to mention those who build, abandon, reuse, and eventually study the house (Bailey 1990, 24).
Though many examples show that temple architecture likely developed from the basic house form (e.g.,
Eridu, Gawra). The repetition of temple forms is also visible in vernacular architecture (Habuba Kabira–
Süd; see Kohlmeyer 1996).
small storage bins, and sleeping benches are also often considered staples of a typical
house. Finally, the amount and grouping of these domestic objects are reflective of
house– or industrial–levels of production. For example, a high concentration of obsidian
debitage found in the corner of a courtyard could indicate small–scale lithic production
(or at least lithic disposal patterns), but high concentrations of debitage found throughout
the courtyard, along with all stages of production (e.g., raw materials, tools, finished
products) could signal a workshop.
Defining households is a difficult task specifically because archaeologists do not
excavate households. As discussed previously, households can have a fluid composition
that is affected by the organization of production, economic structures, or resource
availability. Households are systems (Wilk 1989, 31) determined by the activities and
relationships of their members and thus cannot be defined as bounded units.7 For this
dissertation, I define households as activity groups that engage in multiple spheres of
activity (Wilk and Netting 1984, 5), many of which overlap in space and time.8
Households are not necessarily kin–based or coresidential due to the fact that, especially
in preliterate societies, it is difficult if not impossible to determine these aspects based on
the available archaeological materials. For my investigation, households must be limited
to the primary locus of activities: the house and its immediate surroundings, collectively
Because of this fluid, boundless nature of the household, some scholars feel the term itself is not useful
(Wilk and Netting 1984) or that households are not a productive unit of analysis (Wong 1984). Others take
households out of the realm of noun or something to be defined, and make them actively engaging as
“householding” (Polanyi 1944) and “shareholding” (Netting 1993: 100).
A similar idea is proposed by Hirth (1993) where the primary unit of study is not households, but instead
household series, acknowledging the successive household groups that develop and change over the course
of several generations. This is an extension of Fortes’s (1958) developmental cycle and is further mirrored
in Tringham’s (1995) treatment of the “use lives” of houses.
identified as house lots.9 However I acknowledge household groups can and often do
conduct activities outside of this principal area, for example when performing agriculture
or trade. The activities in which households engage are diverse and as described
previously, include aspects of production, consumption, distribution, and socialization.
Three of these could be characterized as economically based, thus making household
activities the foundation for what we may consider a domestic economic system. This
internal system governed by the actions of individuals is not only self–referential, but
interacts with external economic and social networks of the larger community and even
region (see below).
Finally the term family is one that will be sparingly used, if at all, in this
dissertation due in part to its immaterial nature. I define family as a self–identified, kin–
based unit characterized by propinquity but not economics. The family is not necessarily
an economic unit, though a family can make individual and group decisions about
courses to take where economics are concerned, for example the selling of surplus
agricultural lands, diversifying consumable food products, or pooling of resources
between families. The problem with families is their identification in prehistoric contexts
where specific textual documentation about kin dynamics is lacking.10 Even protohistoric
texts of the Uruk IVa and III periods at Uruk–Warka are only valuable in an extramural
way since their subject matter is confined to lexical lists, economic transactions, and
basic accounting (Nissen 1986, Nissen et al. 1993).
The term house lots is primarily used in New World archaeology, specifically in reference to
Mesoamerican residence units within settlements. A house lot is generally a large, often bounded, area
comprised of a primary dwelling unit (the house), adjacent uncovered patio or open area, and garden zone
(Alexander 1999; Deal 1985; Hayden and Cannon 1983; Manzanilla and Barba 1990).
Veenhof (1996, v) suggests that households, defined as a basic socioeconomic unit, can only be
adequately studied on the basis of both archaeological and textual sources. This essentially discounts any
use of the term household for studying preliterate societies. It is clear, based on my rendering of the term
household and its anthropological implications, that I disagree with Veenhof in this respect.
Household Anthropology in Action
The study of houses and household groups by archaeologists has been undertaken
using several methodological means that, over the years, have become increasingly
minute and contextually focused. This development for the application of household
archaeology began with the study of activity areas or “loci at which particular human
events occurred” (Kent 1984, 1) in houses to draw from the archaeological record traces
of economic household production, distribution, and spatial usage. Susan Kent was
especially pioneering in this effort, drawing heavily on another subfield,
ethnoarchaeology, that was coalescing during the 1980s (see below). In her initial
assessment, Kent (1984) tested three archaeological assumptions: 1) that activity areas
could be identified through the patterning of artifacts11, 2) that most activity areas are
gender–specific, and 3) that most activity areas are monofunctional.12 Through her
ethnographic work in Navajo, Euroamerican and Spanish American families, and the
subsequent application of these data to archaeological case studies, Kent effectively
demonstrated that several factors play a role in artifact assemblage composition. These
include types and materials of objects used—her example is durable, mass–produced
objects such as found on historic sites—and animal disturbances such as dogs dragging
away bones. These factors, along with climate, season, house type and size, influence the
primary location of activity areas, but not the way they are used, which to Kent, can be
recognized through predictable patterning. Activity areas are, furthermore, neither sex
specific nor monofunctional when viewed cross–culturally (Kent 1984, 224–225).
A supplement to this is the assumption that artifacts are abandoned at their place of use (described as
primary refuse by Schiffer 1972, 161).
See “Analyzing Household Activities” chapter section in Flannery 1976, 34–47.
That certain activities or behaviors performed by humans in the past leave
material traces in the archaeological record was a key element in the development of
activity area research, along with the study of human residue behavior (Gould 1980, 42)
and the use of modern ethnographic analogy for examining uses of household space.13
The earliest and still most widely cited ethnographic works by Near Eastern
archaeologists are those of Patty Jo Watson (1979) and Carol Kramer (1982) where both
discussed every aspect of modern rural village life in western Iran, from population
density to housing construction and waste disposal.14 This type of archaeological
ethnography primarily served to aid in the identification of archaeological materials and
has not been applied without criticism. Many scholars caution against one–to–one
comparisons between past and present traditional societies since this assumes normalized
patterns of domestic behavior that transcend temporal, cultural and spatial circumstances.
They also construct a static past of human behaviors (Allison 1999, 2). Thus
ethnographic data should be used as a tool, not an explanation, for archaeological
inquiries much in the way that true ethnoarchaeology formulates and tests
archaeologically oriented methods, models or hypotheses with ethnographic data (Hodder
1983; Kent 1987; Yellen 1977). Kent (1990, 127) attempts this by answering the
question: why are some houses more segmented or partitioned than others? Her study,
which uses the sociopolitical data drawn from the HRAF (Human Relations Area Files)
of seventy–three different societies, is nestled within a broader look at the relationship
A short history of the development of ethnoarchaeology can be found in van der Kooij 2002.
Hans Nissen (1968) and Frank Hole (1978) engaged in similar ethnographic work focusing on the
relationship between sedentary communities and pastoral nomads. See more recent work by Kathryn Kamp
(2000), Lee Horne (1994) and Jak Yakar (2000). There are also general ethnographies (such as Sweet
1960) that deal with rural communities in the Middle East, though these are not specifically for application
to archaeological data.
between domestic architecture and the organization of space. Her direct correlation
between increased segmentation in architecture and increased social complexity,
however, draws on basic assumptions about the archaeological record; specifically that
material culture is a direct reflection and passive byproduct of human actions in the past.
This view differs from the more recent post–processual or interpretative approach
in archaeology, which interprets material culture as active and meaningful elements of
society. This view of an active material record is one that has further affected the
development of household archaeology beginning in the 1990s. Many of these later
developments were influenced by the bodily connection between house and individuals,
which actually had its theoretical beginning in the 1960s and 1970s. The most influential
work is that of Pierre Bourdieu who postulated that, especially in preliterate societies,
inhabited space and specifically the house is “the principle locus for the objectification of
generative schemes” (Bourdieu 1977, 89). Likened to a book, as individuals habitually
move through, inhabit and relate with the physical space of the house, their bodies “read”
the coded cultural messages embedded within the structure and the household social
system, thus making them embodied spaces. The hierarchies, marked relationships
between individuals, and internal physical/psychological divisions based on gender, age,
and status found within the house reinforce the taxonomic principles underlying the
greater society in which the household is situated. Phrased differently, the domestic space
is the physical embodiment of the cultural order (Hanks 1990, 314). For Bourdieu (1977,
79; 1990) these encoded messages are the habitus, generally conceived of as
universalizing rules in any society of how individuals should live, act, or behave. These
conceptions are so unconscious and deeply embedded within the fabric of culture, it
makes an individual’s practices seem sensible or reasonable (i.e., the “right” way). It is
through these embedded rules, ideas, and values that individuals give meaning to their
social environment.
The idea of embodied space was influential for later household archaeological
studies (Hodder and Cessford 2004; Kuijt 2000; Tringham 1995). In particular, a critique
of Claude Lévi–Strauss's influential “house societies”15 by Janet Carsten and Stephen
Hugh–Jones (1995, 39) expands on the dynamic nature of the house and that houses, like
people, have life cycles of birth, aging, and dying that can and should be observed.
Following Bourdieu’s notion of the habitus, houses are an extension of people and as an
institution, serve as the primary socializing agents. Other scholars examining the work of
Lévi–Strauss highlight the importance of continuity in built space and that landscapes,
dwellings, and even heirlooms are material embodiments of the continuity of the house
(Joyce 2000; Tringham 2000). Yet continuity does not equate houses with static entities.
Margaret Rodman (1992, 640) highlights the multilocality and multivocality of the
ancient past to reinforce the idea of “place” as a politicized and cultural construct and not
just a locale. Even landscapes can be imbued with mythical knowledge or history (Basso
1996) and house spaces have multiple meanings that are constructed spatially and
Most recently the incorporation of gender studies into examinations of past
domestic behaviors and constructions have been influential for several household
scholars including Rosemary Joyce, Ruth Tringham, Christine Hastorf , and Elizabeth
Brumfiel (1991). Work by Henrietta Moore (1988) can be seen as one of the early
Inspired by the organization of noble houses during medieval period Europe, “house societies” are a
specific social order that serves as a transition between kin–based and class–based groupings. See Lévi–
Strauss 1979.
movements toward a more gendered look at the past. She highlights the tendency to lump
“women's work” into that of general domestic labor has added to the invisibility of
women and their important contribution to the household both economically and socially
in the past.16 Penelope Allison (1999) and Julia Hendon (1996) have also been critical to
the study of households by confronting the need for a more social approach to
investigations of household production, especially approaches that are embodied, agent–
centered, and concerned with understanding social identity. In their view, houses are not
just neutral locations for activities, but a space where social relationships and identities
are defined, created and emphasized through meaningful action (Hendon 2004, 274).
As this section has shown, there are several methodologies by which households
can be studied including ethnoarchaeology, activity area research, behavioral
archaeology, and gendered studies. In chapter 3 I will add to this list more specific and
minute methods. Yet a lingering question undoubtedly remains: why should one study
households? What do they have to offer archaeologists? While the importance of
household studies to examinations of the Uruk Phenomenon in particular is discussed
below, I will only reinforce here the remarks made previously, that houses and
households are embodied spaces that both exhibit and reinforce cultural rules, practices
and beliefs. In short, they are a microcosm of the larger social group and their inclusion
in any truly holistic investigations of social, cultural, political or economic developments
within or between sociocultural groups is imperative.
Carol Meyers (2002, 2003) has similarly emphasized the undervaluing of women’s work by scholars
investigating households in ancient Israel.
Household Archaeology in the Near East
It is important at this point to discuss the ways in which household archaeology as
a theoretical and methodological tool has been applied to archaeological contexts in the
ancient Near East to serve as a backdrop for its use in studying the Uruk Phenomenon.
The application of household archaeological investigations in Near Eastern contexts has
lingered somewhat behind that of Mesoamerican and other American studies, with more
theoretical emphasis being placed on large–scale economic and social systems, elite or
royal participants in these systems, and general political history. That is not to say that
early archaeological investigations in the eastern Mediterranean did not discuss aspects of
private life, city planning, and domestic architecture (Contenau 1954; Frankfort 1950;
Lampl 1968; Oppenheim 1977; Saggs 1965). In fact William Foxwell Albright was one
of the earliest scholars to discuss the domestic structure of the ancient Israelite household
and aspects of daily life throughout the Levant (Albright 1949) in a tradition that
continues up to the present (King and Stager 2001; Schloen 2001).
However a supreme focus on simply identifying cultural and ethnic groupings
based on their domestic artifactual assemblages and categorizing house forms (e.g.,
“four–room house” or “courtyard house”) has generally directed the course of household
studies in Near Eastern archaeology up until the beginning of the 1980s when researchers
began to investigate what activities were happening inside those four walls. Still, as the
examples listed below will show, there remains a general lack (with notable exceptions)
in multiscalar approaches to household studies that bring to bear notions of depositional
histories and how these affect activity areas, house lives of individual structures,
microanalysis of assemblages, and most importantly, how human actors can be associated
and integrated into the study of households.
The most prolific application of household archaeology in the ancient Near East is
reserved for prehistoric periods. In particular the Neolithic period (10,000–7,000 BCE)
has garnered the greatest concentration by scholars who are interested in the adoption of
sedentary agricultural practices, how this affected cultural systems and worldviews and in
turn, how this is manifest in the architectural remains. For example, Ian Kuijt has
highlighted the relationship between social crowding17 and the construction of physical
boundaries in Pre–Pottery Neolithic Jordan and Israel. These boundaries, such as
enclosed domestic structures, were used to impede movement, restrict or control access
and develop social barriers in interpersonal interaction (Kuijt 2000, 79). Likewise Trevor
Watkins (1990) has argued that architectural changes reflect social changes at Qermez
Dere, Iraq during a time of new subsistence strategies and sedentary lifestyles in the Epi–
Paleolithic and the Neolithic periods (8500–7900 BCE). This transition manifested itself
archaeologically through the exclusion of food processing activities within the dwelling,
performance of labor–intensive cleaning, and the addition of symbolic fittings to
buildings as paralleled at Çatalhöyük, Basta, ‘Ain Ghazal, and Çayönü. But there are also
psychological shifts that accompanied the physical. Watkins argued the house was no
longer viewed as simply shelter or the center of activities, but instead as the focus of
family life and the generator of symbolic values—a home (Watkins 1990, 337). While
these two studies are important for analyzing social change reflected in domestic
architecture, they unfortunately do not explore the impact that post–depositional
Defined as tensions that occur when hunter–gatherers, horticulturalist, or agriculturalists remain in large
aggregates for a long time (Cohen 1985, as cited in Kuijt 2000, 78). Social crowding can be seen as a result
of population growth or density.
processes have on domestic artifact assemblages, variation between households, and the
dynamic nature of house spaces when viewed diachronically.
However at Pre–Pottery Neolithic 'Ain Ghazal excellent preservation and
meticulous limestone plastering of interior floors have allowed the excavators to examine
and trace renovation histories of individual houses (Banning 2003; Banning and Byrd
1981). By adopting Fortes’s (1958) developmental cycle of domestic groups, E.B.
Banning and Brian Byrd suggested the reasons for variations in floor plans over the life
span of the structures are due to remodeling of houses over the course of the
developmental cycle of the household. These remodelings are the manifestation of
responses to changes in the coresidential group brought about by multiple factors like
changes in room function, subdivision of private property through inheritance,
ideological purposes, or physical deterioration of the structure. While this example takes
a diachronic view of Neolithic houses highlighting their impermanent layouts and uses, it
only skims the surface of analyzing how household groups used the space on a day–to–
day basis and the reciprocal relationship between these groups and their physical, spatial
constraints. Changes in the social order affected the architecture, but how did the
architecture affect the social order?
A more holistic household investigation is that of the Burnt Village at Tell Sabi
Abyad, Syria (Level 6, 6000 BCE) by Marc Verhoeven who examined spatial distribution
of objects, depositional processes, and the function of spatial units. In this case,
architecture was viewed not simply as physical constructions, but as social spaces in the
Bourdieuian sense, built as culturally meaningful places by human agents in the past. By
making this connection, Verhoeven is trying to bring us, “from excavated space to
prehistoric place” (1999, 13) to better understand how the various building types at the
Burnt Village were created and used. His conclusions are that the circular tholoi were
used for permanent residence and the adjacent rectangular structures served as storage
facilities for permanent and nomadic groups. Echoing Kent (1990), Verhoeven believes
extreme internal segmentation of rooms within the rectangular buildings signified use by
multiple families or social groups. Furthermore the idea that these buildings were also
used by nomadic populations are evident by the use of sealings (in a local distributional
system), faunal remains that attest to seasonal pastoral movements, and that these large–
scale communal storage units exceed household requirements.
Finally an exceptional case of early household studies in the Near East is that by
Michael Roaf at the Late ‘Ubaid site of Tell Madhhur, Iraq excavated as part of the
Hamrin Dam Salvage Project (Roaf 1984, 1989). At the center of the site was a large
house that had succumbed to a conflagration and subsequent deliberate infilling by the
ancient inhabitants. These actions allowed for extraordinary preservation of the structure,
where the walls were still standing 2 meters high with windows at the time of excavation.
Roaf was able to not only record the complete plan of the house—characterized by a
central rectangular room flanked by rows of smaller rooms—but also chart the various
modifications that were made to the structure over the use–life of the building. By
analyzing flow patterns, room sizes, and the spatial distribution of artifacts throughout the
building, Roaf also discerned specific activity areas and room functions, such as cooking
and eating sectors and storage and living rooms. Much of what Roaf found in the
Madhhur house were items of “everyday domestic life” including unbaked clay vessels,
spindle whorls, clay nail mullers, counters, bone tools, mace heads, grindstones, palettes,
pestles and chipped stone. Drawing from ethnographic parallels, Roaf was able to
hypothesize on the social activities and social structures that could be accommodated by
this new type of early architecture (the tripartite house) with implications for the
structuring of family household life for millennia to come.
While the depositional history of the Madhhur house may seem clear—a single,
catastrophic destruction episode—Roaf’s own ethnographic observations highlight the
problematic aspects of even pristine contexts. In particular, he witnessed the destruction
by fire of a room in his own dig house whereby the walls were purposefully pushed down
to help smother the flames and the heavy wooden roof beams were removed, lest they
should fuel the fire (Roaf 1989, 101). The following day valuable and undamaged objects
were collected from amongst the ashes. These types of activities, needless to say, would
disrupt the artifact assemblage and spatial patterning of any archaeological context, as
was noted by Roaf for Madhhur. Yet oddly this acknowledged contextual mixing of
artifacts did not stop him from charting the distribution of ceramic types and small find
categories to discern room function (Roaf 1989, 121).
Household–based approaches are not restricted to the earliest periods of sedentary
life in the Near East. Going beyond the traditional static architectural descriptions of
“four–room house”–types in Iron Age Israel, James Hardin investigated the organization
of daily life and activities from domestic contexts at the site of Tel Halif (Hardin 2001,
2004). Focusing exclusively on a single destroyed house, Hardin studied de facto refuse
(Schiffer 1972) of macroartifacts and pattern densities of microartifacts (Rosen 1993 and
below) to chart activity areas and reflect upon the economic and productive organization
of both men and women within this particular household. His study is one of the few to
look specifically at archaeological, as opposed to purely textual (i.e., biblical), evidence
for daily life in ancient Israel by examining household–level data.
Another example is Elizabeth Stone who re–examined data from the site of
Nippur (McCown and Haines 1967) to launch a deeper investigation into houses and
households at the early second millennium BCE city (Stone 1981, 1987). Her analysis of
architecture, artifact assemblages and textual sources in Areas TA and TB helped to
establish the existence of neighborhoods within the city whose household structuring and
life histories determined the long range social development of particular individual
neighborhoods or quarters on a local scale and the city as a whole. In this case, analogy
was utilized to link this ancient example with patterns of urban residence in Islamic cities
of the modern Middle East such as Cairo, Damascus, Aleppo and Baghdad. This example
of the fusion of textual sources and archaeology is important in that it shows the ability to
reach the household and even individual (in this case, family) level in Mesopotamian
cities and examine how the life histories of these families and households can affect local
developmental patterns.18
As mentioned previously, there are exceptional examples of household
archaeology being practiced in the Near East that incorporate multiscalar approaches,
account for depositional histories, and attempt to include human agency interacting with
the domestic environment. A primary example is Ian Hodder (1990, 1992, 1998) whose
extensive work at the seventh to sixth millennia BCE site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey
focuses on the relationship of humans to their natural (agrios) and built (domus)
One shortcoming of this study is that households and neighborhoods were examined with little regard to
their place within the wider sociocultural context at Nippur (see Yoffee 1989). Stone has more recently
explored broader issues of ancient urban planning through intensive survey and limited excavations at the
southern Mesopotamian site of Mashkan–shapir, located thirty kilometers north of Nippur (Stone and
Zimansky 2004).
environments. In short, houses become the vehicle by which wild animals and humans
are domesticated. This is reflected at Çatalhöyük by the incorporation of symbols of
danger—bones of vultures, foxes, and boars—into the permanent features and
decorations within houses. According to Hodder (1992, 246), the bringing of wild
elements into the realm of the house and including them as part of the overall domestic
symbolism, provides reassurance of the human potential to control and tame nature. This
is crucial as the village depends on the successful domestication of plants and animals in
order to survive. The domestication of people derives in part from the burying of
individuals below the house floors at Çatalhöyük. This practice emphasizes continuity
across generations that simultaneously link people to the living family unit, the deceased,
and the physical structure in which they all reside; a powerful relationship that creates a
sense of “home.” Thus Neolithic peoples accepted the constraints of sedentary lifestyles
and agricultural production because the institutions of house and home were believed to
ensure continuity as well as protection against the various perceived dangers of the
outside natural world (Hodder 1992, 250).
On a more concrete level, work by Ruth Tringham and Mirjana Stevanovic, as
part of the Berkeley Archaeologists at Çatalhöyük (BACH) team, seeks to understand not
just the architectural features of houses or the spheres of activities undertaken by those
who inhabited them, but to uncover the entire use–lives of these structures from
construction and habitation to destruction and abandonment. Building off their highly
meticulous excavation methods developed during previous work in the former
Yugoslavia (Tringham et al. 1985, 1992), Tringham and Stevanovic carried out a focused
investigation of a single 37 square meter house (CH Building 3) and surrounding
buildings at Çatalhöyük. Over seven years of painstaking work revealed every life stage
of this particular house including five major phases, each with multiple subphases, which
introduced change in the spatial configuration (Tringham 1997; Stevanovic 1997;
Stevanovic and Tringham 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003). Throughout these phases
they uncovered a range of floors, fire installations, platforms, post retrieval pits, bins and
niches. The interior of the walls were painted and burials of children and adults were
located beneath the floors. Residue of woven baskets, a domed clay oven and even the
entire collapsed roof were excavated. Based on their findings from Building 3, the BACH
team even constructed a replica Neolithic house as a form of experimental archaeology to
arrive at a full experience of living in these types of dwellings.
Directly relevance to the subject of Uruk Phenomenon discussed in this
dissertation, Susan Pollock and her collaborators have examined economic systems at the
10 hectare Uruk mound of Abu Salabikh in the Nippur hinterland to challenge the belief
that emerging state–level institutions in southern Mesopotamia had direct control over the
production of staple goods at the beginning of the third millennium BCE.19 Using a
combination of surface survey, surface scrape, and detailed excavation, Pollock was able
to illustrate a pattern of widespread household production of ceramics and the
manufacture and use of chipped stone tools across the entire community and not limited
to specialist quarters or centrally administered facilities (Pollock 1987, 1990a, 2001;
Pollock et al. 1991, 1996; Pope 1994). Apart from this multiscalar approach, a
revolutionary application of micromorphology at Abu Salabikh, conducted by Wendy
Matthews (1995a and chapter 3), allowed further interpretations regarding the preparation
and laying of plaster floors, the origins and use of construction materials, the use of rugs
Johnson 1973, 1975, 1987; Nissen 1988; Wright and Johnson 1975.
and mats, and the variations in type and depth of floor occupational deposits. All these
data combine to give a more detailed picture of domestic life during the late fourth
millennium and how it fits into the broader scope of social and cultural changes that were
occurring at this time.
In general, investigations of households in the eastern Mediterranean and Near
East have become more of a focus in the last twenty–five years as the importance of
household–level economic and social systems are more widely seen as crucial factors in
the overall development of complex political and economic systems. Yet the focus on
primarily architectural elements associated with households remains in the scholarship.
For example, Kay Kohlmeyer’s (1996) examination of houses at Habuba Kabira–Süd
provides details about city planning and common house types at the site, but makes no
mention of the artifacts found within the houses and how they reflect the usage of spaces
within and between them. This information would have been not only enlightening but
vital for this dissertation and any others wishing to uncover domestic lifeways during the
Late Chalcolithic in greater Mesopotamia.
Peter Pfälzner goes further by recovering activity areas and social organization
through the study of artifact patterning in third millennium BCE households at Tall Bdēri
(Pfälzner 1996). Though he makes a concerted effort to elucidate social structures on the
household level, this is based on large assumptions, namely that such changes in building
layout over successive phases are motivated primarily by shifts in function. He also
postulates that extended family households can be detected simply by the presence of
more that one hearth or grinding room within a domestic complex. Pfälzner does not take
into account sociocultural factors that might influence the changing floor plans of a single
house, such as fluctuations in family structure, shifts in religious ideology, or changes in
economic needs. As much as we would like to accurately calculate the population within
any one household as Pfälzner does, this is simply not possible with square footage
estimates from ethnographic data or, in the case of Bdēri, the number of permanent
features associated with a domestic dwelling since these data are not cross–culturally
Other architectural reports by Frank Braemer (1982) and Olivier Aurenche (1981)
have already been critiqued by P.M. Michèle Daviau (1993, 20–22) for their lack of
discussion on associated artifact assemblages within domestic structures. However, I
contend that even Daviau has not gone far enough in her own investigations of domestic
structures in the southern Levant by not taking into account depositional processes and
how these can affect activity areas within houses (Hardin 2001; Schiffer 1987). In fact,
many of the ancient Near Eastern household studies discussed above do not account for
various natural and cultural elements that affect the deposition of artifacts and thus the
composition of the archaeological record. These include, but are not limited to, processes
associated with destruction and/or abandonment, scavenging and squatter populations,
erosion, and modern agricultural and construction activities (see chapter 3).
As the examples I have presented above show, household archaeological studies
are beginning to increase in number in Near Eastern archaeology although several
fundamental issues remain, the most important of which involves scale. While I
acknowledge that preservation and small sample size are limitations for Neolithic and
‘Ubaid period research, the investigations of these house and household examples remain
too narrow. A strict focus on a particular house or household group at a site, while
informative is often not placed within the larger picture of socioeconomic trends that
these domestic remains can reflect. Oftentimes household examinations also do not
account for internal fluctuations or variation between household groups over time.
Diachronic investigations are essential for gaining the entire picture of domestic life and
Most uses of household archaeological theory and methodology in the Near East
are also heavily weighted toward prehistoric contexts where textual documentation is not
available. Despite the claims of some that true household studies cannot be accomplished
without textual sources (Veenhof 1996, v), I applaud the work of prehistorians to draw
out the subtle nuances of ancient human behaviors, social structures, and cultural
underpinnings based solely on archaeological materials. Yet as Stone, Hardin and others
have shown, texts and household archaeological material can make a happy and
insightful marriage. The use of household–based approaches for protohistoric and historic
periods is greatly needed and can only improve our understanding of societies, like the
Neo–Assyrian Empire for example, which have traditionally been analyzed through elite
A final critique and the most important issue I see confronting those wishing to do
household archaeology in the Near East is the route by which the archaeological record in
houses was created and determined by natural and cultural processes. With some
exceptions (Hardin 2001, 2004; Matthews 1995a), post–depositional processes are often
overlooked in household investigations where there is an assumption that objects are
excavated in their place of use. While this particular subject will be discussed in detail in
However, as a cautionary note, the overuse of texts in the study of households is possible especially when
the archaeological record is made to “fit” the textual sources.
chapter 3, suffice to say this is a major issue when one attempts to locate the centers and
types of activities in which households engaged derived from primary use contexts.
The Domestic Mode of Production and Consumption
Definitions and Uses
Thus far I have outlined the basic theoretical underpinnings for household
archaeology as a subdiscipline, tracing its intellectual and practical development and uses
based on specific Near Eastern examples to answer the question of how one can study the
household. While methodological issues are prevalent, forcing scholars to adjust their
research strategies (see chapter 3), I contend the household remains a valid level of study
based on the activities in which it engages, the most prominent for this discussion being
production and consumption. Understanding the ways households produce, exchange and
consume as part of a domestic economy is vital not only for distinguishing the basic
structure of household groups, but also using this domestic mode of production and
consumption (hereafter “DMPC”) as a diachronic window into larger sociocultural
The seminal study on domestic modes of production is that of Sahlins (1972) who
examined anthropological economic systems of hunter–gatherers and other “primitive
societies.” He outlined the DMPC for family/kin–based units characterized by three
primary and interconnected traits: 1) the sexual division of labor as the dominant form of
economic specialization, 2) the use of elementary technology and “simple” tools on the
household level and 3) the level of household production. According to Sahlins,
households are not usually self–sufficient because they are naturally underproductive.21
Thus the household system is not designed for surplus production or profits, but instead
geared toward general livelihood. Because these three traits are systematically related and
one cannot develop without the others, the households of archaic societies achieve a level
of stasis that can only be overcome by external contradictions, specifically by the
application of sociopolitical pressure (Sahlins 1972, 82).
This summation of archaic level households considers them as a whole, a “black
box” that disregards the actions and behaviors of individuals and groupings inside of it
(Wilk 1989). This is echoed in the basic assumption by Sahlins (1972, 185–276) that
members of a household act altruistically, their domestic behaviors governed by
reciprocity and unselfish pooling of resources. Yet motivations are not always so benign
or focused on the general positive gain of the household group. Aspects of social status,
position on the developmental cycle, and power relations within and between households
underlie the idea that these groups should not be viewed as static, monolithic entities, but
instead as dynamic systems of social relations and practices. This is successfully
accomplished by Richard Wilk and others who demonstrate through modern
ethnographic examples decision–making within the household and how that affects the
domestic economy. Wilk suggests, contra Sahlins, that equal pooling of household labor
and resources may in fact increase, not decrease, production (Wilk 1989, 44). In this way
the household group is seen as an active participant in a local economy, not passively
adapting to changing environments. Such was the case for Late Chalcolithic households
Sahlins applies the work of A.V. Chayanov (1966), who studied Russian agriculture during the pre–
Revolutionary period, to support this notion. “Chayanov’s Rule,” as expressed by Sahlins, states that,
“intensity of labor in a system of domestic production for use varies inversely with the relative working
capacity of the producing unit” (Sahlins 1972, 91).
at Kenan Tepe where a shift in domestic economy, specifically diet and food
consumption, was accomplished to undermine increased centralization of resources (see
chapters 4 and 5).
This returns us to the definition of households based on a functional interpretation
as producing/consuming agents in a domestic economy. Yet we must bear in mind that
inside this black box is an interaction of structure and agency, larger social forms, and
individual actions (Hendon 2004, 272). Thus households do not organize production,
exchange, or respond to external conditions in the same way within any given society.
Individuals interact within households and households in turn interact with the
community at large. This interaction is based on any number of social or political
elements that characterize complex societies, but it is important to note that this
relationship between households and the larger community is in flux: households are not
isolated from society, nor do they react passively to changes imposed from the outside.22
While the variety of elements affecting the ordering and actions of the domestic
economy may seem irreconcilable to some, I however believe households are still a valid
level of study because their economies are sensitive indicators of larger sociopolitical
change. This has been attested archaeologically by a number of scholars as it pertains to
production and consumption patterns of autonomous agricultural communities and their
relationship with developing state–level societies. I offer two examples here to reinforce
how shifts in domestic economies can reflect wider political changes and that these same
economies can be the impetus for that change.
My first example is Christine Hastorf (1990) and Terence D’Altroy (Hastorf and
D’Altroy 2001) who have focused on the changes in everyday life for the Sausa (Xauxa)
As Sahlins (1972) would argue. See Hendon 1996, 47.
community of the central Andean highlands, in particular the impact of the Inka imperial
economy on local Sausa food production and consumption. By examining
paleoethnobotanical data derived from household floors and stable isotope data from
human bones, Hastorf (1990) was able to chart the changes in agricultural crop
production and diet/consumption between the periods in which the Sausa were
sociopolitically independent and later when they were a part of the Inka Empire. A
primary focus on, and clear increase in, the production and consumption of maize provide
evidence that the Inka state purposefully intervened in household–level economies by
forcing the reorganization of labor to accommodate tax levies and the widening of access
to this resource in order to “level the field” of regional political elites. However these
same data also suggest that other aspects of the household economy—kinship bases,
technologies, and other aspects of subsistence production—remained relatively
unchanged during imperial rule. This interruption of the domestic economy can thus be
interpreted as an indicator for some of the motivations behind the rise and expansion of
the Inka state, namely the acquisition and exploitation of human (labor) and agricultural
(staple crop) resources.
My second example is Patricia Wattenmaker (1994a, 1994b, 1998) who has
demonstrated the relationship between household economies and the state at Kurban
Höyük in Upper Mesopotamia during the late third millennium BCE. She successfully
identified a shift in household–level consumption patterns that mirrored the political
reorganization of the city during this time. Households became more reliant on
specialist–made cloth and ceramics, particularly serving vessels, while retaining their use
of internally produced, handmade cooking pots and stone tools. This reliance on products
made by specialists was not a result of increased tributary demands made by burgeoning
elites that disrupted household–level production, but was instead an indirect result of
political centralization at Kurban. This was reflected in the nature of specialist products
selected by the households: tableware ceramics. The selection of serving vessels, with
their high degree of social visibility, showed that nonelite domestic groups were actively
involved in creating the social system in which elites were vying for status. This is
because the use of prestige goods to verify rank is only effective if there is some
recognition of the goods as symbolizing prestige and if there is a significant demand for
them (Wattenmaker 1994b, 111). This symbolizing and demand was thus based in the
household, created and determined by nonelites. Other scholars have similarly examined
this relationship between specialized production of goods and domestic economies, and
how it has played a role in the development of complex societies in terms of control over
the production of staple goods (Pollock et al. 1996) and weaving technologies
(McCorriston 1997).
These case studies attest to the established importance of domestic economies and
their interconnected relationship with community and regional systems of trade,
exchange, production and consumption—what I call political economy. In studies of the
Uruk Phenomenon, the domestic economy has been severely overlooked in favor of top–
down approaches that place control of resources and labor in the hands of small elite
factions or specialized trading guilds that monitored the flow of goods, all systems that
are essentially extramural to the household. If the basis for the Uruk Phenomenon is
economic, that is, motivated by resource procurement strategies and subjugation of the
periphery through a colonial system (Algaze 1993 and chapter 1), this radical change in
the sociopolitical climate will be visible in the domestic economy, that is the daily
production and consumption activities of households, of communities incorporated into
this new system.
A handful of researchers have begun to examine changes effected by the larger
political economy of Uruk on household–level production (in particular Keith 1998),
however these studies are often limited by the passive nature in which the domestic
economy is framed. Under these new conditions, one could assume a shift in political
obligations and restructuring of household labor to meet new economic demands.
However individual members of the household can also make these internal adjustments
or alter their daily actions to accomplish their own political ends and not simply to
accommodate the needs of external elites. People can also work both sides, operating on
the level of the domestic and political economy. I assert that domestic production is both
affected by external pressures (as shown by Hastorf) and effects changes on the
community and even regional level by several means including product selection, labor
pooling and organization (as shown by Wattenmaker). In studying the Uruk
Phenomenon, we must examine the ways in which the domestic economy was
transformed by a shift in political economy as well as how the domestic economy helped
govern the nature of that larger economy.
DMPC and the Uruk Phenomenon: Applications and Implications
The domestic mode of production and consumption as a sensitive indicator of
socioeconomic change seems an ideal window through which to analyze the Uruk
Phenomenon as it relates to systems of interactions and cultural developments and at
what social level these processes took place. Archaeological evidence from on–going
research in the periphery areas of southern Mesopotamia—north Syria and southeast
Turkey specifically—is causing much of the scholarly community to acknowledge that
the system of trade and interaction that characterizes the Uruk Phenomenon is much more
complex than previously envisioned and, more importantly, not the same in all areas.
That is to say, the relationships between northern and southern Mesopotamia are
pluralistic and dynamic. This notion, however, is typically based not on the examination
of Late Uruk households, but administrative and religious contexts. Thus it is assumed
that this trading network was governed by only elite groups of people who oversaw the
specialization and centralization of production and distribution. The need for an
alternative dataset and fresh point of view drawn from the household level is obvious and
furthermore substantiated by scholars such as Susan Pollock and her colleagues at Abu
Salabikh who are foundational examples of the success of household–level
Household studies such as this dissertation that specifically look at how, or if, this
trade affected the private sector, offers an entirely new window into the character of the
Uruk Phenomenon and challenges our original assumptions about the nature of this
interaction. Because the domestic economy is a sensitive indicator of larger sociopolitical
change, we can use household data to support or possibly disprove the economic stimulus
behind the Uruk Phenomenon as proposed by Algaze (1993). For example, a radical shift
in the domestic economies of indigenous populations could signify a reorganization of
labor and production schedules to accommodate newly established trading colonies or the
demands of local burgeoning elites. The increased production or consumption of specific
goods or crafts, like semiprecious stones or metals, could also signal this shift in the
domestic economy and, depending on the products in question, highlight the motivations.
Likewise, a consistent trend in the domestic economy of indigenous households over a
proven span of pre–Uruk and Uruk contact phases could highlight the fact that
interregional exchange during this time was in fact completely governed by the elite or
specialist manufacturers and traders, and did not transform the daily lives of individual
nonelite households. While these scenarios do not disprove that a trading network was
established for the extraction of natural resources for use in the south, they do shed light
on the organization of this trade and interaction, supporting either separate and
centralized colonies and trading outposts or a broad–based system that incorporated both
the domestic and community economies.
In this chapter I have presented the theoretical foundation and methodological
aspects of household archaeology to show the primacy households should have in
studying ancient societies. Households are defined as activity groups that can engage in
multiple spheres of overlapping activities in space and time and are physically anchored
to the house and its immediate surroundings, collectively identified as the house lot.
Households and the activities in which they engaged can and should be studied through
several lines of evidence including ethnoarchaeology, activity area research, behavioral
archaeology and architectural studies. In the several Near Eastern household studies I
discussed, among the most resolute issues include the need for diachronic analyses to
account for fluctuations within and between households over time, along with the
recognition that depositional and post–depositional processes drastically affect domestic
archaeological assemblages. More minute methods of household archaeology such as
microdebris analysis and micromorphology are two answers to these lingering problems
that will be discussed in the following chapter.
Why are households a worthwhile subject of archaeological inquiry? Houses and
households are embodied spaces that both exhibit and reinforce cultural rules, practices
and beliefs. In short, the domestic space is the physical embodiment of the cultural order,
but they are also places where social relationships and identities are defined, created and
emphasized through meaningful action by human actors. These actions or activities in
which households engage are diverse and often include aspects of production,
consumption, distribution, and socialization. The first three of these aspects could be
characterized as economically based, thus making household activities the foundation for
a domestic economic system.
This domestic mode of production and consumption (DMPC) is recoverable
archaeologically and most successfully distinguished through the combination and
analysis of multiple lines of evidence that can include architecture, faunal and floral
datasets, lithic assemblages, ceramics, and ground stone (see chapters 4 and 5). Much of
these types of evidence have already been analyzed and presented from Late Chalcolithic
household contexts (see chapter 1, appendix and Stein et al. 1996a; Pollock et al. 1996)
however, in many ways, they remain unsynthesized in terms of using these data to
reconstruct the DMPC for these local fourth millennium communities and in turn, the
broader region. That is because apart from determining the nature, motivation and
structure of household groups, the DMPC also interacts with, and serves as a reflection
of, external economic and social networks. These characteristics have many implications
for the study of the Uruk Phenomenon which, as discussed in chapter 1, is argued to be
economically based. Thus it is imperative that household–level analyses in general, and
domestic economic systems in particular, be included within examinations of the Uruk
Phenomenon to offer a more holistic approach to the nature and mechanisms for trade
and interaction in fourth millennium BCE Mesopotamia. The ways in which household–
level production and consumption was transformed, either directly or indirectly, by shifts
in local economies provide a unique avenue by which to study what the primary items of
trade were, how the system(s) was organized, and who benefited from these interactions.
In chapter 2 I solidified the role that household archaeology can play as an
appropriate and vital method to incorporate more detailed resolutions of analysis into
examinations of local Late Chalcolithic and Uruk households that include the domestic
along with public, religious and political spheres. Exploring what households do in terms
of production, consumption and distribution can be studied through domestic artifact
patterning and the use of ethnoarchaeological analogy. However, as discussed previously,
these approaches have particular limitations, the most troublesome being depositional
processes. Thankfully these can be combated through a process referred to as
microarchaeology, which provides an even finer resolution of data that contributes to a
study of the domestic economy. Yet how exactly does the analysis of microdebris help us
understand the DMPC of Late Chalcolithic households? In this chapter I will answer this
question first by presenting the theoretical and methodological foundations of
microarchaeology with particular attention paid to how it has been applied to Near
Eastern contexts. Then I outline the methods used for recovering microdata from Kenan
Tepe, a Late Chalcolithic village located in the heart of the upper Tigris River valley.1 In
chapters 4 and 5, Kenan Tepe will serve as a case study in which to establish and test
diachronic changes to the DMPC and how it reflects larger sociocultural changes
supposedly ushered in by the Uruk Phenomenon.
The geography and settlement history of Kenan Tepe are detailed in chapter 4.
Theoretical Foundations
Microarchaeology is the study of residues of human behaviors on a microscale
through the recovery and interpretation of small artifacts, sediments, or trace materials.
This methodology developed out of activity area research as a specialized way to uncover
primary use contexts within and between domestic spaces. As a blanket term,
microarchaeology includes specialized methods that vary depending on intensity, the
most well known being microdebris analysis, micromorphology, soil chemistry, and
microfloral studies (Cessford 2003; Manzanilla and Barba 1990; Matthews et al. 1997;
Middleton and Price 1996; Özbal 2006; Özbal et al. 2004; Rainville 2005; Rosen 1989,
2007). Though these methods are often utilized and presented in the literature separately,
a combination of data derived from all three can complement any traditional analysis of
household studies provided appropriate time, money and resources are available.
Microdebris analysis, also known as micro–refuse or heavy–residue analysis, is
the examination of minute pieces of stone, bone, ceramics and other artifacts that have
become embedded within the sediment matrix of archaeological loci. These
microartifacts range in size from 90 to 0.25 millimeters depending on the researcher and
are preserved and subsequently recovered whole or in various stages of fragmentation.
Microartifacts enter the archaeological record through trampling, loss, lack of detection
during cleaning episodes, or through subtractive technologies like chert knapping where
microdebitage is produced. Primary investigations using this method have focused on
surfaces, particularly domestic floors, since these are the locations where trampling
activities can most easily incorporate microartifacts into the substrate. It is now widely
recognized, however, that sampling of ovens, pits, middens, and burials are crucial for the
proper interpretation of microartifact densities as compared across an archaeological site
(Cessford 2003; Özbal et al. 2004; Rainville 2005).
What these microartifacts represent hinges on the hypothesis that natural and
cultural formation processes of the archaeological record affect the presence, patterning,
and preservation of traditional artifacts. For example, slow abandonment of a site will
remove most, if not all, useable and valuable artifacts (e.g., tools, weapons, ceramics)
from their location of use. Likewise meticulous cleaning can all but erase evidence for
activities such as tool making or cooking by the removal of debris from the primary locus
of use and depositing of it in secondary contexts. Because of their size, microartifacts are
capable of being undetected in the cleaning process or being immediately incorporated
into the surface matrix of a feature by “slipping through the cracks,” thus remaining as
primary refuse (Schiffer 1987, 18 and below) resulting from an activity, practice or
behavior. Small size also prevents microartifacts from succumbing to the effects of post–
depositional processes like erosion and bioturbation that can further alter the artifact
patterning on most archaeological sites.
As a method, microdebris analysis has its origins in the earliest examinations of
California shell mounds where it was recognized that smaller fraction artifacts may not
necessarily be represented in the larger fractions and should thus be recorded separately
(Gifford 1916). Grain size separation techniques and the quantitative analysis of material
residues were later conducted on Native American sites in California as a prelude to later
microartifact and geoarchaeological research (Cook and Treganza 1947). By the 1970s,
researchers were beginning to examine natural and cultural formation processes evident
at archaeological sites especially as they relate to the deposition and preservation of
macroartifacts (Ascher 1968; Baker 1978; Fehon and Scholtz 1978; Kirkby and Kirkby
1976; Schiffer 1972; Schiffer and Rathje 1973; Villa 1982). Ethnoarchaeology played a
vital role in these examinations as a way to chart cultural actions, behaviors, and practices
and how these are manifest physically in the archaeological record (Gifford 1978; Gould
1980; Stanislawski 1965). It was observed that the spatial distribution of macroartifacts
could be used to recover activity areas and determine the functionality of spaces (Binford
1973; Bullard 1970; Whallon 1973). An important example is the study of Nunamiut
Eskimo of north central Alaska by Lewis Binford (1978) who noted a relationship
between human behaviors and the structured consequences of these behaviors in terms of
artifact distribution and spatial segregation of activities. He also found that particular
behaviors, such as trash disposal or butchering practices, will alter the types and
condition of artifacts produced and their spatial patterning.
At the same time, researchers also began to examine natural formation processes
and the sedimentology of archaeological sites to study aspects of paleoenvironments, the
formation of tells, and the ways in which non–cultural formation processes affect artifact
patterning and preservation (Butzer 1982; Hassan 1978). In particular, Michael Schiffer
(1972; Schiffer and Rathje 1973) was instrumental in challenging the assumption that
spatial patterning of archaeological remains reflects the direct spatial patterning of past
activities. He proposed that the spatial, quantitative, and associational attributes of
material objects uncovered in the archaeological record are a function of both
depositional processes and behaviors. Natural, or non–cultural, formation processes
(Schiffer’s n–transforms) including wind and water erosion, bioturbation, and soil
chemical composition all combine to inherently bias the preservation and distribution of
artifacts. Cultural formation processes or c–transforms can be even more destructive
because they do not have predictable physical effects like natural processes.2 As
described by Schiffer (1972), these c–transforms are determined by five processes
through which all elements travel during their use–life in a cultural system, what he calls
systemic context. These processes—procurement, manufacture, use, maintenance, and
discard—are not part of a unilinear system so that objects do not necessarily pass through
each phase in order. For example, objects that are introduced via trade or exchange often
skip the manufacturing process and go straight to use. The way in which people abandon
a site can also alter the ratios of objects in various stages of their use–life and the spatial
distribution of those objects (Ascher 1968; Schiffer 1972).
Macroartifacts recovered in the archaeological record together represent all stages
of manufacture, use or discard and can also be an incomplete assemblage based on the
conditions that mandated desertion of the location. These concepts were fundamental for
later studies by Schiffer (1983, 1987) where he demonstrated that most macroartifacts
recovered by archaeologists are not primary refuse, or artifacts that have been discarded
at their location of use, but instead secondary or de facto refuse where objects have been
removed and deposited away from their original loci of use or reached their
archaeological context without the performance of discard activities respectively.
Naturally this is a problem for archaeologists trying to interpret the distribution of objects
inside a domestic structure for example. An experiment dealing with litter disposal on the
University of Arizona campus conducted by Judith McKellar (1983) seemed to offer a
Though an underlying tenant of enthoarchaeological research is that human behaviors and practices can
leave predictable pattering of artifacts in the archaeological record.
solution. Her results were that small artifacts tend to be discarded as primary refuse in
activity areas.
This research laid the groundwork for further development and refinement of the
methodology, most notably in testing the reliability of microartifacts and microdebris
analysis as a viable procedure for uncovering primary use contexts and activity areas
(DeBoer 1983; Dunnell and Stein 1989; Metcalfe and Heath 1990; Newcomer and
Sieveking 1980; Nielsen 1991; Schiffer 1983, 1987; Sherwood and Ousley 1995; Stein
and Teltser 1989). K. R. Fladmark (1982) was one of the earliest to discuss microartifacts
in regard to stone flake residue or microdebitage as a byproduct of reductive tool making
activities. A similar study by Kathleen Hull (1987) at the stone circle site of Bow Bottom
in the Northern Plains found that lithic activity areas can be identified by the clustering of
microdebitage with or without a corresponding high density of macrodebitage. Michael
Deal (1985) used the distribution of ceramics in two modern Tzeltal Maya communities
to showcase the differential use, disposal, and reuse patterns for this visible microartifact
category. Warren DeBoer (1983) found that light or small objects are also less likely to
be obstructions to interfere with future utilization of the discard space. Finally Duncan
Metcalfe and Kathleen Heath (1990) demonstrated the dramatic patterning in the types
and frequencies of microartifacts within and between rooms in structures at the Nawthis
Village in central Utah. During this time of methodological development there are also
challenges to the notion that microartifact concentrations are simply markers of
prehistoric production activity locations. For example two studies found daub was
introduced into microsamples through house wall collapse (Sherwood et al. 1995, 453)
and differential displacement of all artifact categories and sizes occurred with various
levels of trampling (Nielsen 1991).
Micromorphology is another method of microarchaeological analysis that uses
resin–filled thin sections of sediment samples derived from occupational surfaces to
distinguish and evaluate activity areas, construction episodes, and differential use of
space. The history of this technique dates to soil studies of the 1930s and to
archaeological studies of palaeosols during the 1950s. After further technological and
methodological developments in the 1970s and 1980s, micromorphology became a
primary technique for analyzing cave deposits (Courty et al. 1991; Goldberg and
Sherwood 1994) as well as settlements, specifically trampling and compaction in streets
(Courty et al. 1989). The method can be seen as an extension of larger soil and formation
process studies that take into account the ways in which floors and occupational surfaces
are constructed through human agency as well as natural factors (Gé et al. 1993;
Goldberg and Whitbread 1993). The most well known application of this technique in
Near Eastern contexts has been by Wendy Matthews at a variety of sites, specifically Abu
Salabikh, Tell Brak, and Çatalhöyük (discussed below).
Soil chemistry and characterization studies have also been successfully employed
at archaeological sites in order to recover distinctive chemical residues that particular
activities can leave behind (Cook and Heizer 1965; Manzanilla and Barba 1990;
Middleton and Price 1996). These methods utilize everything from simple soil acidity or
pH level tests to increasingly complex techniques like inductively coupled plasma–
atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP/AES) for multi–element characterization. Finally,
phytolith and pollen studies can be seen as additional microarchaeological techniques
representing the microflora that can derive from occupational surfaces (Albert et al. 2008,
Rosen 1992, 2007).
Practical Applications in Near Eastern Archaeology
The application of microarchaeological methods and techniques in Near Eastern
archaeology is slowly gaining momentum as scholars begin to focus more intently on
household–level aspects of ancient culture. Microarchaeology as a technique has been
used for studying not only activity areas and the uses of space within and between
structures, but also the changing functionality of rooms, choices in construction materials,
and the geomorphology of tell sites themselves. However, as a yet unstandardized
approach, the techniques utilized vary by researcher both in method and scope.
First and foremost, the early work of Arlene Rosen has been foundational for that
of later microarchaeologists. She reiterated the notion upheld by Schiffer and others that
artifacts uncovered on any given surface cannot be assumed to be the primary remains of
pre–abandonment activities. Most likely they have been affected by cleaning episodes,
abandonment activities or some kind of post–depositional processes that altered their
spatial patterning through cultural and natural forces. Microartifacts, defined by Rosen as
less than 3 centimeters in diameter in size, have the ability to remain at the locus of
activity because they are more subject to loss and can easily be incorporated into a
surface substrate (Rosen 1986, 92).
Rosen’s method involved a stratified random sampling grid system (Redman
1987) where 20 centimeter squares of sediment were cut 2 centimeters deep and then
removed in toto from floors, courtyards, and streets (Rosen 1989, 1991). Mud bricks and
pits were also sampled for purposes of comparison. Samples were wet sieved through a
0.25 millimeter mesh to remove fine sand, silt, and clay. Once dried, the remaining clean
sample was separated into size fractions (5, 2, 1, 0.50, and 0.25 millimeter). Once the
weight and volume were recorded from each size fraction, the sample was examined
through a binocular stereomicroscope. Artifact percentages were estimated with the aid of
visual percentage charts (Bullock et al. 1985, fig. 24). Rosen applied this methodology to
a number of sites in the southern Levant including Tel Halif (Lahav) and Tel Miqne–
Ekron where she was able to pinpoint activity areas based on the relative frequencies of
microartifacts, present evidence of dumping episodes in streets, and compare the
courtyards of elite and nonelite residences. She was also interested in the general
depositional processes that contributed to the creation of specific features, such as a large
ash deposit at Tel Halif (Rosen 1993), or tell sites in general (Rosen 1986).
These techniques and procedures have since been adopted by other
microarchaeologists including Lynn Rainville, who has analyzed microartifact
distributions at Titriş Höyük, Kazane, Tilbes, Tell Brak and Ziyaret Tepe (Algaze et al.
2001; Rainville 2000, 2005). Instead of a grid system, Rainville collected multiple 50
centimeters square samples from each excavated surface (i.e., floors, alleyways) as well
as permanent features (i.e., ovens, benches, platforms), burials, and middens. Mud bricks
and sterile soil were also sampled to account for the possibility that the breakdown of
bricks added extra secondary refuse to the sample that would not be evidence for primary
refuse (Rosen 1989, 568). Unlike Rosen who used wet sieving, Rainville processed
samples in a mechanical float machine where a small amount of phosphate was added to
the water to dissolve any remnant clay and silt after which the samples were rinsed
through a 1 millimeter mesh. After floatation, the remaining heavy residue was sifted
through four screens into size fractions (6.3, 4.75, 2, and 1 millimeter). Rainville defined
microartifacts as less than 10 millimeters in size, which is notably smaller than Rosen’s 3
centimeters maximum size threshold, and sorting them into material categories using
magnifying binoculars instead of a stereomicroscope. Weight and count densities by
material category were then used by Rainville for cluster and correlation analysis using
SPSS and JMP statistical software that revealed patterning in the density of
microartifacts, specifically relative high and low density areas of debris types and their
relationship to macrodebris distribution.
The ultimate goal and contribution of Rainville’s work is the establishment of
correlations between microartifacts and loci such that certain locus types share similar
signatures based on density of microceramics. These signatures, when complemented
with macroartifact distributions and general archaeological observations, transform
microdebris into a predictive, not simply descriptive, tool. For example after sampling
fourteen different types of loci such as interior surfaces, hearths, and burials at Titriş
Höyük, Rainville found that street contexts were highest in microceramic debris density
followed by food preparation areas. Construction materials, supra–floors, and sterile soil
were lowest (Algaze et al. 2001; Rainville 2005). At Tell Brak the plethora of
microartifacts in trash–filled drains and scarcity in burial fills provided the baseline for
numerical high and low densities that was used to determine indoor and outdoor spaces
and activity areas associated with domestic structures at the site (Emberling and
McDonald 2003, 64). At Ziyaret Tepe, Rainville has combined microdebris with
micromorphological analyses and soil chemistry to arrive at a better understanding of
daily practices and consumption and production habits among and between households
(Matney and Rainville 2005, 38; Matney et al. 2007).
A further derivation of Rosen’s initial methodology was adopted by Rana Özbal
who examined households through the lens of microdebris analysis at Tell Kurdu (Özbal
et al. 2004; Yener et al. 2000).3 Özbal also sampled indoor and outdoor surfaces, supra–
floor deposits, trash pits, walls, fill deposits and fire installations, processing them by wet
sieving through a 1 millimeter mesh similar to Rosen (Özbal et al. 2004, 50). However,
as with Rainville, the dry samples were size sorted through four screens (6, 4, 2 and 1
millimeter) and sorted using x10 magnification into five main categories: pottery, bone,
lithics, shell and “other”—this final group being reserved for small finds like beads,
bitumen, and sealing fragments. The primary index for Özbal’s calculations is count
ratios only (counts for each size category per liter), which is applicable to her
investigations of foot traffic and movement patterns reflected in fragmentation of
microartifacts, especially ceramics. Densities are also charted across spaces and aid in the
identification of more ephemeral activities that lack architectural correlates or permanent
Finally the most recent work by Craig Cessford at Çatalhöyük will undoubtedly
have an instrumental impact on the method of microdebris analysis and the types of
information we can derive from these specific datasets in the future. Like previous
microarchaeologists, Cessford (2003, 2005) has consistently sampled all contexts within
Tell Kurdu is a 15 hectare double mound located in the Amuq Valley in the province of Hatay, Turkey.
The site boasts Early and Middle Chalcolithic levels (Amuq phases C–E; sixth/fifth millennium) with dense
architecture, storage facilities, industrial areas, and administrative sophistication in the form of tokens,
stamp seals, and clay sealings.
Özbal’s primary example is a “bread/food preparation” area at Kurdu, first though to be monofunctional.
The microartifactual data demonstrated that a variety of activities took place in this locus like shell
working, bead making and lithic tool production (Yener et al. 2000, 54).
his research areas (North, South, and KOPAL areas) including middens, pits, floors,
ovens, and bins. Although Cessford has not been clear about how samples are collected
or the average volume of each sample, he has processed them in much the same way as
Rainville through flotation and size sorting (greater than 4, 2, and 1 millimeter). Fifty–six
different material microartifact types exhibit the breadth of materials recoverable on the
microlevel that far exceed the more limited typologies of other researchers. Cessford has
also adopted many of the statistical methods, used for example by paleoethnobotanists,
which include calculations of ubiquity, presence, diversity, and density.5 In general, these
different analytical approaches to the data highlight certain trends in context
characterization that could be said to represent “signatures” much in the way of Rainville.
For example, Cessford found that most midden deposits have a significantly higher level
of diversity in artifact categories than occupational fill (Cessford 2005, 51).
Most importantly, Cessford’s work has brought into focus the very real limitations
of microdebris analysis while at the same time questioning the underlying assumptions of
the methodology. In particular he addresses the fact that samples from plastered walls at
Çatalhöyük contained much of the same materials such as chipped stone and tiny
fragments of animal bone found in plastered floors at the site. This indicates construction
materials were drawn from sources that already contained microartifacts and that these
cannot be considered primary or in situ refuse indicating discreet loci of activities.
Cessford uncovered similar issues when calculating and comparing density percentages
Ubiquity is the percentage of the presence of material categories as they relate to the total number of
samples. For example, animal bone and chipped stone were found to be quite ubiquitous as they occurred in
over 50% of samples at any given size fraction, and in 80% of samples overall (Cessford 2005: 47).
Presence is a binary–type analysis in which one looks for whether or not a particular material type is
present (preserved or identifiable) within any given sample. Diversity is a simple count of the total number
of material types found in each sample regardless of fraction size. Density, in this analysis, is a simple ratio
of total material type weight divided by the total volume of the original sample.
between rooms or structures. He noted that the link between microartifact density and in
situ activities for surface contexts is problematic since floors in various rooms of a
structure can be replaced at different points in time (Cessford 2005, 57). Thus a higher
density of artifacts in a floor could simply represent a longer temporal duration of that
surface. He also disagrees with Rainville and others that the level of naturally occurring
microartifacts within floors can be established and quantified through the sampling of
walls, especially mud bricks. However this “background noise” assumes spatial and
temporal consistency, something that is lacking at Çatalhöyük and most likely other sites
as different floors are created with different materials at different times. Density analysis
is however still particularly useful in midden and fill contexts and for sampling short–
lived features such as shallow scoops and stake holes (Cessford 2003).
The methods introduced by Rosen and developed by other microarchaeologists
carry both positive and negative aspects. The wet sieving technique used by Rosen and
Özbal to process microartifact samples essentially compromises the collection of
botanical materials within the soil matrix by putting undue water pressure on the delicate
seeds and charred wood that are more readily and successfully collected through
traditional flotation techniques. That is not to say that botanical remains cannot be
recovered from microsamples, however it is important to treat these two types of data—
microartifacts and botanicals—in different ways. Thus, as with Rainville and Cessford, I
have chosen to adopt the flotation technique in order to process microarchaeological
samples (discussed below).
Another issue is the maximum size threshold for defining a microartifact. If too
high, the very essence of a microartifact as a minute physical trace of past activities able
to be incorporated within the sediment matrix of archaeological loci and thus not
removed from the primary location of said activity will be negated. However, by setting
the minimum size too low, one runs the risk of not being able to confidently identify the
material category of the microartifact, while at the same time doubling or even tripling
laboratory processing time. While perhaps a standardized size measurement for
microartifacts may never be agreed upon, I have adopted Rainville’s more conservative
size limits of less than 10 millimeters but greater than 1 millimeter to necessitate well–
paced processing and accurate identification.
Where there seems to be the greatest division in methodology among researchers
is sorting and identification of microartifacts. While the use of stereomicroscopes surely
guarantees a higher level of accuracy and less eye strain, binocular visors allow for faster
processing, more portability, and are significantly less expensive. Still the utility of visual
percentage charts, as shown by Rosen, can perhaps decrease sorting time when using a
stereomicroscope. However relying solely on percentage is, in essence, a derivative of
count density that unfortunately causes the exclusion of important weight data. In the
end, I believe that microartifact processing time and accuracy in identification are very
much dependent on the skill of individual researchers, which is why I have chosen to use
a combination of binocular visor (for the larger size fractions) and a stereomicroscope
(for the smaller size fractions).
While this dissertation relies solely on microdebris analysis for reasons discussed
below, there are other major methods by which microarchaeology is practiced.
Micromorphology has been one of the research specializations of Wendy Matthews who
studied the spatial and temporal variation in site formation processes at Abu Salabikh,
Tell Brak, and Çatalhöyük. By closely examining the microstratigraphy of floors and
occupation debris, she has also been able to highlight activity areas, changes in space use,
and micromorphological characterizations of different context types within and outside of
buildings much in the same way that Rainville has distinguished locus signatures through
microdebris analysis. While Matthews’s methodology has been outlined in a number of
publications (Matthews 1995b, 2001a, 2001b, 2003, 2005; Matthews and Postgate 1994),
I will summarize it here briefly. Block samples of undisturbed occupation sequences are
cut out of the section face of excavation units and wrapped tightly in tissue and tape for
transport. In the laboratory, the block samples are impregnated with a crystic polyester
resin that requires six weeks to harden. Then the sample is ground and polished into large
thin sections measuring 13.5 by 6.5 centimeters and 25 to 30 µm in thickness. The thin
sections are examined using a field polarizing macroscope (at magnifications of x5.3 to
x70) and polarizing microscope (at x40 to x400). Matthews uses area percentage charts
(Bullock et al. 1985, fig. 24) to record the density of botanical and other remains in the
thin sections.
Matthews’s initial work at Abu Salabikh used a combination of microdebris and
micromorphological techniques (Matthews 1995a; Matthews and Postgate 1994). Whole
earth samples averaging 60 liters in volume were taken from various contexts so that
microartifacts could be retrieved from the heavy fraction.6 These samples first underwent
soaking and were then wet sieved through a 3.5 millimeter mesh. For each sample, a 1
millimeter mesh was used on the first 10 liters of soil to catch fish bones and other small,
fragile remains. Matthews examined two attributes when analyzing the final microartifact
Botanical samples were collected from the same contexts in which the microdebris samples were
collected. Botanical remains were retrieved through a standard flotation process (Matthews and Postgate
data: abundance, or the quantity of each class of material per liter of excavated earth, and
fragmentation. When combining the results of count and weight ratios with data derived
from microstratigraphy analysis, Matthews was able to distinguish patterns of trampling,
placement of mats or rugs, and the process and technology by which floors were created
and laid down at the site.
Similar results derived from her work at Tell Brak where Matthews characterized
micromorphological signatures for various discreet contexts (Matthews 2001a, 2001b,
2003). For example, she found that unenclosed or unroofed areas outside of structures
contained no or poorly prepared surfaces with thick accumulations of organic and refuse–
rich deposits (Matthews 2003, 387). Not surprisingly, these areas were also subject to
greater post–depositional processes as evidenced by salt lenses from evaporating rain
water and organic staining around faunal remains. Within structures, unroofed sectors
like inner courtyards had no prepared surfaces and deposits that were rich in domestic
debris such as ash from ovens or discards from sweeping. Areas of food preparation and
cooking had poorly prepared floors, burnt plant and animal remains mixed with
heterogeneous unburned sweepings. When these domestic or private contexts were
compared with data from religious or public contexts, in particular a building designated
as a mid–third millennium BCE temple at Brak, an interesting dichotomy was visible.
The temple was characterized by well–prepared floors, some with finishing coats, and
lenses of soot derived from repeated burning episodes in front of the altar (Matthews
2003, 382).
Most recently in 2004, Matthews began a new7 five–year phase of
micromorphological research at Çatalhöyük where remarkable preservation of stratified
sequences of sediments, microartifacts, and bioartifacts in buildings and middens make
application of this methodology especially fruitful (Matthews et al. 2004). The ultimate
goal, as expressed by Matthews and her fellow authors is, “to study the social and
ecological strategies of individual households and neighbourhoods and the intersection of
these strategies with ritual practice and cycles of burials, plastering and paintings and
sculpture, in the high–resolution microstratigraphic sequences within buildings”
(Matthews et al. 2004, n.p.). Incorporation of phytolith studies and the mineralogical and
elemental composition of plasters is already shedding light on shifts in
paleoenvironments and differential access to resources by individual households at the
As a method, micromorphology has several constraints (as addressed in Matthews
et al. 1997). A well–equipped laboratory and substantial amounts of time are necessary to
produce the thin sections. Analysis is dependent upon existing visible and identifiable
characteristics for remains, a similar issue for microdebris analysis. This is particularly
manifest in the use of thin sections specifically because only a rough level of
identification can be made. For example it is possible to distinguish bird, fish and
mammal bones, but it is difficult to identify species within these categories. Plant remains
are perhaps the most difficult as many seeds require multiple views in order to identify
and thin sections can only offer a single traverse angle. The remaining limitation of this
method is perhaps scale, in that only a small slice of occupational deposit is being
Her initial phase of work at Çatalhöyük spanned seven years, from 1993–1999 (yearly field summaries:
Matthews 1993, 1994, 1995b, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999; synopsis: Matthews 2005).
analyzed. This underscores the need for a multiscalar approach to the study of ancient
households and the use of space that draws from primary excavation and specialist
analyses: paleoethnobotany, zooarchaeology, soil chemistry, and microdebris.
These constraints underscore the primary reasons behind my not adopting
micromorphology for this dissertation. However, in terms of future research, the
advantages of thin section and micromorphological techniques seem to outweigh the
drawbacks. As Matthews (2001b) has demonstrated, occupation sequences in thin section
can often be analyzed separately as individual layers of plastering, accumulated deposits,
and fill debris. Post–depositional processes such as erosion can also be detected. In sum,
the primary advantage of micromorphology is the ability to simultaneously analyze
diverse sediments, artifacts, and bioartifacts to arrive at a fuller picture of occupational
levels, especially domestic floors.
The Household Archaeology Protocol at Kenan Tepe
Now that I have presented the theoretical and methodological foundations for
carrying out microarchaeological research, in this section I will detail the procedures by
which microsamples were collected, processed, and sorted at Kenan Tepe. As with any
archaeological endeavor, the way that microartifacts are gathered and interpreted will
necessarily affect the outcome of my interpretations of this very unique dataset. With this
in mind I find it imperative to present this information both for critical review and as the
methodological framework for the microdata discussed in the following chapter.
Excavation Methods and Procedures for Sample Collection
The microarchaeological sampling procedure at Kenan Tepe is the Household
Archaeology Protocol (hereafter “HAP”). HAP samples, which average from 20 to 50
liters in volume, consisted of multiple elements: a soil flotation sample, macroartifacts
(e.g., visible pot sherds, bone fragments, lithics) and the remaining sediment containing
microartifacts. In order to collect HAP samples, the best preserved segment of a feature
was identified, that is, the portion of the feature that showed the least amount of effects
from post–depositional disturbances like rodent burrowing or erosional wash. A 50
centimeter square was sectioned off using nails and twine or rope (figure 3.1). This
sample area was then excavated down to the base of the feature (e.g., depth of the floor,
not including the subfloor). The sediment obtained from this sample was not screened,
Figure 3.1. HAP sample before excavation (UTARP Digital Archive).
but collected in toto into clean, double–bagged grain sacks. Once the HAP sample was
removed, the rest of the preserved feature was excavated, measured in marked buckets to
record the total volume of the locus, and then screened at a ratio of 1:1. The volumes of
both the HAP sample and the feature from which the HAP was obtained were recorded to
calculate the density of debris within the excavated locus and compare distribution across
The majority of features where microdebris samples were taken using the HAP
procedure were surfaces: interior floors, exterior alleyways, and platforms. In several
cases, the depth of separate superimposed surfaces was so thin that there is a possibility
that bleeding between surfaces occurred. In every case, only the floor or surface was
excavated and none of the subsurface, if possible. Unfortunately preservation issues often
limited the number of samples that could be taken from any one surface, such that in
many cases there is only a single sample to represent the locus. Naturally optimal
conditions for this procedure would be the extraction of multiple samples across a single
feature, in this case surfaces, in order to pinpoint higher and lower density of
microartifacts that could, for example, reflect differential uses of space within a single
structure. However these single samples, when complemented with samples from
additional contexts and macroartifacts, should provide enough information to distinguish
functionality of features and spaces. Flotation samples were also taken from ovens,
hearths, pits and middens and though not collected using the protocol, the heavy fractions
from these samples were processed and analyzed the same way as HAP samples (see
below). Mud bricks were also sampled to record the elements from which they were
comprised. These particular data are important because the breakdown of mud brick,
whether through destruction or decay over time, introduces elements like shell or lithic
fragments into the archaeological record, thus adding extra secondary refuse to the HAP
samples that would not be evidence for primary activity (Rainville 2005; Rosen 1989).
Microartifact Recovery and Analysis Procedures
Botanical and microartifacts were recovered from the HAP samples through a
flotation process using a standard Siraf–type flotation machine (Nesbitt and Samuel
1989; Williams 1973) that incorporated an internal grid plate (following Nesbitt 1995;
figure 3.2). The machine was a 50–gallon metal drum outfitted with four legs, an inlet
valve, sludge outlet, weir spout and a false bottom to divert water and sediment through
Figure 3.2. Isometric drawing of Siraf-type flotation machine (Nesbitt 1995, fig. 1).
the sludge outlet. Flotation activities were conducted by the author, Bradley Parker, Jenni
Henecke, Ramazan Uĝur and Yosef Uĝur over two field seasons (2006 and 2007)
adjacent to the Tigris River at the local fire station in Bismil, a few blocks adjacent to the
UTARP excavation house (figure 3.3). The tank was operated on a compacted bed of
Figure 3.3. Ramazan Uĝur and Yosef Uĝur operating the flotation machine
(UTARP Digital Archive).
level stones and low–lying vegetation in 2006 and on a level concrete walkway in 2007.
Both locations were situated within a shady corner of the station yard under a copse of
mulberry trees that provided adequate shade both for the samples and the operators. It
was necessary to erect a small tent made of plastic tarp and rope over the tank to lessen
the amount of leaves and other modern debris falling into the water and thus the
samples.8 The water supply derived from an adjacent well where water was continuously
This modern debris would not affect the samples in any way because it is easily identifiable. For example,
unburned leaves and twigs would not preserve in the archaeological record unless under very specific
circumstances that are not present at Kenan Tepe. We still felt it was important to keep the samples as clean
as possible.
pumped into a small holding tank and flushed away toward the river via a man–made
sluice. A second electric generator pumped water from this holding tank into the flotation
machine through a 1 inch valve. This valve was connected on the inside of the tank by a 1
inch diameter plastic tube with a wide metal shower head attached to the end and facing
up. The sludge valve of the tank was positioned over the sluice so that waste water and
sediment was easily rinsed away and thus eliminated the need for a settling tank.
To begin flotation operations, first the upper part of the tank was lined with a 1
millimeter mesh (about the size of window screen) and secured by plastic clothespins to
the lip of the tank. Next the two nested screens suspended under the outlet spout on the
outside of the tank were lined with 1 millimeter and 0.25 millimeter (finely woven fabric)
mesh, which was also secured by plastic clothespins to the lip of the wooden frame
screens. The samples were measured in marked buckets to record the volume and then
added to the tank just as it was filled with water. The sample was both stirred by hand
and agitated by water streaming through the upturned shower head. This disaggregated
the sample so that charred seeds and charcoal, collectively called the light fraction or flot,
were separated from the rest of the sample. Because the flot material has a lighter density
than that of the water, it floats to the surface and was able to be collected either by hand
with the aid of metal cups or, more effectively, by overflow from the tank. This was
accomplished by closing the sludge valve and opening the inlet valve so that the tank was
completely filled with water, to the point of overflowing. The water and flot were
siphoned into the outlet spout and fell through the side screens as a waterfall effect. The
flot was collected in the dual meshes that lined the side sieves. The meshes were bundled
and tied, labeled and hung up to dry on a clothesline in the shade (figure 3.4 A). The
remaining heavy fraction caught in the mesh within the tank, which included both
microartifacts and non–cultural residues, was continually stirred until clean of all
sediment. Once clean, the sludge valve was opened to drain the tank approximately
halfway and the mesh holding the heavy fraction was removed. The mesh was then
bundled and partially submerged in a separate plastic bucket filled with clean water to
remove any lingering mud. Once properly labeled, the heavy fraction was spread out on a
mat in the sun to dry (figure 3.4 B). Oftentimes this fraction took twelve to twenty–four
hours to dry, so meshes had to be transported partially wet to the excavation house where
they were re–laid and dried completely.
Figure 3.4. Drying of flotation material: A, light fraction or flot; B, heavy fraction (UTARP
Digital Archive).
The dry light fractions or flots were carefully bagged and exported inside rigid
plastic boxes to the UTARP project paleoethnobotanist, Dr. Alexia Smith, at the
University of Connecticut. The dry heavy fractions were also carefully bagged and
exported to the Household Archaeology Laboratories at the University of Utah and the
University of California, Berkeley for further processing. The laboratory procedures for
the processing and examination of the heavy fractions, designated as the Microartifact
Processing Protocol (MAPP), contained a number of steps. First, each heavy fraction was
weighed and then sifted through a set of nested brass geologic sieves that subdivided the
sample into size fractions greater than 5.6, 4, 2, and 1 millimeter. Objects that were larger
than 10 millimeters were hand–sorted from the greater than 5.6 millimeter screen by
visual inspection with the aid of a ruler and classified as macroartifact. The subdividing
of the samples into size fractions is not only a great aid in the sorting process, as it is
easier to see and sort materials of the same size, but also allowed me to monitor and
record the amount of material in each size fraction. These data are crucial for charting
trampling activities or the effects of post–depositional processes on the samples. The
greater than 5.6, 4, and 2 millimeter size fractions were sorted using a 2.0x Optivisor®
binocular magnifier and the greater than 1 millimeter size fraction was sorted using a
Leica® EZ4 stereomicroscope (8x to 35x; 10x eye piece). For this dissertation, I define
microartifact as any cultural object less than 10 millimeters, but greater than 1
millimeter, in size. Any item less than 1 millimeter I consider microscopic and beyond
the range of this dissertation. The microartifacts were separated from rocks, sticks, dirt
clods and other non–cultural debris into broad material categories: ceramics, lithic, shell,
animal bone, grindstone, seeds, charcoal, and other (figure 3.5).
Figure 3.5. Microartifact recording sheet.
Some of these categories were further subdivided and are explained below. These
subdivisions are not arbitrary, but based on the macroartifacts that have been excavated
and analyzed at Kenan Tepe from Late Chalcolithic contexts. Microartifacts were only
placed in these subcategories if they could be positively identified with that group.
I categorized microceramics based on two primary characteristics: 1) the presence
of relatively smooth, flat sides or surfaces, and 2) gradation of color within the fabric as
indicative of firing differential (i.e., a black core; figure 3.6). However gradation was not
always present. In these cases, other traits guided my identification such as visible wheel
Figure 3.6. Examples of microceramics: A, coarse ware; B, medium ware;
C, fine ware.
striations, inability to break when applied with pressure,9 and grit or vegetal
temper/inclusions within the fabric and on the exterior surface of the sherd. Color can
also be distinctive; for example high fired ceramics like fine wares have a distinctive
green and yellowish color in the Late Chalcolithic assemblage at Kenan Tepe. Much of
the difficulty in distinguishing microceramics from mud brick is that the latter has many
of the same characteristics: grit or vegetal inclusions and gradation of color (in the case
of differentially fired or charred mud bricks). Thus the presence of a flat side and angular
break was critical to positively identify an object as microceramic. This class of
microartifact was further subdivided into type categories consisting of fine, medium, and
coarse. Fine microceramics are high fired, extremely hard, and contain little to no temper
or inclusions (figure 3.6 C). Based on macroceramic fine ware examples from Kenan
Tepe, they also contain little to no color gradation in the fabric making them difficult to
Dirt clods or compacted sediment that make up a surface matrix will break apart instantly by the
application of pressure from a finger tip or the end of a tiny paintbrush handle.
positively identify without some kind of diagnostic element, such as a rim, carinated
body piece, or base. Medium microceramics exhibit relatively dense fabric with some grit
or chaff inclusions (figure 3.6 B). Coarse microceramics are extremely chaffy cook pot
wares with heavy vegetal inclusions (figure 3.6 A). These are more easily broken than the
hard, high–fired fine wares which may affect the amount of coarse ceramics identifiable
on the microlevel.
I based categorization of microlithic on material (chert and obsidian) and
evidence of modification (figure 3.7). On the microlevel, most of what is recoverable are
flakes and other microdebitage that result as shatter during lithic manufacture or from
heat breakage (Rosen 1997, 30). It is possible to recover bladelets; however, most of
what is collected includes chips and microflakes. These detached pieces are often angular
in shape with sharp edges and relatively shiny surfaces (Andrefsky Jr. 1998, xxii).
Evidence for modification includes a visible striking platform and bulb of percussion,
which is a protuberance on the ventral face of the flake, accompanied by light striations
or scars. At this level one cannot distinguish between primary flakes (from a core) or
reduced flakes (from the creation of a specific tool like scrapers or sickles). However,
these microliths can serve as a direct reflection of stages in the lithic reduction and tool
making processes, as the debitage produced becomes incrementally smaller as the artifact
nears completion (Andrefsky Jr. 1998, 96).10
Both land and seashells exhibit a broad range of characterizing features. Shell
may be composed of one or multiple separate pieces, thick or thin walled, colorful or
colorless, opaque or translucent, smooth or scaly (Abbot 1989; Abbot and Dance 1998).
However Andrefsky Jr. (1998, 96) notes that smaller flakes can also be removed in order to set up the
removal of a larger flake from a core.
Figure 3.7. Examples of microliths: A, chert; B, obsidian.
Figure 3.8. Examples of microshell.
Most microshell I recovered was generally whitish gray in color for freshwater shells and
brown for landshells (figure 3.8). They also exhibited iridescent and/or opaque features
and seemed to have several layers one on top of the other like an onion. Many of the
microshell fell within the three subcategories of bivalve, gastropod, and snail. Bivalve
shells are composed of two shells hinged together. They range from thick to thin–walled
and can exhibit either smooth or horny exterior surfaces. The diagnostic element for this
shell type that is identifiable on the microlevel is the umbo or beak, defined as a knoblike
protuberance near the hinge of the two shells. Gastropods have an elongated cone spirally
twisted around an imaginary axis, the spiral following a clockwise course (Abbott and
Dance 1998, 7). The diagnostic elements for this shell type that are identifiable on the
microlevel are the apex, spire (and spiral lines), and columella or inner lip. Land snail
shells are generally thin–walled, slightly opaque, and brown in color or have brown
spotting. Often very light striations are visible.
Unburned microbones are most recognizable by the presence of some kind of
diagnostic element, such as teeth, protuberances, or articular ends (figure 3.9 E). The
interior porous or spongy (cancellous) structure of the bone will often be visible due to
breakage. Often the surface of the bone is shiny and in some cases has a flaky texture.
Color can vary from white or milky to yellowish and often exhibits brown spotting.
Burned microbone is essentially the same in structure as unburned, though in many cases
the porous interior of the bone has been removed through firing (figure 3.9 B). Burned
bones are extremely hard and similar in many ways to a darkened rock. However bone is
distinguishable by the presence of subtle exterior ribbing, striations and/or pitting that is
common to unburned faunal material. Color for burned bone ranges from black and gray
to a bright white or whitish–blue for bones that have been exposed to extremely high
temperatures. Much of the burned microbone was unidentifiable and therefore included
within a single subcategory of “burned.” Any burned microbone that was identifiable
with any of the other subcategories (bird, fish, rodent) was noted.
Figure 3.9. Examples of microbone: A, rodent including lower jaw of subfamily
Gerbillinae (far left); B, burned bone; C, fish vertebrae (left) and scale (right); D, bird;
E, unidentified mammal.
The major subcategories of unburned microbone are: bird, fish, rodent, and
unidentified mammals. Bird bone is characterized by a thin cortex and more angular
edges than mammal bone. It is generally light and hollow with internal supportive webs
that strengthen the bone structure (figure 3.9 D). Fish bone is also very thin and light, but
characteristically flat with a woody internal texture (figure 3.9 C). Clean fish bone
appears translucent, but for the majority of the microsamples they are brown due to
staining from the soil matrix. Rodent bones are primarily identified through teeth, both
fragmentary and whole, vertebrae of the spinal column and tail, and long bones with
articular ends (figure 3.9 A). At the microlevel, these elements naturally represent a very
tiny species. Finally mammal bone is generally distinguished by rounder edges and a
thicker cortex, as compared with bird bones for example. However as we are dealing with
mostly microbone fragments, these elements are harder to identify outright. Thus if an
unburned bone was unable to be identified as bird, fish, or rodent, it was included in the
unidentified mammal subcategory.
Grindstone, seeds, and charcoal are the less encountered microartifacts in the
heavy fraction portion of the samples. This is due in part to the difficulty in identification
and the methodologies by which the samples are processed. Identification of grindstone
fragments rely heavily on the composition of macroartifact samples of this particular
object. In this case, grindstones from Kenan Tepe are usually made from basaltic stone,
gray or black in color that can be heavily pitted. A flat working edge, sometimes slightly
indented to mirror the curve of the grinding slab, distinguishes this type of microartifact
from naturally occurring rounded basalt pieces (figure 3.10 A). Most seeds and other
charred organic material are collected separately in the light fraction or flot (figure 3.10
C). However if seeds become waterlogged in the flotation process, they are recoverable
in the heavy fraction, though with my samples this was rare. Like seeds, most charcoal
(i.e., burnt/charred wood) was collected with the light fraction material during the
flotation process. Some waterlogged examples, however, were recovered from the heavy
fractions. These are characterized by their wood structure comprised of faint grain lines
(figure 3.10 B). In some cases, shiny surfaces on the charred material could be detected.
Overall charcoal is extremely fragile and prone to breakage, thus making count densities
of this particular microartifact unreliable for statistical analysis. Finally, the category
“other” was reserved to include any small finds such as pendants, beads, sealings or
metal. Identifiable microartifacts that did not fall within any of the other categories or
subcategories were also placed in the “other” category.
Figure 3.10. Examples of A, microgrindstone; B, microcharcoal;
C, microseed.
Once the microartifacts from each size fraction had been sorted into their
respective categories or subcategories, the counts and weights of materials from each
grouping were calculated and recorded (figure 3.5). The same procedure was applied to
any macroartifacts (greater than 10 millimeters) that were collected at the beginning of
the sorting processes. These were subdivided into three material categories (i.e., ceramic,
bone, and lithic), counted, and weighed. With these raw weight and count data, I was then
able to calculate weight and count densities of the microartifact categories by dividing
raw count or weight by the total number of liters in each of the HAP samples. When these
microartifact densities were charted across the excavated spaces and compared with the
level and nature of macroartifacts recovered from these same locations, a complex picture
of spatial usage emerged, providing evidence for the production, consumption and
disposal patterns of household groups at Kenan Tepe and offering a glimpse into the
everyday activities that guided their lives (see chapter 4).
Microartifact Preservation and Identification: Some Issues
Before concluding I wish to address several issues concerning microartifacts that
have already been recognized elsewhere (Cessford 2003, 2005; Rainville 2005) and can
potentially affect the dataset from which I draw my conclusions for this dissertation.
These issues are primarily concerned with preservation and identification. The presence
and preservation of microartifacts in surfaces and other sampled features depends on
several factors: 1) cultural use of the space, by human or animal, including the objects
that were utilized within this space, 2) the permeability of the soil matrix that makes up
the surface or feature, 3) post–abandonment depositional processes or disturbances and 4)
the material and manufacture processes of the microartifacts themselves.
The way that people use and interact within a space will alter the amount and
types of refuse that are recoverable.11 For example, heavy trampling such as found in
hallways, courtyards, and alleyways contributes to the high amount of microartifacts for
the smallest size fraction recoverable by the methodology used in this dissertation.12 This
type of behavior can also be destructive, especially for less robust materials like friable
cook pot wares, delicate fish bones, and fragile shell. This factors in to the limitations of
This of course is the primary foundation for microarchaeological investigations, especially activity area
research, where different actions by people in the past will leave different distinguishable material evidence
for us to interpret, recognize, and even attempt to build “signatures” around (Rainville 2005).
Though different firing conditions and thus the friability of the ceramic can also affect the point at which
it will break down under pressure (Rainville 2005, 24).
only examining microartifacts that are greater than 1 millimeter or larger since some
activities like knapping or trampling can produce debitage that is smaller (Fladmark
1982). The placement of furniture or permanent fixtures within a space and the use of
mats or rugs will also affect the presence and more importantly, patterning of
microartifacts within a space by determining the flow of movement and thoroughness of
cleaning activities.
Microartifacts will also be more easily incorporated into the floor or surface
matrix of a feature if that matrix is relatively porous (Rosen 1986). This naturally favors
trampled pebble or packed mud surfaces such as found at Kenan Tepe, as opposed to
stone floors.13 Plastering of these surfaces, however, could affect the permeability.
Plastering also affects the visibility of debris such that more of the larger (10 to 20
millimeters) microartifacts will be removed from the primary area of activity because of
more accurate and thorough cleaning before they can be incorporated into the surface
matrix. The use of plaster can also introduce microartifacts into a sample that are not
derived from primary activities but are inherent to the construction material itself as
demonstrated by Cessford (2003, 2005) at Çatalhöyük. At Kenan Tepe a wide range of
floors and surfaces were sampled including compacted pebble alleyways, packed mud
floors, and poorly prepared mud plastered floors to give a full range of surface types, and
thus construction types, for household contexts.
Other issues to consider are the reuse of abandoned structures by squatters or
other transient groups that may introduce microartifacts through their activities. The slow
abandonment and eventual decay of the structure itself may also introduce material
Though microartifacts could reside in the narrow gap between flagstones for example or within the
cracks of the stone itself. The collection process for microsamples under these circumstances would of
course differ from the methods presented here.
elements like mud brick into the surface that is unrelated to human activities in the past.
Even the pristine example of a structure that was suddenly and violently destroyed never
to be reoccupied should be approached with caution. As best demonstrated by Roaf
(1989, 101), people will purposefully push down the walls of a burning house to smother
the flames and remove roof beams and other sources of fuel. In the aftermath, the primary
location of objects within the structure, supposedly sealed by the destruction of the
building, will be altered as people haphazardly search through the rubble to remove
valuable objects. While this will not affect microartifacts directly, the collapse of the
structure and subsequently trampling by scavengers could incorporate secondary refuse
into the sediment matrix that is later sampled. This reflects the importance of knowing
the complete life history of a structure.
The material and manufacture of the microartifacts themselves will mostly
determine the preservation of these objects in the archaeological record. As mentioned
previously, more delicate materials like shell and fish bones are more likely to be
destroyed through trampling or post–depositional processes than more robust high–fired
ceramics or chipped stone. Teeth preserve especially well as they are dense and hard,
which allow them to survive more often than fish and bird bones that are small and light.
A differentiation can also be found for ceramics where high–fired fine wares are easily
broken and trampled while often retaining their shape, while low–fired coarse wares like
cook pots can crumble more easily into their constituent parts. Chipped stone tools and
lithic debitage seem to fare best as only highly acidic soils will hasten the breakdown of
these microartifacts.
Last are the concerns surrounding identification. In general and in most cases the
presence of some kind of diagnostic element is crucial in the identification of the
microartifact, especially for shell, fine ceramics, and animal bone.14 Without these
indicators, it is possible that some microartifacts will be missed in the course of sorting.
As with all laboratory analyses, human error can also play a role. Size can also be an
issue. As already noted by Cessford (2005, 48) some microdebris categories are
impossible to visually distinguish in the smaller size fractions. In using a
stereomicroscope for the smallest size fraction (greater than 1 millimeter), I have
attempted to overcome this difficultly of identification.
These issues involving microartifact preservation and identification are not
presented here to discredit the use of microdebris analysis for studying domestic
economies or the use of space. They are instead highlighted to identify some of the
limiting factors of the methodology in order that we may determine appropriate types of
research questions that can be answered through this technique.
Microarchaeology is an even finer resolution by which one can study Late
Chalcolithic households by offering a window into primary use contexts that are
generally unavailable to traditional examinations of domestic artifact patterning.
Activities such as knapping, cooking or butchering leave behind residues like
microflakes, ceramic chips or bone fragments that, because of their size, are generally
missed in the cleaning process and are incorporated into the soil matrices of surfaces and
Particular issues as they relate to specific artifact classes have already been raised in my descriptions of
microartifact material classification (see “Microartifact Recovery and Analysis Procedures”).
other features. This primary refuse thus represents the activities of production and
consumption that were carried out in and around spaces used by household groups over
the use–life of a domestic structure. When these microdata are used in comparison and/or
as a complement to macroassemblages, one can gain a full picture of the types and degree
of production and consumption within and between household groups that combine to
represent a domestic economy.
Microarchaeology can also help determine how (or if) domestic modes of
production and consumption played a role in the larger systems of regional exchange and
interaction characterized by the Uruk Phenomenon. I will now apply the methods and
theoretical underpinnings of household archaeology and microarchaeology to the study of
domestic economy at a village site in the upper Tigris River valley of southeast Turkey,
Kenan Tepe, to establish the domestic mode of production and consumption for the house
lots under consideration (and the household groups that used/inhabited them). From this
examination I will evaluate shifts in the domestic economy in terms of regional
relationships and the Uruk Phenomenon in chapter 5.
The goal of this chapter is to establish the domestic mode of production and
consumption (hereafter “DMPC”) at Kenan Tepe through an examination of four specific
house lot contexts. This is accomplished first through situating Kenan Tepe within the
modern and ancient environment. This is essential since natural environmental conditions
determine: 1) the accessibility of Kenan to other settlements in terms of communication,
trade and defense, 2) the availability of local natural resources such as water, metals,
stone and wood and 3) the form and nature of settlement including physical structures
based on climactic conditions.1 Second, I place Kenan Tepe within the wider milieu of
material culture and settlements within the Upper Tigris followed by an elucidation of
Late Chalcolithic and transitional Early Bronze Age material at the site itself. Next I
establish the loci of examination for the DMPC based on a largely architectural
discussion of house lots and then offer the archaeological evidence for production and
consumption activities within each household. In the following chapter, I will use this
evidence to evaluate whether production and consumption activities on the household
level changed over a span of approximately six hundred years and if so, consider the
factors behind these shifts.
This is not to suggest that environmental conditions determine a society’s subsistence practices alone,
however they do play a role in sociocultural development on a settlement and regional level.
The Upper Tigris River Valley
Geography and the Natural Environment
As already mentioned, understanding the climate and natural landscape of this
unique area is essential for examining Kenan Tepe’s DMPC, especially since domestic
economies are, in many respects, affected by and dependent upon local geographic and
environmental conditions. For example, in a chert–rich area one may expect to find an
abundance of this stone type in the lithic macro– and micro–assemblages and a much
smaller percentage of, say, obsidian stone that needs to be imported. But a majority of
obsidian artifacts in this same hypothetical assemblage could signal a highly developed
trade network and/or easy access to this material. The Upper Tigris region of southeast
Turkey was a wide, moderately forested river valley flanked by low terraces, a
Mediterranean climate, and access to natural resources like copper, stone and agricultural
land that will be discussed in detail below.
Southeast Turkey is the smallest of the modern Republic of Turkey’s geographic
regions, covering only about eight percent of the land (Enriç 1980, 74; figures 4.1, 4.2).
However, this area can be considered the northernmost extension of a larger geographic
region, the “Fertile Crescent,” which extends from the Zagros Mountains east of the
alluvial lowlands in southern Iraq to the Amanus and Taurus mountain ranges rising two
to three thousand meters in height. Today southeast Turkey is a steppe environment
composed of plateaus lying along the marginal folds of the Taurus southern foothills.
Most of these platforms lie 600 to 900 meters above sea level and gradually slope
downward to 350 meters above sea level as one moves south from the city of Şanliurfa
toward the Syrian frontier (Dewdney 1971, 202).
Figure 4.1. Modern regions and provinces of Turkey (adapted from Dewdney 1971, fig. 41).
Figure 4.2. Topography of southeast Turkey (adapted from Dewdney 1971, fig. 52).
Roads, both ancient and modern, follow the smaller rivers that cut deeply through
the mountains as they travel south through the foothills and empty into the Euphrates and
Tigris River basins. For example, an ancient road travels through the Bitlis Gap and
Rahva Pass in order to reach Lake Van and the flanks of the Nemrut volcano, an ancient
obsidian source. Other roads follow the Tigris valley to cross the mountains at their lower
central sector (Enriç 1980, 75). These roads meet in the Diyarbakir basin, from there
going east to follow the Zagros range down to the Gulf, while another road leads from the
Tigris basin to Israel/Palestine via Şanliurfa (Turkey) and Aleppo (Syria).
The plateaus of the southeast region are split north to south by the Karacadağ
volcanic massif, a shield–shaped volcano of Pleistocene age rising 1,938 meters and
whose basaltic lavas are spread over the surrounding area for a total of 7000 square
kilometers (Erinç and Tunçdilek 1952). The geography of the western half, between
Şanliurfa and Gaziantep, is characterized by slightly inclined and uniform limestone
plateaus that are dissected by the Euphrates River and its tributaries. Among these
plateaus are karstic depressions and larger plains, such as the Harran and Suruc, which
contain alluvial soil and are highly fertile when irrigated. On the east of the massif is a
more rugged landscape of clastic deposits hundreds of meters thick. At the center is the
Diyarbakır basin, a wide alluvial plain fed by the Tigris River that flows down from the
marginal folds of the Taurus foothills and is joined by smaller tributaries (i.e., Batman,
Ambar, and Garzan) south of the plain. The basin is bordered on the south by the Mardin
threshold that extends into north Syria (Erinç 1980, 76; Yakar 2000, 15).
The Tigris River valley begins a few kilometers south of Diyarbakır and extends
for 60 kilometers until the river enters the “Tigris canyon” about 5 kilometers east of the
Tigris–Batman confluence (Parker 2001, 159). South of the upper Tigris River valley lies
the Tur Abdin range, created by a collision of the Arabian shield with the Eurasian plate
(Erentöz and Ketin 1962, 57). This area is dominated by rocky basalt flows creating a
natural barrier between the fertile Upper Tigris valley and Syrian steppe 75 kilometers to
the south. Within the upper Tigris River basin itself, the river is flanked by a series of low
and high terraces of Late Pleistocene and Holocene date. Lower terraces on the north
bank are 5 to 6 kilometers in width, creating a low relief karst plain blanketed by deep silt
and clay deposits all of which overlay Lower Miocene gypsum beds (Algaze et al. 1991,
180). The south bank of the river has similar, though narrower, terraces extending from
the Batman Su–Tigris River confluence in the east to the modern town of Bismil 30
kilometers to the west. Numerous broad, shallow, and inactive sinkholes dot the
landscape though deep, water–filled active ones remain mostly in the northern boundaries
of the plain (Algaze et al. 1991, 180). Archaeological sites tend to cluster around these
sinkholes, as well as in valleys along tributary streams and the Tigris itself.
This region is characterized by an extreme continental Mediterranean climate
marked by heavy precipitation in the winter and extreme aridity in the summer. The mean
annual rainfall is 500 to 600 millimeters, though in dry years it can dip down to less than
300 millimeters (Dewdney 1971, 39; Roberts and Wright 1993, 198). Average winter
temperature varies between 1 and 5 ºC, sometimes reaching as low as –10 ºC in the
Diyarbakır basin. This cold period, however, is relatively short, lasting only three months
before the onset of warmer spring conditions that will eventually give way to the long,
hot summer months where temperatures remain on average above 40 ºC.
The vegetation of the more humid foothills 700 to 800 meters above sea level is
described by Dewdney (1971, 54) as “drier deciduous and mixed forest” zones dominated
by oak (Quercetum) and juniper with some pine and fir. These are sparse parklands as
opposed to dense forests where sizeable areas of open grassland are present. Areas below
700 meters contain steppe formations and reddish–brown steppe soils (alkaline),
calcareous and rich in lime. Acanthophyllum, milk vetch (Astralagus sp.), brome grasses
(Bromus) and some wild types of grain (Avena) grow rapidly here during the spring
precipitation and are subsequently burnt off by the high summer heat (Erinç 1980, 78).
Vegetation is poorest in those areas south of the Karacadağ and Şanliurfa where, due to
mean annual rainfall of 300 millimeters or less, desert–steppe type plants prevail. Kenan
Tepe is surrounded by modern farmlands and active springs on two sides of the site.
Desert scrub vegetation dominates the modern environment including caper berry bushes
and wild grasses. Barley, wheat, tomatoes, peppers, cotton, and watermelons are
currently cultivated adjacent to the site (Parker et al. 2003, 121; figure 4.3).
Figure 4.3. Kenan Tepe facing east (UTARP Digital Archive).
Geomorphic studies of the landscape using satellite imagery and aerial
photography reveal a significantly wider upper Tigris flood plain in the ancient past that
reached approximately 1 kilometer across at Kenan Tepe (Matney et al. 2003, fig. 1)
suggesting perhaps an even more diverse aquatic environment in terms of flora and fauna
than today. While the environmental data is lacking for the immediate area, sediment and
pollen core samples from Lake Van northeast of the Upper Tigris region show a gradual
increase in values such that desert–steppe was gradually replaced by oak forest between
4300–1600 BCE. This was most likely due to increased humidity in the region from
higher precipitation levels (van Zeist and Bottema 1982).2 Overall the natural
environment in the upper Tigris at the end of the fourth millennium was characterized by
a wide, moderately forested river valley that provided a suitable environment for hunting
and gathering. Adequate precipitation levels allowed for the sustainable practice of dry
farming as well. Ancient foot paths and passes between the river valley, the obsidian–rich
mountains to the north and east, and the copper mines of Ergani Madden to the northwest
provided steady communication and trade.
Despite this the Upper Tigris was seemingly isolated in terms of trade and
interaction with neighboring regions to the south as we will see below when discussing
the Late Chalcolithic material culture at Kenan. The rocky basalt flows of the Tur Abdin
range serve as a natural barrier between the valley and the Syrian steppe lands to the
south and the Taurus foothills enclose the valley on the north. These mountainous
features could have been a deterrent to trade, especially smaller donkey caravans moving
Butzer (1995, 136) reports different findings from Lake Van sediment samples: a phase of low
precipitation around 3800–1000 BCE, with intensely low levels between 3200–2900 BCE or at the close of
the Late Chalcolithic. Pollen cores from Lake Van and Lake Zeribar in the Zagros mountains also show a
long period of moderate decline in oak woodland between 3250–2750 BCE.
north. However the Tigris River is a major feature connecting the Upper Tigris with
surrounding regions, provided that the river was navigable in the past. As the material
culture from the Upper Tigris will show below, the region was largely populated with
small communities engaged in local ceramic production, agriculture, and some
interregional trade.
Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age Settlement and Material Culture
The settlement pattern for the Late Chalcolithic period reflects an increase in
occupations of relatively similar size that suggest either an influx of populations or the
conglomeration of previously semi–nomadic groups into centralized villages. This
pattern, coupled with a relatively uniform material culture assemblage, supports the
hypothesis that mainly localized interactions took place between numerous homogenous
groups; a pattern that is most likely reflective of the domestic economy at Kenan.
Most data for settlement in the Upper Tigris during the late fourth and early third
millennia derive from extensive surveys and limited excavations. While this region has
been of interest to researchers since the mid–nineteenth century CE,3 more recent
J.G. Taylor (1865) made three trips to the Upper Tigris between 1861 and 1863 to gather statistical
information for the British government and record several Neo–Assyrian stelae and rock reliefs near Eğil
and Kurkh (Üçtepe). Between 1889 and 1899, C.F. Lehmann–Haupt and W. Belck followed the route of
Xenophon and his “Ten Thousand” Greek mercenaries who crossed the confluence of the Bohtan Su and
Tigris in 401/400 BCE (Belck 1899; Lehmann–Haupt 1910, 337–350; Lightfoot 1986; Xenophon 1998). E.
Huntington (1903) studied Hittite rock cut chamber tombs, cisterns, reliefs, and inscriptions at Hilar
(modern Sesverenpınar) southwest of Ergani. Đ. Kiliç Kökten, under the auspices of the Turkish Historical
Society (Türk Tarih Kurumu), carried out one of the earliest surveys in the Diyarbakır province, focusing
specifically on the Bismil, Silvan and Ergani districts (Günay and Whallon 1980, 96; Kökten 1947). Finally
surveys by the Joint Istanbul–Chicago Prehistoric Project (1963–1972) resulted in the excavations at
Çayönü Tepesi and Girikihacıyan (Braidwood and Çambel 1980; Braidwood et al. 1981; Braidwood and
Braidwood 1982; Watson and LeBlanc 1990).
explorations in the 1980s and 1990s have been more fruitful.4 The most extensive of
these was the Tigris–Euphrates Archaeological Reconnaissance Project directed by
Guillermo Algaze (Algaze 1989b; Algaze et al. 1991, 1994). Between 1988 and 1990, the
project identified over 490 sites in the survey areas that included the plains of the Batman
Su and Bohtan Su, Cizre–Silopi Plain, Upper Tigris basin from Batman to Bismil, and the
lower Euphrates basin within the Birecik and Carchemish dam areas.5 Late Chalcolithic
sites were identified by the presence of chaff–tempered assemblages that have parallels in
forms and wares in the Amuq F sequence (Braidwood and Braidwood 1960). Based on
the published survey data, there is a radical increase in settlements both in size and
number during the Late Chalcolithic period as compared to the previous Late
Ubaid/Middle Chalcolithic in the Upper Tigris region especially along tributaries of the
Tigris such as the Batman Su (Algaze et al. 1989b).6
Following the Late Chalcolithic however, there is a realignment and constriction
of settlements where populations seem to inhabit only sites within the Tigris River valley
proper. This is most evident along the Batman, Garzan and Bohtan Su where no evidence
for Early Bronze Age settlements has been detected (Benedict 1980; Rosenberg and
Togul 1991), while the Cizre–Silopi region has a decline in occupied hectares from the
These surveys coincided with the Turkish government’s initiation of a huge development program called
the Güneydoğu Anadolu Bölgesi or Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP) that includes the construction of 22
dams, 19 hydraulic power plants and irrigation systems on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and their major
tributaries totally over 1.7 million hectares in area.
Other regional surveys were carried out in the valleys of the Batman Su tributaries (Rosenberg and Togul
1991), the Tigris River valley between Tepe Beldesi and the Batman Su (Ay 2001), and Adıyaman
province (Blaylock et al. 1990, 1998) to complete the previous survey work of Mehmet Özdoğan (1977) in
the lower Euphrates Basin.
The size for these Late Chalcolithic settlements are not given in a definitive way in Algaze’s report.
Mainly he refers to these sites as “numerous hamlet–sized and a few larger occupations” (Algaze et al.
1991, 182).
Late Chalcolithic to the Ninevite 5 periods (Algaze et al. 1991).7 As Algaze (et al. 1991,
182) has noted, this pattern stands in sharp contrast to the emergence of Early Bronze
Age urban settlements in the Khabur–Sinjar plains due south of the Tigris River in
northern Syria and Iraq (Wilkinson 1990b). While a relationship between these two
settlement pattern shifts remain to be identified and discussed, one could consider the
possibility that larger, more urban sites were possible in the Khabur due to access to
wider tracts of agriculturally viable land.
In terms of settlement size, this information can only be garnered from the few
Late Chalcolithic sites that have been excavated and published along the Upper Tigris
basin (see figure 4.4 and below). No hierarchy is evident as all excavated sites range from
only 1 to 2 hectares, but no larger than 4 hectares, in total size. Based on survey reports
(Rosenburg and Togul 1991, 243), this trend is also evident in the Cizre–Silopi plain
Figure 4.4. Detail of Upper Tigris region with sites mentioned in text (adapted from Algaze et al.
1991, fig. 2b).
There is, however, no shift in the settlement pattern (i.e., the placement of sites), between the Late
Chalcolithic and EBA (Algaze et al. 1991, 196).
(Algaze et al. 1991, fig. 21) and upper Batman River with a few notable exceptions like
10 hectare Ikiztepe and Gre Migro (Algaze 1989, fig. 2a-b). From these few examples
from the Upper Tigris we find that regional architecture was characterized by sun–dried
mud brick constructions with or without stone foundations and floors of beaten earth or
prepared mud plaster. At Aşağı Salat, a low–lying mound 20 kilometers east of Bismil at
the confluence of the Tigris and Salat Çayı, a two–roomed building with a three course
stone foundation was uncovered along with a square platform composed of stone posts,
grinding stones, and cobbles (Şenyurt 2004, 661). At Salat Tepe, a 30–meter–high mound
approximately 14 kilometers east of Bismil, small architectural units were uncovered
with mud brick walls and foundations along with large hearths and work surfaces (Ökse
1999, 2004; Ökse et al. 2001, 2002). Pits 2 meters in diameter with mud plastered floors
were uncovered at Kavuşan Höyük, 10 kilometers southeast of Bismil, which contained
handmade and well–fired thin metallic ware ceramics, animal bones, zoomorphic
figurines, and chert tools (Building Level V in Trench No. III; Kozbe et al. 2004, 499).
At neighboring Giricano, excavations on the south side of the mound produced well
preserved architectural remains of a large (at least 6 meters long) building whose
associated painted ceramics and stamp seal impressed clay bulla date it relatively to the
middle of the fourth millennium (Level 06; Schachner 2003, 2004; Schachner et al.
The majority of the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age ceramic assemblage
in this region is locally made and characterized by chaff and/or grit tempered coarse
handmade wares, some with chaff facing paralleled in the Amuq (F: Braidwood and
Braidwood 1960), and finer wheelmade wares sometimes exhibiting burnish. Shapes
include holemouth jars with globular or ovoid bodies (Grê Dimsê: Karg 1999, 284),
globular pots with simple rims, jars with short necks and straight or slightly everted rims
(Hirbemerdon Tepe: Laneri et al. 2006), burnished pots with no necks and everted rims,
and bowls with exaggeratedly inverted rims (Kavuşan Höyük: Kozbe et al. 2004, 500).
More unique shapes include buff–colored fruit stands and pedestal bowls, spouted vases,
buff and beige colored biconical vases with string–cut holes, metallic ware cups and fine
ring base bowls with greenish cream colored fabrics that often carry incised decorations
(Aşağı Salat: Şenyurt 2004; Müslüman Tepe: Ay 2004). These incised wares are similar
to Ninevite V forms at Hassek Höyük (Behm–Blancke 1988) and north Syrian sites.
Though the Upper Tigris region is directly connected via river travel to the rich
and ancient copper mines of Ergani Madden, there is little direct evidence for metallurgy
or the processing of raw metal materials during the Late Chalcolithic in this region.
However small copper and bronze finished products such as pins do occur in both
domestic and funerary contexts (see below). Chert is readily accessible in this area and
evidence for chipped stone technologies and the use of stone tools is prevalent. Settlers in
the Upper Tigris seemed to have also benefited from close proximity to local obsidian
sources at Nemrut Dağ/Bingöl.
Burial practices in the Upper Tigris during this period are varied, ranging from
simple pit inhumations to brick lined intramural graves (as at Kenan Tepe; see Hopwood
2008; Parker et al. 2008, 2009 and below) and extramural cemeteries. The best example
is a very early third millennium cemetery from Aşağı Salat that extended over a
maximum 50 square meter area and contained cist graves and graves with a stone
enclosure and cover. All the graves contained pebble floors and were capped with
limestone slabs (Şenyurt 2002a, 694). Due to a high salt content in the soil, the skeletal
material in many cases was too deteriorated to determine the positions of the interred
individuals.8 However a single intact grave (M–14), allowed excavators to note a hocker
position oriented east–west with the head on the east end facing north (Şenyurt 2004,
665). Signs of robbery are evident as the east end of all the cover stones were found
broken and the ceramics and other grave goods broken and scattered. Among the grave
goods remaining were bronze pins, beaded necklaces made from mountain crystal, white
frit and black stone, and a bone “idol” in the form of a stylized human figure. Similar
stone cist graves with pebble floors and limestone capstones were also found at
Müslüman Tepe (Ay 2004).
Evidence for the Uruk Phenomenon in the Upper Tigris is slight, but notable.
Beveled–rim bowls have been excavated at two sites (Aşağı Salat and Giricano) and
collected on numerous surveys (Algaze 1989b; Algaze et al. 1991). Globular vessels with
crosshatched painted designs were also uncovered at Giricano though they are only
remotely similar to the squatter four–lugged jars with crosshatch and chevron designs
from other Uruk sites such as Habuba Kabira–Süd (Strommenger 1980, fig. 52). A baked
clay wall mosaic cone was unearthed at Aşağı Salat near the two–room building and
raised stone platform discussed previously (Şenyurt 2004, 661). Finally the bulla from
Giricano impressed with a stamp seal appears to be a local hatched design and based on
other examples from southeast Turkey and northern Iraq, fits securely within a pre–Uruk
contact sphere of local administrative technologies.
A similar problem was observed in the Early Bronze Age cemetery at Berecik on the Euphrates (Sertok
and Ergeç 1999, 90).
Much of the data for Late Chalcolithic settlement in the Upper Tigris discussed
previously is derived from site survey, surface scrape, small exploratory soundings or
narrow step trenches, all of which severely limit our understanding of the nature of these
occupations especially in terms of households and domestic economy. One site however,
Kenan Tepe, does contain extensive horizontal exposures of Late Chalcolithic
occupations whose superimposed remains span the latter half of the fourth millennium or
the LC 3 through 5. Kenan Tepe thus serves as exceptional case study in which to
examine the changing nature of households and domestic production during the entire
span of the Uruk Phenomenon.
Kenan Tepe: A Brief Settlement History
Kenan Tepe is a 4.5 hectare multi–period mound located 20 kilometers west of
the Tigris–Batman confluence and 10 kilometers east of the modern town of Bismil in the
Diyarbakır province of southeast Turkey (figure 4.4). The site commands a prominent
position from atop a natural limestone outcropping of Upper Miocene date (Tolun 1962)
bordering the north bank of the Tigris River, as it winds its way down from the Taurus
foothills and into the upper Tigris River valley. The site is composed of a tall central
mound and a lower town that extends east toward the river measuring approximately 350
meters on its long axis (southwest to northeast) and over 200 meters on its short axis
(southeast to northwest; figure 4.5).9 Cultural deposits overlay a natural sedimentary
outcropping of interbedded conglomerates and siltstones including sterile clay with
The main datum, located on top of the high mound, is 37 49 50.11634 N by 40 47.59917 E and is 603.724
meters above the World Geodetic datum (Parker et al. 2004, 582).
calcium carbonate inclusions (Creekmore 2007, 77; Parker et al., forthcoming). Since
these deposits are densest on the easternmost edge of the mound it is likely that
settlement continued further east but was eroded way by the changing course of the river.
Figure 4.5. Kenan Tepe facing northeast with Tigris River in
foreground (UTARP Digital Archive).
Kenan Tepe was initially identified in reconnaissance surveys carried out by
Guillermo Algaze and his team (Algaze 1989b; Algaze et al. 1991, fig. 2b #42 and #43).
A total of eight seasons of fieldwork between 2000 and 2008 were carried out under the
auspices of the Upper Tigris Archaeological Research Project (UTARP), a multi–year
archaeological excavation and survey project founded and directed by Bradley Parker of
the University of Utah and co–directed by Lynn Dodd of the University of Southern
California.10 Between 2000 and 2005, excavations at Kenan Tepe carried out by UTARP
team members revealed over 2.5 meters of accumulated Late Chalcolithic occupational
Preliminary reports: Creekmore 2007; Dodd et al. 2005; Parker et al. 2002a, 2002b, 2003, 2004, 2005,
2006, 2008, forthcoming.
Figure 4.6. Topographic map of Kenan Tepe (UTARP Digital Archive, prepared by Andrew
debris in the lower town (Areas F and G) and in several soundings on the high mound
(Areas A, D, and E; figure 4.6). Carbon analysis of these remains shows that the site was
occupied between the late LC 3/early LC 4 period (ca. 3600–3500 BCE) and the LC 5
period (ca. 3100 BCE; table 4.1). Four more carbon dates from fortification/retaining
walls on the high mound discussed below show that occupation continued through the
Late Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age transition (ca. 3000 BCE). Because remains in the
outer town area are not covered by later material, that is Middle Bronze or Iron Age
occupation, Kenan Tepe seems to have reached its largest extent of approximately 4.5
hectares during this period.
Sample #
2–Sigma Cal. BC
LC 5
LC 5 – EB I
LC 5 – EB I
Occupational surface
LC 5 – EB I
Occupational surface
LC 5 – EB I
Fill above large oven
LC 5 – EB I
Large oven
LC 3 – LC 4
LC 4
LC 3
LC 3
LC 4 – EB I
Occupational surface
LC 4 – EB I
Occupational surface
Retaining wall
Debris above retaining
Retaining wall
Retaining wall
Large oven
Large oven
Table 4.1. Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze calibrated carbon dates from Kenan Tepe.
Areas A, C, D, E and G
On the high mound, evidence for Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age
occupations comes from Areas A, C, D and E (figure 4.6, table 4.2). The most substantial
constructions are two parallel fortification or retaining walls that likely circumvented the
high mound, as sections of these walls were uncovered in a step trench in Area A
(trenches 2 and 8),11 a sounding in Area C (trench 5),12 and possibly in Area E (trench 2;
see below). Both walls were constructed of stone foundations over 1.5 meters wide with a
mud brick superstructure that included a damp reed course every 10 to 12 courses (figure
4.7). The superstructures were also built of at least four different kinds of mud brick, each
having a slightly different color that was likely pronounced in antiquity. While these
colors could be explained by aesthetic preference, they also signal the use of multiple
clay sources by different labor gangs or tribute payments from various factions for the
construction of these large walls (Parker et al. 2005, 76). Several carbon dates taken from
the wall foundations, a reed course in the mud brick wall matrix, and fill above the walls
anchor the construction and use of these walls during the very end of the fourth
millennium (table 4.1).
Date (BCE)
Major Architectural Features
LC 5:
Parallel fortification walls with stone foundations and mud
brick superstructure; likely circumvented mound
Late Chalcolithic
Large ovens cut into natural mound
Late Chalcolithic
Two phases of superimposed structures; pebble streets;
Possible southeast portion of fortification wall
Domestic architecture with open–pit fireplaces; tandır oven;
pithos child burials
*Derived from calibrated carbon dates (see table 4.1)
Table 4.2. Summary of Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age architectural features in Areas A,
C, D, E and G at Kenan Tepe.
Trench A2: loci 2125, 2126, 2129, 2131, 2132, 2139, 2140, 2144; Trench A8: locus 33.
Trench C5: loci 10, 12, 13, 16, 17, 43, 46, 49.
Figure 4.7. Fortification or retaining wall from Area A: A, cobblestone foundation; B, mud brick
superstructure (UTARP Digital Archive).
A pair of pyrotechnic facilities was uncovered in Area D and is attributed to the
Late Chalcolithic period based on its associated ceramic assemblage. In trenches D5 and
D9, two ovens (D5: L5126/5138; D9: L7/8/10/20/22)13 were cut into Ubaid period
architecture and the natural slope of the mound creating a flat–bottomed niche that was
guarded from the prevailing winds that, at least in modern times, blow from the
southwest (figure 4.8).14 One of these ovens (D5 L5126/5138)15 had a wall of mud bricks
constructed to shore up the vertical section. Both ovoid–shaped ovens averaged 1.5
meters in diameter and in the case of trench D9, were preserved to a height of 80
centimeters. They were composed of beehive–shaped clay dome cores placed over a layer
The Kenan Tepe project uses the locus system in which each distinguishable context, stratum, or entity in
an excavated area is given a locus number. Within each locus are multiple categories of object types
separated by material (e.g., pottery, stone, bone) that are represented by sequential “KT numbers.” KT
numbers are the equivalent of “basket numbers” on other excavation projects. In this dissertation, locus
numbers will be preceded by an “L” and KT numbers preceded by “KT.” The area and trench number will
be a combined prefix before locus numbers to prevent confusion, thus Area F trench 7 = F7.
These installations have been designated as ovens for the use in cooking and baking due in part to the
absence of wasters or slag that would indicate their use as kilns for ceramic production or metallurgy
(Parker et al. 2006, 75).
The mud brick walls of this oven are loci 5126 and 5138. The interior fill for the oven is represented by
loci 5111, 5120, 5121, 5123, 5124 and 5127.
Figure 4.8. Late Chalcolithic ovens from Area D: A, trench D5; B, trench D9 (UTARP Digital
of mud bricks that probably elevated the fuel and allowed for air circulation. More mud
bricks were packed around this core and the entire oven was covered with a layer of mud
pisé. Because no side openings for access were present, it is likely these ovens were top–
loading like tandır ovens common in southeast Turkey today (Parker et al. 2006, 78;
Parker and Uzel 2007). The ashy debris found inside these ovens included ceramics
common to the Late Chalcolithic assemblage at Kenan,16 jar stoppers (D9 L20 KT4 and
11), and a pot stand fragment (D9 L20 KT12).
Finally at least three phases of superimposed architecture dating to the Late
Chalcolithic were uncovered in Area E trench 2 on the southeast side of the high mound.
The first two phases of architecture are similarly orientated and are represented by
parallel walls (mud brick [L37/43, L70] and stone [L53, L70]) from two neighboring
structures with a wide street or passageway in between them (L50, L56, L78). Compacted
mud surfaces (L51, L60) on the opposite sides of these walls possibly represent interior
This includes chaffy cook pots, flaring and simple straight rim bowls, carinated or hemispherical cups
with a beaded rim, and hammerhead–rim bowls. See Parker and Foster, forthcoming; Parker et al. 2006,
fig. 11.
spaces (figure 4.9 A). In the final phase a 1.4–meter–thick wall (L35/42) was constructed
on the north end of existing wall L37/43 with an additional smaller mud brick wall (L38)
also added to form at least two large spaces or rooms (figure 4.9 B). This massive
construction can be interpreted as either the southeastern extension of the
fortification/retaining wall uncovered in Areas A and C or a monumental building
hitherto unattested for the Late Chalcolithic period on the high mound. The artifacts
associated with this construction—ceramics, animal bone, chipped stone, beads—seem to
represent a domestic assemblage.
Figure 4.9. Late Chalcolithic architecture from Area E trench 2: A, whole vessels in situ adjacent
to mud brick wall; B, large wall dissecting trench (UTARP Digital Archive).
Outside of the main mound, Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age material was
uncovered in Area G with several phases of simple structures, surfaces and burials that
spanned multiple trenches. Most of these structures averaged a minimum of 12 square
meters in size and were composed of mud brick on cobblestone foundations (G7: L46,
L52, L9/21, L23, L27; G10: L15, L19, L21/27). Interior spaces were marked by mud
plastered flooring (G10 L29) and pyrotechnic facilities that ranged from simple open–pit
fireplaces (G10 L16, L24, L28) to a tandır oven (G9 L7) 0.6 meters in diameter with a
stoking hole at the base (figure 4.10). Extensive pebble surfaces between buildings most
likely represent streets or alleyways (G7: L14/15, L50). The most spectacular find in this
area was a bead cache (G9 L19) inside of a ceramic vessel that was, unfortunately, not
connected to any architectural features.17 A total of six burials were found associated with
this architecture, four of which were pithos (pot) burials of young children.18
Figure 4.10. Top view of tandır oven from Area G trench 9
(UTARP Digital Archive).
Area F
The most extensive and diachronic evidence for Late Chalcolithic occupation at
Kenan Tepe derives from Area F, located on a flat terrace approximately 23 meters above
the Tigris River on the northeast side of the main mound (figure 4.6). In total, seven
stratigraphic levels have been identified and distinguished (table 4.3). Due to spatial
For a complete description of the beads, see section by Marie Hopwood in Parker et al. 2008, 144–145.
For a complete osteological report of these burials, see section by David Hopwood in Parker et al. 2008,
constraints and a lack of minute carbon dating, these levels cannot, with certainty, be
reconciled with Late Chalcolithic occupational evidence from areas A, C, D, E, and G
discussed previously. In terms of material culture however, there are many similarities
that lead me to consider the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze corpus of materials at
Kenan Tepe as a coherent whole.
The earliest evidence for occupation in Area F, Levels 7 and 6, is a large mud
brick oven (F4 L4009, L4027) built into sterile clay (figures 4.11, 4.12). Carbon dates
Figure 4.11. Levels 6 and 7 in Area F (adapted from Creekmore
2007, fig. 3).
Figure 4.12. Late Chalcolithic oven from Levels 6
and 7; “House Lot 1” (UTARP Digital Archive).
Figure 4.13. Architecture from Level 7
in trench F1 (UTARP Digital Archive).
Area F Trenches
Major Architectural Features
1, 5, 7, 14,
Pit burials
1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 13, 14,
15, 16, 19, 20, 22
Cobblestone surfaces (pavement?); tandır ovens; pot stands
and pits
1, 7, 8, 13
Shallow pits, Oven windbreak or animal pen (F7)
Destruction Layer
1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 19, 20,
Building with interior platform (F2); Magazine–style store
room (?) with adjacent deep pit, brick–lined burial (F7);
Large multi–room building (F1,19,20,22)
1, 9
Domestic architecture with earthen floors and interior oven;
compacted pebble alleyways; possible barn
1, 4
Large oven; small ephemeral structure; several
superimposed pebble surfaces
Table 4.3. Summary of Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age architectural features in Area F
at Kenan Tepe.
from the basal levels of the oven date this feature to between 3600 and 3500 BCE (table
4.1). Adjacent to this oven was a small ephemeral structure (F1 L1123) and several
superimposed surfaces (F1 L1116, L1117) of tightly packed pebbles and crushed pottery
(figure 4.13). Stone grinders, pestles, obsidian debitage, worked stone needles, loom
weights, tiny shell beads and a large amount of teeth and jaw bones were found on and
embedded within the surfaces. These data suggest this was an outdoor working area such
as a courtyard with an oven or an alleyway between houses where domestic debris was
dumped and subsequently trampled. These data will be discussed in more detail below
under “House Lot 1.”
This working area remained in use during the subsequent Level 5 when two
phases (A and B) of superimposed earthen and cobblestone surfaces19 were added and
demarcated, presumably into outdoor and indoor areas, by additional mud brick walls20
(figures 4.14, 4.15). A circular pit (F1 L1090, L1091) in the northwest corner of the
interior space was likely an oven, as it was filled with ash and the surrounding outer edge
showed signs of burning. A modest building of packed mud pisé construction (L9052) lay
nearby in trench F9 (figure 4.16). An entrance on the southern end was marked by a door
pivot (L9046 KT7) and raised earthen threshold. The inside of the structure had a packed
mud surface (L9049) covered with a white pseudomorph layer mostly likely the remains
of straw or matting. This surface sealed an earlier 1–meter–deep refuse pit (L9055).
When compared with ethnographic data (Kramer 1982, 106–107), this structure has many
of the characteristics of a barn or stable area with trampled fodder on the floors and, if it
F1 L1086, L1057/1097, L1089, L1098, L1100, L1101.
F1 L1069, L1076, L1080, L1096.
can be identified as such, a packed mud trough. It is possible that this stable serviced the
nearby domestic area in trench F1.
Figure 4.14. Level 5 in Area F (adapted from Creekmore 2007, fig. 3).
Figure 4.15. Architecture from Level 5 in trench F1: A, phase A; B, phase B (UTARP Digital
Figure 4.16. Packed mud pisé building in trench F9
(UTARP Digital Archive).
These more ephemeral constructions of Level 5 gave way to significant
architecture with several subphases of construction and reconstruction in Level 4 (figure
4.17).21 The earliest of these was a large mud brick structure from trench F2 (phase B)
with plastered mud brick walls half a meter thick, a plastered platform, and a mud
plastered floor into which a complete string–cut base bowl was set (figure 4.18; “House
Lot 2” discussed below). The floor has been carbon dated between 3360 and 3020 BCE
(table 4.1). This structure was not reused during the later occupation phase A. Instead, an
L–shaped mud brick wall (L2034) with an adjacent mud brick platform (L2033) and
pebble surface (L2035) was constructed in this area that either served as a poorly
preserved building or retaining/separation wall (figure 4.19).
In neighboring trench F7 five separate building phases of Level 4 were
distinguished though they likely post–date the structure discussed above in trench F2.
The F7 phases were characterized by a series of small overlapping walls, pebble surfaces,
and plaster floors cut by later pits and burials. The earliest phase E had a central sunken
hearth or fire pit inside a mud brick wall structure (figure 4.20). This was followed by a 3
by 0.5 meter mud brick wall (L7209) that was a combination of two walls joined at a
corner during Phase D (figure 4.21). To the north of this wall was a compacted clay
surface with flat–lying ceramic fragments and rounded river pebbles (L7208) that
overlapped the mud plaster surface (L7213) from Phase E. It is possible that this
compacted pebble surface is actually debris from when the mud plaster surface went out
of use.
Due to space constraints, only select construction phases for Level 4 are depicted in figure 4.18. This
does not imply that the phases shown are contemporary, but are meant to display the variety of architectural
features from this level.
Figure 4.17. Level 4 in Area F (adapted from Creekmore 2007, fig. 2).
Figure 4.18. Mud brick structure from Level 4 phase B in trench F2 (UTARP
Digital Archive).
Figure 4.19. Mud brick constructions from Level 4 phase A in trench F2
(UTARP Digital Archive).
Figure 4.20. Sunken hearth or fire pit from Level 4 phase E in trench
F7 (UTARP Digital Archive).
Figure 4.21. Mud brick wall from Level 4 phase
D in trench F7 (UTARP Digital Archive).
This architecture does not continue into the following phase C. Instead, disjointed
features like wall stubs (L7202, L7201), a large pit (L7199; figure 4.22 A) and an
adjacent adolescent burial were constructed (L7200; figure 4.22 B). The burial was inside
a mud brick–lined pit with no associated grave goods. It is possible that this inhumation
Figure 4.22. Brick-lined burial and pit from Level 4 phase C in trench F7: A, before excavation;
B, detail of burial (UTARP Digital Archive).
was not associated with this phase, but the following Phase B, in which a multi–roomed
structure opened onto a courtyard area under which the adolescent was buried. This
structure (L7178) was composed of multiple connecting walls forming two magazine–
type rooms roughly 1 meter wide and 2.5 meters long (figure 4.23). Flimsy construction,
lack of floor, and minimal debris suggest this building may have been used for keeping
animals or as temporary agricultural storage. Perhaps an adjacent structure (L7163,
L7154), only the corner of which falls within F7, served as the primary living space.
These data will be discussed in more detail below under “House Lot 3.” The latest phase
A consisted of a single–room structure, which only a portion of the walls (L7160, L7158)
and compacted pebble floor (L7169) with door socket (L7152 KT4) were found
Figure 4.23. Magazine structure
from Level 4 phase B in trench F7
(UTARP Digital Archive).
Figure 4.24. Structure from Level 4
phase A in trench F7, facing
southwest (UTARP Digital
preserved directly above the Phase B structure (figure 4.24). Adjacent to the Phase B
magazine building was a burial construction made from three courses of burnt and
unburned mud brick that contained an adult female in a flexed position on her left side
(figure 4.25). It is unclear whether this was a pit that was lined with bricks as was
discovered in the adolescent burial nearby or a freestanding structure comparable to Late
Chalcolithic burials at Tepe Gawra (Rothman 2002; Tobler 1950) and Tomb J at
Korucutepe (van Loon 1975).22
Figure 4.25. Brick-lined burial of an adult female adjacent to Phase B
magazine building in Trench F7 (UTARP Digital Archive).
In trench F8, Level 4 contained a single–course mud brick wall (L8034) with a
possible doorway. This wall did not continue into trench F2 to connect with L–shaped
wall L2034, but their orientation is similar, suggesting perhaps different building phases
of the same structure or contiguous features. Level 4 in trench F9 yielded a one–course
mud brick wall (L9035) and a small rectangular pebble surface (L9036), in whose
suprasurface fill a bronze needle or pin was uncovered. Whether these features are
contiguous with an adjacent deep pit (L9045), extending from the north baulk is unclear.
The northern half of this pit was uncovered in trench F7 (L7146). A heavily disturbed
For a complete report on this burial see Parker et al. 2008, 113, 125–128.
burial (L9042) from the southwest corner of F9 was partially obscured by the baulk and
may be associated with this level or a later addition. The latest architectural construction
from Level 4 was a relatively large building that spanned trenches F1, F19, F20, and F22
that will be discussed in detail below under “House Lot 4.”
Level 4 occupations came to a violent end, as heavy burning and burnt mud
brick slump throughout Area F contexts attest to a large conflagration. Following this
destruction, Level 3 was composed of ephemeral occupation throughout Area F with
shallow, debris–filled pits (F8 L8023, L8022; F13 L14), ash lenses, mud brick slump, and
a mud brick structure measuring approximately 2 by 4 meters in trench F7 (figures 4.26,
4.27). Composed of three 0.4–meter–thick single course walls (F7 7033/7053), the
structure lacked an eastern wall, which is perhaps due to later disturbances by Level 1
burials (F7 L7028, L7094) and Level 2 cobblestone surfaces (F7 L7005). A pivot stone or
door socket was uncovered on the eastern end of the southern wall (F7 L7077 KT 22)
marking some kind of entrance on this side of the structure. Earthen surfaces cut by later
pits (L7042, L7043) were found both inside (F7 L7075) and surrounding this structure
(F7 L7074) and were strewn with ceramic and bone debris. Strangely, baked brick oven
material was found inside the building but there was no other evidence for burning or a
permanent pyrotechnic installation. This structure perhaps functioned as a windbreak for
an oven or shelter for animals (Creekmore 2007, 83).
Figure 4.26. Level
3 in Area F (adapted
from Creekmore
2007, fig. 2).
Figure 4.27. Mud
brick structure in
trench F7, Level 3
(UTARP Digital
These Level 3 contexts were sealed by an extensive layer of cobblestone surfaces
that are the distinctive feature of Level 2 (figure 4.28).23 Most of these surfaces were
composed of two layers: a bottom foundation of smaller stones and pebbles and a top
layer of larger cobbles (figure 4.29). While the cobblestone surfaces in the northern
trenches of Area F contained a scattering of pottery and animal bone fragments, the
surfaces from trenches in the south (F1, F19, F20, F22) were mostly devoid of cultural
material, save for a large animal bone embedded within the cobbles of F19. Three small
Figure 4.28. Levels 1 and 2 in Area F (adapted from Creekmore 2007, fig. 1). Note:
two burials from trench F6 not pictured.
Trench F1 L1006, L1009; trench F2 L2003, L2008; trench F7 L7005, L7029; trench F8 L8010; trench
F14 L3, L19; trench F15 L6–12; trench F19 L2; trench F20 L2; trench F22 L2.
Figure 4.29. Detail of Level 2
cobblestone surface and oven in
trench F2 (UTARP Digital
Figure 4.30. Tandır ovens from Area F Level 2: A, trench F2 L2002; B, trench F8 L8002
(UTARP Digital Archive).
tandır ovens with similar diameters ranging from 50 to 70 centimeters were associated
with these surfaces (figure 4.30 A and B). Three circular cobblestone, rock and ceramic
fragments installations were also uncovered in trench F8 that most likely represent pot
stands (F8 L8005, L8006, L8009), and several debris pits containing burnt pottery,
animal bones, chert and obsidian (F20 L4; F22 L4). Based on the domestic debris and
lack of substantial architectural features, these cobblestone surfaces and ovens seem to
represent an outdoor work area or disposal site that covered the majority of Area F.
These surfaces were then later cut by Level 1 intrusive pit burials whose exact
date is unknown, but could range anywhere between the Early Bronze Age and Islamic
Period (figure 4.28). A total of thirteen burials were scattered across the entirety of Area
F.24 Due to poor preservation, excavators have been unable to determine the sex or age of
the interred individuals. Most seem to be adults in extended or flexed positions with the
head oriented to the west and the rest of the body to the east (figure 4.31). Grave goods
were minimal and included a spindle whorl, a miniature vessel, a small juglet, and a
bronze pin.
Figure 4.31. Level 1 pit burials from Area F: A, trench F5 L5000/5005; B, trench F7 L7006
(UTARP Digital Archive).
Trench F1 L1004, L1008A, L1008B, L1011/1021A, L1011/1021B, L1017/1022; trench F5 L5000/5005;
trench F6 L6004, L6011; trench F7 L7006, L7028/7054, L7084; trench F14 L7. See also Creekmore 2007,
79-81, 106 table 1.
Late Chalcolithic House Lots
As discussed in chapter 2, my investigation of households is limited to the
primary locus of activities: the house and its immediate surroundings, collectively
identified as house lots. Traditionally defined house lots often, but not always, contain a
large area, often bounded, comprised of a primary dwelling unit (the house), adjacent
uncovered patio or open courtyard area, and garden zone. To this I would add a mobility
zone adjacent to the house lot composed of walkways or alleyways and a refuse zone
where secondary deposition of objects take place. It is also possible that these two zones,
mobility and refuse, coexist spatially, that is refuse can pile up along streets and
alleyways between house lots.
Four house lots are described below that make up chronologically distinct
bounded units at Kenan Tepe that I will be using for the study of the DMPC (table 4.4).
These particular house lots were chosen primarily because they stand as the best
preserved examples of domestic architectural units for the Late Chalcolithic at Kenan
Tepe. They are also located in the same area of the site allowing for a spatial and
diachronic study of the domestic economy.
House Lot
Calibrated 14C (BCE)
F1, F4
3523 to 3335*
LC 4
3360 to 3020
LC 4/5
3360 to 3020
LC 4/5
F1, F19, F20, F22
3020 to 2890
LC 5
*Range is averaged from six carbon dates. See table 4.1.
Table 4.4. Late Chalcolithic house lots with their corresponding trenches and dates from Area F.
House Lot 1
Located in Trenches 1 and 4 in Area F in the outer town east of Kenan Tepe’s
main mound, this house lot represents multiple continuous building episodes that span
Levels 7 through 5. The earliest phase (Level 6–7) is an outdoor work area built into
virgin clay consisting of a large mud brick oven or kiln adjacent to a small structure
(figure 4.32a). The oven or kiln (F4 L4009, L4027) is approximately 2 meters in diameter
and was constructed of bricks measuring 15 by 7 centimeters that were laid lengthwise in
two rows. Twelve courses of bricks were preserved allowing excavators to note a slight
incurving of the walls that perhaps signify a domed roof much in the tradition of other
later ovens at Kenan Tepe (see Level 2 contexts in Area F [table 4.3] and trench G9 L7)
and tandırs in modern Turkish villages (Parker and Uzel 2007). A deposition of black,
gray and white ash (F4 L4007, L4012, L4023) nearly half a meter thick filled with animal
bones, ceramics and other debris was uncovered curving up the inside of the oven.
Adjacent to this kiln or oven is a small street or alleyway bordering a small
structure of which only an ephemeral wall remains from the earliest construction (figure
4.13). This wall (F1 L1123) is composed of mud bricks measuring 30 by 50 centimeters
bonded by a mud plaster mortar with only a single course preserved. This wall runs
approximately north–south for 3 meters with the rest of the wall and structure hidden in
the trench’s north and east baulk. The street or outdoor surface (F1 L1117) stretches for 4
meters between the structure and the oven/kiln sloping at a 35 to 45 degree angle on its
eastern visible edge most likely due to an earlier pit (F1 L1130) that lay below. The
surface is composed of compacted pebbles less than 5 centimeters in size in a coarse clay
matrix into which various categories of debris had been embedded. These included
Figure 4.32a. House Lot 1, phase 1.
crushed ceramic fragments, animal bones, and lithics. As mentioned previously, an
earlier pit (F1 L1130) was sealed by this alleyway. Roughly circular in shape, this pit was
50 centimeters in depth and filled with heavy amounts of carbon and ash with
subdivisions composed of alternating strong brown and black ash layers perhaps
indicating multiple dumping episodes.
In a second phase of building (Level 5 phase 2; figure 4.32b), the oven in trench
F4 went out of use and was instead utilized as a locus of trash disposal along with a pair
of adjacent pits (F4 L4024/L4033 and F4 L4034/L4043). The original wall (F1 L1123)
was rebuilt (F1 L1096) with the same north–south orientation though smaller in
dimension (1.75 meter long by 40 centimeters wide). A second wall (F1 L1069)
Figure 4.32b. House Lot 1, phases 2 and 3.
measuring 0.94 meters by 0.36 meters wide was added running perpendicular east–west.
These two walls served to demarcate two areas of cobblestone surfaces (F1 L1100,
L1101) and an earthen surface (F1 L1098) into which a flared–rim cooking pot (F1
L1103 KT5) had been sunk so that the lip of the vessel was flush with the surface.25
Later additional walls were added in Level 5 phase 3 (figure 4.32b). One (F1
L1076) runs north–south perpendicular to wall L1069 and measures 28 by 20
centimeters. Only two bricks were visible and only a single course was preserved to a
height of 10 centimeters. The other wall (F1 L1080), measuring 2.7 meters long by 0.5
meters wide, runs east–west and encloses a second earthen surface (F1 L1089) between it
and wall L1096 to the east. This second surface covered the earlier sunken cooking pot
but was itself cut by what was probably a brick oven (L1090, L1091) that is unfortunately
obscured by the northern baulk of trench F1. Measuring 80 centimeters in length and 45
centimeters in width, this roughly circular pit was quite shallow with only the basal levels
preserving a thin layer of ash in the center encircled by a thin residual layer of burned and
hardened clay, which represents the last vestiges of the oven or fire pit wall. Presumably
outside of this interior space, additional cobblestone surfaces (F1 L1086, L1057/1097)
were built/accumulated atop earlier surfaces of the same type in Phase 2 forming an
alleyway east of wall L1096 and continuing south between walls L1080, L1069 and
L1076. The largest of these surfaces (F1 L1086) measures 4.15 meters long by 0.7 meters
wide and is composed of debris and cobbles up to 5 centimeters in size.
A similar context was excavated at Tell Brak where bowls had been inset with their mouths level with
the floor (Emberling and McDonald 2003, fig. 3: 8–9). This is a common feature throughout the Late
Chalcolithic period at Kenan Tepe (see especially House Lot 2 discussed below).
House Lot 2
This house lot, located in trench 2 of Area F, consists of a partially excavated
single room building measuring approximately 4.5 by 3.5 meters and composed of
plastered mud brick walls whose individual bricks measure 25 by 50 centimeters (L2050,
L2064; figure 4.33). The floor consists of superimposed surfaces including a
pseudomorph layer (L2056) that most likely represents grass matting above a prepared
mud plaster floor (L2065). The building contained only two permanent fixtures: a 1.8 by
0.5 meter plastered platform (L2051) in the southeast corner and a 1.15 by 0.55 meter
pisé/mud brick feature (L2064) on the western end.
Figure 4.33. House Lot 2.
This latter installation most likely served as a room divider or screen for an
adjacent circular indentation (L2067) that measures 82 centimeters in diameter and less
than 50 centimeters deep. It was covered by a compact black ashy surface (L2069) at the
center of which was a simple rim bowl with string–cut base (L2070) that had been
positioned so that the rim was flush with the ashy surface (figure 4.34). This entire
feature connected smoothly with the larger building floor suggesting that the two are
contemporaneous. The function of this sunken bowl feature is unclear, as no artifacts
were recovered inside or adjacent to it. Ashy remains adhering to the interior surface of
the bowl suggest the presence of fire or burning at some point around this feature;
however, this most likely derived from the destruction of the entire building.
Figure 4.34. Sunken bowl feature in House Lot 2 (UTARP
Digital Archive).
Two later pits cut into the interior surface. One measuring 35 centimeters in
diameter (L2066) was filled with small pieces of coarse potsherds, plaster fragments, and
a heavily damaged ceramic animal figurine (KT6). The other (L2042) measures 1.55 by
1.1 meters and cut both the mud surface and the plastered platform. This pit contained
mud brick debris, pottery fragments, and a cylinder seal (KT7; discussed below and also
chapter 5). Part of a child inhumation was partially excavated at the base of this pit, but it
is unclear whether the burial was truly within the pit or part of the layers that the pit
disturbed. A compacted pebble surface with crushed ceramic fragments and other debris
was located outside this building on the eastern (F2 L2049) and southern side (F2 no
locus). These most likely correspond to alleyways or streets that were used for trash
House Lot 3
This house lot is located in trench 7 of Area F (figure 4.35). The largest feature is
a 2.8 by 3.3 meter structure (L7178) composed of mud bricks averaging 25 by 35 by 8
centimeters in dimension. Internally the structure is divided into two narrow rooms or
magazines roughly 0.75 meters wide and 2 meters long. There is no indication for floors,
even compacted earth, or distinct and permanent doorways marked by pivot stones.
Instead these rooms open onto an undeveloped area devoid of architecture or other
discernable features. North of the building is a large circular pit (L7181) 2 meters in
diameter that was only partially excavated, but still reached 0.80 meters deep (figure 4.36
A and B). It was filled with ash and other debris that had been partially covered or sealed
by 1–centimeter–thick compacted mud layer and lined by a single row of mud bricks
averaging 25 by 40 centimeters. A shallow 1 by 1.3 meter ovoid–shaped bin (L7186)
adjacent to this pit was also lined with mud plaster and flanked on the east by a 25
centimeter wide mud brick wall (L7187).
Figure 4.35. House Lot 3.
Figure 4.36. Large plastered pit in House Lot 3: A, before excavation; B, after excavation
(UTARP Digital Archive).
To the northwest stands a heavily burned and damaged structure composed of at
least two spaces or cells that were able to be only partially excavated. The two remaining
walls (F7 L7154, L7163) are composed of reddish brown (2.5YR 6/4) and white, possibly
plastered mud bricks with pebble inclusions that average 20 by 40 centimeters (figure
4.37). Between these walls and to the west of wall L7163 are several phases of smoothed
mud plastered surfaces,26 all of which are bonded with the walls and thus are
contemporary with them. With such a relatively small amount of this presumably larger
structure excavated, it is not surprising that no permanent installations or features were
uncovered in this space. The preservation of the surfaces was, however, quite good
allowing for numerous superimposed microsamples to be taken and later compared (see
Figure 4.37. Top view of heavily damaged structure from House Lot 3
(UTARP Digital Archive).
In order of deposition: Cell 1: L7174, L7168; Cell 2: L7194, L7189, L7185, L7182, L7170. See figure
This structure was wholly destroyed by a large conflagration and destruction level
that essentially sealed these contexts. They were later damaged by a large pit (F7 L7162)
measuring 1.8 meters in diameter and approximately 1 meter deep. This pit cut into the
southern portion of the Cell 2 surfaces and wall 7154 and most likely completely
destroyed the cross wall that effectively closed off this space on the southern end. An
adult male skeleton (F7 L7148) was also excavated at the southern extension of surfaces
from Cell 1 (figure 4.38). This individual was resting on a black ashy surface that likely
corresponds to the surfaces from Cell 1, notably L7174, suggesting this individual was
perhaps a victim of the fire and subsequent collapse of this building. That there is no
evidence for a specifically cut pit in which to intern the individual for a burial further
supports this assertion.
Figure 4.38. Partially preserved male individual south of Cell 1 in
House Lot 1 (UTARP Digital Archive).
House Lot 4
This large structure stretches across four trenches in Area F (1, 19, 20, and 21) but
spans only a single construction phase (figure 4.39).27 The excavated portion of this
structure measures approximately 7 by 9 meters though it is unclear whether this
represents a single large interior space or two separate rooms. The walls28 are composed
of mud bricks averaging 25 by 46 by 10 centimeters in size laid lengthwise as stretchers
atop a cobblestone foundation.29 The southern walls (F22 L11 and L17; L16 and L21)
adjoin to form a double wall, signaling either structural reinforcement on the south side
of the building or a second abutting structure.
There is evidence for slight modifications to the building in the form of blocked
doors or passageways, one separating the main structure from the abutting building (F22
L22) and one possibly separating two rooms inside of the main structure (southern end of
wall F19 L5/21). The foundation for wall L11 in trench F22 is also deeper such that the
cobble foundations of walls L17 and L20 abut the northern face of wall L11 indicating
that L11 was built prior to the main structure. A number of possibilities could account for
this including different builders, expansion of the house due to an enlarging family unit
(i.e., new marriage, etc.).
A mud plaster surface (F1 L1055/1060; F19 L15; F20 L14; F22 L19) was
uncovered in Rooms 1 and 2. In the center of Room 1 is a large brick oven (L1045)
measuring 1.5 meters in diameter with only a single 10 centimeter high course of bricks
preserved (figure 4.40). Inside the oven is a rectangular mud brick pedestal or stand
That we know of. Trenches F19, 20, and 22 were not excavated below this structure. Future excavations
in this area may reveal additional constructions or visual modifications to the existent structure.
Trench F20: L11; trench F19: L5/21, 18, 20; trench F22: L11, 16, 17, 21, 22.
Because this structure was not completely excavated, the cobblestone foundation was only visible below
two walls: F19 L10/19 and F22 L17.
Figure 4.39. House Lot 4.
Figure 4.40. Brick oven from House Lot 4 (UTARP Digital
(L1045 KT1246) with smoothed sides measuring 64 by 30 by 9 centimeters sitting atop a
hardened clay floor bright orange in color due to firing. In Room 2, a 1–meter–diameter
shallow pit (L16) was sunk into the mud plastered floor. Though no obvious brick
superstructure was recovered, the contents of this pit—ash, slag (KT 3), and a hardened
red bottom—suggest it was used for pyrotechnic activities. This house lot was destroyed
by a large conflagration as well. The mud brick walls and earthen interior surface were
lightly baked suggesting the structure burned before collapse. The floor was also covered
with a thin layer of ash (F1 L1047) that either derived from the central oven or the fire
that destroyed the building.
Household Level Production and Consumption
With the loci of inquiry established on the regional and site level, I now turn to
the archaeological evidence for the DMPC at Kenan Tepe for the four house lots
introduced previously. While some interpretation of this evidence is necessary for a
complete understanding of the primary data, my full interpretations as to how this
evidence can be applied to the interpretation of diachronic changes to the DMPC in terms
of morphology and scale between house lots will be discussed in chapter 5.
This category of production includes the cultivation of crops on arable land and
the pastoral herding of domesticate animals or livestock. The former necessarily requires
open space or terracing and good soil. While further geomorphological work remains to
be carried out around Kenan Tepe (see Parker et al., forthcoming), as discussed
previously during the Chalcolithic the Tigris was much wider and flowed deeper than
current conditions, most likely the result of higher annual precipitation levels, lower
evaporation rates, and possibly increased flow of water from the river source. Cultivation
most likely took place in fields to the north and west, as these would have been the only
areas not engulfed by the river and with adequate precipitation levels for dry farming.
Animal husbandry requires pasture land for sheep, goat and cow, for example,
along with appropriate housing units, most likely inside of the settlement and close to the
house lot. These pens do not need to be permanent mud brick installations, but could also
have been pisé and/or reed constructions suitable for containing small herds. Pigs would
also require pens of this nature, though as will be discussed in the following chapter, they
are not always necessary.
Admittedly plant cultivation is difficult to detect in house lots since most of the
activities that make up this type of production—growing, harvesting, and threshing—take
place beyond living spaces. However the processing, use and storage of cultivated plants,
especially cereals, are evident for some house lots. The richest of these is House Lot 1
where the oven in trench F4 contained large amounts of two–rowed hulled barley
(Hordeum distichum) along with einkorn (Triticum monococcum), emmer (Triticum
dicoccoum), and probably spelt (T. spelta) wheat (tables 4.5 and 4.6: samples 1 through
11). These grains were accompanied by glume bases, spikelets and rachis fragments that
provide evidence for processing, storage or transportation of these cereals in their “raw”
form (Parker et al. 2003, 122).
LC 3/4
LC 3/4
LC 3/4
LC 3/4
LC 3/4
LC 3/4
LC 3/4
LC 3/4
LC 3/4
LC 3/4
LC 3/4
LC 4/5
LC 4/5
Context type
Pit associated with F4 oven
Inside F4 oven
Inside F4 oven
Inside F4 oven
Inside F4 oven
F4 oven wall
Base of F4 oven
Base of F4 oven
Base of F4 oven
Base of F4 oven
Table 4.5. Contextual information for botanical sample data presented in table 4.6.
X = few (1-5)
XX = common (6-25)
XXX = many (>25)
Table 4.6. Botanical sample data across Late Chalcolithic house lots based on relative abundance.
Storage vessels in the form of ledge rim collared jars, necked jars with slightly
everted rims, and large handled jars or pithoi (figure 4.41 I–L), make up only 6% of the
ceramic assemblage (N=298).30 This, compared with the over 85% of the vessels being
open bowls and other serving–related vessels that will be discussed below, provide
minimal evidence for long–term storage of these agricultural products in ceramic vessels
or permanent installations such as stone or plaster–lined silos. It is likely then that
foodstuffs were either stored in locations outside the house lot for community
consumption or only temporarily in perishable containers such as baskets or wood bins.
Wild seeds were also identified in the oven and pit assemblages that consist
primarily of field species, riparian species, or species usually associated with animal
food. These include various Cyperaceae (sedges and reeds), wild grasses (Galium,
Scirpus, Gramineae) Rumex sp., Malva sp., and wild legumes (table 4.6). This type and
abundance of grass and field weeds supports an assemblage used in the foddering of
domesticate animals, as opposed to seed rain deposition for example (Minnis 1981).
According to the faunal assemblage (N=176, table 4.7), these animals included primarily
sheep and goat (29%) and to a lesser extent pig (14%) and cow (11%). Based on
mandibular specimens, most of these animals were culled at prime–age (2–3 years) for
meat consumption and utilized to a lesser extent for secondary products such as milk,
wool or traction. This was the case for the faunal assemblage across all house lots,
therefore their role as food products will be discussed in the following section (“Food and
Diagnostic sherds that could be typologically categorized based on function represent 18% of the
ceramics analyzed for this house lot, based on sherd weights available. The percentage of functional types
is based on count.
Figure 4.41. Descriptions of Late Chalcolithic ceramic assemblage from House Lot 1
F4 L4007 KT4077 #1: Reddish yellow exterior surface (5YR 6/4). Light reddish
brown interior surface (5YR 6/6). Light brown fabric (7.5YR 6/4). Fine grit.
F1 L1115 KT1 #1: Brown exterior surface (7.5 YR 4/3). Pale brown interior
surface (10 YR 6/3). Very dark gray fabric (7.5YR 3/1). Medium micaceous sand.
Vertically burnished.
F4 L4020 KT4021 #3: Pink exterior surface (7.5YR 7/4). Pink interior surface
(7.5YR 7/3). Light brown fabric (7.5YR 6/3) grading to a dark gray core (10YR
4/1). Medium chaff.
F4 L4007 KT4086 #2: Reddish yellow exterior surface (10YR 7/4). Very pale
brown interior surface (5YR 6/6). Reddish yellow fabric (7.5YR 7/6). Abrupt
transition to a red core (2.5YR 5/6). Medium grit.
F1 L1106 KT12 #2: Pink exterior and interior surfaces (7.5YR 7/4). Reddish
yellow fabric (7.5YR 7/6) grading to a dark gray core (7.5YR 4/1). Medium to
fine chaff and fine grit. Smoothed interior. Chaff facing.
F1 L1116 KT7 #1: Reddish yellow exterior and interior surfaces (7.5YR 6/6).
Reddish yellow fabric (7.5YR 6/6). Abrupt transition to a dark gray core (7.5YR
4/1). Medium micaceous grit and low levels of fine chaff.
F1 L1117 KT7 #6: Reddish yellow exterior surface (5YR 6/6). Light red interior
surface (2.5YR 7/6). Strong brown fabric (7.5YR 5/6). Abrupt transition to a dark
gray core (7.5YR 4/1). Very fine grit with low levels of fine chaff.
F1 L1116 KT7 #9: Yellowish brown exterior surface (10YR 5/4). Brown interior
surface (7.5YR 5/4). Strong brown fabric (7.5YR 5/6). Abrupt transition to a
brown core (7.5YR 4/3). Fine chaff and grit.
F1 L1121 KT1 #1: Reddish yellow exterior and interior surfaces (5YR 6/6).
Reddish yellow fabric (5YR 6/6). Abrupt transition to a pale brown core (10YR
6/3). Coarse to medium chaff. Burnished exterior.
F4 L4033 KT4191 #2: Pale brown exterior surface (10YR 4/2). Dark grayish
brown interior surface (10YR 6/3). Olive brown fabric (2.5YR 4/3). Abrupt
transition to a dark grayish brown core (2.5YR 4/2). Fine chaff and grit.
F4 L4016 KT4004 #2: Pink exterior and interior surfaces (7.5YR 8/3). Reddish
yellow fabric (5YR 6/6). Medium to fine chaff. Burnished exterior and interior.
F1 L1117 KT7 #1: Reddish yellow exterior surface (5YR 6/6). Reddish yellow
interior surface (5YR 6/8). Reddish yellow fabric (5YR 6/8). Abrupt transition to
a greenish black core (10Y 2.5/1). Large to fine grit and fine chaff. Horizontally
burnished on interior surface.
Figure 4.41. Late Chalcolithic ceramic assemblage from House Lot 1.
While the botanical remains discussed above do not represent primary refuse
inside this oven, they most likely represent the domestic plant assemblage from the
neighboring structure during a later phase of this house lot where this large oven would
have been a readily accessible refuse area. Various levels of fill within this oven (F4
L4004, L4007, L4009) were sampled separately in order to make a comparison and
possibly identify multiple depositional episodes. Based on the botanical data, there are no
marked differences between the samples except for a larger amount of barley in the very
basal levels of the oven (F4 L4009; K. Meegan, pers.comm.). The neighboring pits
(L4012, L4013, L4034) did contain a relatively larger number of Cyperaceae, especially
Scirpus maritimus–type, wild grasses, wild legumes, and small unidentifiable wild seeds
than inside the oven that is likely due to different depositional histories and less intensive
burning inside the pits resulting in greater survival of botanicals. This trend is echoed on
the microlevel where samples from pit L1130 had the greatest number of seed remains in
the microdebris compared with the other house lots (figure 4.42).
This same rich assemblage of botanical remains is unfortunately not echoed in
House Lot 2. All surface and pit features sampled (25 samples in total) were essentially
sterile. The absence of botanical data in the archaeological record for this house lot could
be due to several factors including poor preservation conditions, the existence of prepared
floors that minimize the potential for charred material to become embedded in the
sediment, or rigorous floor cleaning by the household living and working in this space
(Parker et al., forthcoming). Another alternative reason is perhaps this was a very
specialized household or physical space that was not utilized for the essential “day–to–
day” activities of living that would normally have included agricultural production and
consumption, as it does for most village–level community groups today (Kramer 1982).
Seed Count Density (All House Lots)
Count / Volume (L)
House Lot 1
House Lot 2
House Lot 3
House Lot 4
Figure 4.42. Seed count density compared across all house lots.
Without botanical data it is then difficult to interpret the faunal assemblage for
this house lot, consisting primarily of sheep/goat and pig, in terms of herding and rearing
of these animals. While pigs do not require foddering per se, sheep and goat do need food
storage for the winter months when grazing is less predictable. The absence of permanent
storage facilities or receptacles in the form of bins, pits, or silos could provide evidence
that this house lot was occupied on a seasonal basis. This hypothesis is supported by the
ceramic assemblage where only a miniscule 5% of the vessels are identified as storage–
related vessels. Because the total ceramic assemblage is quite small (N=19), this
percentage may not be significant. However the low level of ceramics used by this
household in–and–of–itself could be an indication for seasonal encampment.
In House Lot 3, two pits (F7 L7162 and L7181) provided the best preserved
botanical remains and, as with House Lot 1, likely represent oven rake–out deposits. The
assemblage consists largely of cereals like barley (Hordeum sp.), emmer wheat (Triticum
dicoccoum) and other wheat species (Triticum sp.; tables 4.5 and 4.6: samples 12 and 13).
These grains were again accompanied by cereal internodes, glume bases, spikelets and
rachis fragments that attest to processing of these cereals within the house lot after local
cultivation and harvesting. Unlike House Lot 1, storage vessels utilized by this household
make up a larger percentage of the vessels in the assemblage (11%; N=75). Vessel forms
range from necked jars with slightly everted rims to pithoi and large necked jars (figure
4.43 A–C).
The presence of grass peas (Lathyrus sp.), wild seeds (Adonis sp., Teucrium sp.,
and small legumes such as Medicago radiata and Astragalus sp.) and domestic sheep and
goat dung and intact pellets in at least one of the samples (F7.7162.23) not only provide
possible evidence for the foddering of domestic animals, but also the use of dung cakes as
a source of fuel (see below and Parker et al., forthcoming). Further evidence is provided
by the faunal assemblage that shows a level distribution of domestic pig (25%), cow
(21%), sheep and goat (27%) out of a total NISP of 56 (table 4.7). Based on available
mandible specimens, most of these animals were killed by the prime age of 2 to 3 years,
again a pattern consistent with meat production and consumption.
Unfortunately all sixty samples collected for archaeobotanical analysis for House
Lot 4 were essentially sterile. Likewise the microdata evidence, derived from surfaces
Figure 4.43. Descriptions of Late Chalcolithic ceramic assemblage from House Lot 3
F7 L7178 KT3 #3: Pink exterior and interior surfaces (7.5YR 7/4). Reddish
yellow fabric (5YR 6/6) grading to a dark gray core (5YR 4/1). Chaff and grit.
Chaff facing on interior surface.
F7 L7180 KT10 #2: Brown exterior surface (7.5YR 4/2). Dark grayish brown
(10YR 4/2). Red fabric (2.5YR 4/6) grading to dark brown core (7.5YR 3/2). Fine
chaff and medium white grit. Burnished exterior and interior.
F7 L7180 KT10 #3: Reddish yellow exterior and interior surfaces (7.5YR 6/6).
Reddish yellow fabric (7.5YR 6/6) grading to a black core (7.5YR 2.5/1).
Medium to fine chaff and grit. Burnish on exterior.
F7 L7194 KT2 #1: Dark gray exterior surface (5YR 4/1). Black interior surface
(5YR (2.5/1). Black fabric (5YR (2.5/1). Abundant chaff and fine white grit.
F7 L7163 KT1 #1: Reddish yellow exterior surface (5YR 6/8). Reddish yellow
interior surface (7.5YR 7/6). Reddish yellow fabric (5YR 6/6). Abrupt transition
to a yellowish red core (5YR 5/6). Dense fabric with large to medium calcareous
grit and fine mica. Parallel incised lines.
F7 L7162 KT20 #2: Light brown exterior and interior surfaces (7.5YR 6/3).
Brown fabric (7.5YR 5/3). Abrupt transition to a very dark gray core (7.5YR 3/1).
Very fine grit and fine chaff. Some fine micaceous grit. Burnished interior and
F7 L7162 KT5 #1: Light reddish brown on exterior and interior surfaces (5YR
6/4). Reddish yellow fabric (5YR 7/6). Simple ware with fine grit and chaff in a
dense fabric. Horizontal burnish on exterior.
F7 L7162 KT20 #1: Light reddish brown exterior and interior surfaces (5YR 6/4).
Yellowish red fabric (5YR 5/6). Medium chaff and very fine grit.
F7 L7181 KT13 #6: Yellowish red exterior surface (5YR 5/6). Light red interior
surface (2.5YR 8/6). Pinkish red fabric (5YR 6/2) grading to light red core
(7.5YR 6/8). Fine grit. Burnish on exterior.
F7 L7182 KT2 #1: Very pale brown exterior surface (10YR 7/3). Light gray
interior surface (10YR 7/2). Very pale brown fabric (10YR 7/3). Medium to fine
chaff. Smoothed interior and exterior.
F7 L7162 KT20 #5: Very pale brown exterior and interior surfaces (10YR 7/3).
Light brown fabric (7.5YR 6/4). Very fine chaff. Four incised lines at shoulder.
F7 L7180 KT10 #1: Light brown exterior and interior surface (7.5YR 6/4).
Reddish yellow fabric (7.5YR 6/6). Light exterior horizontal burnish. Small to
medium fine grit temper.
F7 L7181 KT13 #1: Brown exterior and interior surfaces (7.5YR 5/4). Strong
brown fabric (7.5YR 5/6). Medium and some coarse grit and fine chaff.
F7 L7163 KT1 #2: Pink exterior surface (7.5YR 7/4). Pink interior surface
(7.5YR 8/4). Pink fabric (7.5YR 7/4) grading to a light reddish brown core (5YR
6/4). Grit and chaff facing.
F7 L7181 KT13 #3: Strong brown exterior surface (7.5YR 4/6). Reddish brown
interior surface (2.5YR 5/4). Yellowish brown fabric (10YR 5/4) grading to a
grayish brown core (2.5YR 5/2). Very fine grit. Burnished interior and exterior.
Figure 4.43. Late Chalcolithic ceramic assemblage from House Lot 3.
and suprasurface debris inside the house lot, is miniscule consisting of a single charred
seed (figure 4.42). This makes House Lots 2 and 4 stand out as lacking any remains of
botanical evidence. As mentioned previously, the absence of these data could be due to
several factors including poor preservation, non–porous surfaces, rigorous cleaning or a
specialized household group. As with House Lot 2, it is difficult to discuss foddering of
domestic animals without the botanical evidence though this does not undermine the
possibility that these animals were kept elsewhere. Certainly sheep/goat and cow were
utilized by this household, as will be discussed below, however a sharp increase in the
consumption of pig may account for the relative absence of botanical remains as well (see
below and chapter 5). Storage vessels were recovered from this context, though they
make up a minimal percentage (12%) of the entire ceramic assemblage (N=92) as with
the other house lots.
Food and Eating
By its very nature, recovering evidence for the production and consumption of
food requires a multidisciplinary approach. This includes floral and faunal data, ceramic
assemblages, and tools such as grinding stones, fishing weights, and andirons used to
acquire and transform raw material into food. As discussed previously, House Lot 1
contained the best preserved evidence for domesticate cereals like hulled barley and
wheat that were likely used in the production of breads. The sheer size of the earliest
oven (2 meters in diameter) utilized by this household speaks to either baking and bread
production that exceeds the level of need for a single household unit or the simultaneous
use of this oven by multiple households. Certainly the high level of basalt grinding
querns (F1.1115.4, F4.4023.4126), mullers (F1.1109.4), pestles (F1.1116.20) and large
pounders (F1.1112.3, F1.1116.14, F1.1082.3) found incorporated into the cobbled streets
as refuse and on household surfaces attest to high levels of cereal processing into flour,
though these tools could have been used to grind nuts as well (see below). This high level
of production however does not seem to have lasted, as the F4 oven went out of use and a
new, smaller oven was used inside of the domestic space.
Apart from cereals, the botanical assemblage includes large and small legumes
(Leguminosae), peas (Pisum sativum), nuts and grapes (Vitis sp.; table 4.6). Both the nuts
and grapes could have derived from household gardens or small orchards, though no
other orchard–type plants are present. An abundance of wood charcoal throughout the
samples likely corresponds to this resource being used in cooking fires. Apart from bread
and stews, meat was also a common staple for this household with sheep and goat
House Lot
Sheep &
Red Deer
Total NISP
comprising the majority of the assemblage (29%; table 4.7). Pig (14%), cow (11%), and
Lg–MM = large mammal
Md–MM = medium mammal
Sm–MM = small mammal
Unident = unidentified
Table 4.7. Percentages of species across Late Chalcolithic Period house lots at Kenan Tepe based
on NISP of identified bones.
other medium mammals (20%) were also consumed along with wild species like bird
(2%), hare (1%), fish (3%), freshwater crab (2%), and red deer (0.6%).
While some adult pig specimens were present in the assemblage, most of these
animals were culled at young ages (2–3 years) based on available sheep/goat and pig
mandible specimens that show a trend toward meat production and consumption, with a
lesser focus on the use of secondary products like milk, wool and/or traction. The bones
exhibit evidence for cutting, specifically crushing, slicing, breaking on the distal ends and
long deep chopping, all indicative of butchering practices. That all parts of the carcass are
present in many examples, and not simply choice cuts of meat, provides evidence for the
local raising, butchering and consumption of these animals as opposed to gifts of meat for
example. Furthermore the lack of evidence for gnawing on the bones from dogs or other
scavengers that would result in disturbance of the spatial patterning of the faunal remains
shows this assemblage was primarily consumed and discarded in this household locus.
These animals and plants were likely cooked in small globular–shaped cook pots
(figure 4.41 B) elevated above open wood fires as indicated by the botanical assemblage,
the lack of spit marks on the bones that would indicate cooking over an open flame, and
the presence of several andirons (F4.4023.4315/4320; F4.4023.4225) inside the F4 oven
and in household debris (figure 4.44). The location of the cooking fire(s) is not apparent
for the excavated portion of this house lot, unless the interior oven from the later building
phases was not in fact used as a bread (tandır) oven but as an open fire pit encircled by
mud bricks. The low amount of cooking vessels and utensils like lids in the ceramic
assemblage (9% of N=298) perhaps reinforces the fact that the actual cooking of food
took place in other locations. In this way, the cooking vessel sunk into the floor of the
Figure 4.44. Example of andiron from
House Lot 1 (F4.4023.4225; UTARP
Digital Archive).
house near the southern doorway in Phase 2 (F1.1103.5) should be seen as a secondary
reuse of this ceramic type, likely functioning as some sort of drain or small receptacle.31
Instead of cooking, the majority of the ceramic assemblage (85%) is vessels typically
used for serving and eating. These range from open platters (figure 4.41 D), casseroles
(figure 4.41 C) and large hammerhead rim bowls (figure 4.41 E, G, H)32 to beaded rim
cups (figure 4.41 F), string–cut flat base bowls, carinated fine ware cups and bowls with
horizontal grooves (figure 4.41 A), and open bowls/platters with pedestal bases.
At fourth millennium Tell Brak, ceramic vessels were also found sunk into floors where their rims/lips
were flush with the surface. These were sunken storage jars however and not cooking pot types (Emberling
and McDonald 2003).
I have included hammerhead rim bowls within the category of “serving–type vessel” based on the lack of
evidence that this ceramic type was used in cooking procedures. While admittedly much of the evidence for
hammerhead rim bowls at Kenan Tepe lack the entire vessel, the base being the most important, none of the
extant sherds I have analyzed contain any traces of charring or burning, even in minute levels, that would
indicate coming into contact with fire. This is in contrast to the assemblage at Hacınebi for example, where
these bowl types were used for both cooking and serving (Pearce 2000).
House Lot 1: Microartifact Count Density by Material Type
Count / Volume (L)
House Lot 1: Microartifact Weight Density by Material Type
Weight (g) / Volume (L)
Figure 4.45. Microartifact count and weight densities for House Lot 1 by material type.
In terms of the microassemblage, only three HAP samples are available for
analysis and were collected from the cobblestone street (F1.11175.4) and ash pit
(F1.1130.2 and 5) of Phase 1 (figure 4.45). A somewhat low density of microbasalt is
present representing pieces of grinding stone that flaked off during the use of querns and
mullers and reinforce the assertions made previously that grinding of cereals and most
likely nuts and other foodstuffs were being carried out in this household. Overall though
the highest levels of microdebris is ceramic and animal bone. When examined in detail
(figure 4.46), these assemblages are comprised of a relatively even count density of
medium and coarse fabric ceramics that equate to both serving/eating and cooking vessels
respectively, a trend that is not echoed in the macroassemblage where medium ware
serving vessels dominate. Also in contrast to the macroassemblage, fine ware ceramics
are not present in these microsamples. This may be due in part to the fact that
microsamples are currently only available for the earliest building phase of this house lot
and that the trend toward finer ware presentation vessels took place in Phases 2 and 3.
Finally the occurrence of microbone, especially burnt specimens, are especially
telling in terms of animal butchering, cooking and eating. While I acknowledge that there
are a number of ways in which bone can become embedded in archaeological contexts,33
I contend that a large portion of the bone found in the soil matrices of floors and other
domestic features represent the residue of meat processing or consumption, especially
since tiny fragments of larger mammals or fish, for example, are not likely to have been
deposited in domestic contexts without human agency. The count and weight densities
for microbone show, not unexpectedly, a large portion of unidentifiable mammal bone
For a detailed discussion of this issue, see the “Microarchaeological Analysis” section in Parker et al.,
House Lot 1: Microceramic Count Density by Fabric Type
Count / Volume (L)
House Lot 1: Microceramic Weight Density by Fabric Type
Weight (g) / Volume (L)
Figure 4.46. Percentage of microceramic based on count and weight densities for House Lot 1 by
fabric type.
House Lot 1: Microbone Count Density by Species
Figure 4.47. Percentage of microbone based on count and weight densities for House Lot 1 by
along with burnt bone in all three samples (figure 4.47). Minute levels of rodent and bird
are also distinguishable and mirror examples in the macroassemblage.
Evidence for the production and consumption of food in House Lot 2 is
exceedingly difficult to assess due in part to the relative absence of botanical data as
mentioned above. This fact alone causes difficulty in interpreting the occurrence of
grinding stones (F2.2044.4, F2.2062.15, F2.2062.21) and a single stone pounder
(F2.2063.2) inside of this house as either primary or secondary refuse. In this case it is
perhaps the microbasalt grinding stone debris throughout the house lot HAP samples,
albeit in low densities, that provide evidence for grinding activities (see below). This
situation is further exacerbated by the low numbers of faunal data available for this house
lot compared with the others. In fact House Lot 2 has the overall lowest NISP of all house
lots (table 4.7). While this alone may be enough to skew the percentages, the fact that
22% of the total assemblage (one of the highest) is unidentifiable fragments makes
assessing the exact types of food consumption even more difficult. If we set aside the
category of unidentifiable bones, sheep/goat (22%) and pig (17%) make up the majority
of the assemblage with cattle trailing shortly behind (11%). Fox and gazelle (6% each)
provided supplementary meat for the diet of this household group. The majority of the
faunal material derives from a large pit (L2042) that cut into the interior of the eastern
wall of the structure, seemingly after the house went out of use. The remaining faunal
data derive from the compacted pebble street outside of the house and from the northeast
corner of the interior of the house.
None of the bones from this small assemblage exhibit cut or butcher marks,
though the animals do appear to have been raised and butchered locally due to the
representation of all parts of the carcass in the assemblage and not just specific “cuts” of
meat. One small to medium–sized mammal bone however did show signs of punctures or
gnawing from the teeth of a carnivore, most likely dog. Based on mandibular specimens
available for sheep/goat and pigs, these animals were culled at prime–age (2–3 years) for
meat consumption. Part of the assemblage was also charred suggesting contact with an
elevated heat though there is no direct evidence, in the form of spit marks, for the use of
open fires.
Nor is there any evidence for andirons or other stands for supporting cook pots. In
fact the ceramic assemblage derived from the various surfaces and pits from this house
lot shows an overwhelming dominance of serving–type vessels (84%) as opposed to
Figure 4.48. Descriptions of Late Chalcolithic ceramic assemblage from House Lot 2
F2 L2070 KT1 #1: Reddish yellow exterior surface (5YR 6/6). Coarse chaff-grit
F2 L2049 KT1 #4: Pale brown exterior and interior surfaces (10YR 6/3).
Yellowish brown fabric (10YR 5/4). Fine grit and medium chaff.
F2 L2049 KT1 #2: Light yellowish brown exterior surface (10YR 6/4). Light
brown interior surface (7.5YR 6/4). Yellowish red fabric (5YR 5/6). Sandy with
medium chaff.
F2 L2066 KT1 #3: Reddish yellow exterior surface (7.5YR 7/6). Reddish yellow
interior surface (7.5YR 6/6). Reddish yellow fabric (7.5YR 6/6) grading to a dark
gray core (7.5YR 4/1). Medium chaff and fine to medium white grit.
F2 L2049 KT1 #3: Light brown exterior and interior surfaces (7.5YR 6/4). Strong
brown fabric (7.5YR 5/6). Very fine grit.
F2 L2049 KT1 #1: Pale brown exterior and interior surfaces (10YR 6/3). Brown
interior surface (10YR 5/3). Yellowish brown fabric (10YR 5/4). Abrupt
transition to Dark gray fabric core (10YR 4/1). Fine grit and medium chaff
F2 L2066 KT1 #1: Brown exterior surface (7.5YR 5/3). Pale brown interior
surface (10YR 6/3). Brown fabric (10YR 5/3). Dense fabric with fine grit temper.
Four parallel incised lines on exterior.
F2 L2056 KT4 #1: Light reddish brown exterior and interior surface (5YR 6/4).
Reddish yellow fabric (5YR 6/6). Burnished exterior surface. Large calcareous
grit temper.
F2 L2042 KT1 #7: Reddish yellow exterior surface (7.5YR 7/6). Pink interior
surface (7.5YR 7/4). Very pale brown fabric (10YR 7/4) grading to reddish
yellow core (5YR 6/6).
F2 L2066 KT1 #2: Light yellowish brown exterior and interior surface (10YR
6/4). Reddish yellow fabric (7.5YR 7/6). Smoothed exterior and mica visible on
exterior surface. Fine to large grit temper.
F2 L2042 KT1 #6: Reddish yellow exterior surface (5YR 6/6). Light reddish
brown interior surface (5YR 6/4). Reddish gray core (5YR 5/2). Medium density
fabric with few, fine grit temper. Burnish on exterior.
F2 L2042 KT1 #4: Light brown exterior and interior surface (7.5YR 6/3). Reddish
yellow fabric (7.5YR 6/6). Abrupt transition to dark gray core (7.5YR 4/1). Large,
coarse chaff and white angular grit temper. Coarse ware with smoothed exterior.
Figure 4.48. Late Chalcolithic ceramic assemblage from House Lot 2.
storage or cooking wares. While this calculation could, like the faunal assemblage, be
skewed based on a low counts (N=19) the relative abundance of simple–rim cups and
bowls (figure 4.48 A–C, E), fine ware cups (figure 4.48 G), pedestal bowls and/platters,
and open hammer–head rim bowls (figure 4.48 F, H, I, K) reflect activities involved with
food serving and consumption.
The microdata in many ways support the depositional patterns inherent in the
macroassemblages of ceramics and bone. A total of four HAP samples were collected
from several contexts in and around this house lot including a surface covered with a
pseudomorph layer (F2.2056.5.1), the large mud plastered floor on the interior
(F2.2065.1.1, F2.2065.3.1), and the street, alleyway or compacted midden located to the
southeast (F2.2049.2.1). The densest material categories for these samples are ceramic
and bone, a pairing that correlates well with food–related serving and consumption
(figure 4.49). The occurrence of medium ware ceramic types indicative of most serving
vessels at Kenan Tepe dominates this microceramic assemblage both in terms of count
and weight density, though there are smaller numbers of heavier coarse ware cook pot
sherds in the street context (F2.2049.2.1; figure 4.50).
Looking closer at the densities of the microassemblages between the indoor and
outdoor areas of this house lot, one can see the great difference between these two
sectors. By examining the three most common microartifact types—ceramic, lithic, and
animal bone—for the house lot microsamples in figure 4.49 there emerges a distinct
pattern. One sample (F2.2049.2.1) stands out as the highest count and weight density for
two of three microartifact categories despite being the smallest in sample volume at 1.5
liters. Rainville (2005, 49–54) has argued that there are correlations between specific
House Lot 2: Microartifact Count Density by Material Type
Count / Volume (L)
House Lot 2: Microartifact Weight Density by Material Type
Weight (g) / Volume (L)
Figure 4.49. Microartifact count and weight densities for House Lot 2 by material type.
House Lot 2: Percentage of Microartifacts Based on Count Density
Medium ware
Coarse ware
Unidentified mammal
House Lot 2: Percentage of Microartifacts Based on Weight Density
Medium ware
Coarse ware
Unidentified mammal
Figure 4.50. Percentage of microartifact types for House Lot 2 based on count and weight
contexts or loci and microartifact signatures such that outdoor spaces like streets, exterior
surpra–floors and surfaces contain the highest density of microceramics, bone and
lithic.34 This very dense accumulation of microdebris in sample F2.2049.2.1 supports this
correlation made by Rainville that, when combined with the dense accumulation of
macroartifacts in this same space, identifies this context as a midden or street.
The other samples (F2.2056.5.1, F2.2065.1.1, F2.2065.3.1) share roughly the
same densities but exhibit significantly fewer microartifacts than the outdoor space,
especially for microceramics and microbones. While this trend could be due to
diminished use of this space in general for production or consumption–based activities, I
instead theorize that the low density of microartifacts is due to habitual cleaning of inside
work surfaces as documented by numerous ethnoarchaeological observations and other
microarchaeological studies (Özbal et al. 2004; Rainville 2005).
Returning to the outdoor midden or street, one interesting note is the lack of
variety in microartifact subtypes that one would expect to find in a general–use refuse
area. While this does not lessen my appropriation of sample F2.2049.2.1 as an outdoor
midden or street, it instead highlights who actually used the space, i.e. deposited trash
there. As diagramed in figure 4.50, the ratio of coarse to medium ware microceramics are
relatively proportionate between the midden sample and those from inside the structure.
The same is true for the percentage of specific faunal types like fish, rodent, and
unidentified mammal. There is however a divergence when we consider chert and
obsidian densities. One hundred percent of the lithic material recovered from the exterior
midden is chert, while both chert and obsidian are found within the interior floors. This
This notion has been challenged by Cessford (2003) who argues that increased microartifact density
could also reflect surfaces or areas with longer occupation.
occurrence is rendered insignificant however when we reconsider the extremely low
density of microlithics overall in this context (figure 4.49). Thus the trend in the
percentage of microartifact subtypes between indoor and outdoor samples suggests that
the waste or byproducts from certain activities carried out within this structure were
deposited directly outside in the street.
As discussed previously, House Lot 3 contained evidence for barley and wheat,
but also large and small legumes (Leguminosae) and bitter vetch (Vicia sp. and ervilia).
Basalt grinding stone fragments from querns (F7.7179.10, F7.7181.24) and mullers
(F7.7162.7) used in the processing of the cereal grains derive both from refuse pits and
occupational debris inside the magazine structure. These grinders exhibit evidence of
heavy use, especially one example (F7.7181.24) that was completely smoothed. It is
likely these grinding implements were used to transform the cereals into flour for bread
baking or stews. While there is no oven associated directly with this house lot,
unexcavated areas to the north, especially within the burnt building of which we only
have the small southern portion, could have contained these cooking facilities either for
community or single household use.
House Lot 3 has the second highest NISP of the house lots (table 4.7) with a
relatively even distribution of pig (25%), cattle (21%), and sheep/goat (27%). At least
14% of pig remains are from wild, not domesticate, species. The small percentage of wild
species such as red deer (2%), gazelle (4%), and fish (2%) along with a fishnet weight
(F7.7162.21; figure 4.51) highlight the fact that hunting and trapping of wild game was
practiced, albeit on low levels overall. The mortality rate for this group of animals,
domesticates in particular, show once again a kill–off pattern of 2 to 3 years based on
mandibular specimens. Marks of chopping and slicing from skinning and disarticulation
of the animal are consistent with on–site butchering. There is at least one example of
crushing/chopping of a cow cranium and charring of a goat cranium, perhaps due to
consumption of the brain (S. W. Kansa, pers.comm.). However none of the assemblage
exhibited evidence for gnawing by dogs or other animals that would have likely disturbed
the spatial distribution of the assemblage (see Kent 1984).
Figure 4.51. Fish net weight from House Lot 3
(UTARP Digital Archive, original drawing by
Marie Hopwood).
The lack of spit marks, low levels of charring overall, and evidence for heavy
fracturing of the bones for possible pot sizing suggests that animals (and plants) were
most likely stewed in semi–closed vessels elevated above open wood or dung–burning
fires as suggested by the botanical data. Several andirons (F7.7155.7, F7.7173.14,
F7.7176.4) recovered from the burnt building and near the magazine structure provide
further evidence for this type of cooking. One in particular (F7.7155.7) was pierced
horizontally through the upper part of the body to allow for even cooking (figure 4.52).35
Figure 4.52. Pierced andiron from House
Lot 3 (F7.7155.7; UTARP Digital
While the majority (57% of N=75) of the ceramic assemblage is serving–related
vessels like open bowls and platters (figure 4.43 I, G, N, O), carinated cups and simple
rim bowls (figure 4.43 K), globular cooking pots (figure 4.43 A, M); coarse ware lids and
lug handles helpful in lifting hot pots off the fire (figure 4.43 D, M) are present in
relatively large numbers (27% of the assemblage). It is likely that this ceramic evidence,
recovered primarily from secondary contexts like pits and other loci of trash disposal,
were originally used in the burnt building to the north. In fact this hypothesis is
substantiated by the microassemblage. A total of twelve HAP samples were collected and
For a more detailed description of this andiron, see the “Small Finds” section in Parker et al. 2008: 142.
House Lot 3: Microartifact Count Density by Material Type
Count / Volume (L)
2.666666667 18.66666667
28.82352941 0.117647059 4.588235294 33.29411765 0.117647059 0.588235294
1.777777778 0.222222222 1.888888889 16.22222222
9.333333333 0.333333333 0.333333333
0.285714286 1.714285714
0.833333333 20.66666667
1.833333333 19.83333333
F7.7181.19.1 15.33333333 17.66666667 13.33333333 72.66666667
1.666666667 0.166666667 3.666666667 31.33333333
Figure 4.53a. Microartifact count density for House Lot 3 by material type.
House Lot 3: Microartifact Weight Density by Material Type
Weight (g) / Volume (L)
0.00516667 0.10366667
0.00011765 0.00517647 0.19411765
0.16777778 0.02766667 0.00311111 0.14211111
0.07485714 0.00028571 0.00057143 0.25485714
F7.7162.18.1 3.00166667
0.07616667 0.31366667 0.00066667
F7.7181.13.1 0.18116667 0.00416667 0.00516667 0.20983333
0.47983333 0.00033333 0.00766667 0.16316667
Figure 4.53b. Microartifact weight density for House Lot 3 by material type.
available for analysis, eight of which derived from superimposed mud plastered floors in
Cells 1 and 2 of the burnt building and the remaining four from pits (figures 4.53a,
4.53b). If we look specifically at microceramics by ware type (figure 4.54a), medium
wares representing serving vessels dominate a large proportion of the microassemblage
from Cell 2, while coarse cooking wares are proportionately higher in Cell 1. In total
these ceramic types are densest in the burnt house except for one pit sample
(F7.7162.18.1) that contains the highest count and weight density for microceramics
Meticulous microsampling can also offer a diachronic view of food production
and consumption for the burnt structure. Figure 4.55 displays the densities of
microceramics, lithic and bone based on count and weight to volume ratios for the six
samples collected from Cell 2. These are listed in chronological order of deposition from
left to right. The level of microceramics, which include fine, medium, and coarse wares,
is relatively steady throughout the use–life of this space save for two notable exceptions.
One sample (F7.7189.1.1) reflects a general trend based on both count and weight
densities for more intensive use of ceramics during this phase. The other sample
(F7.7170.1.1) shows a dramatic increase that is visible only in count density, meaning
there are a higher number of lightweight pieces. This trend most likely represents more
intense fracturing of the microceramics as opposed to a general higher density. This
fracturing could derive from excessive trampling if this space served as a walkway or
busy kitchen area or if the ceramics used in this space were especially friable (such as
cooking pots) or frequently used (such as “everyday tableware” like serving vessels and
House Lot 3: Microceramic Count Density by Fabric Type
Count / Volume (L)
F7.7194. F7.7189. F7.7185. F7.7185. F7.7170. F7.7170. F7.7174. F7.7168. F7.7162. F7.7181. F7.7181. F7.7181.
0.235294 0.444444
15.05882 0.222222
13.52941 1.111111
0.666667 0.333333
1.333333 2.857143 166.3333 0.666667 13.66667 0.166667
House Lot 3: Microceramic Weight Density by Fabric Type
Weight (g) / Volume (L)
F7.7194. F7.7189. F7.7185. F7.7185. F7.7170. F7.7170. F7.7174. F7.7168. F7.7162. F7.7181. F7.7181. F7.7181.
0.203294 0.035444
0.049714 1.096333
0.025143 1.787667 0.007167 0.035667 0.218333
0.163294 0.103333 0.1155
0.054667 0.021667
0.062667 0.239833
Figure 4.54a. Percentage of microceramic based on count and weight densities for House Lot 3
by fabric type.
House Lot 3: Microceramic Count Density by Fabric Type
Count / Volume (L)
F7.7194. F7.7189. F7.7185. F7.7185. F7.7170. F7.7170. F7.7174. F7.7168. F7.7162. F7.7181. F7.7181. F7.7181.
0.235294 0.444444
15.05882 0.222222
13.52941 1.111111
0.666667 0.333333
1.333333 2.857143 166.3333 0.666667 13.66667 0.166667
House Lot 3: Microceramic Weight Density by Fabric Type
Weight (g) / Volume (L)
F7.7194. F7.7189. F7.7185. F7.7185. F7.7170. F7.7170. F7.7174. F7.7168. F7.7162. F7.7181. F7.7181. F7.7181.
0.203294 0.035444
0.049714 1.096333
0.025143 1.787667 0.007167 0.035667 0.218333
0.163294 0.103333 0.1155
0.054667 0.021667
0.062667 0.239833
Figure 4.54b. Microceramic count and weight densities for House Lot 3 by fabric type.
House Lot 3: Microartifact Density Through Time Based on Count Ratios
Count to volume (liters)
House Lot 3: Microartifact Density Through Time Based on Weight Ratios
Weight to volume (grams/liters)
Figure 4.55. Microartifact densities through time based on count and weight densities for House
Lot 3 by type.
To explore the space functionality further, let us return to figure 4.54a and the
break down of microceramic densities for each sample by fabric type. For sample
F7.7170.1.1, only medium and coarse ware microceramics are present. In the
macroceramic assemblage, these types are represented by serving and storage vessels
(e.g., open platters, bowls, storage jars) and cooking pots respectively (Creekmore 2007;
Parker and Foster, forthcoming). By nature, cooking pots and serving vessels are more
prone to chipping and breakage because of their portability and daily use compared with
storage vessels that are often large and immobile. Based then on the high fragmentation
rate discussed above, the medium ware microceramics most likely represent serving and
eating vessels. As figure 4.54b shows, there are a large number of medium wares that
weigh less than the smaller amount of coarse cook pot wares that are larger in size and
weight. This trend in smaller, lighter, more fragmented medium wares suggests a higher
use of serving–type vessels during this phase.
If we also take a diachronic look at the microassemblage from the burnt structure,
we can see the density of microbone remained relatively constant through time,36 but then
there is a dramatic increase in the latest sample (F7.7170.5.1) suggesting a higher level of
bone processing (to extract marrow, for example) or consumption of meat during this
phase (figure 4.55). Reflecting once again on the microceramic data in figure 4.54a and
4.54b, the level of coarse cook pot wares are at their lowest in this sample, while at the
same time there is a roughly even amount of fine and medium wares in use. Coupled with
the microbone data, we can then hypothesize that serving and the possible consumption
of meals in this space increased at the final phase of the building perhaps due to the
Except for sample F7.7185.2.1. This dramatic increase in all micromaterial subtypes is likely the result of
sample size. This sample was twice the volume (9 liters) of all other samples in this house lot.
increased availability or use of fine ware ceramics that are traditionally reserved for
eating and/or feasting occasions.
In summary, the microdebris shows how the majority of cooking and eating took
place in the burnt structure partially preserved in the northern area of the house lot and
that cooking, consumption or disposal of animal–related food or products was consistent
throughout the use–life of the structure. A significant increase in the density of bone
during the final phase of habitation coincides with a shift in ceramic types whereby there
is a large percentage of medium and fine ware serving vessels compared to coarse
cooking wares. These data suggest that there was a significant increase in serving of meat
foodstuffs perhaps instigated by more communal–style eating or feasting (Pearce 2000)
as evidenced by the significant inclusion of fine ware ceramics in the microdebris that
most likely included cups, bowls, and raised plates based on the macroceramic
assemblage (Creekmore 2007; Parker et al. 2008; Parker and Foster, forthcoming).
As already mentioned, cereals and other botanical foodstuffs are either absent or
have gone undetected for House Lot 4. This fact again makes interpretation of the ground
stone evidence difficult. At least two grinder fragments (F20.8.5, F19.13.4) were reused
in a wall foundation and discarded in a refuse pit, however two more were uncovered in
debris above the primary interior surface (F19.14.8) and in occupation debris outside
(F22.10.4). In all cases, the grinders are in an extremely fragmented state from what
appears to be active use with one quern fragment in particular (F20.8.5) quite smooth
from wear. The microdata for grindstone however provides evidence that grinding likely
took place elsewhere as there is an overall low density of grindstone fragments in all
samples (figure 4.56).
House Lot 4: Microartifact Count Density by Material Type
Count / Volume (L)
House Lot 4: Microartifact Weight Density by Material Type
Weight (g) / Volume (L)
Figure 4.56. Microartifact count and weight densities for House Lot 4 by material type.
If not plants, then meat consumption appears to be dominant within this
household with the overall faunal data reflecting a bias for domestic pig at 60% of the
total assemblage (table 4.7; NISP=25). This is followed by cow (16%) and sheep/goat
(12%) with only a minimal number of red deer (4%) comprising the only wild species
consumed. While there is no evidence for cutting or butchering marks, the bones
represented in the assemblage are once again consistent with on–site butchering such that
many parts of the entire carcass are present. There is also no evidence for gnawing by
dogs or other animals that would have disturbed the spatial patterning of the assemblage.
Most of the bones derived from a refuse pit (F20 L8) west of the house lot structure and
from occupational debris inside (F19 L14, L15, L19).
Evidence for the actual cooking of this meat is low as only 16% of the total
ceramic assemblage (N=92) are cooking vessels and utensils in the form of flat lids,
globular pots with slightly everted rims and fingernail–impressed jars (figure 4.57 I). This
is compared to the over 66% of the identifiable ceramics that are serving and eating
related. These vessels include holemouth jars (figure 4.57 A), simple bowls and
casseroles (figure 4.57 J, K, P, R), string cut–base and hammerhead rim bowls (figure
4.57 H, Q, S), fine ware bowls and cups (figure 4.57 C), and pedestalled bowls or
This precedent of medium serving wares is supported by the microdata, derived
from five HAP samples collected from the interior surface and suprasurface debris of this
structure. Once again there is a high density of ceramic and bone, specifically medium
wares representative of serving vessels and unidentified mammal bone, rodent and fish,
which was notably not visible in the macroassemblage (figure 4.58). There is a high
Figure 4.57. Descriptions of Late Chalcolithic ceramic assemblage from House Lot 4
F1 L1026 KT1141 #1: Reddish yellow exterior surface (5 YR 6/6). Reddish
yellow interior surface (7.5YR 8/6). Reddish yellow fabric (5YR 6/8). Fine grit
and chaff temper.
F19 L14 KT10 #3: Pinkish gray exterior and interior surfaces (5YR 6/2). Black
fabric/core (5 YR 2.5/1). Medium to large chaff and fine to medium white grit.
F19 L12 KT2 #5: Pale yellow exterior and interior surface (2.5YR 7/3). Light
yellowish brown fabric (2.5YR 6/4). Three parallel incised lines on exterior.
Very fine grit temper.
F19 L9 KT8 #2: Pinkish gray exterior surface (7.5YR 6/2). Black interior surface
and fabric (10YR 2/1). Decorated with parallel vertical and horizontal incised
lines. Fine white grit and large chaff temper.
F19 L12 KT2 #3: Very dark gray exterior surface (10YR 3/1). Grayish brown
interior surface (10YR 5/2). Black fabric (2.5YR 2.5/1). Gray (2.5YR 5/1) painted
(?) decoration beneath rim. Fine micaceous grit temper. Burnished exterior and
interior surfaces.
F19 L12 KT2 #4: Very pale brown exterior and interior surfaces (10YR 7/4).
Yellowish brown fabric (10YR 5/4). Fine chaff and grit.
F19 L12 KT2 #7: Brown exterior surface (10YR 5/3). Reddish brown interior
surface (5YR 5/6). Brown fabric (7.5YR 4/2). Grit and chaff temper.
F19 L13 KT5 #2: Gray exterior and interior surfaces (10YR 6/1). Light brownish
gray fabric (10YR 6/2). Very dense with very little micaceous grit and chaff.
F19 L12 KT2 #2: Brown exterior and interior surfaces (7.5YR 5/2). Brown fabric
(7.5YR 5/4) grading to a dark gray core (7.5YR 4/1). Very fine grit and fine chaff.
F19 L12 KT2 #1: Light brown exterior surfaces (7.5YR 6/3). Pale brown interior
surfaces (10YR 6/3). Brown fabric (10YR 5/3) grading to a dark gray core (10YR
4/1). Fine grit and chaff. Wash on exterior.
F22 L14 KT1 #2: Reddish yellow exterior and interior surfaces (5YR 7/6).
Reddish yellow fabric (5YR 6/8). Fine white grit. Burnished on exterior.
F19 L13 KT5 #1: Reddish yellow exterior and interior surfaces (5YR 7/6).
Reddish yellow fabric (5YR 7/6) grading to a light brown core (5YR 6/4). Chaffy
medium fabric. Burnished and smoothed on exterior.
F1 L1026 KT1141 #2: Reddish yellow exterior surface (7.5YR 7/4). Pink interior
surface (7.5YR 7/6). Reddish yellow fabric (7.5YR 7/6). Abrupt transition to a
very dark gray core (7.5YR 3/1). Fine grit and chaff.
F19 L14 KT10 #2: Gray exterior surface (5YR 5/1). Light reddish brown (5YR
6/3). Light olive brown fabric (2.5YR 5/3). Medium chaff and fine grit.
F1 L1037 KT1197 #1: Reddish yellow exterior surface (5YR 7/8). Reddish
yellow interior surface (5YR 6/8). Reddish yellow fabric (7.5YR 7/8). Abrupt
transition to a gray core (7.5YR 5/1). Medium grit and chaff. Outcurve rim of slip
on the exterior side. Cream slip on orange clay.
F1 L1036 KT1189 #2: Light brown exterior surface (10YR 7/3). Very pale brown
interior surface (7.5YR 6/4). Very pale brown fabric (10YR 7/4). Abrupt
transition to a dark gray core (2.5YR 4/1). Medium grit and chaff. Burnished
F22 L14 KT1 #1: Brown exterior surface (7.5YR 4/2). Dark gray interior surface
(7.5YR 4/1). Brown fabric (10YR 4/3). Large to fine chaff and medium grit with
some mica.
F19 L14 KT10 #4: Light reddish brown exterior and interior surface (5YR 6/4).
Reddish yellow fabric (5YR 6/8). Dense fabric with fine chaff and grit temper.
Chaff facing with visible wheel striations.
F19 L9 KT8 #1: Light brown exterior and interior surfaces (7.5YR 6/4). Light
brown fabric (7.5YR 6/4). Medium to fine chaff and very minimal grit. Burnished
and smoothed on exterior.
F19 L12 KT2 #6: Pale brown exterior surface (10YR 6/3). Strong brown interior
surface (7.5YR 5/6). Brownish yellow fabric (10YR 6/6). No visible temper.
Figure 4.57. Late Chalcolithic ceramic assemblage from House Lot 4.
House Lot 4: Percentage of Microartifacts Based on Count Density
Fine ware
Medium ware
Coarse ware
Unid mammal
House Lot 4: Percentage of Microartifacts Based on Weight Density
Fine ware
Medium ware
Coarse ware
Unid mammal
Figure 4.58. Percentage of microartifact types for House Lot 4 based on count and weight
proportion of burned bone however, when compared with the other house lot HAP
samples. This seems strange as the density of microcharcoal in these same samples that
would indicate cooking and fire pit/oven rake–out is the lowest of all the house lots
(figure 4.59). This does not diminish the fact that pyrotechnic activities were taking place
here, as indicated by the large central oven/fire pit; however, it speaks to the cleaning
patterns of the household members. Ash and other debris seem to have been deposited
well outside of the excavated house lot space, leaving the microbone and ceramic as the
only remaining evidence for cooking activities.
Weight Density of Microcharcoal
Weight (g) / Volume (L)
House Lot 1
House Lot 2
House Lot 3
House Lot 4
Figure 4.59. Weight density of microcharcoal across all house lots.
Stone Tools
This category of production and consumption primarily involves chipped stone
technologies of specifically chert and obsidian. Gray and beige–gray chert is a locally
available resource in the Upper Tigris with most large rounded cobbles deriving from the
river gravel and terraces. Conversely the black and green obsidian utilized by the
inhabitants of Kenan Tepe had to be brought in from mountainous locations 150
kilometers to the north. The most likely sources for this obsidian are Nemrut Dağ/Bingöl
or Meydan Dağ, although this hypothesis waits to be confirmed through geochemical
analysis (Healey in Parker et al., forthcoming).
Table 4.8. Composition of chert assemblage by house lot based on absolute counts.
The production and consumption of chipped stone tools is evident in the House
Lot 1 assemblage, which is dominated by chert that comprises 71% of a total 135 pieces
(table 4.8). Flakes make up the majority of the chert artifacts (71%) and are evenly
distributed across the entire house lot both spatially and throughout all building phases.
Four cores were identified, one of which derived from a surface in the second phase of
the house lot (Level 5B: F1.1098.3) and the other three from the large oven in trench F4
(F4.4013.4101; F4.4023.4175; F4.4023.4209). In terms of spatial patterning, there
appears to not be any spatial or numerical (density) correspondence between the flakes
and cores that would suggest in situ knapping activities (E. Healey, pers.comm.). This
situation could also be the result of thorough cleaning of work areas as is so often evident
for reductive technologies like knapping that produces large amounts of dangerous
(sharp) waste. The consumption of final products takes the form of two tripartite chert
blades (F1.1117.1, F1.1117.2) that were embedded within the compacted pebble
walkway adjacent to the F4 oven in Phase 1 (figure 4.60). Two more chert blades
(F1.1083.21 and 22) were found in occupational fill associated with Phase 2. Other tools
included two piercers, three glossed pieces, and five more examples with edge retouch.
Figure 4.60. Pair of tripartite chert
blades embedded within a
compacted pebble walkway in
House Lot 1 (UTARP Digital
Green obsidian comprises 29% of the total assemblage for House Lot 1 with blade
fragments and flakes being the most common type present (table 4.9). Of these, four have
evidence for edge retouch and one contained a small notch (though this may have been
caused by damage). Two obsidian blades (F4.4023.4235, F1.1071.6) were recovered
from debris inside the F4 oven and occupational fill respectively, signalling the
Table 4.9. Composition of obsidian assemblage by house lot based on
absolute counts.
use/consumption of these final products. The distribution of obsidian shows a relatively
even distribution across surfaces and inside ovens, pits and occupational fill.
The density of microlithic debris for House Lot 1 is exceptionally low when
compared to the other microartifact material categories (figure 4.45). When we compare
the count and weight densities of microliths by material subtype (figure 4.61), there is a
range between the samples such that obsidian is densest in the cobbled alleyway adjacent
to the F4 oven (F1.1117.5.4) and evenly distributed with chert in a neighbouring pit
(F1.1130.2.1 and F1.1130.5.1). While the low density could be a result of sampling bias,
the results do not support intensive production activities for stone tools in this area. This
microlithic assemblage stands at odds with the macroassemblage where this house lot
contained the highest amount of obsidian chert cores, struck lumps, flakes and blades of
all the house lots. This situation could be explained as the result of thorough cleaning of
work areas as noted above for chert. The microlithics in the cobblestone alleyway could
also be the result of displaced debris; that is, individuals walking through a lithic work
area and tracking the microlithics into this house lot area. In this case, the microlithic
House Lot 1
House Lot 2
House Lot 3
House Lot 3
House Lot 2
House Lot 1
Percentage of Microlithic Based on Count Density
House Lot 4
Percentage of Microlithic Based on Weight Density
House Lot 4
Figure 4.61. Percentage of microlithic based on count and weight densities across all
house lots.
debris inside the adjacent pit is most likely the result of inadvertent chipping of other
macrolithic debris that was deposited inside.
The number of pieces representing the lithic assemblage for House Lot 2 is quite
low at 22 total (86% chert, 14% obsidian; tables 4.8 and 4.9). There are no cores or
blades and the assemblage is largely comprised of flakes and flake fragments. Of the
chert, there are two glossed pieces (F2.2049.4; F2.2066.3) and one example with
evidence for edge retouch (F2.2059.2). Among the obsidian there is a single flake
(F2.2049.4) and two splintered pieces of primarily green obsidian (F2.2042.10;
F2.2059.2). The highest number of pieces derived from the alleyway or compacted
midden on the southeast side of the house lot. The distribution of obsidian seems even
across the entire house lot, despite the low numbers. This even distribution, however, is
not paralleled in the microdata where one hundred percent of the microlithic material
recovered from the exterior midden was chert (F2.2049), while both chert and obsidian
are found within the interior floors (F2.2056 and F2.2065; figure 4.61). Despite this
distribution, the overall density of lithic material reflected in both the macro and
microassemblages is exceedingly low. These data, along with the absence of cores and
blades, supports the assertion that chipped stone tools were not being produced within
this house lot, though evidently consumed to a minimal degree as evidenced by flakes
and an example of retouching.
For House Lot 3 the chipped stone assemblage is represented by 99 pieces, 80%
of which are chert (table 4.8). Evidence for lithic production comes from the 87% of this
chert subassemblage that are flakes derived from all stages of core reduction. This
includes some large early stage flakes with cortex on their dorsal surfaces and some
resulting from a change in core orientation, perhaps representing core maintenance pieces
(E. Healey, pers.comm.). Three actual flake cores (F7. 7180.14 (x2) and F7.7181.15) of
changed orientation were recovered as well. Overall most of the raw chert appears to
have been struck from the same nodule.37 A retouched blade fragment with slight gloss,
a diffuse bulb of percussion and regular scarring pattern on the back (KT F7.7162.13)
was also found as part of this assemblage though it appears to have been produced using
a different technology from the flakes.
Green and black obsidian was also worked but comprises much less of the overall
lithic assemblage at 20% (table 4.9). The majority are flakes, though three blades with
evidence for retouch are present (F7.7162.2; F7.7179.3; F7.7180.14). Other types include
a small splintered piece and a side blow blade flake which has been truncated at both
ends (E. Healey, pers.comm.). The level of retouch on blade pieces and the general
character of the assemblage suggest production by non–specialists, though some
weathered and damaged pieces could be residual, and therefore not evidence for
The majority of the macroassemblage derived from fill levels inside of the two
long magazine rooms (F7 L7179–7180) and the large pit to the north of this building (F7
L7181). Little to no evidence for lithic production or disposal was found associated with
the surfaces or fill in the destroyed building on the north end of the house lot. This pattern
is reflected in the microassemblage where the signature for microlithic debitage for this
house lot is extremely weak for the majority of microsamples collected. As shown in
Figures 4.53a and 4.53b, the low level of microlithics occur mostly in samples derived
from surfaces while the largest sample, locus 7181, is from the pit located between the
This has yet to be confirmed by refitting.
two structures where a large portion of the macrolithic flakes and cores were uncovered.
This pattern suggests that the actual production of lithic tools most likely occurred away
from living quarters, perhaps in the adjacent courtyard area and the manufacturing debris
was deposited in a centralized and easily accessible pit and inside the magazine structure,
most likely as secondary refuse.
Chert flakes with evidence for retouching dominate the lithic assemblage for
House Lot 4 comprised of 64 pieces total (tables 4.8). Flakes comprise 54% of the chert
assemblage. A single core was also recovered (F19.14.13) along with a blade
(F1.1033.1192), scraper (F1.1060.1), and several chipped fragments. Of the retouched
material, there are three pieces with edge retouch (one of which is serrated) and two
artifacts with gloss on their edges (F1. 1037.1181; F1.1060.20). All these data are
collectively indicative of local production and modification, once again by non–
specialists. The distribution of chert artifacts, especially the flakes, is even across the
entire interior house lot space and densest in fill directly above the floors. Green and
black obsidian flakes and blades are also evenly distributed, though this material
comprises only 20% of the total assemblage (table 4.9). While there is one splintered
piece (F1.1060.24) there are no other modified artifacts such as cores or evidence for
retouching. The overall density of microlithics is once again low for both count and
weight ratios (figure 4.56), but unlike the previous house lot whose densest sample
derived from a pit, the densest sample here derives from the floor in the far eastern area
of the house lot (F19 L15). This confirms the production or use of chipped stone
implements within the interior household space as evident in the macrolithic assemblage.
This category of production and consumption encompasses the wide breadth of
industries that can be performed on the household level by both specialists and non–
specialists alike. These include spinning and weaving as part of textile production and
consumption, beadwork and other adornment, metallurgy, ceramics and the management
of these industries.
A: F4.4023.1
B: F1.1092.10
C: F1.1109.5
D: F1.1083.23
E: F4.4023.4159 (x1)
F: F4.4007.1
G: F4.4007.4095
H: F4.4024.4159 (x2)
I: F4.4023.4159 (x3)
J: F4.4025.4182
K: F4.4007.4089
L: F4.4007.4092
M: F4.4025.4181
Figure 4.62. Selection of spindle whorls from House Lot 1 (UTARP Digital Archive).
While the evidence for actual textile production is minimal in House Lot 1 (see
below), there is ample evidence for the spinning of fibers into usable threads. Several
spindle whorls in the form of pierced ceramic disks were disposed of inside the large
oven from the earliest phase of this house lot that most likely reverted to a refuse bin for
neighboring structures at the end of its use–life. A total of ten spindle whorls38 were
recovered from inside this oven, while six more39 were discovered within the later phases
(Level 5A and B) of the house lot itself (figure 4.62). A possible ceramic spool
(F1.1130.8.1) was also broken and deposited in a pit from Phase 1 and is similar in shape
to a spool from contemporary Arslantepe (Andersson, forthcoming, fig. 10). The whorls
were fashioned from re–used ceramic sherds of mainly light brown (7.5YR 6/4) to
reddish yellow (5YR 6/6) fabric with coarse to medium chaff and sometimes grit
inclusions. Beyond one example of burnish, none of the whorls are decorated with paint
or incised designs. Where measurements were available, the whorls range from 13 to 96
grams in weight with an average of 30 grams (figure 4.63). Their internal diameters
ranged from 5 to 15 millimeters with an average of 6 millimeters. The majority cluster
between 10 and 20 grams and between 5 to 10 millimeters in diameter. Even the heavy
outliers remain within this diameter range.
F4.4007.1, F4.4007.4089, F4.4007.4092, F4.4007.4095, F4.4023.1, F4.4023.4159, F4.4023.4161,
F4.4023.4162, F4.4025.4181, F4.4025.4182.
F1.1069.10, F1.1071.21, F1.1083.23, F1.1092.10, F1.1098.10, F1.1109.5.
Spindle Whorls from House Lot 1
Weight (g)
Diameter (mm)
Figure 4.63. Weights and diameters of whorls from House Lot 1.
According to Barber (1991, 53), a relatively small diameter, as we have in this
house lot, equates to a fast spin and therefore, a tighter thread.40 The whorl dimensions
reveal that these medium to light weighted spindle whorls were most suitable for
spinning short, fine wool and possibly long flax fibers if multiple whorls were used on
the same spindle (Barber 1991, 52).41 It is likely that both materials were being utilized,
though admittedly there is minimal evidence to support this. As the faunal data discussed
above shows, the kill–off pattern for the majority of both sheep and goat in House Lot 1
is at prime–age (1–2 years) suggesting that these animals were only utilized for their meat
and not their wool or hair. These data could be skewed due to small sample size since it
For a complete and informative description on the function and use of spindle whorls and the process of
thread production for both plant and animal fibers, see: Barber 1991; Forbes 1956; Keith 1998;
McCorriston 1997; Raheel 1994.
McCorriston (1997, 522) notes, however, that spindle whorls alone are unlikely to be informative about
type of fiber because flax, wool and other hairs (e.g., goat) use similar equipment.
stands to reason that at least some of the caprine herd would be reserved for wool
production. Likewise for plant fibers, the archaeobotanical record for this house lot is
lacking any evidence for flax (domesticate: Linum usitatissimun; wild: Linum bienne).
However this does not necessarily negate the use of flax in spinning since the best bast
fiber (eg. stem) of the flax plant is harvested before the seed develops (Barber 1991, 12).
A: F4.4026.4194
B: F4.4023.4212
Figure 4.64. Pierced stones from
House Lot 1 as possible loom
weights (UTARP Digital
As mentioned above, there is little actual evidence for textile production at this or
any of the house lots (see below). Two pierced stones (F4.4023.4212 and F4.4026.4194;
figure 4.64) were uncovered from House Lot 1 that could have served as weights for a
vertical/warp–weighted loom or a spindle whorl, though all whorls uncovered in the
house lots have been of re–used ceramic sherds.42 This does not mean that textile
production was not taking place however. The horizontal ground loom requires no
weights since the warp threads are tied to stakes that are hammered into the ground to
provide tension. It is most likely this same type of loom pictured on a late fourth
millennium cylinder seal from Susa (level C) showing a top view of two weavers on
either side of a large loom and a third individual warping thread (figure 4.65). All parts of
this type of loom would most likely be made from wood and thus not preserve in the
archaeological record. The use of a horizontal ground loom would also explain the
relative lack of loom weights from this and other house lots.
Figure 4.65. Cylinder seal impression depicting a ground loom and weavers
(from Le Breton 1957, fig. 20 #20. No scale in original).
They could equally have been used as fishnet weights (see “Food and Eating” this chapter). One should
also be reminded that objects need not be monofunctional. A pierced stone could have served a multitude
of functions simultaneously over its use–life.
Various bone needles and/or pins have also been uncovered in association with
this house lot as debris on top of a cobblestone surface neighboring the large oven and as
later debris inside the oven.43 I hesitate to call these artifacts “needles” because the
critical tip with the eyehole has been unfortunately broken off all three of these objects
(figure 4.66). Only one fully preserved awl (F4.4023.4174; figure 4.66 D) was recovered
in this context which might suggest, by association, that the other pins were indeed awls
as well used for various breaking, boring, cutting and polishing activities (Moorey 1994,
107). While unlikely that these pins were used in clothing production as sewing needles,
they either helped fasten lengths of cloth about the body or were tools in the creation of
spindle whorls or beads.
A: F1.1116.22 B: F1.1116.25 C: F1.1116.10
D: F4.4023.4171
Figure 4.66. Bone pins or needles from House Lot 1
(UTARP Digital Archive).
F1.1116.10, F1.1116.22, F1.1116.25.
In fact, a number of beads derive from House Lot 1, the majority being made of
shell with one stone exception (figure 4.67).44 The diameter of these beads ranged from 2
to 3.5 millimeters with an average of 3 millimeters. They are incredibly small; with the
shell beads averaging 1.24 millimeters in thickness while the single stone bead measure 6
by 8 millimeters (figure 4.67 D). A micro stone bead was also recovered from pit L1130.
The shell beads were found both above and within the matrix of a pebble floor of the
initial phase of House Lot 1 while the stone bead came from inside the latest phase of the
building. While the stone bead could easily have been suspended from a necklace, the
tiny shell beads most likely decorated clothing as seen on the scarves of modern village
women in Turkey today. Unfortunately whether these beads were produced in this house
lot, and not purely consumed, is unclear. The maximum diameters for at least two of the
A: F1.1116.23 B: F1.1115.3 C: F1.1116.5 D: F4.4025.4180 (two views)
Figure 4.67. Selection of shell and stone beads from House
Lot 1 (UTARP Digital Archive).
Shell: F1.1115.3, F1.1115.8, F1.1116.13, F1.1116.23, F1.1116.5. Stone: F1.1074.4.
pins from these contexts (2 to 3 millimeters) falls within the diameter of all the shell
beads so they could have been used in the threading or sewing of these beads onto
necklaces or clothing or as tools (awls) in the drilling of the beads themselves (Moorey
1994, 107). The microshell data shows an overall low count and weight density of shell
for this house lot, roughly under three pieces total (figure 4.45), supporting this
hypothesis that production of these shell beads (or any other shell production for that
matter) did not occur in this household. But a possible micro bead from a pit sample
(F1.1130.2.1) does attest to their use in this space.
What this household–level industry has to do with a cylinder seal found with this
house lot is unclear. The ceramic seal (F4.4026.4132, figure 4.68) bears a geometric
intaglio design with shallow drill holes and a vegetal motif paralleled at Tell Brak
(Mallowan 1947, pl. XXI fig. 18), Norşuntepe (Hauptmann 2000, Abb. 2:1), and Early
Bronze I levels at Hassek Höyük (Behm–Blancke et al. 1981, Taf. 11 #6) and, more
Figure 4.68. Ceramic cylinder seal from
House Lot 1, multiple views (UTARP Digital
Archive, drawing by Marie Hopwood).
more locally, Ziyaret Tepe (Matney and Rainville 2005, 57).45 There is no evidence for
burnishing around the puncture holes that would result from twine or cord rubbing
against this area, suggesting that the seal was barely or not wore at all. Based on the
medium and rudimentary construction (e.g., off–center perforation, sloppy execution),
this seal is most likely a local imitation of stone seals characteristic of southern
Mesopotamia. Of metal artifacts, only a single bronze pin was recovered (F4.4025.4160;
figure 4.69). Measuring 55 millimeters long, the pin features a fiddlehead scroll terminal
formed by the looping around of the metal during the pliable stage. Other than this final
product, there is no other evidence for the production or consumption of metal artifacts.
Figure 4.69. Bronze pin from House Lot 1 (UTARP Digital Archive).
Only a single spindle whorl (F.2.2061.23; figure 4.70 C) was uncovered from the
interior debris from House Lot 2. It too was made from a re–used ceramic sherd of
medium ware with fine chaff and micaceous grit tempering light brown in color (7.5YR
6/4). The diameter (5 millimeters) and weight (15.95 grams) of this whorl suggest that,
like the whorls from House Lot 1, it was used to produce fine, tight thread from light
For a detailed description of this cylinder seal, see “Kenan Tepe 2001: Small Finds Analysis” by Eleanor
Moseman in Parker et al. 2003, 137, fig. 15A.
wool or plant fibers. A small, but unique, stone bead (F2.2065.5; figure 4.70 B) was
uncovered on this floor of this house lot. This polished rectangular–shaped bead had six
perforations averaging only 1 millimeter in diameter. A ceramic cylinder seal (F2.2042.7;
figure 4.70 A) was also uncovered in this house lot also carved with a vegetal motif of
possibly clustering leaves or reeds similar to the seal design from House Lot 1.46
A, Cylinder seal (F2.2042.7); B, stone bead (F2.2065.5); C, spindle whorl (F.2.2061.23)
Figure 4.70. Various small finds from House Lot 2 (UTARP Digital Archive, drawings by Marie
For a detailed description of this cylinder seal, see “Small Finds” by Marie Hopwood and Melissa
Eppihimer in Parker et al. 2008, 152–153, fig. 28C.
In terms of craft production, the evidence from House Lot 3 is severely lacking.
No spindle whorls, loom weights, needles, pins or awls were uncovered. A single shell
bead (F7.7181.4) with a diameter of 3 millimeters and a maximum thickness of 1
millimeter was recovered from the plastered pit north of the magazine–style building. A
whole microbead 4 millimeters in size and a possible pendant fragment also derived from
this pit (F7.7181.9; figure 4.71).
Figure 4.71. Microbead from House Lot 3.
Only a single partially preserved bone needle or pin (F1.1057.7) was uncovered
from the interior surface of House Lot 4 (figure 4.72 A). This 3.5 centimeter pin has a
diameter of 3 millimeters and is highly polished. A ceramic token (F20.3.4) made from a
wheelmade potsherd of fine texture and burnish decoration was deposited in the
occupational fill west of the primary building (figure 4.72 B). The disk measures 1.7
centimeters in diameter and 0.45 centimeters in thickness. With a weight of only 1.4
grams, this unpierced disk was perhaps a token or gaming piece.
There is minimal evidence to suggest that the central oven was in fact a kiln, as
only a single over fired sherd (F1.1030.1153) and possible kiln stand (F1.1061.7) were
found in association with this entire house lot. It is entirely possible that the stand is
A, Bone point (F1.1057.7)
B, Ceramic token (F20.3.4)
Figure 4.72. Various small
finds from House Lot 4
(UTARP Digital Archive,
drawing by Marie Hopwood).
actually an andiron used in the supporting of cooking vessels over the flame. However it
is also possible that the permanent mud brick located within the oven served as a ledge
onto which new ceramic vessels were placed and then fired. However without further
evidence for the use of this pyrotechnic installation as a kiln, the designation of this
feature as a large oven for the cooking of bread and other foodstuff will remain.
Finally there is some, albeit low, evidence for the possible smelting of copper
ores. The shallow, irregular pit (F19 L16) in the eastern room of the building had a hard,
reddish compacted bottom that contained pieces of slag, as noted by the excavator. The
surface surrounding this pit also contained tiny pieces of microslag (figure 4.73) grayish–
green in color and vitrified and bubbly in shape. Based on XRF testing, the microslag
certainly derived from some aspect of intentional copper or copper based mineral
processing. What this entailed exactly can vary from copper, cuprite, or malachite
smelting, working or as a colorant in pottery decoration (though painted/decorated
ceramics from these house lots are extremely rare). Such small pieces that make up the
microslag could even have been transferred off of hammer stones or other tools thus
negating copper smelting activities (M. Abraham, pers.comm.).
Figure 4.73. Microslag from House Lot 4.
This category of production and consumption includes symbolic systems of the
household that are often thought of in terms of religion, magic, or fetish. The most
common material manifestation of this is ceramic figurines, followed by miniature
vessels. As discussed in the following chapter, both categories of artifacts can, and most
likely did, encompass multiple meanings and functions for their creators and users.
Because the resources needed for ceramic figurine production, namely clay and
water, are readily available there is no reason to assume that they were anything other
than locally–made (Moorey 2003). Their relatively even distribution across the majority
of the house lots supports the notion that each household was producing their own
figurines. However it is difficult to detect primary evidence for production since no
specialist tools are necessary to create these hand–molded objects. Thus the evidence
available can only trace the use/consumption and discard of the final products: namely
the figurines themselves.
House Lot 1 contained only a single zoomorphic figurine (F1.1131.4) measuring
3.2 by 2.1 centimeters in dimension (figure 4.74 A).47 It was badly burned, most likely
from final deposition in an ash pit in the earliest occupation level. The head and two front
legs had also been snapped off at the joins with the body. From what remains, namely the
torso, rump and back legs, one can assess the animal represented was most likely a caprid
with a stubby tail. The majority of the body was impressed with irregularly shaped
punctuations that could represent wooly hair or pigment spots on the animal’s coat.
In House Lot 2, two zoomorphic figurines were recovered, one from a pit and the
other from the interior house debris.48 The first (F2.2066.6; figure 4.74 B) represents a
quadruped that was unfortunately very badly damaged; all four legs and head are missing.
The remaining torso measured 2.6 by 1.9 centimeters in dimension. The other
(F2.2061.25; figure 4.74 C) is a relatively complete horned quadruped animal measuring
4.2 by 1.6 centimeters and 2.8 centimeters in height at the head. Damage was incurred to
the front of the face and torso and the tips of the horns and the two front legs are missing.
House Lot 3 also contained two zoomorphic figurines (F7.7162.4 and F7.7162.6),
both deposited together in a large pit along with a miniature bowl or token (see below).49
The first (F7.7162.4; figure 4.74 E) is a mostly complete recumbent quadruped with
For a full description see “Small Finds” section by Marie Hopwood and Melissa Eppihimer in Parker et
al. 2008, 146.
For a full description of both these figurines, see “Small Finds” section by Marie Hopwood and Melissa
Eppihimer in Parker et al. 2008, 147.
For a full description see “Small Finds” section by Marie Hopwood and Melissa Eppihimer in Parker et
al. 2008, 146–147.
horns, representing either a caprid or a small equid like a donkey. The figurine measures
4.9 by 2.9 centimeters and incurred damaged only to the tip of the right horn, which is
broken. The second (F7.7162.6; figure 4.74 D) is entirely too damaged to propose what it
represented. Of what is preserved—a partial torso (?) measuring 4.4 by 1.5 centimeters—
six breaks indicate protruding elements such as legs, a head and tail.
A, Wooly caprid (F1.1131.4); B, quadruped (F2.2066.6); C, horned quadruped (F2.2061.25); D, badly
damaged caprid? (F7.7162.6); E, horned caprid or equid (F7.7162.4)
Figure 4.74. Zoomorphic figurines from all house lots (UTARP Digital Archive, drawings by
Marie Hopwood and Jennifer Henecke).
Apart from the largest assemblage of figurines, House Lot 3 was also the only
house lot to contain miniature ceramic vessels. One of these (F7.7162.25; figure 4.75 A)
was found in the same pit as the recumbent quadruped figurine with horns (F7.7162.4)
discussed above. This vessel is a miniature ceramic bowl in the form of a hemisphere
with a shallow depression. The total dimensions are 1.6 centimeters in height and 2.5
centimeters in diameter. A second miniature ceramic vessel (F7.7155.8; figure 4.75 B)
represents a footed bowl or jar and was deposited in occupational fill from the courtyard
area south of the heavily burnt building and west of the magazine structure. The globular
body of the bowl has an everted rim and sits a top a short thin neck and a splayed foot
that is concave, not flat, on the underside. This tiny vessel measures 5.1 by 3.6
centimeters with a broken rim diameter of 1.8 centimeters. A final miniature ceramic
vessel (F7.7173.4; figure 4.75 C) from this house lot was also recovered from
occupational fill in the open (courtyard?) area. The object resembles a small cup with
straight sides and a flat base. In total the cup measures 2.2 centimeters in height and 1.9
centimeters in interior diameter. A small straight hole 0.1 centimeters in diameter
punctuates the center of the base, thus rendering the vessel unsuitable for holding liquids
but instead could have been used for suspension (see chapter 5).
In a marked change from the other house lots, no evidence for figurines or
miniature ceramic vessels was recovered from House Lot 4. The production and
consumption of these types of objects as part of a symbolic system does not seem to have
been taking place, however this does not mean that the beliefs and spiritual practices of
the household members did not manifest itself in other, less–material ways.
Figure 4.75. Miniature
ceramic vessels from
House Lot 3 (UTARP
Digital Archive,
drawings by Jennifer
Henecke and Diana
In this chapter I have presented the unsynthesized archaeological evidence for the
DMPC for four Late Chalcolithic house lots at Kenan Tepe spanning the LC 3 to LC 5
that includes multiple strands of evidence ranging from environmental conditions to
architectural styles and finally the primary household data itself. I have attempted to
include as many datasets as possible, such as faunal, floral, ceramic and lithic, to bring a
more holistic picture of household production and consumption that is often not possible
with disparate specialist reports and publications that often, but not always, examine
material datasets in isolation. While my full interpretations are reserved for the following
chapter, I believe a word or two in summation is necessary here.
The household members that occupied and worked within House Lot 1 practiced
agriculture, specifically the cultivation of two–rowed barley and various wheat species
that were then ground into flour, baked and consumed, seemingly within a short period of
time as there is no substantial evidence for long–term storage in jars, bins or plaster–lined
pits. They also ate legumes, peas, nuts and grapes from either a cultivated orchard,
household garden or the local wooded area. Herds of domestic sheep and goat were
foddered and tended and then butchered locally by the age of two in order to utilize their
meat. Pig and cattle were utilized as well, but to a much lesser extent as were a diverse
array of wild species from bird and hare to red deer, fish and crab. Food was stewed in
semi–open containers elevated above an open flame by use of ceramic andirons. And
while the actual cooking of food seems to have taken place in areas outside of the limits
of this house lot, there is ample evidence for the serving and eating of these foods and
disposal of food waste. These household members also engaged in the production and
consumption of chipped stone tools like flakes, blades and piercers of mainly chert but
obsidian as well. Spinning and possibly weaving and bead production were also
performed, likely on “cottage industrial” levels such that a portion of the final products
were distributed outside of the household. Symbolic systems were also at play within this
household as attested by zoomorphic figurines.
The household members of House Lot 2 did not seem to partake in the cultivation
or consumption of domesticate plants like cereals. Likewise with no botanical remains, it
is unclear whether the animals used by this household were raised locally or brought in
“on the hoof” to be butchered. Either way sheep, goat and pig were the primary animals
raised for meat and consumed. Wild resources like hare and gazelle were equally
exploited though on low levels and likely reflect opportunistic hunting. These meats were
likely cooked on spits over open flames and later served and consumed on the many
serving vessels found. Chipped stone tools were not being produced, but certainly
consumed by residents who likely utilized small chert and obsidian flakes for simple
cutting and scraping tasks. Again zoomorphic figurines attest to symbolic systems at
The proportion of debris between inside and outside spaces is clearly demarcated
on both the micro and macrolevels, reflecting the fastidious cleaning habits of this
household group. Specifically the relatively low densities of all major microartifact
categories from samples inside the house are reflective of habitual cleaning activities.
When comparing the percentages of microartifact subtypes between the interior and
exterior spaces, a uniform pattern is apparent and supports the hypothesis that debris
derived from activities within the structure was disposed of in the convenient street or
midden behind the building.
The household of House Lot 3 participated in all stages of barley and wheat
processing from storage in ceramic containers to grinding, baking and consumption. It is
likely that the dough created from this flour was baked into bread in a shared oven
located in an alleyway or other house lot not excavated. Apart from these cereal products,
legumes and peas were also consumed. Both dung and wood were used in the cooking of
breads, stews and meat from domestic flocks that reflect a diversified diet of pig, cow,
sheep and goat along with red deer, gazelle, and fish caught through the use of nets.
These animals were butchered locally by the household and likely stewed in semi–closed
pots above open fires elevated by the use of ceramic andirons.
The microdebris shows how the majority of cooking and eating took place in the
burnt structure partially preserved in the northern area of the house lot and that cooking,
consumption or disposal of animal–related food or products was consistent throughout
the use–life of the structure. A significant increase in the density of microbone during the
final phase of habitation coincides with a shift in ceramic types signaling a shift from
individual to more communal–style eating. Stone tools like flakes and blades made from
locally available chert and imported obsidian were likely knapped in the open courtyard
space between buildings that afforded adequate light and work space. And the symbolic
system at work within this household included not only zoomorphic representation in
clay, but also miniature vessels that mimic “normal size” vessels.
Finally the householders of House Lot 4 seem to not have engaged in the
processing or consumption of cultivated plants or at least the practice was not common.
They did consume the meat of domestic animals including sheep, goat and cow, but
primarily relied upon pig while at the same time utilizing less wild species. These foods
were likely cooked inside the large central oven/fire pit that was habitually cleaned by the
household residents. Apart from food, they also produced and utilized chert and obsidian
tools like flakes, blades and scrapers. Production and modification seems to have taken
place throughout the house lot, which might be more of an indication of relaxed cleaning
habits than actual manufacturing distribution. However increased production does seem
to have centered on the eastern (back) room of the house.
Together these households help paint a generalized picture of what the DMPC
“looks like” for Late Chalcolithic Kenan Tepe. It consistently involves, not surprisingly,
food and food–related activities like cooking, serving and eating. Though not consistent,
chipped stone technologies are certainly common with locally available chert as the
material of choice and heightened use. The incorporation of symbolic systems
materialized through physical objects like figurines and miniature vessels are also a
common presence. And while the consumption and utilization of cultivated plants are
surprisingly not consistent for these households, as stated earlier in the chapter, perhaps
this is a reflection of the fact that the majority of this type of production occurs outside
the physically bounded space of house lots. Still, the shifts in this and other specific types
of production and consumption, such as herding and weaving, are notable and can offer
an avenue by which to explore the mechanisms and motivations behind changes to the
With the domestic modes of production and consumption now established for four
household groups at Late Chalcolithic Kenan Tepe, in this chapter I will delve deeper
into specific aspects of the domestic economy—their characteristics, mechanisms, and
diachronic shifts—that have larger bearing on topics of regional trends. I argue that while
there are common themes to the various components that comprise the DMPC for
households at Kenan that are consistent through time, there are also prominent changes
and specific elements that are notably absent from the domestic economy. The elements
that change are particular and significant, especially when examined from a broader
regional perspective. In fact I contend that shifts in plant cultivation practices, textile
manufacture and animal husbandry coincide with marked changes on the household level
that are directly reflective of local, regional and supraregional sociocultural trends
embodied within the Uruk Phenomenon. In short, they are a result of economic
fluctuations and household reactions to controlled economic provisioning.
Stability and Change on the Household Level
Thematic Elements
The DMPC for Kenan Tepe in the late fourth millennium has several stable
elements or household activities that involve aspects of production and consumption that
remained constant throughout this period and thus stand as foundations for the generation
of a general domestic economy. For example, all Late Chalcolithic households at Kenan
engaged in chipped stone tool production and consumption to some degree and at roughly
equal levels of intensity. One exception is the household from House Lot 2 that seems to
have consumed/used chipped stone tools like small chert and obsidian flakes for simple
cutting and scraping tasks, but did not produce these tools in or near the house lot space.
The ratio of materials, specifically chert to obsidian, remained consistent across
households as well. Gray and beige–gray chert, a locally available resource and
seemingly easy to acquire, was the preferred stone used by all household groups at a
steady ratio of approximately four to one.
Obsidian, on the other hand, was much less used most likely due to the scarcity of
this stone and the fact that it had to be collected by individual households or imported to
the village from over 150 kilometers away. The fact that obsidian remained in use, albeit
in small numbers, throughout the Late Chalcolithic at Kenan speaks to continuous access
to this non–local resource through a presumed regional trade in obsidian that likely
incorporated all sites within the upper Tigris River valley. This assertion must remain in
the realm of speculation until further detailed excavations and publication of the lithic
data from other neighboring Late Chalcolithic sites in the area are carried out.
All microsamples from house lots exhibit very low densities in lithic materials
like microflakes that would signal primary use contexts for knapping and tool production.
However, in light of the macroassemblage that provides clear evidence for all stages of
core reduction and final products, the low density of microlithic might be a product of
differential sampling as opposed to less intense knapping activity. As already noted in
chapter 4, this type of production likely occurred in open courtyards and/or alleyways, as
with House Lot 3, where microsampling was admittedly less intense for this study.
This household–based production and use of chipped stone tools is similar to
other Late Chalcolithic/Uruk sites like Abu Salabikh (Pope 1994) and Tell Brak (Conolly
1997)1 where chert and obsidian knapping was practiced by local, non–specialists across
household groups and for immediate household consumption. For example, there are no
lithic specialist workshops evident for this early period.2 The data suggest therefore that
chipped stone technologies were not socially controlled or centralized.3
Naturally the DMPC of household groups at Late Chalcolithic Kenan also
included ceramics, specifically the consumption/use of ceramic vessels for all manner of
activities from cooking and serving to eating, storage, and containing a variety of
products like beads, spun thread, and tools, to name but a few. While a detailed
discussion of the ceramic typology for Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze I transitional
assemblage appears elsewhere (Creekmore 2007; Parker and Foster, forthcoming), in
general the wares and shapes retain signature elements of a local ceramic tradition that is
paralleled at other sites throughout southeast Anatolia and north Syria.
In terms of gross categorization, the percentage of cooking versus serving/eating
versus storage vessels remains relatively consistent across all household groups despite
variation in the size of the house lot assemblages and diagnostic constituents. One
exception is House Lot 2 where the percentage of cooking and storage vessels is equal
(5%), but the entire number of diagnostics is the lowest of all household assemblages
At Brak however there is a decrease in the use of obsidian between the Middle Uruk and Ninevite 5
periods that is not paralleled at Kenan.
According to Edens (1999), this was not the case at Hacınebi where flake technologies were a part of
domestic production while blades came from specialist workshops based on the irregular distribution of
“blade workshop debris.” However Edens does not take into account that this distribution could also be an
artifact of systemic contexts such that, at the time of abandonment, each household was likely engaged in
differential processes or stages of lithic production that could vary between procurement, production,
(re)use, and discard reflected in the distribution of chipped stone artifacts (see Schiffer 1972).
This is perhaps the case even at Arslantepe where lithic production was apparent in both “administrative”
and “domestic” contexts at the site (Caneva 1993).
(N=19).4 That ceramics were not produced by all households is notable and discussed
Diachronic Shifts in the Domestic Economy
Along with the consistent attributes of the domestic economy outlined above,
there are also pockets of productive elements and diachronic shifts in the DMPC. One of
these pockets is the cultivation of domesticate plants, notably cereals such as barley and
wheat, that was not consistent across the households examined at Kenan. In particular the
households of House Lot 1 and 3 were the only ones with evidence for the processing and
consumption of these domesticate cereals. As noted several times previously, this pattern
could be due to multiple factors. Pyrotechnic histories can alter preservation such that
botanicals that are not charred often do not preserve in the Near East unless under
specific circumstances. It is clear however that House Lots 2 and 4 were each thoroughly
destroyed by fires that would have fully charred any botanical remains present within the
house lots whether in pits, storage bins or embedded within the house floors themselves.
Sampling bias, as with all datasets in archaeology, could also account for the
differential levels of botanical remains between households. While flotation and HAP
samples were taken from multiple contexts like floors, pits, and suprasurface fill within
each of the house lots, the majority of samples for House Lot 4 derive from surfaces,
which are traditionally poor in botanical data especially if they are hard packed and
nonporous. However the same cannot be said for House Lot 2 where multiple pits along
with outdoor middens and interior surfaces were sampled. In this case the absence of
Though based on weight, diagnostic pieces account for 25% of the ceramics analyzed for this house lot
compared with 18% for House Lot 1 and 16% for House Lot 4. Diagnostics from House Lot 3 also
comprised 25% of the ceramic assemblage based on weight.
botanical data follows an overall trend of low debris density for all data subsets in this
Finally, the lack of botanical data for these two households could also be due to
the fact that the major procedures associated with plant cultivation—sowing, harvesting,
threshing—take place well beyond the limits of house lot spaces in agricultural fields and
specialized areas (Kramer 1982, 33). However this does not account for the absence of
garden and/or orchard type crops like herbs, nuts and fruits that were a part of other
household diets that are usually cultivated within the vicinity of the domestic structure
unless centrally managed or maintained. Likewise the grinding of grains and nuts as a
necessary process for the creation of flour for bread making is apparent for these
botanically sterile households in the form of mullers, pounders and microfragments of
basalt grinding stones.5
While the botanicals available for House Lots 1 and 3 are paralleled at both
Hacınebi and Korucutepe (Parker et al. 2003, 124), the assemblage reflects a low
diversity and small relative percentage of cultigens. This may indicate a trend toward
monocropping or an increased reliance on pastoralism (K. Meegan, pers.comm.).
Comparing the relative abundance of these cultigens between the households, there does
not appear to be divergent trends in the types of plants grown and their levels of
consumption or use by the two groups.
Another factor affecting the preservation of botanical remains suggested to me by David Frankel may be
that domestic pig was the primary animal raised and utilized by the householders of House Lot 4 (to be
discussed below). Pigs, of course, are prolific eaters able to consume any means of household waste
including plant parts, fruits, nuts, and general refuse. However this suggestion assumes that pigs were able
to roam freely within the inhabited living and working spaces of the house; a situation that is not
impossible but highly improbable.
A major diachronic shift in the DMPC at Kenan revolves around spinning,
weaving, clothing and adornment. House Lot 1 contained the most primary evidence for
this type of production and consumption. In particular, the clustering of spindle whorls
within a single oven locus offers three possibilities for interpretation: 1) the use of this
(nonfunctional) oven by multiple household groups for trash disposal in Phases 2 and 3,
2) multiple dumping episodes over the use–life of the entire house lot, or 3) a small
household–based industry of spinners. The first interpretation is possible, though there is
currently no evidence available for other house lots in the immediate area. According to
spatial data, there are two distinct groupings of whorls separated by no more than 20
centimeters of debris inside of the oven and within the occupational debris from the
neighboring structure that discounts multiple episodes of deposition over an extended
period of time. That is of course unless the episodes were consecutive with little break in
between them. Certainly the archaeobotanical record from the F4 oven shows no marked
differences between sampled deposits (chapter 4).
A cottage textile industry is supported not only by the density of spindle whorls
and other tools within this single household but also the nature of one of the primary raw
materials being spun, namely flax. The procedures by which flax fibers are prepared for
spinning are both complex and time consuming requiring certain expertise or knowledge
and the use of specialized tools.6 Flax is thus unlikely to have been a minor or occasional
spinning product (Keith 1998, 510). However I would stress that I do not believe this
household industry was intense enough for participation in regional systems of trade and
exchange, but instead focused on an intra–settlement market or the pooling of resources
(e.g., raw materials, tools, time) between multiple household groups. Also the currently
For detailed discussions of these procedures, see Barber 1991 and Forbes 1956.
available evidence can only confirm one half of this type of production: spinning and the
production of thread. Unless ground looms were used, there is no evidence in the form of
weights to support the actual weaving process.
This pattern of spinning and possibly textile production is either not as visible in
the following households or else no longer an industry practiced at the household level,
although it should be noted that ceramic spindle whorls need not be used to spin thread.7
This could also suggest a centralization of textile production such that not every
household is producing thread and weaving in later periods at Kenan. Another hypothesis
is that textiles were increasingly imported to the site from other polities in the upper
Tigris or beyond. Either scenario speaks of a non–self–sustaining household structure in
terms of this type of production after 3300 BCE.
Diachronic shifts in diet are also evident for each of the Kenan households such
that there is a changing preference for pig as part of the animal husbandry strategies. I say
“preference” as opposed to intensification because there does not appear to be an
increased amount in pig so much as an increased ratio of pig to cow, sheep and goat. For
example there are very subtle changes in the household reliance on sheep and goat from
House Lots 1 to 3 such that ovicaprines shift from being the dominant animal (House Lot
1) to only a single element in a larger diversified diet (House Lots 2 and 3). At the very
end of the fourth millennium however there is a more drastic change represented by the
faunal assemblage of House Lot 4 where pig comprises well over the majority.
Methods such as hand spinning or hooked stick require no spindle and perishable materials like wood
(Crowfoot 1931). Spindle whorls can also be made out of a variety of materials including wood, gourds,
wax or fruits (Liu 1978). Bone whorls were also found at Late Chalcolithic Mersin (Garstang 1953, 156)
and in ‘Ubaid Period contexts at Kenan Tepe (Parker et al. 2008, 174 fig. 26B).
This shift could be the result of several factors. Environmental change could have
diminished natural resources over time or make suitable pasture or agricultural plots
unavailable for adequate grazing and foddering. Individual household decision making
based on specific socioeconomic circumstances could also have played a role (see
below). However diet and the way that food is prepared is a sensitive indicator of ethnic,
cultural and economic categories especially because food practices tend to be quite
conservative. While other material categories such as ceramics and chipped stone give no
evidence for radical alterations in manufacturing techniques or styles that might indicate
shifts in the ethnic or cultural makeup at Kenan, the switch to a wholly meat–based diet
dominated by pigs most likely reflect: 1) increased sedentarization by a semi–pastoral
household group, 2) economic changes or 3) a reaction to shifts in larger socioeconomic
systems in the region. As will be discussed below, options 2) and 3) seem the most likely.
Another unstable element of the DMPC at Kenan is a pattern of symbolism
manifest in the physical form of ceramic zoomorphic figurines and miniature vessels. As
discussed in chapter 4, three of the four household groups produced and used figurines at
a relatively even distribution of one to two figurines per household. The majority of these
figurines were disposed of in pits with one exception (F2.2061.25) that derived from the
occupational debris inside House Lot 2. I say “disposed of” because along with the
figurines, these pits contained broken ceramic vessels, animal bone, and lithic debris, all
elements that are normally acquainted with trash assemblages. One deposit stands out
however, in that two figurines were deposited along with a miniature vessel in House Lot
3. One of these figurines (F7.7162.4) was also the most complete of all house lot
assemblages where normally there is a consistent breakage pattern involving the head,
front legs or all four legs.
Interpretation of these miniature vessels has relied primarily on context and the
nature of their deposition such that they have variably been identified as cultic vessels,
tokens (Nilhamn 2002; Schmandt–Besserat 1992) and toys (Bahrani 1989).8 They have
been found in a variety of contexts from tombs and burials (Early Bronze Age Jericho;
Acemhöyük [Özgüç 1993]; Gre Virike [Ökse 2002]) to potter’s workshops (Middle
Bronze Age Hazor), houses (Sabi Abyad [Spoor and Collet 1996]; Girikihaciyan [Watson
and LeBlanc 1990), and refuse pits (Early Dynastic period Abu Salabikh [Green 1993;
Postgate and Moon 1982]). At Abu Salabikh miniature vessels were accompanied by
sealings, tokens, figurines, and pot disks much like the deposits at Kenan. Thus in this
particular case study,9 miniature vessels seem to embody some kind of relationship to
figurines and the symbolic systems to which they belong for the household. This is
reinforced by the fact that almost all of the miniature vessels from house lots at Kenan
resemble regular ceramic forms like simple or tapered rim bowls and pedestalled jars or
platters (figure 4.41 D, 4.43 G).
The psychological effects of miniaturization and three–dimensionality in the form
of figurines has been discussed by Bailey (2005), who stresses that the creators of
miniatures do not seek accuracy in representation. Thus figurines need not be precise or
exact replicas of humans, animals or other forms observable in the cultural/natural world.
However, because the reducing of size inevitably reduces the ability to construct details,
Interesting work has also been done with fingerprints on miniature vessels that provide evidence in
particular cases for production of these ceramics by children (Kamp 2001; Králík and Hložek 2007).
This contextual information is for the Late Chalcolithic house lots examined in this dissertation
specifically. Miniature vessels appear in other contexts, notably burials, from later Early Bronze levels in
Area F at Kenan (F1.1021.1087 and F1.1021.1118).
the features and traits represented in figurines are highly selective and most likely
represent the focal point of the creator’s intent. As Bailey (2005, 32) eloquently states,
“miniaturism concentrates and distils what is normal in peoples' routine day–to–day
activities and thoughts and then produces a denser expression of a part of that reality.”
Thus the inclusion of hair or pigment spots on the animal’s coat for the caprid figure from
House Lot 1 likely reflects the importance of wool or hair in terms of the household
economy or the marking of the animal to signal ownership much in the way sheep coats
are dotted with distinctive colors in southeast Turkey today. Figurines could also have
been subject to forms of distortion on the basis of social and aesthetic preference
(Wengrow 2003, 149). For example, the enlarged horns of the caprid figurine from House
Lot 3 signal to the creator and the viewer the importance placed upon horns or matured
males in the household flocks.
How these figurines functioned within their specific household contexts can only
be hypothesized and likely fluctuated between roles as representations of supernatural
beings or ancestors, vehicles of magic, teaching aids, and toys (see Ucko 1968; Voigt
1983). Creating and interacting with miniature figures in many ways transforms the
human actors such that they have complete control over the object. As a small three–
dimensional object, the spectator has the ability and power to view all sides of the
figurine and from all angles. This complete comprehension gives the viewer, the human
actor, a sense of control over that thing and what it represents, whether fertility of the
herd or a mythical story, thus offering security and also pleasure (Bailey 2005, 33).
At Late Chalcolithic Kenan Tepe the zoomorphic figurines, when identifiable,
almost exclusively take the form of ovicaprines. These figurines are also commonly used
by all the household groups except one, House Lot 4, which had no figurines or other
identifiable physical manifestations of symbolic systems or representation. While this
may simply be a product of archaeological sampling, preservation or ancient patterns of
disposal, the fact that figurines in the form of ovicaprines (sheep/goat) are discontinued at
a point in which pigs become a primary staple in the diet of this particular household is
intriguing. If figurines truly represent the means of achieving authority over the animate
or inanimate subjects modeled (Lévi–Strauss 1966) or gaining a feeling of control over
the hazards of daily living (Moorey 2003, 19), it seems they were no longer necessary
when a low risk pattern of swine consumption was in place (discussed below). This
change is echoed in the gradual decline in household–based spinning and weaving
production of animal hairs and plant fibers that likely correspond with a lessening
reliance and/or preference on sheep and goat.
Conspicuous Absence
A final category of the DMPC at Kenan is absence or the particular elements of
production and consumption that were not visible for the four households under
investigation. Absence does not mean that these activities were not practiced at Late
Chalcolithic Kenan, but instead signal that they were not carried out at the household
level, that only certain households participated (specialists), that production was
centralized, or that products were imported. In many respects the absence of certain
activities is more telling and informative than those that are apparent. For example,
metals and metal working were not a component for any of the households examined.10
This is despite the relative close proximity of Kenan Tepe to Ergani Madden and Siirt,
two copper mines adjacent to the Tigris River still exploited today. There are also
numerous copper ore deposits to the north of Kenan within the foothills of the Taurus
Mountains, but none within the Tigris River valley itself (see Palmieri et al. 1993, 579
fig. 3).
Metals such as copper and tin are supposedly one of the main resources sought by
southern Mesopotamian Uruk traders since the southern alluvium lacks any known metal
deposits (Moorey 1994) and indeed there is evidence for metal working at sites like
Hacınebi, Brak, and Sheikh Hassan. Copper ingots were also found at Jebel Aruda (van
Driel 2002), one of the definitive Uruk colonial sites. Perhaps the greatest example comes
from neighboring Arslantepe where numerous objects like silver rings, arsenical copper
sword blades, and spearheads were uncovered (Palmieri et al. 1993). Two–piece molds
for on–site casting provide evidence for production. Similarly at Norşuntepe metal
spirals, rings, awls and over 2 kilograms of copper ore and slag were found adjacent to a
smelting furnace (Hauptmann 1976). This apparent lack of metal working technologies at
Kenan is perhaps one of the underlying reasons there is no evidence for direct contacts
with a larger Uruk network. Because metallurgy requires a specialized knowledge and
access to raw materials (Yener 2000) it would make sense that southern Mesopotamian
entrepreneurs would enter into trading partnerships with those who already had a long
tradition of this specific type of production.
One exception is perhaps the central pit in the eastern room of House Lot 4 that reportedly contained
small pieces of slag, but certainly not enough to indicate full smelting. It is possible that these “slag bits”
derived instead from the breakdown of ceramic pieces or even mud brick from a wall collapse caused by
the intense fire that brought about the destruction of this building.
While ceramics were obviously used by the households at Kenan, there is no
evidence for the production of these vessels on the household level. Of all the
pyrotechnic installations that have been uncovered in the house lots, most were relatively
clean and left no concrete evidence for their use as kilns for firing ceramics. This low
visibility of ceramic production on the household level is perhaps due to the
specialization of production during the Late Chalcolithic occupation such that workshops
were established in certain areas of the village that have yet to be excavated. An
alternative is that ceramic vessels were traded in from neighboring settlements within the
river valley, perhaps in exchange for textiles manufactured by a household industry of
weaving at House Lot 1.
This situation at Kenan stands in contrast to several Late Chalcolithic sites
throughout the region and beyond. For example at Hacınebi and Hassek, kiln wasters and
a study of fabric types indicate that local and “Uruk” ceramics were produced onsite
(Helwing 1999; Stein 2002b). Arslantepe had overwhelming evidence for mass–produced
conical bowls, some of which were found unbaked, suggesting onsite production
(Frangipane and Balossi 2004). Further afield at Abu Salabikh, pottery wasters were
uncovered across the site suggesting small–scale or household level production of
ceramics (Pollock et al. 1990a, 87). Some of these wasters included nested groups of
beveled–rim bowls that had been fused together during the firing process (Pollock 1987,
While it is true that cylinder seals of local manufacture and style were evidently
used by household groups from House Lots 1 and 2, because of a lack in sealings we
cannot be sure if the seals were actually used for an economic function or were instead
apotropaic or decorative. Similarly a ceramic token discovered in House Lot 4 has
parallels at contemporary Adaba, Brak, and Habuba–Süd however its function remains
unclear. These types of tokens or jetons could have been used as external symbolic
storage units (Costello 2000), counting devices (Jasim and Oates 1986; Schmandt–
Besserat 1992), or gaming pieces. With this range of possibility and functional debate
(see especially Zimansky 1993), it seems premature to equate a single token from this
household context to a larger complex economic system better represented at Brak,
Habuba–Süd and elsewhere. What I will say as a general observation only is that there
seems to have been a continued use of this class of object in the form of cylinder seals
and tokens throughout the Late Chalcolithic at Kenan reflecting interaction with a wider
cultural system where these items were produced and consumed. However the evidence
from these house lots clearly shows that these domestic entities did not practice higher–
level accounting or centralized storage or distribution. Nor did they not engage in forms
of long distance trade and interaction that would manifest through raw materials like
bitumen (Schwartz et al. 1999) and lapis or even sealings in terms of the clays used and
iconography (as demonstrated for Hacınebi [Blackman 1999; Pittman 1999]).
Mechanisms for Change
Why did specific aspects of the DMPC at Kenan change over time? In this section
I will explore and answer this question by focusing on the three major elements of
change: 1) differentiation in plant cultivation between households, 2) shift in textile
manufacturing and 3) change in animal husbandry practices and, in particular, diet with a
preference for pig. I do not wish to oversimplify by asserting that all of these diachronic
shifts are the result of a single interpretive explanation. On the contrary, as I have already
argued in chapter 2, households and domestic economies are much more nuanced
systems of production, consumption and sociocultural interaction. By their very nature
households embody multifaceted relationships both externally with larger community and
regional relations as well as internally between their own individual members. Thus
while various avenues of explanation can be explored for each of these elements of the
DMPC, the mechanisms behind the shifting nature of production and consumption are
not necessarily tied to singular events.
Sedentarization and Seasonality
Increased sedentarization or seasonality are possible avenues of explanation for
the diachronic shifts in the DMPC at Kenan that saw changes in textile production,
inconsistent cultivation of domesticate cereals and other plants, and preference for swine
as the major component of a primarily meat–based diet. Indeed it has already been
recognized that segments of society, households in particular, can move between
lifestyles of semi–pastoralism and agriculture or practice them in tandem (Pollock 1992).
As exemplified at Sos Höyük and Büyüktepe Höyük (Howell–Meurs 2001), temporary
and more permanent architecture, just as we have for Kenan, may be found together
within a single settlement as the result of gradual sedentarization of a nomadic
population. And because there is no evidence for radical environmental changes in
southeast Anatolia for this time, it seems that any alterations in terms of household
mobility would be contingent upon group–based decisions, no doubt affected by various
cultural, economic and political considerations and situations.
However it has been exceedingly difficult to detect seasonality for households at
Kenan due to a fragmentary archaeobotanical assemblage and a generally small faunal
assemblage for each household. Evidence for migratory bird species or wear stage scores
for teeth that could indicate the particular time of year animals were culled are
unfortunately not available (S.W. Kansa, pers.comm.).11 Of the faunal data that is
available and has been analyzed, the diversity of domestic taxa between all household
groups supports a primarily sedentary population that was well established throughout the
Late Chalcolithic.
This fact does not necessarily rule out seasonality, specifically the minimal
movement of groups between sedentary occupation sites usually in the summer and
winter months. This non–year round settlement at Kenan may account for why the
botanical assemblage from the house lots, when present, have a narrow variety of
cultigens whereas with a permanent sedentary community, one would expect a wider
range of plant types derived from both large agricultural lands and household garden
plots. Yet the presence of pigs in all the household assemblages is the strongest case
against seasonality primarily because of their high water needs, sensitivity to heat and
inherent difficult attitude make them poorly suited for mobile pastoralism or for even
biannual migratory journeys (Grigson 2007; Horwitz 1989).
Economic Degradation
The primary elements of change in the DMPC are one of specialization (weaving)
and staple production (animal husbandry), both of which could have been affected by
This specific type of information was possible to examine at Tell Brak, where the absence of individuals
showing wear stage scores of 4 to 6 and 11 to 16 suggest that animals were killed at particular times of the
year (Dobney et al. 2003).
economic realities. For example, flax cultivation requires suitable agricultural land and
high labor inputs with frequent watering, weeding, and lengthy processing after harvest
(McCorriston 1997, 522). A change in the ecological setting or household structure could
account for the absence of flax spinning technologies for the later Kenan households.
Yet, as discussed at the beginning of chapter 4, the climatic conditions for the upper
Tigris and indeed the eastern Mediterranean do not support drastic changes in the annual
precipitation levels. Nor do we have adequate resolutions in which to examine changing
water output levels for the Tigris River that would have altered available agricultural
plots. Perhaps in this case an economic downturn is to blame such that the time and
energy required to maintain domesticate flax exceeded the capabilities of individual
domestic economies. In such a case the harvesting of wild flax (Linum bienne) growing
along the marshy edges of the riverbed could provide alternative raw materials, although
its collection would have to be strictly monitored to not deplete supply. Likewise if there
was instead a shift, and not an overall decline, in textile production such that wool and
not flax was the primary material, one would expect to see an intensification of caprines
in the faunal assemblages of later house lots, which as discussed previously, is not the
case at Kenan.
In terms of animal husbandry, a shift in diet reflected in an increased preference
for pig could also have much to do with economic conditions. Pigs can play a large role
in risk management and abatement strategies for small household groups, especially ones
that have minimal access (or control; see below) to other food resources. Pigs require
minimal labor input and can consume a variety of products from fruits and nuts to garden
clippings and food scraps (i.e., basic household rubbish). They then convert 35% of the
energy they receive from their feed into meat, while sheep only convert 13% and cattle
even less (Harris 2007). Piglets gain more meat faster and with less feed than your
average sheep, goat or cow and the payout for breeding pigs is much greater: one pig will
birth eight or more piglets that can reach four hundred pounds within six months. From
an economic standpoint, pig rearing is cheaper, more reliable and easily manageable by
smaller, independent household groups.
Thus a preference, even reliance, on pig coupled with low to no plant cultivation
and the absence of certain essential activities of production like weaving, ceramic making
and even storage are evidence for a relatively underdeveloped infrastructure during the
Late Chalcolithic at Kenan. That this infrastructure possibly underwent an economic
downturn at the end of the fourth millennium is perhaps best reflected in a more
specialized diet that was easier to maintain. Along side economic degradation could also
be devolving environmental conditions resulting from human practices. For instance an
increase in domestic pig use can be linked to over–hunting and habitat degradation to
compensate for the loss of meat from wild animals (Zeder 1998, 62).
While it is currently impossible to see Kenan as the type site for the region, this
unspecialized, purely household–based economic system may account for why the
general impact of the Uruk Phenomenon was less intense in the upper Tigris, despite it
being a resource–rich zone in antiquity provided with timber, metals, and water
transportation. Over the last twenty years research in the periphery zones of greater
Mesopotamia have revealed local developments of complex economic systems through
which the Uruk settlers came into contact (see chapter 1, appendix). These entrenched
and matured systems might have been the draw for attention from the south since, from a
purely economic standpoint, it is easier to do business within and between already
developed systems of production, consumption and distribution as it is to create and
implement your own.12 Along the same lines this shift in diet, and to pigs in particular,
reflects how isolated and self–sufficient the householders at Kenan truly were by the end
of the fourth millennium such that they were not integrated into any transregional
economy.13 Yet there might be more dynamic explanations at play that underlie a more
active, agent–centered domestic economy.
Regional Considerations
As discussed in chapter 2, households and domestic economic systems are very
much determined, organized and transformed by certain conditions that are inherent to
the household itself (e.g., group structure, life cycles, organization of the DMPC) and
external to it such as the larger community, settlement or region. It is with this mindset
that I now look to regional considerations for shifts in the DMPC at Kenan, focusing on
the two major diachronic trends: a sharp decrease (cessation?) in textile manufacturing
and increased preference for swine.
The shift in textile production from one of intense household production, most
likely for intra–settlement exchange, to specialized production was not the trend seen at
contemporary Hacınebi where Kathryn Keith was able to perform both a diachronic study
of spindle whorl weights and diameters and a spatial analysis of their distribution across
This was exactly the case with sites like Arslantepe, Hacınebi, and Tell Brak (see appendix) who had
already well established economic and administrative systems in place, not to mention strong local
traditions for ceramics, food, and metallurgy. The new founded settlements like Habuba–Süd and Jebel
Aruda are the obvious exceptions.
A similar trend is noted at Bronze Age Tel Halif where fluctuations between isolated and integrated
economic patterns coincided with high and low levels of pig consumption on the nonelite household level
(Zeder 1998).
the site.14 At Hacınebi, as at Kenan, undecorated sherd disks are the dominant material
for spindle whorls (chapter 4; Keith 1998, 512; Stein et al. 1997). Keith found no
evidence for centralized control of spinning products, though she is not clear exactly what
this evidence would be. The data was consistent with household production for local use
that was steady between the pre– and post–Uruk contact phases at the site (LC2–LC4;
4150–3350 BCE). Similarly at Arslantepe, there is no dramatic or noticeable shift in the
weight, diameters or density of spinning and weaving tools between Levels VII (LC4;
3500–3350 BCE) through V (Jemdat Nasr/Early Dynatic; 2800 BCE) that would indicate
changes in the degree and type of production that was consistent across the site in both
household and palatial contexts (Andersson, forthcoming).
What this evidence shows is that despite supposed Uruk colonial incursions in the
north, the local household production of thread and textiles remained locally managed by
domestic groups, and there does not seem to be a shift in production that would indicate
increased demand for these products (contra Frangipane and Palmieri 1987, 299, J. Oates
and D. Oates 2004, 185). The consistency in the textile data however does mask any
shifts there might have been in the types of raw materials being used. Therefore a move
away from linen toward the production and consumption of more wool garments and
textiles would not be visible unless faunal datasets and specific culling patterns were
taken into consideration.
How then can we interpret the absence of spinning and weaving by later
households at Kenan? Compared with contemporary southern Mesopotamian whorls that
Two studies that I am, unfortunately, unable to perform due to the low occurrence of spindle whorls in
House Lots 2 through 4.
are predominantly stone or clay and ovoid or hemispherical in shape,15 the ceramic sherd
whorls at Kenan reinforce the presence of an indigenous population using local spinning
traditions. Based on the minimal evidence for the herding of domestic ovicaprines for
wool or hair, flax seems to have been the primary material used by one of the earliest
Late Chalcolithic households at Kenan for the creation of linen textiles.
Early household–based textile production and consumption based on linen fits
well within the pre–urbanized Near Eastern landscape where flax was the earliest of
materials to be domesticated and used for weaving, even before the creation of ceramics
(van Zeist and Bakker–Heeres 1975). While the seeds of flax plants are also harvested
and processed for their oil, it seems the fibrous stalk of the plant was readily sought as
well. This is most visually attested in Late Uruk images, most notably from the Warka
Vase (Crawford 1985, 74). However the gradual shift from linen to wool production
specifically in southern Mesopotamia at the end of the fourth millennium was significant
for fiber extensification and the development of class–based (as opposed to kin–based)
societies (McCorriston 1997).
The culmination of this process can be found in the centrally administered textile
industries composed of workshops with specialist (female) laborers that were a major
aspect of the southern Mesopotamian economic system demonstrated by textual
documents of the third millennium BCE (Szarzynska 1988). For some, the foundations of
this industry lay in the fourth millennium with textile exportation as a mechanism for
These data admittedly derive from incredibly small samples sizes at Tepe Farukhabad (Wright 1981),
Susa Acropolis (LeBrun 1978) and a slightly later Jemdat Nasr period trash pit at the Uruk mound at Abu
Salabikh (Pollock 1990b).
trade and exchange within the wider Uruk network (Algaze 1993, 74).16 This is supported
by depictions of weaving and spinning on cylinder seals common for this period
reflecting the importance of this activity for communities throughout the region. For
example a seal from Choga Mish in Khuzistan depicts a spinner seated on a platform or
cushion (figure 4.71 A). Another seal from Susa shows an aerial view of a ground loom
used by two weavers (figure 4.71 B) offers a side view of a warping frame (figure 4.71
The greater amount of pasture required to produce wool (as opposed to
agricultural land for growing flax) may have fueled northward expansion by southern
Mesopotamian groups (McCorriston 1997, 534). Yet it does not seem that Uruk incursion
into southeast Anatolia at least had any effect on household–based production and
consumption of textiles that would reinforce this shift to wool and the centralization of
manufacturing. At Kenan there is indeed a shift in textile production, however it is not
one of raw materials (as expressed, if anything, in the decrease of ovicaprines and a
steady prime–age culling pattern) but instead of who is carrying out the production. If
textiles were indeed a major product of trade, then the reduction of household–based
production at Kenan during the primary phases of the Uruk Phenomenon between 3300
and 3000 BCE (House Lots 2 through 4) is notable and is perhaps a result of this trend.
The issues of increased wool production and pasturage are, not surprisingly,
intimately tied to animal husbandry and pastoral lifeways. Thus it has been stated
Although later third millennium textual documentation records that high quality textiles produced by
workshops in the southern Mesopotamian heartland were locally consumed and not exported over long
distances (Waetzoldt 1972, 72).
For more depictions of textiles and weaving, see J. Oates and D. Oates 2004 fig. 15.6. I would note here
that these depictions are not necessarily of large–scale “factory” production of textiles as accounted in the
third millennium textual corpus, but could just as easily show household cottage industry.
elsewhere that the cultural influence of a Late Uruk organized state, with new approaches
and new demands, had very powerful repercussions on the economic and social fabric of
the communities in Upper Mesopotamia, specifically influencing animal husbandry
strategies that saw a sharp increase “everywhere” in the numbers of sheep and goat
(Siracusano 2002, 194). I contend this is only partially true in that the web of interaction
dominant during the Uruk Phenomenon did not affect the husbandry strategies at all sites
or in all sectors of the population of those sites.
For example, the proportion of pigs and cattle in the general faunal assemblage at
Hacınebi steadily decreased (50% to 26%) while the level of sheep and goat increased
(45% to 72%) between the pre–Uruk contact (Phase A) and Uruk contact (Phase B1 and
B2) phases (Bigelow 1999). But when viewed in terms of ethnic distinctions, the
indigenous Anatolian population maintained a well diversified diet of sheep and goat
(45%), pig (32%) and cattle (20%) that was seemingly unchanged by the embedded Uruk
colony at the site. This Uruk colony, on the other hand, predominantly consumed sheep
and goat, which comprised 83% of the total assemblage. Still the age at which
ovicaprines were culled remained approximately less than two years for both the pre– and
Uruk contact phases showing that herding did not shift toward specialization in wool
production. This trend correlates with the evidence for spinning and weaving at Hacınebi
discussed earlier that exhibited no change in levels of production that might have been
spawned by the introduction of wool as a raw material used in the extensification of
textile manufacturing.
Clearly at Hacınebi and echoed at Kenan, there does not seem to be a drastic shift
in the indigenous assemblage toward ovicaprines that would reflect heightened levels of
production, especially specialized production of wool for textiles, on the household level.
As discussed previously there is an intensification of textile production on the household
level at Kenan that pre–dates the height of the Uruk Phenomenon into this area of
southeast Anatolia and that likely ceased before any incursions into the river valley at
sites like Giricano were accomplished. What is distinctive for our latest household at
Kenan is the overwhelming preference for pig, a dramatic change from the diversified
diets of the previous households that included relatively equally proportions of pig, cow,
sheep and goat, along with some wild resources. The primary questions to address now
are why pigs and why now, at the transition between the fourth and third millennia BCE
when this household was living at Kenan?
The answer may be shifts in cultural or even ethnic elements. At contemporary
Anatolian sites like Arslantepe and Hacınebi, a dramatic increase in the ovicaprines with
a simultaneous reduction in pigs and cow populations during Uruk contact phases has
been used as supporting evidence for the influx of either foreign peoples (or simply
influence) with diets and cultural traditions reminiscent of those in southern
Mesopotamia. Between the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze I levels at Arslantepe
there is an increase in the number of sheep with a simultaneous decrease in pigs (from
16.8% to 0.6%) that, for the excavators, signal the advent of a centrally governed
economy (Frangipane 1997a, 54–55; Frangipane and Palmieri 1987, 299). The same is
true of Hacınebi as discussed previously where the influx of ovicaprines reinforced an
Uruk enclave at the site (Bigelow 1999). The return to “normal” husbandry patterns that
evidentially focused on cattle (along with sheep and goat) in areas north of the Taurus
and pigs south of the mountains further confirms the intrusion of Uruk influence as
populations supposedly returned to traditional lifeways at the collapse of this regional
interaction system around 3000 BCE (Siracusano 2002).
In essence this theory relies on a correlation between pigs/cattle and indigenous
populations as a cultural or even ethnic marker. Looking briefly at the faunal assemblages
of colonial and outpost sites of the Uruk Phenomenon this may be true. Uruk–Warka
Levels III and IV, Jebel Aruda, Habuba–Süd and Godin Tepe all contain an
overwhelmingly low density of pig at 1% of the entire population throughout the fourth
millennium (Boessneck and Steger 1984; Grigson 2007; van den Driesch 1993).18 El
Kowm 2 Caracol and Farukhabad contain even less (0%; Redding 1981; Vila 1998) while
local sites like Kurban and Korucutepe each retained normative levels in both the
Chalcolithic and Early Bronze I between 7% and 14% (Boessneck and von den Driesch
1975; Wattenmaker and Stein 1986). An exceptional example is Tell Brak where the
fauna throughout the fourth millennium is consistently focused on sheep and goat (90%
of the assemblage), but pig are increasing present in the Ninevite 5 period (10.8%;
Dobney et al. 2003; Emberling and McDonald 2003).
Two significant outliers to this trend are Hassek Höyük (see appendix) and the
households under investigation at Kenan where pig remained one of the major staple
commodities largely for meat throughout the LC 5 to Early Bronze I transition. In fact at
Hassek between the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze I, pig jumped dramatically from
37.6% to 50% of the total assemblage (Boessneck 1992). This greater reliance or
preference for pig at the height of Uruk influence at Hassek has been explained as a
program of specialized breeding possibly based on the external exchange of elements of
Admittedly the NISP for some of these sites is relatively low: Uruk NISP equals 75 for example and
Godin is 161. For Habuba-Süd and Jebel Aruda however the numbers are much higher (NISP = 2219 and
1014 respectively) and more statistically significant.
primary production (Frangipane and Palmieri 1987, 300). While this seems like a viable
explanation for our Kenan household, especially if textiles are truly being imported (see
previous), there is not enough evidence to support a domestic industry of pig rearing for
House Lot 4 such that exportation of meat and other secondary products like lard and
hide, even within the settlement, was being practiced.
The preference by Hassek’s residents for pig might also be an outcome of its size
such that small villages were less involved in the major changes that took place at larger
sites like Arslantepe and Brak during the period of the Uruk Phenomenon (Siracusano
2002, 194). This image of Hassek as an example of resilient animal husbandry practices
in rural villages is downplayed however when we consider the site was heavily
influenced by this regional Uruk network evident in ceramics, sealings and major
architectural features (see appendix: Turkey/Atatürk Dam). While a heavy reliance on pig
at Kenan households would indeed underscore an indigenous population at the site, if an
intensification of ovicaprines is truly an indication for Uruk influence this does not
account for a dramatic increase or preference for swine. This is especially true when we
consider that the shift to pigs as a reaction against outside cultural and/or ethnic
influences could not be possible since there was never an intensification of ovicaprines
during the height of Uruk Phenomenon at Kenan to indicate influence.19
An alternative and the explanation I argue fits best for the unique situation at
Kenan is that the preference for pig consumption is a reaction to controlled economic
provisioning that is one of the hallmarks of the Uruk administrative system and likely
goes hand–in–hand with an economic downturn discussed previously. Certainly in later
This is substantiated by the overwhelmingly local character of the entire Late Chalcolithic Kenan
assemblage from southeast Anatolian ceramic wares to architecture to chipped stone technologies (chapter
periods, but most likely beginning at the end of the LC 5, centrally managed flocks of
both sheep and goat developed as a primary way to feed the textile industrial machine in
the south. The very nature of these animals as well—their portability and relative ease
with which large herds can be kept and managed—lent themselves well to large–scale
redistributive economies present at places like Brak and Arslantepe.
The same cannot be said of the pig. Despite the economic advantages discussed
previously, raising pigs requires some amount of effort and specific environmental
conditions. Pigs require high amounts of both water and shade since their bodies cannot
tolerate temperatures above 35 ºC (Grigson 2007, 98). They cannot be herded in the
traditional way of sheep and goats, nor can they be migrated long distances to take
advantage of fresh pasture, for example. In village and agricultural settings pigs will also
trample and uproot cereal grains, thus they cannot be allowed to roam free and must
remain closely monitored or penned (Zeder 1991, 30–31, 1998, 108). Yet as mentioned
before, pigs are a sustainable meat source and ideal for risk abatement strategies for a
domestic economy. Thus it would seem that pigs are more suitable for rural family and/or
small–scale sty management, especially in arid and semiarid environments.
Pigs as an indicator of domestic–level economy, and likely nonelite as well, is
supported by the almost total lack of pigs and pig herding entries in the archaic
administrative texts of the late fourth and early third millennia that record in great detail
the care, management and distribution of sheep, goats, cattle and donkey. One exception
is a Late Uruk lexical text of pigs and pig products (W 12139).20 However this text likely
Textual sources provide evidence that swine herding apparently did become centrally managed in the
later third millennium (Dahl 2006). One example is an Ur III administrative text (W 23948) that records the
distribution of animals from a large herd of ninety–five pigs into one group of juveniles and two additional
groups of adults assigned to temple units in Uruk (Englund 1995).
refers to wild pigs, as opposed to their domestic counterparts, who are often depicted in
cylinder seal iconography of this period being hunted (often by the aid of dogs) in the
reed thickets of the southern marshes.21 Also reinforcing their nonelite status are later
third millennium urban examples like Tell Leilan, where pigs make up 50% of the
assemblage in the lower town areas supposedly inhabited by poorer residents (Zeder
1998, 118).
Thus the role pigs most likely played in the nonelite domestic diet was as a
supplemental food source to balance out resources acquired through other means, most
likely from centralized redistribution. In this sense an increase or heavier reliance on pig
could be seen as either a disruption in the redistributive channels (through economic
crisis, war, etc.) or as intentional undercutting of the centralized administration through
strategic household decision–making. The existence of this centralized administration at
Kenan is not overt but if we look closely at the major elements not present in the DMPC
of the later households—ceramics, plant cultivation, weaving—it is likely that some kind
of centralizing productive agent was present in the form of specialized households or
centralized elites. This might also account for the lessen of ovicaprines in the later house
faunal assemblages if sheep and goat became centrally managed.
It is also telling that during the occupation of House Lot 4 at the turn of the third
millennium at Kenan a major change took place at the site in the form of a monumental
wall 1.5 meters thick that was constructed encircling the upper mound (chapter 4). Its role
remains elusive, acting as either a defensive mechanism, a physical boundary between the
upper and lower portions of the village or a massive foundation and/or shoring device for
a monumental construction above. Because the relevant occupational levels inside the
See Englund 1995, 122 fig. 1 for an assortment of examples from Uruk–Warka, Susa and Habuba–Süd.
wall are buried deep within the mound, more information about what is inside the
perimeter or who exactly occupied this space is presently unavailable. However whoever
built or financed this construction certainly had adequate control of resources and labor to
carry out such a project. That the mud bricks for the superstructure derived from four
different clay sources (distinguished by their colors) and likely represent multiple labor
gangs or tribute payments from various factions reinforce the extent to which this control
stretched. There is no evidence to support Uruk colonists fortifying the upper mound,
however my point here is that while resources are being applied to massive construction
projects on one side of town, individual households are reinforcing and adapting their
food production and consumption strategies to underscore their self–sufficiency on the
other side of town most likely as a reaction to changing economic and political situations.
In many respects, this analysis of the domestic economy of households at Kenan
has carried out two separate yet equally worthwhile goals. One was to elucidate the
nature of the DMPC at a village site of the upper Tigris. The other was to examine
closely the effects the Uruk Phenomenon had, or did not have, on household–level
economies in this region in particular and what that might mean in the broader scope. The
results, it seems, are a little of both.
The core elements of the DMPC that remained constant—chipped stone
technologies and ceramics—substantiate the current understanding we have (but still
question!) about the mechanisms for the Uruk Phenomenon that did not involve
unspecialized lithic tools or implements and southeast Anatolian ceramic traditions.
Fluctuations in other elements, most notably plant cultivation, are perhaps best explained
by more local conditions such as seasonality and issues of preservation. And the absence
or low visibility of significant elements like metallurgy, ceramic production, trade items,
and administration and distribution of products in the households examined best highlight
Kenan’s role as either an independent indigenous village or levels of specialization in
production (and consumption) that lay outside the households under consideration.
The conspicuous absence of these elements could also point to economic
degradation, a supposition that is further supported by the discontinuation of linen textile
manufacturing after 3300 BCE, most likely based on the high labor inputs involved. That
this critical shift in the DMPC coincides with heightened interaction with southern
Mesopotamian peoples or influences in southeast Anatolia, whose supposed items of
exchange included textiles, is perhaps not a coincidence.
A dietary shift to primarily pig consumption can also be seen as a signal of
economic downturn, especially since pigs play a large role in conservative domestic
economies and risk abatement strategies for food supplies. If increasing centralization of
resources in terms of production and labor are indeed occurring region–wide, whether
instigated by Uruk colonists themselves or as a byproduct of newly developing
interactions, then a pig–based consumption pattern can also be seen as a vehicle of
subversion. Pigs can supplement any domestic diet that has become increasingly reliant
on the centralized administration of other products and resources like sheep, goat and
agriculture. In this way, households can remain relatively independent of a centralizing
authority in terms of the most important element of the DMPC: food.
In the Near East, the late fourth millennium BCE was a period of fundamental
social change that witnessed the rise of the earliest known states at sites like Uruk–Warka
in the southern alluvium of Iraq. Part of the culmination of this development was the
proliferation of interregional connections across the Mesopotamian landscape manifest
by the distribution of distinctive categories of material culture. These included
architectural styles, ceramics, accounting practices, artistic conventions, and the earliest
writing and pre–literary forms. The mechanisms, motivations, and meaning behind this
patterning of material cultural and what it represents in terms of sociocultural and
economic interactions remains contested in part by the limitations inherent from one of
the primary type sites of the period, Uruk–Warka, and the frameworks by which scholars
have traditionally studied this Uruk Phenomenon. Both suffer from a lack of multiscalar
approaches that bring to bear all levels and social groups including nonelite households
and domestic economies.
Uruk–Warka has remained the centerpiece of these archaic states for several
reasons. It is one of the earliest ancient sites to be excavated in the Near East. Extensive
surveys highlight Uruk–Warka as a central polity adversely affecting settlement of the
immediate hinterland. And the material culture remains from the Eanna and Anu
precincts represent an unprecedented level of sociocultural advancement in terms of
craftsmanship, architecture, organization and control of resources. Yet the archaeological
evidence from Uruk–Warka also presents a host of problems in seeking to understand the
whole of Uruk society. Only the elite and centralized elements of social life at the city are
currently known from various temple and public buildings and the wealth of finds that
were deposited inside of each to prepare them for the next rebuilding. Further surveys
and excavations in the hinterlands of Uruk–Warka have also highlighted the
heterogeneous patterns of settlement and movements of populations across the region that
reinforce a multifaceted network in which Uruk–Warka is perhaps a unique case. Finally
the incomplete ceramic assemblage and chronological issues in many ways make Uruk–
Warka a poor type site in which to examine the whole of fourth millennium
Mesopotamian society.
The same holds true for several sites excavated beyond the Uruk heartland. Only
limited exposures at a handful of settlements in southern Mesopotamia have been
excavated that unfortunately offer evidence for primarily the elite sectors of Uruk society.
While further north at places like Nineveh and Habuba Kabira–Süd there is more
complete evidence for ceramic sequences or domestic architecture, no examinations have
been carried out of the larger contexts from which both “local” and “Uruk” ceramics
derived or the activities of production, consumption, or distribution that comprise a
domestic economy and its relationship to more centralized systems.
This body of evidence, along with others from sites like Susa, Arslantepe,
Hacınebi, and Tell Brak, has become the framework by which models about the Uruk
Phenomenon have been created, developed and contested. Scholars have made significant
advances toward understanding the mechanisms and motivations by which systems of
interaction and exchange developed and functioned during the Late Chalcolithic period,
whether through an Uruk world system, trading diasporas, or political fallout. Yet these
models all share common weaknesses: the reinforcement of top–down approaches to
economic histories, focus on the elite segments of society, and exclusion of smaller
indigenous village communities. Most important is the underestimation of the domestic
economy and the role that household groups play in shaping their social and economic
Household archaeology as an important subdiscipline has developed over the last
forty years as a productive and evocative means by which scholars can access these Late
Chalcolithic domestic groups through the examination of architecture and domestic
artifact patterning. Very specific methodological approaches like microdebris analysis,
micromorphology and soil chemistry grant scholars the finest resolution by which to
uncover household activities. Households, defined as activity groups that engage in
spheres of activities that overlap in space and time, are the level at which individuals
engage with society at–large. As the basic unit of societies, households are sensitive
indicators of political, economic, or cultural change. They also offer a window through
which to view the nuanced and shifting relationships between people, families, working
groups and communities. In this way houses and households should not be viewed as
static entities or as representing whole social groups and classes. Indeed households
occupy an integral place for conceptualizing larger social developments that cannot be
fully understood by examinations of elite and overarching processes alone.
Domestic modes of production and consumption are especially insightful avenues
of approach to the social, and in terms of the Uruk Phenomenon economic, developments
during the late fourth millennium specifically because household economies are affected
by and effect change themselves in these arenas. Examples drawn from the Inka Empire
and third millennium states in upper Mesopotamia exhibited the shifts in domestic
production and the organization of labor to accommodate evolving political demands and
the ways in which households can determine the market and flow of craft production and
specialist goods. These examples have bearing on the Uruk Phenomenon because it has
been traditionally understood as motivated by resource procurement strategies and
subjugation of the periphery through a colonial system. Such a radical change in the
socioeconomic climate, therefore, should be visible in the domestic economy or the daily
production and consumption activities of households.
At Kenan Tepe, a small village site in the upper Tigris River valley of southeast
Turkey, this type of change was evident in the domestic modes of production and
consumption (DMPC) in four household groups chronologically spanning the late fourth
millennium or the over three hundred year course of the Uruk Phenomenon.
Consistencies, prominent shifts and conspicuous absence of distinct elements of the
DMPC were distinguished by examining the microarchaeological evidence in tandem
with macroassemblages of ceramics, bone, lithics, ground stone, botanicals and
architecture. The results show the core elements of the DMPC—chipped stone
technologies and ceramics—remained at consistent levels across all house lots or the
physical space that households inhabit. Fluctuations in plant cultivation are best
explained by seasonality, local environmental conditions and/or issues of preservation.
The lower visibility or absence of metallurgy, ceramic production, and trade items
underscores the likely centralization of these craft activities at specialist households
outside the scope of the groups under investigation or increased economic degradation.
Devolving conditions likely played a role as well in the shifting levels of textile
production as linen became an economic burden and the spinning and weaving of wool
likely transitioned to either specialist households or the final products were imported.
Yet it is the shifts in diet of these nonelite households that are most telling for the
impact of the Uruk Phenomenon at Kenan Tepe and the wider region. The gradual
transition from the consumption of predominantly ovicaprines to a balance of
domesticates to a greater reliance on pigs by the turn of the millennium suggests both
economic and social changes. Pigs play a large role in more conservative domestic
economies especially in terms of risk abatement strategies where economic conditions for
food production are threatened or in flux. In a time of increased centralization of
resources in greater Mesopotamia evident at sites like Brak and Arslantepe, it seems the
householders of Kenan were reorganizing their production and consumption patterns to
accommodate and even subvert changing times. This reflects the continued sense of
independence, at least economically, that households were actively seeking to maintain.
As a case study, it is my hope that Kenan Tepe serves as a point of departure by
which scholars can begin to reconceptualize the Uruk Phenomenon by incorporating
household–level approaches when examining the development of social, economic,
political and ideological life in the fourth millennium. While it has been neither my
intention to discount the theoretical approaches to the Uruk Phenomenon discussed in
chapter 1, nor to choose a theory that fits Kenan Tepe best, I believe these types of
examinations could benefit from the incorporation of household data if only to
distinguish the variety of sociocultural systems at play during the Late Chalcolithic. To
this end, my study has also highlighted the applicability of household archaeology to
move beyond investigations of domestic architecture, economy, religion and family life
to help answer broader questions about the social and cultural movements of the ancient
world over the longue durée. In the case of Late Chalcolithic Mesopotamia, this includes
the development of archaic states, urbanization, bureaucracies and social class
The current study would in the future benefit from other examinations of
households and domestic economies at sites within the upper Tigris River valley, most
notably Giricano, to serve as a comparative dataset and to more securely place the Late
Chalcolithic DMPC at Kenan within a regional context. This will only be possible
however through more horizontal exposures of architecture and domestic spaces and
timely publication of these results.
A further step would be the comparison of domestic economies from smaller
villages like that of Kenan and Hacınebi with larger polities like Brak, Hamoukar and
Arslantepe to examine the interaction between elites and household groups in order to
elucidate further the nature of the Uruk Phenomenon. As the preliminary reports suggest,
much work has already been done concerning the individual components of production
and consumption at Hacınebi and it is my hope that the final reports will offer an
inclusive view of the domestic economy at that site. The same holds true for Arslantepe
and Tell Brak where we have a unique opportunity to examine the dynamic relationship
between these highly complex and, for the latter, urban settings and their rural
Finally an avenue of approach that remains to be further explored comprises
elements of gender, class, and age that are inherent to household groups and crosscut
aspects of the domestic economy. These categories in many ways are the determining
factors in how labor and production is organized and carried out and who is doing the
producing and consuming. From this, aspects of power and familial roles are negotiated
on a domestic stage that will transfer to the types and nature of relationships between
individuals in the wider community. For the Uruk Phenomenon this will be important for
differentiating domestic economies between households that were likely affected by
increased regional interactions in different ways. This type of nuanced analysis would
also be helpful in distinguishing the types of groups participating in this interaction: rich
male entrepreneurs or poor refugee families of men, women, children and elderly?
This appendix summarizes the primary archaeological datasets used by scholars
examining the Uruk Phenomenon and acts as a complement to the larger approaches and
issues about interregional interactions discussed in the dissertation. These datasets
include excavation background, settlement histories and the material culture of a number
of fourth millennium sites scattered across greater Mesopotamia. The evidence is
presented by modern country and then, if applicable, by region.
As the site of Uruk–Warka has already been discussed in detail in chapter 1, this
section will focus on the material culture of neighboring settlements that share
architectural and ceramic similarities. The best example is Eridu (modern Tell Abu
Shahrein), located 24 kilometers southwest of Ur and 40 kilometers southwest of the
modern city of Nasiriyah. The site is actually composed of eight separate mounds whose
collective occupations span the sixth to the first millennia BCE. The site was initially
investigated in the mid–nineteenth century CE by J.E. Taylor (1855) and then later by R.
Campbell Thompson and H. R. Hall. More extensive excavations were carried out over
three seasons between 1946 and 1949 by Sayyid Fuad Safar (field director), Sayyid
Mohammed Ali Mustafa (surveyor, architect), and Seton Lloyd (technical adviser).
Architectural remains dating to the Uruk period from the excavated areas of Eridu
are limited to the main mound and are sparse in number due to ancient tunneling and the
construction of the massive ziggurat of Ur–Nammu during the Ur III period. What does
remain are mostly foundations and massive stepped platforms of Riemchen bricks from
two protoliterate temples (I and II)—most of which lay buried beneath the Ur III
ziggurat—a small portico, a 1–meter–thick walled building of white gypsum bricks, and
extensions of the ‘Ubaid Temple VI platform assigned by excavators to the Early Uruk
period. A large plastered building east of the ziggurat within the outer retaining wall of
the citadel area is better preserved. This structure is composed of multiple rooms grouped
around a central hall. Intact door lintels, two of which are parabolic archways 1.7 meters
in height, attest to the striking preservation of this structure. The interior debris consists
of ceramics, like beveled–rim and conical bowls and straight–spouted jars, identified by
the excavators as “votive vessels” (Safar et al. 1981, 72). Other ceramic types found on
these levels are characteristic for southern Mesopotamia and include red wares, gray
wares, lugged pots, and jars with twisted strap handles.
Though data from Eridu is limited, it is clear the site remained occupied beyond
the ‘Ubaid period. The initial labor and resources that were placed on the construction of
a long–lived temple sequence seems to have continued with the construction of two more
massive platforms during the Uruk period on which presumably temples or other public
buildings were placed.1 It is unclear whether the other relatively large constructions
opposite the temple platforms served a religious function (as assigned by the excavators)
or domestic function (as the material remains suggest). The nature of the architectural and
ceramic evidence places Eridu well within the sphere of southern Mesopotamian material
culture with little evidence for trade outside of Mesopotamia.2
In digging these temple platforms, excavators uncovered decorated stone and clay cones similar to those
recovered at Uruk–Warka (Safar et al. 1981, figure 118).
A kiln was excavated adjacent to the multi–roomed building on the eastern edge of the citadel that was
lined with bitumen, presumably derived from Hit in the north (Safar et al. 1981, 76).
This picture changes upriver at sites like Abu Salabikh and Tepe Gawra where
evidence for complex economic systems involving regional trade are continually
developing throughout deep occupational sequences. Tell Abu Salabikh, most likely
ancient Eresh, lies at the heart of the southern alluvial plain between the Tigris and
Euphrates Rivers 16 kilometers northwest of the ancient site of Nippur. The site is
composed of six low–lying mounds, none higher than 5 meters, scattered across a total
area of 1 by 2 kilometers and intersected by a wide modern drainage ditch and several
canals. Most of the remains that have been excavated date to the Uruk and Early Dynastic
periods (ca. 3900–2200 BCE). The site was first explored in 1963 and 1965 by Vaughn
E. Crawford, Donald Hansen, and Robert Biggs on behalf of the University of Chicago.
In 1973 a contour survey was carried out and excavations were resumed in 1975 by J.N.
Postgate on behalf of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq (Postgate 1977, 1978,
1980, 1983, 1990; Postgate and Moorey 1976; Postgate and Moon 1982).
The Uruk mound is roughly 10 hectares in size and located southwest of the Early
Dynastic main mound and due south of the West Mound. Crawford and Biggs began
initial investigations here in 1963 that consisted of soundings and small–scale surface
scrapings. More substantial work on the Uruk mound was conducted later by Susan
Pollock over the course of three seasons (Pollock 1987, 1990a; Pollock et al. 1991, 1996).
Pollock employed a combination of surface survey, large–scale scrapping3 and
excavation to reveal more coherent architectural features, compare the density of artifacts
from surface survey with those from the subsurface scrape, and determine the distribution
of production and consumption activities across the entire site. Surface scraping revealed
Removal of 10 to 15 centimeters of sediment from the surface of the mound. Pollock and her team used a
grid system over the entire Uruk mound in order to complete a systematic scrape.
that the Late Uruk town was surrounded by a 20–meter–wide wall with buttresses on the
outer edge that most likely served as both a symbolic and defensive function (Pollock et
al. 1991, 64).
The most substantial architecture recovered on the Uruk mound was two
superimposed buildings dating to the Middle Uruk period (ca. 3550 BCE). The walls of
these structure were one and a half meter thick, composed of square sectioned Riemchen
bricks, and both later cut by a pair of Jemdet Nasr period refuse pits (Pollock 1990b).
These buildings were associated with fire installations and a large mud brick platform. A
similar platform was found in the northern area of the tell adjacent to two unattached
rooms containing fire installations. These were most likely pottery kilns as one contained
wasters and beveled–rim bowl fragments (Pollock et al. 1991). A 1.5–meter–deep
sounding excavated at the edge of the tell revealed an entire Early to Middle Uruk period
sequence of occupation including part of a pisé structure with straw–covered floor and
sheets of raw bitumen (Pollock 1990a). An infant burial later cut this pisé structure and
contained a beveled–rim bowl placed upside down on top of the skull. Overall the
excavators were surprised at the sheer amount of open space within the Uruk settlement
as compared to the dense construction of houses and other buildings on the Early
Dynastic mound.4
The ceramic assemblage from the Uruk mound contains a wide range of forms
including mass–produced vessels like beveled–rim bowls, “flower pots,” and conical
bowls with string–cut bases.5 Other forms include open bowls with various diagnostic
rims, rounded and flat–rimmed jars, and spouted jars in straight, conical and droop spout
This may also be due in part to their limited excavation areas and the fact that the surface scrape only
penetrates a maximum of 15 centimeters below the surface.
For a full description of the ceramic assemblage including plates, see Pollock 1987.
styles. Ceramic production seems to have been non–centralized as evident by pottery
wasters found across the site that attest to small–scale or household production. Despite
this, only one of the fire installations excavated contained pottery wasters, unlike similar
Uruk period installations uncovered on the West Mound (Postgate and Moon 1982).
Specifically beveled–rim bowls appear to have been made on site and apparently in
batches (Pollock 1987, 137). Other clay objects recovered by the excavators include
spoons, wall cone fragments, and sickles that were produced on–site (Benco 1992). There
is also widespread and overlapping distribution of manufacturing refuse from lithic
production across all surveyed areas. The presence of cores and debitage, specifically
core rejuvenation flakes, further support the idea of local production of chert tools.
Even though high soil salinization has severely affected the preservation of floral
and faunal remains at the site, excavators could still determine that sheep and goat
comprise the majority of the animals being exploited while wheat and barley were the
staple crops. The presence of grinders and grinding stones, along with clay and stone
sickle blades, reflect the local agricultural base for the Uruk period communities at Abu
Salabikh. Overall these data suggest a small–scale farming and herding community
whose production and consumption patterns were based on the household level and not
controlled or organized by a centralized authority, as is traditionally argued for the
structure of southern Mesopotamian Uruk economies (Johnson 1973; Nissen 1988;
Wright and Johnson 1975). Pollock does not rule out the possibility for larger households
with highly specialized workforces, as documented in Mesopotamian texts (Nissen 1988,
80–83), however these must be seen as only one of a variety of production units within
any one community, town, or region (Pollock et al. 1996, 697).
Moving north outside of the traditional heartland of southern Uruk–Warka, a
lengthy Middle Uruk occupation is also attested at Tepe Gawra, a small 1 hectare tell
located east of the Tigris River on a tributary of the Khosr River in close proximity to the
ancient site of Nineveh. This area is a piedmont zone where both rain–fed and irrigation
agriculture is possible. Gawra likewise lies at the mouth of a natural pass through the
Jebel Maqlub on its way to the hills of the northern Zagros. Thus the site lies at a
crossroads for communications and trade with the eastern mountainous zone as well as
north–south riverine traffic along with Tigris. Tepe Gawra was first excavated by
Ephraim Speiser in 1927 who also carried out two six week seasons in 1931 and 1932.
Charles Bache then took over as field director between 1933 and 1936. During the sixth
campaign (1936/1937) Speiser returned as director while the final seventh season (1937)
was led by Bache once again. The incomplete and often inaccurate final publications by
Ephraim Speiser (1935) and Arthur Tobler (1950) led Mitchell S. Rothman (1988, 2002)
to provide a subsequent reanalysis of the Tepe Gawra material for Levels XII–VIII that
date to LC 1–3.
Though the end of occupation at Gawra marks the beginning stages of the Uruk
Phenomenon during the LC 3, it nonetheless stands as an important site. The evidence
from Tepe Gawra suggests a highly integrated and complex level of social organization
that was actively engaged with neighboring polities via an economic relationship (at
least, that is what is visible archaeologically). Gawra thus stands as one of several
examples that higher level administration, trading networks, and social complexity were
already established in periphery areas outside of southern Mesopotamia before the onset
of the Uruk Phenomenon.
During the early fourth millennium at the height of settlement, Gawra was
relatively small (1 hectare) when compared with neighboring Nineveh (discussed below).
However there remain some five hundred years of continuous occupation spanning six
phases at Gawra that encompass the LC 1 to LC 3 periods, predating the Uruk
Phenomenon. The earliest occupations (Levels XII–XIA; LC 1) are dominated by
extended families occupying houses with large central rooms, exterior kitchens and
individual storage rooms. Larger tripartite structures, such as the so–called White Room
building (Level XII), are ritual spaces and the loci for specialized production of goods
like cloth making, woodworking, knapping, and seal cutting.6 Other later monumental
structures like the Round House fortress and gateway complex (Level XIA) attest to
communal labor and/or high levels of social organization. Gawrans seemed to have been
active in a long distance trading network attested by non–local items of gold, lapis, shell,
alabaster, obsidian and worked copper. Seals and sealings of both local and non–local
Gawran clays are further evidence for the importation of foreign goods.7
In the following occupations (Levels XI–IX; LC 2) these widespread specialty
workshops for weaving, spinning, woodworking and ceramic production, continue
though eventually disappear in favor of more centralized production. This took place
within, or adjacent to, a formal temple built on the southeast edge of the mound, a large
public building and depot. The types of production shift as well with more luxury items
like beads and bone inlay being created as opposed to staple products. Seals and sealings
are limited to the temple, public building and workshop area reflecting centralized control
Though the contents found inside the White Room—spindle whorls, a spatula, obsidian core, and four
small celts—reflect domestic use for the building’s final phase of occupation.
Interestingly, none of the non–local sealings came from Nineveh, suggesting that in fact, Gawra was not
dependent upon the regional center (Rothman and Blackman 1990).
of goods. Extended family dwellings from previous levels give way to smaller cramped
units with only one to two rooms and an attached kitchen. The final occupation at Gawra
(Level VIII–VIIIA; early LC 3) is characterized by the main temple and public building
seen previously, along with a central warehouse containing seals and sealings of both
local and non–local clays. The ceramic evidence for all levels at Gawra is very poor
(Rothman 2002, 52); however, of the assemblage that has been analyzed, the ceramics
reflect a local Late Chalcolithic, non–“Uruk” character consisting of wheel and
handmade vessels with various levels of grit and chaff temper.
Gawra’s large neighbor to the south is Nineveh, a regional center on the east bank
of the Tigris River just north of the confluence of the Tigris and Khosr Rivers. The site is
roughly 2 kilometers wide and 5 kilometers long and encompasses an area of
approximately 1,750 acres (700 hectares) having an estimated population of 250,000
people at the height of settlement in the seventh century BCE. The site is encircled by a
roughly rectangular city wall and defined by two primary mounds: Kuyunjik and Nebi
Yunus. Nineveh is best known as the capital of the Neo–Assyrian empire under
Sennacherib (704–681 BCE) and Ashurbanipal (668–627 BCE); however, occupation on
the main mound (Kuyunjik) extends back into the fifth millennium BCE. The earliest
excavations at Nineveh began in the mid–nineteenth century (1842) under Paul–Émile
Botta. Austen Henry Layard, on behalf of the British Museum, continued this work from
1846 to 1851 by unearthing a large part of the Southwest Palace of Sennacherib. In 1852
Layard’s assistant, Hormuzd Rassam, took over directorial duties, subsequently
excavating the North Palace of Ashurbanipal. Fifty years later, R. Campbell Thompson
carried out a number of expeditions at the site between 1904 and 1905, and 1927 to 1932
(Campbell Thompson 1934; Campbell Thompson and Hutchinson 1929).
Excavations on Kuyunjik east of the third millennium BCE Temple to Ishtar
platform revealed a massive building made of unburned mud brick identified by the
excavators as vaulted tombs (Campbell Thompson and Hutchinson 1931, 81; Campbell
Thompson and Hamilton 1932, 78). The building was quite large (50 by 60 feet and
maximum 15 feet high) with thirty courses of dark gray libn bricks preserved. Thick piers
support a system of parallel vaults and archways that encircled a central courtyard.8 Their
designation as tombs is misleading as no human remains were ever found within the
structure. The excavators however suggest these tombs had been plundered in antiquity,
to which they attribute the wide scattering of beads (ten thousand in total) across areas
neighboring the vaulted building and other pits found inside (Beck 1931; Campbell
Thompson and Hamilton 1932, 79–80).
Mainly ceramics were uncovered from inside the building under and near the
frontage and well inside the building at floor level. The assemblage is composed of
mostly beveled–rim bowls though other shapes such as conical cups, large jars with
tubular spouts, and four–lugged squat jars with shorts necks are also present. The
beveled–rim bowls in particular were often found stacked in groups of two to six and
turned upside down above caches of animal bones and accompanied by black ash and/or
According to Algaze (1986b, 129) in his reassessment of protoliterate Nineveh, this type of vaulted
architecture seems to be the forerunner of a larger tradition in northern Mesopotamia. However the
example of Gawra VIIIA that is given by Algaze and dated to the Ninevite 5 period based on the initial
report by Tobler (1950) has now been shown to be incorrect based on the subsequent reappraisal of the
Gawra excavation data by Rothman (2002). It is now universally accepted that Gawra VIII (the final phase
of occupation at the site) dates to LC 3 (see “Tepe Gawra” section this chapter).
bitumen.9 Beveled–rim bowls were also found in Areas G and H on the slopes between
the Ishtar and Nabu Temple platforms on the floor of a large building (24 by 80 feet) and
on the northeast edge of the mound at a depth of 22 feet from surface (Campbell
Thompson and Hutchinson 1931, 81 no. 2) suggesting that a large portion of Kuyunjik
may have been occupied during the latter half of the fourth millennium BCE.10 A
cylinder seal was also found adjacent to this building along with a bulla bearing a
cylinder seal impression depicting two bulls standing back to back in southern
Mesopotamian Uruk style.11 This same impression was encountered on a numerical
notation tablet from the Deep Sounding on Kuyunjik, but unfortunately the context is
uncertain (Algaze 1986b; Collon and Reade 1983).
The other area in which material culture datable to the Uruk period was recovered
was a deep sondage abutting the northwest side of the Temple of Ishtar platform.
Excavated by Max Mallowan for a total of two months during the 1931–32 season, this
50 by 65 foot pit reached a total depth of 90 feet (Campbell Thompson and Mallowan
1933). The various levels in the pit were later divided into five strata based primarily on
ceramic assemblages. These strata (Ninevite 1–5)12 cover the span of some three
millennia, with 12 meters of occupation representing the Uruk period (Ninevite 3–4)
alone. Briefly, Ninevite 3 is characterized by lightly burnished grey ware and plain
undecorated ceramics, many of which are handmade but others show the tell–tale signs of
This consistent arrangement of the beveled–rim bowls upturned above animal bones reinforced the
excavator’s theory, “that they were votive offerings, perhaps to the dead” (Campbell Thompson and
Hutchinson 1931, 104 no. 3).
This ceramic assemblage, specifically the beveled–rim bowls, is the primary means by which the vaulted
building has been traditionally dated. Renate Gut (1995, 2002) however believes the building to not be
prehistoric, but instead built into earlier levels at a later date.
Collon and Reade (1983) and Algaze (1986b) claim it depicts a lion attacking two bulls standing dos à
dos. In my opinion the lion is not entirely clear in the original publication (Campbell Thompson and
Hutchinson 1931, 82; Pl. XXII, no. 10).
Also seen written as Ninevite I–V.
fast wheel manufacture. Shapes include heavy squat–bellied bowls, shallow bowls with
incurved rims (related to the Coba bowls of north Syria and Anatolia)13, pots with club–
head sections, and burnished holemouth jars found also at neighboring Tepe Gawra (XI–
IX). The earliest beveled–rim bowls also appear in small numbers.14 Cylinder and stamp
seals are continuously found in this stratum along with baked clay sickles, bone awls, a
copper pin, a clay cone believed to be a gaming piece, sun–dried clay sling bolts, and
anthropomorphic figurines.
Ninevite 4 (roughly equivalent in date to LC 5) is characterized by classic Late
Uruk period forms and wares: reserved slip, drooping spouted vessels, flat dishes,
beveled–rim bowls en masse and turned upside down, incised wares, and “Erech red slip
ware” with perforated lug handles. The following Ninevite 5 phase (Early Bronze Age)
exhibits a complete shift in the ceramic repertoire to elaborate painted and incised wares
of round bottom bowls with beaded or straight rims, stemmed bowls, and large stemmed
jars with ovoid bodies. Small finds from the Ninevite 5 level include a long tanged
copper arrow or spear head, flanged bronze arrowhead, clay dog figurines along with
anthropomorphic figurines, a granite bowl, and a reddish limestone macehead. The seals
and seal impressions from this stratum and earlier Ninevite 4 mirror similar motifs such
as trees, plants and animals found at Kish, Jemdet Nasr, Ur, Susa and Uruk–Warka. Items
that were common throughout the entire Ninevite sequence include flint and obsidian
implements (i.e., blades, cores, scrapers), ax heads made of serpentine or diorite, carding
combs, and baked clay spindle whorls. The limited faunal remains suggest that domestic
Gut 2002, 19.
The beveled–rim bowls are given a votive function by Mallowan citing, “third rate quality of the ware
leave little hardly a doubt that they must be dedicatory” (Campbell Thompson and Mallowan 1933, 168).
pig, sheep, goat and cow were common throughout with the interjection of the occasion
wild species such as ass and deer.
Though evidence at Nineveh is limited to the Deep Sounding, the vaulted building
and smaller excavations upslope from the Temple of Ishtar platform, Nineveh seems to
have been a significant site during the Late Uruk as its long depositional history suggests.
The presence of beveled–rim bowls, higher level accounting implements, and cylinder
seals/sealings with motifs attested in neighboring sites to the south suggest Nineveh was
within the sphere of southern Mesopotamian influence or cultural milieu. If the vaulted
building does in fact date to the LC 4 or 5, this would perhaps substantiate Algaze’s
(1986, 130; 1993, 37) claim that Nineveh served as a major protoliterate outpost on the
Upper Tigris with monumental buildings and access to key trade routes.15
Susiana / Khuzistan
The heartland for much of Elamite history is Khuzistan in western Iran, also
called Susiana after the city of Susa located at the region’s center. This high alluvial plain
is bordered on the northwest by the Deh Luran plain, on the southeast by the plains of
Ram Hormuz, and on the east by the Zagros foothills. Five principal rivers traverse this
well–irrigated landscape (Kirkby 1977). Topographically Khuzistan can be seen as the
eastern extension of the southern Mesopotamia alluvial plain. Some researchers (Algaze
1993; Johnson 1973; Wright 1972) also view the region as a cultural extension as well in
the protoliterate period since assemblages between the two are largely analogous.
For an alternative hypothesis, see Stronach 1994.
Whether this indicates simultaneous development or asymmetrical influence remains
largely debated concerning the Uruk Phenomenon.
Susa is the primary site regarding cultural developments during the latter half of
the fourth millennium in this region. The 550 hectare mound is located on the western
edge of the Khuzistan plain on the left bank of the Shaur River. After initial soundings by
W. K. Loftus (1857), a total of five areas were excavated under the leadership of several
directors: Jacques de Morgan beginning in 1897, Roland de Mecquenem (beginning
1908), Roman Ghirsham (1946–1967) and Jean Perrot (1968–1979).16 The most
important data concerning the prehistoric levels at Susa come from a deep sounding in
the Acropole on the west side of the mound and the Apadana Mound, an area on the north
side later occupied by an Achaemenid palace.
The earliest phase, Susa I or A (dated LC 1–3), occupations both these areas
totaling 7 hectares and was encircled by a 6–meter–wide pisé wall. On the Apadana is a
monumental multi–roomed building (Bâtiment de Suse I) with 2–meter–thick pisé walls
coated with prepared plaster. On the Acropole (I, levels 27–23; II levels 11–7) is a large,
low mud brick platform (massif funéraire) measuring between 8 and 14 meters
containing the buried remains of approximately two thousand individuals in primary and
secondary internments. This structure has been variously interpreted as a graveyard for
the inhabitants of Susa, a centralized cemetery for use by surrounding settlements
(Vértesalji 1989), and a mass grave site (Hole 1990). Later in this phase, a second mud
brick platform (haute terrasse) is constructed atop this funerary structure and
accumulated residential debris. This 10–meter–high stepped structure is decorated with
inlaid ceramic cones, clay models of goat horns and plaque mosaics (Canal 1978; Pollock
An extensive bibliography for excavations at Susa can be found in Carter and Stolper 1984.
1989). Apart from these more monumental architectural features, Susa I was also
characterized by stamp seals bearing glyptic styles paralleled in southwestern Iran,
various copper implements such as chisels, pins and flat axes, and beautiful painted
ceramics, most notably tall slender black and white beakers with stylized animals and
geometric motifs (Le Breton 1957).
In the following phase, Susa II or B, the Bâtiment de Suse I and haute terrasse are
destroyed by fire, the latter seemingly abandoned for some time while the former was
filled in with occupational debris datable to LC3. This suggests occupation continued at
least on the Apadana Mound area, initially shrinking Susa’s overall size to 5 hectares at
the beginning of this phase. Further excavation showed however that the settlement did
expand to encompass both the Apadana and Acropole (levels 22–17), plus a lower town
area—a total of 25 hectares by the end of the LC 4 but then constricted again to 9
hectares by LC 5 (Johnson 1973). While the material cultural assemblage of Susa I is
completely local to the Khuzistan plain, Susa II exhibits a total break. Evidence has
derived mostly from the Acropole sounding levels 17 and 18 (LC 5) where well–built
private houses were uncovered. The ceramic assemblage shows similarities with southern
Mesopotamia: beveled–rim bowls, four–lugged jars with crosshatch decoration, drooping
spouted bottles, reserved slip wares, jars with twisted strap handles and pouring–lip
Sealed bullae with tokens are common inside these houses along with stamp seals
and numerical tablets with cylinder seal impressions similar to tablets at Uruk–Warka
IVa, Habuba Kabira-Süd, Jebel Aruda, Tell Brak, Godin Tepe and Chogha Mish. Of the
thirteen notation systems in use at Uruk–Warka, three have been identified at Susa II
leading some to believe unequivocally in the Urukean origin of these counting systems
(Potts 1999, 61).17 However no protocuneiform texts dealing with economic and lexical
subject matter have been found at Susa or anywhere outside of Uruk–Warka. The glyptic
on the cylinder sealings is executed in both “baggy style”18 and the smooth iconic “true
Uruk style” depicting scenes of hunting, animal attacks, warfare, and occupational
activities like weaving. There are direct parallels for this imagery at Uruk–Warka and
Chogha Mish, most importantly that of the so–called “priest–king” figure who is depicted
bare–chested and wearing a skirt with his long hair tied back into a tight bun at the nape
of the neck. He is often shown in the presence of bound captives wielding a spear or, as
in one example from Susa, a composite bow with which he slays his enemies before an
ornately decorated building.
A drastic contraction in settlement size and change in ceramics signal a cultural
break for excavators between Susa II and the following Susa III or C, represented only on
the Acropole levels 16–14b (LeBrun 1978). The Acropole is abandoned but reoccupied
after a short duration. One of the major changes are in glyptic and writing where over
fifteen hundred “Proto–Elamite A” or “Susa III” texts were excavated in the Acropole I
level 16. While the numerical systems employed at Susa III have been shown to exactly
parallel, or be derived from, systems in protocuneiform texts from Uruk–Warka III
(Damerow and Englund 1989), the signs employed by the Susan scribes, along with the
cylinder seal imagery on the Susa III tablets, are decidedly different from those in use in
Mesopotamia. For many, this is seen as the critical juncture in which the cultural
However the arrangement of the signs and the shape of the tablets themselves from Susa are completely
unlike those from Uruk–Warka (see M.W. Green 1981; as cited in Potts 1999, 63).
First introduced by Amiet (1961) to describe seal designs that have been cut with a ball drill whereby the
drill marks have been left obvious and incorporated into the design.
developments in Susiana and southern Mesopotamia, once seemingly intertwined,
diverge as Susa looks to the north and east.
Chogha Mish is the sister–city to Susa in terms of cultural development in the
region. The site is located in the eastern edge of the Susiana plain between the outlets of
the Dez and Kuran Rivers and is composed of a high mound towering 27 meters above
the surrounding plain and a long terrace. Chogha Mish was first identified and surveyed
by Austin Henry Layard (1846) and Robert McCorrmick Adams (1962), and later
excavated by Pierre Delougaz and Helene Kantor between 1961 and 1978 (Delougaz and
Kantor 1996). Evidence for Protoliterate period occupation, specifically LC 4 through
early LC 5, was found across the entire 18 hectare site with notable architectural elements
coming from the high mound, terrace, and east/west areas. Monumental architecture in
the form of a 2.5 by 4.5 meter building with 3–meter–thick walls was uncovered on the
high mound along with brick–lined cesspits filled with beveled–rim bowls, terra cotta
drains, ceramic mosaic cones from debris pits similar to those from Uruk–Warka, and a
possible city wall on the backside of the mound (Delougaz and Kantor 1996, 27). The
terrace and east areas contained large sections of stratified, densely packed domestic
architecture intersected by alleyways and streets that contained open channels and
covered drains. These houses were relatively poorly preserved due to their ephemeral
nature and cutting by later refuse pits. The pits however, were an abundant source of
finds including ceramics, baked bricks, jar stoppers, door sealings, and unbaked
fragments of animal figurines. Kilns within the vicinity of these houses also show
evidence for ceramic production, specifically of beveled–rim bowls. Finally in the west
area, a 350 square meter polygonal platform composed of hard brickwork attests to
perhaps another monumental structure on this side of the site. Overall the architectural
character at Chogha Mish suggests an urban environment with a population living within
a confined space and perhaps surrounded by a city wall.
The ceramics that this population used seem to have been a coherent assemblage
with parallels at Susa 17/18, Uruk–Warka VII–IV, and Habuba Kabira-Süd. These
include “flower pots,” drooping spouted jars, beveled–rim bowls, and squat four–lugged
jars. One unique double spouted vessel has appliqués of a snake biting the neck of a goat
at the base of each spout, parallels for which have been found at Habuba Kabira-Süd
(Sürenhagen 1974/5, pl. 9–11). Another unique four–lugged vase exhibits an incised
pictorial design of a man holding a fish in either hand. Similar imagery has been found at
Uruk–Warka (Lenzen 1960, pl. 26, 31) and Susa (Amiet 1972, pl. 14, 78).
Evidence for sealing and accounting practices are prevalent at Chogha Mish
ranging from tallying slabs to tokens, hollow clay balls, bullae, and numerical tablets
with cylinder seal impressions whose motifs are paralleled at Susa, Eanna V/IVb at
Uruk–Warka,19 and Habuba Kabira–Süd. These include both animal and human imagery,
the former of which includes scorpions, birds, snakes and turtles. Human figures are
depicted as “master of animals” between pairs of snakes, battlefield scenes, archers,
processions of pig–tailed figures, and “priest–king” imagery. The development in style
and manufacture of these seals, from “baggy–style” to more smoothed lines, is evident at
Chogha Mish though the designs never reach the full extent of classic Late Uruk style
seals prevalent in southern Mesopotamia (Pittman 2001, 426–431).
The apparent abandonment of Chogha Mish near the end of the LC 5 coincides
with drastic changes in settlement patterns and glyptic traditions within the Susiana plain
Though not for Eanna IV or III dated to the LC5 and EBI (see Pittman 2001, 430).
(Johnson 1973, 143; Pittman 2001, 436). Evidence from surface surveys show that after a
rapid increase in the number of settlements and expansion of occupied areas during Susa
I and the beginning of Susa II, settlement numbers greatly decreased by the end of Susa II
or the LC 5 (Wright and Johnson 1975, 1985). During this time a wide spatial separation
developed between the two centers in the plain—Susa and Chogha Mish—such that no
villages were occupied between them. This “buffer zone” reflects growing hostilities
between the two settlements (Johnson 1973, 145). Though conflict is not particularly
visible in the assemblages from either of these sites in terms of destructions or weaponry
(Chogha Mish was abandoned, not destroyed), the glyptic evidence from sealings
discussed above certainly portray mythical, if not actual, wartime events or themes. This
political insecurity coupled with a major population decrease lays the evidentiary
foundation for Johnson’s theory that the Uruk Phenomenon is the movement of political
refugees forced out of Khuzistan by their elite rivals (see chapter 1).20
A final site of significance to the Uruk Phenomenon lies outside of the
Susiana/Khuzistan heartland in the central western highlands of Iran, specifically in the
area of Luristan. This site, Godin Tepe, is located in the Kangavar Valley nestled within
the Zagros Mountain range and lays astride the major east–west “High Road”21 between
the alluvium of central Mesopotamia and the Iranian plateau. The site, which is
composed of a citadel mound and outer town to the west, was first identified on survey
Though Johnson does acknowledge the possibility that populations agglomerated inside the cities (an
increase in settlement size at Chogha Mish during the LC 5 could account for this) or instead formed small
dispersed villages whose ephemeral nature made them unrecognizable during surface survey (Johnson
1973, 154).
Also called the “Royal” or “Great Khorassan” Road.
and later excavated by T. Cuyler Young between 1967 and 1973 under the auspices of the
University of Toronto and the Royal Ontario Museum.
A total of eleven cultural phases were uncovered in three areas of the site,22 two
of which (Periods V and VI) span the LC 3 to LC 5 periods with a total occupational size
of 15 hectares. The earlier period (VI; LC 3 in date) is composed of several phases of
multi–room domestic architecture in the outer town and a continuous sequence of purely
local ceramic forms and wares (Young 1969; Young and Levine 1974). At the end of this
phase however are the earliest beveled–rim bowls and other forms that have parallels at
Middle Uruk period Nippur and Tepe Farukhabad (Badler 2002, 81). Also dated to the
end of Period VI are a triangular geometric token and metal implements showing the
beginnings of higher level accounting practices and longer distance trade (Young 1969).
There is a noticeable change in the cultural material assemblage of the following
period (V) dated to the LC 4/5, ca. 3500–3200 BCE. While a continuation of domestic
architecture was evident in the outer town, there is a dramatic increase in the use of
distinctive Uruk ceramic forms like coarse conical cups and beveled–rim bowls,
alongside local wares. The most significant evidence was uncovered in the Deep
Sounding on top of the citadel mound where over 500 square meters of excavation
exposed an oval enclosure (Weiss and Young 1975, fig. 2). Inside the oval is a complex
of structures that went through three distinct building phases, the latest of which (Level
V:1) being the most extensive and well preserved. This consists of a set of buildings and
rooms placed around a central open courtyard, all of which are surrounded by a 1.5–
meter–thick oval enclosure wall. In total, the enclosure covers an area of 33 by 21 meters.
The Deep Sounding on the citadel mound, the Brick Kiln Cut (BKC) to the west of the citadel mound,
and Operation B to the east.
The complex was accessed from the south through a gateway that is flanked by
storerooms and a possible kitchen. Directly across the courtyard from the gateway is what
seems to be the architectural focus of the entire complex: a large, multi–room structure
with an elaborate fireplace and two windows (Weiss and Young 1975, 5). The ceramics
inside this room—horizontally pierced four–lugged pots and beveled–rim bowls—have
parallels at Susa 17 and Eanna IV at Uruk–Warka. In one of the storerooms excavators
uncovered a large cache of unbaked tablets and tablet fragments, one of which displayed
pictographic signs (Weiss and Young 1975, 8). At least thirteen tablets contain cylinder
seal impressions with various motifs of sitting lions, squatting archers, running goats and
files of bulls, lions, and humans paralleled at Susa (Amiet 1972).23 These data, along with
jar stoppers, cylinder seals, and metal implements all solely contained within the oval
structure, suggest this was the center of administrative activities within the settlement.24
These most likely included trade with neighboring regions though what product(s) were
involved remains enigmatic.25 However, recent analysis of storage jar residues and
special stone basins within the oval enclosure suggest wine and beer were being produced
at Godin and possibly traded to Susa, Uruk–Warka and Telloh (Badler 1996, 2000;
McGovern et al. 1996).
In terms of the Uruk Phenomenon, this seemingly drastic appearance of material
culture characteristic of Khuzistan and southern Mesopotamia represented in the oval
enclosure suggests to the excavators an arrival of foreign peoples, most likely from Susa,
Weiss and Young (1975, 13) point out the use of drill centered circles and radial star motifs as space
fillers within seal design as a regional style common to Susa, the Diyala and the Amuq. This design occurs
on four of thirteen sealed tablets and both cylinder seals recovered from the Period V oval at Godin.
Though Badler (2000) has suggested the oval functioned as a fort with the inhabitants distributing food
rations and weaponry like sling stones.
Weiss and Young (1975, 14–15) contend that Godin served as an outpost along the Khorasan Road for
trade in lapis lazuli. This idea remains tenuous at best since no caches of raw lapis or finished products
using this stone were uncovered in any areas at Godin.
who established themselves within the local population. This seems to have been a
peaceful undertaking that most likely developed over several generations as there is no
evidence for destructions or warfare and lengthy rebuilding sequences of structures
within the oval. Likewise the abandonment of the oval enclosure was not violent, but
most likely harkened by the interruption of trade routes at the beginning of Period IV (ca.
3100–2650 BCE) with the arrival of peoples utilizing Early Transcaucasian cultural
material (Weiss and Young 1975; Young 1972).
Tabqa Dam
The most well known of sites in this region and most influential for spawning the
idea of an Uruk Phenomenon is Habuba Kabira. Located 100 kilometers east of Aleppo
and approximately 15 kilometers north of Meskene, Habuba Kabira was composed of
two ancient settlements now flooded by the waters of the Tabqa Dam reservoir: Tell
Habuba Kabira and Habuba Kabira–South (Süd). The latter site was approximately 900
meters long and contained the smaller mound of Tell Kannâs/Qannas. Habuba Kabira
was noticed in early surveys by Abdel Kader Rihaoui and Maurits N. van Loon in 1963
and 1964 (van Loon 1967). Habuba Kabira South (hereafter “Habuba–Süd”) was
subsequently excavated by Ernst Heinrich and Eva Strommenger between 1969 and 1975
on behalf of the Deutsche Orient–Gesellschaft (Strommenger 1980). Tell Kannâs was
excavated by André Finet on behalf of the Belgian mission (Finet 1973, 1975, 1977,
Habuba–Süd contained a long rectangular town with a 3–meter–thick city wall
made of Riemchen bricks on three sides and the Euphrates River acting as a barrier on the
fourth. In total, the town is estimated to have been 18 hectares in size. Three building
levels were distinguished by excavators who estimated a total occupation of six to eight
thousand people over a span of one hundred fifty years all carbon dated to the LC 5
(Strommenger 1985, 86). Some level of town planning is evident in the street system
where compacted pebble paving runs below the primary building level for the
surrounding houses signifying that they were built afterward. A main street runs north–
south through the heart of the town with two additional streets running perpendicular. A
town–wide drainage system comprised of fitted terra cotta pipes also speak to civic
planning. The densely built houses average 300 square meters in size and are composed
solely of Riemchen bricks. Most floor plans consist of a central courtyard surrounded by
rooms, prompting the excavators to call these Mittelsaal–type houses (Strommenger
1980, 36).
The citadel area of Tell Kannâs on the southern end of the inner town is
considered to be the administrative and religious center for the town. A grouping of
public buildings were excavated here, the so–called North and South Temples, with
tripartite floor plans, interior decorative niches, and basins (Finet 1975, 1977, 88–90). A
third large building was uncovered in the central sector that is also tripartite in plan with
an attached magazine filled with storage jars. Inside these structures a wealth of objects
were recovered from cylinder seal–impressed jar stoppers to traces of bitumen, and
alabaster vases that resemble Uruk forms of four–lugged jars.
Along with architectural elements, the material culture assemblage at Habuba–
Süd and Kannâs is completely foreign to the local Syrian assemblages seen at Tell Brak
(discussed below), instead exhibiting characteristics that are wholly common to southern
Mesopotamia. The ceramics include the full corpus of southern Mesopotamian wares and
forms from beveled–rim bowls to four–lugged jars, drooping spouts, and conical cups.
Higher level accounting in the form of numerical tablets, clay balls with tokens, and clay
bullae was practiced by the residents in domestic houses and near the southern gateway.
Most of these had been impressed with cylinder seals whose glyptic style matches those
from sites in Iran (e.g., Godin, Susa, Chogha Mish) and Uruk–Warka. The actual
products of trade were also uncovered including Canaanean flint blades, fan scrappers,
alabaster vessels, and semiprecious stones. A wavy ledge handle fragment from a ceramic
vessel betrays connections with the Levant, while an anthracite–colored bowl was likely
imported from Nagada IIc period Egypt (see below).
Though there is evidence for chipped stone recycling, ceramic production and
metal working, storage facilities or tools for agricultural production are notably rare
(Strommenger 1980, 55).26 There is evidence the inhabitants fished and hunted the wild
resources, but local chaff–faced ware ceramics paralleled at Amuq F with remains of
grain and dried–out oil show that agricultural products were provided by people from the
countryside (Sürenhagen 1986, 21). These data suggest that Habuba–Süd was a relatively
short–lived settlement that was founded by a group or groups from a non–local
population. They seem to have been reliant on their neighbors for agricultural products,
but were heavily involved in interregional trade and exchange that necessitated the use of
Specifically Strommenger states, “Die Bewohner von Habuba Kabira–Süd erzeugten nur einen geringen
Teil ihrer Nahrungsmittel selbst” (1980, 55).
higher level accounting practices that the tablets and tokens represent. At the end of the
LC 5, the site was abandoned for reasons that are not entirely clear. Many see this as a
result of the collapsing interregional Uruk trading network, but political instability,
environmental degradation or crop failures could also account for the abandonment of a
settlement, especially one that is not agriculturally self–sufficient. Though there is no
evidence for warfare at Habuba–Süd, the perceived threat of violence could also have
exacerbated the situation.27
Another site that shares a strong cultural affiliation with southern Mesopotamia is
Jebel Aruda, located approximately 8 kilometers upstream from Habuba–Süd. Aruda is
an isolated settlement that lies 60 meters above the Euphrates flood plain nestled into a
steep ridge. The site was excavated by Govert van Driel and C. van Driel–Murray from
1974 to 1982 (van Driel 1979, 1983, 2002; van Driel and van Driel–Murray 1979, 1983).
The LC 5 period site is contemporary with Habuba–Süd and post–dates Tell Sheikh
Hassan (discussed below). Jebel Aruda lacks any direct access to water sources, whether
from wells or the river itself, and also bears no access to agricultural production or other
foods. Thus the occupants at the site were required to bring water and food up the
mountainside themselves, or else have someone else bring it for them.
The settlement is composed of three sectors: a central open air temple precinct
and two residential quarters. The multi–phase precinct included a large tripartite temple
constructed of reddish Riemchen bricks (the so–called “Red Temple”), with a raised
central platform flanked by steps and recess decoration along the exterior of the
This is best exemplified in the city wall at Habuba–Süd. Late Uruk houses were excavated below the
wall, signaling that it was not built until after the community had been settled (Sürenhagen 1986).
building.28 A second tripartite temple built of grayish–blue Riemchen bricks (the so–
called “Gray Temple”) was constructed alongside the Red Temple during a later phase
and mirrors the floor plan and external decorations of the earlier temple. Both temples
open onto a large rectangular courtyard that is surrounded by a tall enclosure wall. Two
gatehouses, one of which has exterior niching, allow access to the precinct through the
outer temenos. While the area west of the temple complex seems to have been left
unoccupied, to the north a large multiphase broad room–style building (“First Lower
Building” and “Second Lower Building”) was constructed that contains a large oven and
attached enclosed courtyard. Major terracing projects, along with the construction of
these monumental buildings, suggest that this central precinct was the focus of activities
at the site.
The northern and southern residential areas are separated from the temple
complex by an open area. Both are characterized by a blend of well–proportioned
tripartite houses and smaller residential structures that are squeezed in to available spaces
or terraced into the steep slope of the ridge as settlement expanded. Multiple building
phases are reflected by blocked doorways, wall additions/demolitions, and converted
passageways that attest to changing form and function of the residential spaces.
Inside, excavators recovered ceramics, spindle whorls, saddle querns, chert tools, tablets
and stone vessels (Hanbury Tenison 1983). The general ceramic assemblage contained
simple sand–tempered wares that when mapped across the settlement, show clustering of
particular types, such as torpedo–shaped vessels and “rolly–bins,” within particular
structures that perhaps reflects preferences based on specialized household–level labor
In fact, this recessing and niching (along with the raised platform) are the sole criteria by which the
excavators designate this building as a temple (van Driel and van Driel–Murray 1979, 3).
(van Driel 2002, 194). Other types, specifically goblets and spouted bottles, were
frequently found together and most likely represent ceramic sets. Specialized and/or
centralized production is also evident by the presence of a large storeroom that housed
lumps of unworked lapis lazuli and large bread ovens in separate, special areas.
During the final phase of occupation at the site, the temple complex is
systematically filled in with stones and the upper courses of the building walls. Most of
the contents from the structures had been removed save for a cache of twenty to thirty
clay sealings whose iconography is reminiscent of designs from Habuba–Süd and the
occasional smashed beveled–rim bowl fragment (van Driel 1983). All areas including the
northern and southern residential districts were subsequently consumed by a huge
The function of the settlement at Jebel Aruda remains obscure. The fact that there
is no water source or a defensive system in place discredits the idea that the settlement
could be a defensive stronghold of some kind. It is possible that this area was a citadel to
a settlement on the margins of the Euphrates River valley, as fragments of ‘Ubaid and
Uruk pottery in the mud bricks from the buildings at Aruda whose material derived from
the floodplain below, attest to a lengthy occupation in the valley. Van Driel (2002)
suggests the settlement acted as a service area for something on top of the jebel, though
the idea of this being a seasonal camp for semi–nomadic populations or even a
pilgrimage site cannot be overlooked. Certainly Jebel Aruda does not represent a typical
settlement of the Late Chalcolithic period in Syria.
Next to Habuba–Süd, Tell Sheikh Hassan stands as the type–site for southern
Mesopotamian cultural interaction in this area of the Euphrates basin. The 21 hectare
mound is located 45 kilometers north of Raqqa and 40 kilometers south of the modern
Turkish border in an area now flooded by the Tabqa Dam reservoir, though Hassan
remains accessible to excavators. The site was excavated by Johannes Boese between
1987 and 1990, and again from 1992 to 1994 (Boese 1986/7, 1987/8, 1995). These
excavations focused on the prehistoric and protoliterate periods (Uruk) while also
revealing ceramic evidence for an earlier ‘Ubaid settlement and a later Iron Age palace
that is similar in floor plan to the bit hilani structure at contemporary Zincirli (Boese
1987/8, 160). Since 2000, the Syrian Antiquities Service has excavated the tell under the
direction of Murhaf al–Khalaf focusing on the later Hellenistic and Islamic Period
In total there are twenty “Uruk levels” at Sheikh Hassan (levels 4–22) that cover
just over 1 hectare in area. This lengthy occupation sequence spans the entire latter half
of the fourth millennium (LC 4/5, 3600–3100 BCE). The settlement is characterized by a
significant and long–lived mud brick city wall (levels 6–13) that contains niches and
towers/projections nearly 2 meters wide. Within this wall is a succession of buildings
with a variety of floor plans and functions. The earliest Uruk levels (10–12) seem to have
been composed of relatively simple structures with mud floors, ovens, fireplaces, simple
ceramics and animal bones. One of these buildings (level 10) had been burned, sealing
within the debris pan–shaped ovens, a four–lugged jar filled with grain, hollow balls or
bullae, and stamp and cylinder seal impressions whose motifs are similar to those found
at Habuba–Süd and Jebel Aruda (Boese 1986/7). These sealings are among the earliest
well–stratified examples of cylinder seals in the Near East (Akkerman and Schwartz
2003, 196).
In later levels (4–9), larger buildings are constructed abutting and adjacent to the
city wall that used Riemchen–style mud bricks and typical southern Mesopotamian floor
plans such as a Mittelsaal–style house in levels 8 and 9 (see Boese 1995, Abb. 5 from the
1989 season). Levels 6 and 7 contain a clustering of buildings in the southwest corner of
the mound next to the city wall that include a thick–walled and enigmatic
Kammergebaude or chamber building with unique grill plan, Nischengebaude or niched
building, a single–roomed house, and single–celled temple (Boese 1995, Abb. 5 from the
1993 season). This temple contains elaborate internal niching with a raised platform on
the northern end opposite a central pan–shaped fireplace.
A wealth of small finds was recovered from these contexts that included, apart
from those mentioned above, stamp seals, clay cones, a ceramic ladle or spoon similar to
those recovered at Qraya (see below), a sickle made out of retouched flint blades in a
bitumen holder, zoomorphic vessels, stone and copper weapons, stone vessels, alabaster
sculpture, and other implements made of clay, bitumen, bone and metal. The ceramic
repertoire includes beveled–rim bowls, reserved slip jars, four–lugged vessels with
crosshatched design, miniature vessels, sealed jar stoppers, drooping spouted jars, and
conical bowls with a pouring spout.
The material culture present at Tell Sheikh Hassan is overwhelmingly southern
Mesopotamian/Uruk in character especially in terms of architecture and ceramics though
some local north Syrian elements are present, most notably “eye idols” similar to those
from Tell Brak (see below). In general, Sheikh Hassan seems culturally associated with
other nearby sites like Habuba–Süd and Jebel Aruda while at the same time representing
the very earliest occurrence of this southern Mesopotamian–style material culture in the
Tabqa Dam region. Furthermore the lengthy Uruk period occupation at Sheikh Hassan
attests to a longer duration of contact or colonization with/from the south than previously
suggested by data from Habuba–Süd or Aruda, whose settlements are relatively short–
lived and established at the very end of the fourth millennium (LC 5, 3350–3100 BCE).
Tishrin Dam
This region is located north of the Tabqa Dam area along the Euphrates River due
south of the site of Carchemish and the present Turkish border. A dam was completed
here in 1999 creating a reservoir 60 kilometers in length that subsequently flooded
eighteen archaeological sites that had been excavated as salvage projects during the
1990s (del Olmo Lete and Montero Fenollos 1999). Less is known about Late
Chalcolithic occupations in this region as compared with Tabqa, however a number of
sites exhibit ties with the larger cultural interactions occurring during this time. While
evidence at sites like Carchemish (Woolley 1952) and Kosak Shamali (Nishiaki 1999;
Nishiaki et al. 2000) are limited to only ceramics during this period, other sites such as
‘Abr and Jerablus Tahtani exhibit a rich history of occupation that spanned the latter half
of the fourth millennium.
The site of Tell al–‘Abr is located on the east bank of the upper Euphrates River,
15 kilometers south of Jerablus and 3 kilometers northwest of Tell Ahmar (Til Barsip).
The site was excavated for five seasons between 1989 and 1995 by Hamido Hammade
and Yayoi Yamazaki of Aleppo University (Hammade 1989; Hammade and Koike 1992;
Hammade and Yamazaki 1993, 1995, 2006; Yamazaki 1999). Approximately 8 meters of
occupational debris were uncovered and a total of seven archaeological phases, the latest
of which (Level 1–A, 1–B, and 1–C) being Middle, Late, and terminal or post–Uruk in
date.29 These Uruk levels seal a long, continuous sequence of dense ‘Ubaid occupation.
Contextual data for the Late Uruk occupation is, unfortunately, limited to the eastern
section of the excavated area on the main tell.
The lowermost level of Uruk occupation is Level 1–C (Middle Uruk), represented
by an ash lens probably derived from erosional wash.30 Though no architectural features
could be discerned, classic Uruk ceramic forms such as fragments of beveled–rim bowls,
red–slip ware, and conical cups were recovered. The following Level 1–B (Late Uruk) is
represented by three partially preserved buildings, constructed of Riemchen mud bricks
and situated around a pebble– and sherd–paved courtyard. At least one of the buildings
(B1–1) had two distinct phases with two rooms connected by a doorway, a circular
fireplace, an oblong or oval horseshoe–shaped hearth, and beveled–rim bowl found in
situ. Necked jars with reserve slip are now the dominate ceramic type along with conical
cups, beveled–rim bowls, drooping spouts and low nose–lugs characteristic of Late Uruk
southern Mesopotamian types. The final Uruk level (Level 1–A “Terminal” or “Post–
Uruk”) is restricted to an extremely small area of the upper mound and yielded very little
in the way of ceramics or architectural elements. The ceramics show a break from the
preceding Level 1–B including open bowls with beaded rims similar to those from
Hassek Höyük (datable to the EBI), fragments of a coarse "flower pot" with string–cut
base, a conical bowl with beveled–rim bowl fabric, and fragments of vessels with true
This dating was determined by ceramic data only and not through carbon dating. Radiocarbon dates were
only acquired from Levels 5–7 (Hammade and Yamazaki 2006, 431).
See chapter by T. Oguchi and C.T. Oguchi in Hammade and Yamazaki 2006 regarding sedimentological
analyses of deposits from ‘Abr and Hammade and Yamazaki 2006, 40.
The nature of these occupational phases loosely dated to the end of the fourth
millennium is unclear. Very little material culture was recovered from any of the Level
1–B buildings apart from small amounts of flint in the form of Canaanean blades, various
baked clay objects (e.g., scraper, pipe, “bobbin–shaped object”), a straight bone needle,
and a cylindrical–shaped pestle. According to the excavators, there is a clear gap between
the Uruk and ‘Ubaid periods recognized both stratigraphically and in the ceramic
sequence (Hammade and Yamazaki 2006, 91). The Uruk pottery at ‘Abr corresponds to
that from Sheikh Hassan and Habuba–Süd with no evidence for local Late Chalcolithic
ceramics. All fabrics are mineral tempered, well levigated and wheel–made, except for
the coarse beveled–rim bowls. Bearing in mind that very little data has been recovered,
the known architectural and ceramic data from Tell al–‘Abr reflects southern
Mesopotamian Uruk characteristics in terms of material culture.
The same can be said of Jerablus Tahtani, an oval steep–sided mound 180 by 200
meters in size and 16 meters tall that was located 5 kilometers south of Carchemish along
the west (right) bank of a branch of the Euphrates River. This multi–period site with
occupation levels stretching from the mid–fourth millennium BCE through the Islamic
period, was excavated over seven seasons by a team from the University of Edinburgh
under the auspices of the Syrian General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums'
Tishreen International Rescue Programme (Peltenburg 1999; Peltenburg et al. 1995,
1996, 1997, 2000; Stephen and Peltenburg 2002). Early soundings on the eastern side of
the mound revealed only limited amounts of Late Uruk material including some mud
brick, tauf and stone walls forming small rooms with hearths, pits and an earthen oven.
Later investigations uncovered a sequence of six occupational episodes. The earliest,
dating to the Middle Uruk or LC 3 period, is characterized by post holes and an adjacent
platform of irregularly laid mud bricks into which a sub–rectangular hearth was cut
(Peltenburg et al. 2000). The pottery is completely local with an assemblage of chaff–
faced wares that is common to southeast Turkey and north Syria for the mid–fourth
millennium: hammerhead rim bowls, conical cups with pouring lip spout, plain–rimmed
shallow bowls with thick walls, and jars with everted plain and flange rims.
Following the fiery destruction of the LC 3 settlement, the subsequent occupation
is markedly different in architectural style, ceramic sequence, and general material
culture. Excavators uncovered several buildings, one of which is a two–phase rectangular
mud brick structure composed of bun–shaped, unfired Riemchen bricks in various colors
(Peltenburg et al. 2000, 58). Finds from these buildings include ceramic scrapers, spindle
whorls, conical stoppers, and a sealing of unbaked clay. An alabaster jar with cross–
hatched band, polished stone bowls with beaded rim, and a flattened oval white stone
bead, also found in relation to these buildings have parallels at Tell Sheikh Hassan and
Hacınebi (see below).
The ceramic sequence for this phase is exclusively Uruk in form and fabric with
reserved–slip jars and locally made beveled–rim bowls containing bitumen residues
(Peltenburg 1999, 100; Peltenburg 2000, fig. 6; Stephen and Peltenburg 2002, 178). The
floral record corresponds to a local agricultural system with fields neighboring the
settlement. The occurrence of Canaanean blades substantiates this premise while a pure
sample of barley found in a sealed context is consistent with cleaned crop storage within
the settlement.
Unfortunately the full extent of the Late Uruk period settlement at Jerablus
Tahtani will never be known because of heavy flooding in antiquity, the depth of these
levels below Early Bronze Age fortifications, and mostly because the site has now been
flooded by the waters behind the Tishrin Dam. From the available evidence, it appears
that the site was first settled in the mid–fourth millennium BCE by people who used local
chaff–faced pottery and lived in ephemeral housing, perhaps as part of a semi–nomadic
population. Sometime during the end of the LC 3/beginning of the LC 4 there was a
destruction episode and the area was re–inhabited by peoples with a completely different
material culture: rectangular buildings with polychrome Riemchen mud bricks, mass–
produced pottery, bitumen processing capabilities, and high status goods that have direct
connections with sites further south in the Tabqa Dam area.
The Jezira is an open expanse of steppe and high alluvial plains positioned
between the Euphrates River and “Syrian Saddle” on the west, the Tigris River and Tur
Abdin mountain range on the east, and the Jebel Sinjar range to the south. The plain is cut
by the Khabur and Balikh Rivers, the two main tributaries of the Euphrates. In the most
northern reaches of the Khabur, the “Upper Khabur” or “Khabur Triangle,” the river
branches into an alluvial watershed that is especially fertile for agriculture and home to a
number of ancient sites relevant to discussions of the Uruk Phenomenon. For example,
sites such as Tell Leilan (Schwartz 1988a; Stein and Wattenmaker 1990; Weiss 1983),
Bderi (Pfälzner 1990), Tell Ziyadeh (Buccellati et al. 1991), Tell Umm Qseir (Tsuneki
and Miyake 1998) and Fadgami (Röllig and Kühne 1977–78, 126) exhibit both local
north Syrian and southern Mesopotamian elements of material culture, though this
evidence is limited to ceramics only.
The largest and most extensively excavated site in the Upper Khabur area is Tell
Brak. Located near the Wadi Jaghjagh in the southern reaches of the Khabur Triangle,
Tell Brak is strategically positioned at the southern entrance to the Khabur plains
controlling entry to both the Sinjar mountainous area to the north and southern
Mesopotamia via the Euphrates River. The site was first scientifically excavated by Max
Mallowan between 1937 and 1938 under the auspices of the British School of
Archaeology in Iraq (Mallowan 1947). Excavations resumed in 1976 under the
directorship of David and Joan Oates from the Institute of Archaeology at University
College of London. In total, they conducted fourteen seasons at Brak between 1976 and
1993 (D. Oates 1977, 1982a, 1982b, 1985, 1987; D. Oates and J. Oates 1989, 1991,
1993a, 1993b, 1994; D. Oates et al. 1997, 2001).31 Roger Matthews continued
excavations as field director from 1994 to 1996 with the support of the British School of
Archaeology in Iraq and the McDonald Institute of the University of Cambridge (R.
Matthews 1995, 1996, 2003a, 2003b; Matthews et al. 1994). He has since been followed
by Geoff Emberling and Helen McDonald (Emberling and McDonald 2001, 2003;
Emberling et al. 1999), Augusta McMahon, and H.T. Wright as field directors of the
current ongoing excavations.
Brak contains 10 meters of Uruk period occupation divided into twenty–two
levels that span the mid–fourth millennium (TW Levels 19–20: “Northern Early Uruk”)
to the early third millennium (TW Level 1: early Ninevite 5, ca. 2800 BCE). The average
occupational size of Brak is estimated to have been 65 hectares, with the largest total area
A complete bibliography of Tell Brak preliminary reports can be found in D. Oates and J. Oates 1994.
of settlement dating to the LC 3 period (“Northern Middle Uruk” ca. 3500 BCE) at over
100 hectares (J. Oates 2002, 113).32 The earliest levels of occupation are represented by a
massive perimeter wall up to 2 meters thick and a monumental gateway with a huge
basalt threshold dated to the LC 2 (ca. 3800 BCE, TW Levels 19–20; Matthews 1996; J.
Oates 2002, 199). A probable temple with niched façade and building with two small
mud columns also dated to this period were recovered in Area CH (Oates and Oates
1994; D. Oates 1987).
The following “Northern Middle Uruk” or NMU phase (levels 14–18, ca. 3500
cal BCE) represents a completely indigenous settlement at Brak (J. Oates 2002). Well–
built houses made of square bricks, some with high status goods, characterize the NMU
levels. One large building for example (level 16), contains finely made ground stone
tools, ivory objects, carnelian and gold beads, clay pipes, and two “eye idols”—the only
ones to be found in situ at Brak (Oates and Oates 1993a, 178; J. Oates 2002, 116). A
slightly later (level 18) tripartite public building with niched decorations and a well–
preserved domed mud brick oven also contains storage jars, stone mace heads, an
alabaster bear statuette (Pittman 2002), and a bone eye idol fragment (Trench TW B;
Emberling et al. 1999; Emberling and McDonald 2003; Oates and Oates 1997). Detailed
accounting practices are evident by the presence of clay and stone geometric tokens, a
numerical tablet resembling those found in the Anu Ziggurat deposits at Uruk–Warka
(Reade 1992), and over eighty vessels with distinct incised markings made post–firing on
the shoulder. Much of the ceramics from these levels are completely indigenous to the
north Syrian/upper Khabur area with heavy chaff–tempered fabric with dark cores,
Based on excavation of occupation phases (Felli 2003; R. Matthews 1995, 1996, 2003a, 2003b;
Matthews et al. 1994) and ceramic remains from small soundings and surface surveys (Emberling et al.
1999; J. Oates 1985, 1986, 2002; Oates and Oates 1993a).
though there are some examples of fine cream, pink and green eggshell wares in mostly
hemispherical bowl forms.
Following the NMU phase of occupation, there begins to be an infiltration of
ceramic and architectural styles reminiscent of those from southern Mesopotamia.
Specifically, later levels are characterized by a series of superimposed structures ranging
from large Mittelsaal houses built of Riemchen bricks with a series of small rooms and
frying pan–shaped hearths across an open courtyard similar to those at Habuba–Süd,
Jebel Aruda and Sheikh Hassan (TW Level 11; Emberling and McDonald 2003; Oates
and Oates 1993a; J. Oates 2002).33 Grill plan structures made of Riemchen bricks
possibly for grain storage (TW Levels 8–10), a large circular building also made of
Riemchen bricks (TW Level 6; Oates and Oates 1991, 138), and an Early Dynastic I
structure (TW Level 1) are also present. Inside the hastily abandoned Level 11 structure,
excavators recovered large flint and obsidian cores for use in Canaanean blade
production, hammer stones, a bone awl, spindle whorls, unbaked clay balls, sling bullets,
and a large number of perforated baked clay cylinders that were most likely spools for
thread. A capped drain over 25 meters long similar to ceramic pipes found at Habuba–
Süd (Strommenger 1980, 46) was also found below a courtyard surface in this area
(Emberling and McDonald 2003, 8). Deep pits (Level 12) sealed by this building contain
massive amounts of lithic debitage, pierced tokens, and seal impressions resembling
styles from Habuba–Süd and Jebel Aruda (Emberling et al. 1999; J. Oates 2002).
Perhaps the most well known structure from Tell Brak datable to these later
phases of occupation is the Eye Temple, so named because of the thousands of eye
Note this building was originally attributed to Level 12 (Oates and Oates 1993a, fig. 23), but has
subsequently been moved to Level 11 (J. Oates 2002, 115).
images and eye idols discovered inside the precinct and buried within the temple platform
(Mallowan 1947). This temple is, in fact, just one of a number of superimposed structures
located on the southern edge of the ancient mound whose accumulated ruins reach 6
meters in depth and date to as early as the LC 3–4 (ca. 3500 BCE; Oates and Oates 1997,
291). The architecture of the earlier temples was not well preserved; however, the
infilling of these buildings contain stone sculptures, stone amulets, alabaster eye–idols,
spectacle–topped idols and thousands of beads made of faience and black steatite.34 The
latest and best preserved temple was built atop a platform created by the infilling of these
previous temples. This Eye Temple is 25 by 30 meters and roughly tripartite in plan with
an elongated cella or sanctuary flanked by chambers of rooms on either side. These two
wings however differ in character. While to the west there are three large chambers
accessible only through a small corridor off the cella, the east has a series of self–
contained courtyards and service chambers with direct access to the central sanctuary.
The external walls of the building are buttressed with black basalt and white gypsum
blocks that had been plastered over with mud.
The sanctuary has only one permanent fixture: an altar or raised podium against
the northern wall. Three sides of this podium are decorated with a frieze composed of
fretted bands of white limestone and grey shale encased by two strips of gold. These
golden strips are attached to a wooden backing by silver nails with golden heads. The
interior walls of the cella are decorated with eight–petalled stone rosettes and copper
paneling stamped with an eye design. A life–sized stone eye socket was also discovered
So many beads were recovered that the excavator remarked, “the foundations of [this] earlier “Eye
Temple” had literally been sown with beads and even the mud–bricks themselves contained beads within
them” (Mallowan 1947, 33).
on the floor adjacent to podium. The outer façade of the north wall was also decorated
with stone rosettes and a mosaic of clay cones with red–colored tips.
The ceramic assemblage from these levels contain a mix of indigenous Late
Chalcolithic types and Late Uruk/EBI–type wares including tall–footed chalices (J. Oates
1986, fig. 4 no. 59), horseshoe–lug–handled cooking vessels (J. Oates 1986, fig. 4 nos.
61–63), grooved bowls (J. Oates 1986, fig. 4 nos. 54 and 55), button and fine ware ring
bases, spouted teapots, and reserve slip sherds identical with types from Uruk–Warka and
Nippur. Wheel–made, cut–rim and beveled–rim conical bowls are also prevalent (D.
Oates 1982a, pl. IX a, c) along with drooping spouted jars, red–slipped nose–lug jars,
large storage jars, coarse “casseroles,” fine plain bowls or beakers with beaded rims (J.
Oates 1986, fig. 5 no. 87 and 90) and Gawra XI–A to X pottery (D. Oates 1985; Oates
and Oates 1994).
In summary, fourth millennium Tell Brak is an urban settlement with fortification
or perimeter walls, monumental architecture and elite goods that occupied an area of
some 45 hectares in its earliest phases and expanded to at least 100 hectares by the LC 3.
This appears to be a completely indigenous development, though evidence for early
contact with southern Mesopotamia comes primarily in the form of ceramic types. The
presence not only of large–scale construction projects but also mass–produced pottery,
numerical tablets and tokens, lithic production, and monitoring of commodities through
incised pot marks shows a level of socioeconomic complexity predating the period of
supposed Uruk contact in the region. As the excavators rightly state, “whether or not Late
Uruk Brak was a colony in the Habuba sense remains to be established, but it is clear that
a long indigenous tradition is previously and subsequently represented at the site, and that
this tradition reflects a highly developed administrative and economic system, perhaps
owing relatively little to its southern neighbours and occasional settlers” (Oates and Oates
1993a, 184).35
The neighboring site of Hamoukar is equally developed in its level of complex
economic administration derived from a seemingly indigenous development. Hamoukar
is located in the northeast corner of the Upper Khabur basin along strategic trade routes
between Nineveh and Aleppo. This multi–period site that has, thus far, been excavated
for four seasons under the direction of McGuire Gibson (1999–2001; Gibson 2000,
Gibson et al. 2002a, 2002b), and later by Clemens Reichel and Salam al–Quntar (2004).
The mound has ceramic evidence attesting to occupation as early as the Halaf and ‘Ubaid
periods, and actual excavated contexts from the Northern Middle Uruk phase, Late Uruk
period, third millennium Akkadian and post–Akkadian phase, a seventh century village,
Seleucid settlement and an Early Islamic village. Based on a regional surface survey that
encompassed not only the mound, but also a 5 kilometer radius around the site (Ur 2002a,
2002b), the mid–fourth millennium BCE seems to be the period when the settlement
reached its maximum occupation at 100 hectares, rivaling neighboring Tell Brak in size
and socioeconomic complexity.
The LC 3 period site is characterized by a large city wall 4 meters thick with four
possible gateways. Within the settlement there is a monumental building complex
comprised of two large buildings of the Mittelsaal–type and an adjacent production area
(Gibson et al. 2002a, 33). Both buildings were heavily burned and collapsed, sealing
thousands of in situ artifacts inside including carbonized grain, a bone facsimile of a
This view of a completely indigenous development paralleled by the implantation of a small–scale
trading enclave is challenged by later excavators at the site who see Brak as the victim of conquest by the
Uruk–controlled south (Emberling 2002).
dagger in a scabbard, whole ceramic vessels, stamp seals and impressed sealings,
unbaked solid clay balls and over twelve hundred oval–shaped clay bullets that attest to
the violent destruction of the buildings. One of the structures also contained a large
kitchen with a series of grinding stones embedded in clay benches and a massive baking
oven, suggesting that food production occurred here beyond the needs of a single
A rectangular pit or grave nearby contained thousands of bone beads, dozens of
faience and stone beads and ninety stamp seals in a variety of animal forms (Gibson et al.
2002a, 17). The motifs used on these seals ranged from hatching or cross–hatching to
files of horned animals, animals under trees or animals attacking other animals. These
same motifs are found in Late Chalcolithic period contexts at Tell Brak, Hacınebi,
Arslantepe and sites in Susiana.36 Stamp and cylinder seals, bitumen residues, and stone
and bone eye idols similar to those from Tell Brak and Hacınebi were also recovered
from the interior debris of the buildings in this area.
Following the destruction of these buildings, a number of deep pits containing
southern Mesopotamian Late Uruk ceramic types, such as beveled–rim bowls, strap
handle cups, and four–lugged vessels, were dug into the destruction debris and along the
city wall. It is possible that an incursion by peoples utilizing these pottery styles launched
the attack against the settlement at Hamoukar sometime at the end of the fourth
millennium BCE or at least seemed to have benefited from the destruction of this well–
established, economically complex city. The importance of Hamoukar in relation to the
Uruk Phenomenon is its developed economic system that predates contact from the south
Specifically Susa and Choga Mish; see Reichel 2002 for a detailed description of motifs from seals and
sealings at Hamoukar 1999–2001.
(mirrored also at Tell Brak, Hacınebi, and Arslantepe) and its evidence for early warfare
at the moment of supposed Uruk colonization in northern Syria at sites like Habuba
Kabira–Süd and Jebel Aruda. Hamoukar stands as a violent example of arising conflicts
during an age of interregional interaction.
Similarly the site of Mashnaqa, located approximately 20 kilometers south of
Hasseke in the Middle Khabur valley, shows occupational disruption. Though this multi–
period mound is mostly known for its extensive ‘Ubaid period remains (Monchambert
1985, 1987; Thuesen 1991), above these is a long sequence of local Late Chalcolithic
material that spans from the post–‘Ubaid to the Northern Early and Middle Uruk periods
(LC 1–3). In general these levels are characterized by multiple phases of domestic
buildings, the most substantial of which being a tripartite plan structure from the post–
‘Ubaid level with partially preserved windows (Beyer 1998a, 140). Both phases of the
Northern Middle Uruk levels are dominated by circular cooking ovens with attached
rectangular fournils or bakeries, the largest being 2 meters in diameter (Beyer 1993,
1995, 1997). Ceramic evidence from these contexts are contemporary with Hammam et–
Turkman (V B), Tell Brak (TW 16) and Tell Leilan (V). North of these installations at the
base of the tell another large tripartite building was also uncovered that, based on ceramic
evidence, dates to the Northern Middle Uruk period or LC 3. The mud brick building
features two small internal niches and a possible stairway (Beyer 1998a, 1998b).
Directly above this Middle Uruk phase is a completely different and perhaps
intrusive occupation utilizing southern–Mesopotamian pottery types. A large circular fort
is built on the south slope of the mound measuring 20 meters in diameter with walls 3.5
meters thick. A massive bastion eroding off the slope juts out from the northwest side
(Beyer 1998a, 144). The function of this enormous construction is unknown though a
defensive purpose is most likely. Excavators also uncovered several phases of large
domestic structures with tandır–style ovens and alleyways between houses. Mashnaqa is
often cited as an example of dramatic intrusion of peoples from the south because of the
radical shift in material culture that occurs at the site between the Middle and Late Uruk
phases. Algaze (1993) signals this as the implantation of a colonial trade unit; however,
the sudden fortification at the site could also signal growing unrest or violence (whether
from intruding southerners or local rivals) that is physically represented at Hamoukar.
Balikh Valley and Beyond
The Balikh is a tributary of the Euphrates River that cuts across the western side
of the el–Jezira plain in northern Syria. One of the largest sites in this region is Tell
Hammam et–Turkman, located 80 kilometers north of Raqqa. The tell is roughly 500
meters in diameter and over 40 meters in height and holds a dominate position on the
edge of a low terrace on the left bank of the Balikh River 4 meters below. The site was
excavated over nine seasons between 1981 and 2001 by Maurits N. van Loon and
Diederik J.W. Meijer with a team of researchers from the University of Amsterdam and
Leiden University.37
This multi–period mound features seven phases stretching from the end of the
fifth millennium (Phase IV, ‘Ubaid) to the Roman/Parthian period (Phase X).38 Phase V
A and V B represent the Late Chalcolithic occupation (3600–3200 BCE) uncovered in a
step trench on the eastern slope of the mound that lay atop over 10 meters of accumulated
Preliminary and final reports: Akkermans 1988a, 1988b, 1988c; van Loon 1982, 1983, 1985, 1988; van
Loon and Meijer 1982; van Loon et al. 1986/1987; Meijer 1988, 1989, 1996.
For a detailed chronological chart, see Akkermans 1988c, 131
occupational debris from the ‘Ubaid period (4400–3600 BCE; Phases IV 2–IV 14). Phase
V A occupation consists of multiroom and multiphase structures with plastered floors and
niches and benches or sleeping platforms.39 Inside these buildings are massive amounts
of pottery along with antler fragments, a jar stopper, grinding slabs, sling stones, spindle
whorls, a stamp seal, house model, and a possible model of a temple (Meijer 1988, 74).40
After a devastating fire and hiatus, the site is reoccupied in the following Phase V B
where a monumental plastered building and attached courtyard are built (Meijer 1988,
75). This is eventually leveled to make way for a massive mud brick terrace on which
stood another monumental building with lime plaster recesses, buttressing and triple
niches at regular intervals. Five carbon dates derived from wooden roof beams found on
the floor of the central hall date this building between 3400 and 3200 BCE (Akkermans
1988c, 130), slightly predating similar niched buildings from Jebel Aruda (van Driel and
van Driel–Murray 1983), Tell Kannâs (Finet 1977) and Uruk–Warka IVa.41 The function
of this building is enigmatic despite the amount of small finds that were recovered from
the floors after the fiery destruction including grinding slabs, jars, large storage vessels,
and clay pipes (Meijer 1988, 77).
The ceramic sequence is purely indigenous in character, showing numerous
affinities with the Late Chalcolithic ceramic tradition of north Iraq, Syria and southeast
Turkey. Large plain–rim bowls, such as Coba bowls, dominate the assemblage along with
gray or black holemouth pots, large wide bowls, and corrugated bowls that mirror Chaff–
One of these partially excavated buildings was designated as tripartite in plan based on the presence of a
central hall flanked on one side by three smaller rooms (Meijer 1988). Naturally this is only an assumption
that three rooms would be mirrored on the other side of the central hall.
A complete report of the small finds from these contexts can be found in van Loon 1988, volume II:
chapters 13–21.
However unlike these sites with dominant southern Mesopotamian material culture, Hamman et–
Turkman, “appears to be set against a background of local north Syrian material culture” (Meijer 1988, 78).
Faced Simple Ware of the Amuq F sequence (Akkermans 1988a, pl. 92; Braidwood and
Braidwood 1960, 232). The assemblage at Hammam et–Turkman contains no ceramics
reminiscent of the southern Mesopotamian Uruk style such as beveled–rim bowls,
drooping spouted jars or reserved slip wares. In fact, a gap in occupation at the end of
Hammam V B coincides with the introduction of true Uruk wares at Brak (CH 12–9),
Leilan (IV), Kurban (VIA) and Hassek (I). Thus Hammam et–Turkman occupies an
interesting place in this discussion of the Uruk Phenomenon, as the material culture is
completely local in nature but monumental buttressed buildings similar to those at Uruk
sites are also present, whether through influence or actual contact from the south. This
monumental architecture however, was constructed before the onset of Uruk contact in
the region that is traditionally reserved to the very end of the fourth millennium (LC 5).
Beyond the Balikh Valley, specifically to the southern areas of the Syrian desert,
a pair of sites stand as anomalies but also reflect on the extent to which interregional
contact was prevalent, even within remote locations. The first of these sites, El Kowm 2–
Caracol, lies within the El Kowm basin, 100 kilometers northeast of Palmyra. The site
was excavated for five seasons by a French team led by J. and M.–C. Cauvin (Cauvin
1981; Cauvin et al. 1979; Cauvin and Stordeur 1985; Stordeur et al. 1982). Though better
known for its large sixth millennium Neolithic occupation, El Kowm 2–Caracol does
exhibit some ephemeral evidence for a Late Uruk presence. This is mostly in the form of
small mud bricks structures poorly preserved and stratigraphically confusing, dense
refuse middens, deep pits, and hearths that were up to a meter in diameter. Within these
secondary contexts, mixed with ash and charcoal, excavators recovered a large amount of
animal bones (mostly bovine) and ceramic fragments characteristic of a southern
Mesopotamian Late Uruk assemblage. This includes four–lugged jars with incised
decoration, beveled–rim bowls, and deep bowls with a pouring spout (Cauvin and
Stordeur 1985, fig. 5–6). Scrappers and chisels dominate the lithic assemblage and small
finds include an anthropomorphic bone figurine and interestingly, a stone eye idol
figurine identical to those recovered at Tell Brak (Mallowan 1947, pl. 51). The recovered
evidence seems to suggest a very limited occupation, perhaps as a seasonal hunting camp
utilized by a semi–nomadic population.
The other site of mention is Qraya, a low oval shaped mound 2 hectares in size
located approximately 16 kilometers downstream from the confluence of the Euphrates
and Khabur Rivers and 5 kilometers upstream from Tell al ‘Asharah (ancient Terqa) in
the Middle Euphrates floodplain. The site was first mentioned by J.–R. Kupper (1950,
112) and then acknowledged later during the regional survey of Tell al ‘Asharah and its
vicinity carried out by Wachtang Djobadze and Olivier Rouault in 1977 and 1978. The
following year, William R. Shelby directed the excavation of a small sounding at the site.
Kay Simpson continued these soundings for an additional two years (Simpson 1988). In
1981, Daniel Shimabuku carried out a six–week excavation at the site followed by
Stephen Reimer who excavated for an additional two seasons (Reimer 1989).
As most of the mound is covered by modern house compounds, excavators were
only able to open a limited number of areas for investigation. However these areas
yielded a total of three building phases with thirteen associated surfaces within a total
accumulation of 4 meters of occupation dating to the LC 5. Forty fire installations
including bread ovens and kilns are present in all of the building phases, the most
elaborate having sunken fire chambers with permanent clay grills that were possibly used
in salt processing (Buccellati 1990; Reimer 1989). The cultural assemblage reflects that
of southern Mesopotamia with beveled–rim bowls in large concentrations and other
ceramic types typical at Habuba–Süd, Susa and Uruk–Warka, two dozen seal impressions
on door seals, jar stoppers, clay bullae, ladles, and clay sickles. Qraya seems to have been
a specialty production center or trading outlet based on the cultural assemblage and its
relative isolation from other Late Chalcolithic sites.
Other Syrian sites such as Hama on the Orontes River (Thuesen 1988 and
discussed below), Ramadi in the Middle Euphrates valley near Mari (Beyer 1991–92),
Tell Hajib in the western Jazirah (Einwag 1993) and late Amuq F/early Amuq G period
(Braidwood and Braidwood 1960) are attested in the Uruk Phenomenon debate only by
the occurrence of southern Mesopotamian Uruk–style ceramics that derived from
soundings or survey data.42 Apart from this, all other facets of material culture at these
sites, including architecture and the majority of the ceramic assemblage, are familiar local
Syrian styles.
Birecik and Carchemish Dams
These reservoir basins are located along the southern border of Turkey, with the
Carchemish dam just upstream from the ancient site of the same name and the Birecik
dam approximately seven kilometers upstream from the modern town of Birecik. At their
completion in 1999 and 2000 respectively, the reservoirs that formed behind the dams
inundated some 85 square kilometers of land that had been previously surveyed (Algaze
A summary of more “Uruk–related sites” found throughout Syria can be found in Schwartz 2001, 251–
254 and Akkerman and Schwartz 2003, 190–203.
1989b; Algaze et al. 1991, 1994). Those surveys identified 22 sites with local Late
Chalcolithic and Uruk remains including Tıladir, Şadı Tepe, Kum Ocağı, Hacınebi, and
the Acropolis at Carchemish itself (Woolley 1952). Of these sites, only Hacınebi has
been systematically excavated allowing us to closely examine the remains within the
broader context of the Uruk Phenomenon.
Located in the Euphrates River valley approximately 5 kilometers north of
Birecik in Şanlıurfa Province, Hacınebi is a triangular–shaped mound measuring 3.3
hectares in size that sits atop a bluff overlooking the river. The site was excavated by a
team from Northwestern University for six seasons between 1992 and 1997 under the
direction of Gil Stein (Stein et al. 1996a, 1996b, 1997, 1998). In that time eighteen
trenches were opened for a total exposure of fourteen hundred square meters. Over 9
meters of cultural deposits are recorded at the site that date to the LC 2–4 (ca. 4100–3300
BCE), Early Bronze I (ca. 3100–2800 BCE), and Achaemenid/Hellenistic periods (ca.
500–100 BCE).
Based on ceramic chronology and carbon dating, the fourth millennium
occupations at Hacınebi span three distinct phases, two of which (A and B1) are
culturally “Local Late Chalcolithic” (LLC) in nature and a third (B2) that is a mixture of
local and southern Mesopotamian Uruk cultural traits. The earlier indigenous phases are
characterized architecturally by a monumental terrace and platform complex, two
adjacent storage buildings, a 3–meter–wide enclosure wall with buttressing and a massive
mud brick raised platform. Apart from these public structures, domestic architecture was
also uncovered with child inhumations beneath the floors.43 The ceramic assemblage is
One of these burials contained an infant with one copper and two silver rings, some of the earliest silver
to be recovered in Anatolia (Stein 2002b, 150).
dominated by handmade chaff–tempered wares like flint–scraped hammerhead bowls and
“casseroles” with parallels at Kurban, Leilan, Brak and Kenan Tepe (Pearce 2000; Stein
et al. 1998, 160–164). Wheelmade grit–tempered wares do occur but in smaller numbers
and in completely local forms.
Early metallurgy, specifically copper production, is evident throughout this early
settlement. All stages of production were recovered including special smelting pit
furnaces, crucible fragments, open–faced casting moulds, and final products like copper
chisels and pins.44 That Hacınebi was involved in long–distance exchange during these
early phases is evident by the occurrence of non–local raw copper, chlorite pendants
derived from sources over 300 kilometers away (Stein et al. 1996a, 212), and record
keeping technologies. These included engraved stamp seals, seal blanks and impressions
whose iconography is paralleled across the piedmont zone from Değirmentepe to Gawra
to the Khuzistan plain (Pittman 1999, 45).
The following contact phase (B2) shows evidence for the continuation and
evolution of the local indigenous settlement along with the sudden emergence of southern
Mesopotamian material culture. While architectural evidence is severely lacking—baked
clay wall cones are the only indicator for supposed public or religious buildings45—the
full range of other material categories attest to an intrusive presence. These include
metrological devices (cruciform grooved stone weights similar to ones at Habuba–Süd
and Sheikh Hassan), agricultural implements (baked clay sickles), bitumen imported from
For more information concerning the metallurgical finds from Hacınebi, see Özbal et al. 1999 and Stein
et al. 1998, 167–170.
These same types of clay wall cones were also found in surface surveys of private homes (Adams and
Nissen 1972, 211) and villages (Johnson 1973, 105), suggesting that they were used as decorative elements
in both public and private contexts. This undermines Stein’s (2002b, 151) assumption that at Hacınebi, the
cones necessarily represent temples or elite public buildings.
Hit and the Deh Luran area (Schwartz et al. 1999) and specific accounting practices.
While the use of stamp seals and seal iconography from Phase B1 continues and
expands,46 new intrusive elements emerge: hollow clay balls with clay tokens inside, jar
stoppers, jar rim sealings, and prepared clay slabs all impressed with cylinder seals whose
iconography is echoed at Susa and Uruk–Warka (Pittman 1999; Stein et al. 1996a, 231).
While chemical characterization has shown that a good portion of the sealings with
Anatolian and some Uruk motifs were made with clays local to the environs of Hacınebi,
other Uruk–style sealings (and their associated portable products) were imported, most
likely from the Khuzistan plain around Susa (Blackman 1999).
Southern Mesopotamian ceramic wares and forms also become prevalent during
this Phase B1 including wheelmade mineral–tempered conical cups and nose–lug jars as
well as chaff–tempered trays, ceramic ladles, and beveled–rim bowls (Pollock and
Coursey 1995; Stein et al. 1996a, 233–239). Though ceramics from both the local and
southern Mesopotamian assemblages were found together in many contexts, the majority
of Uruk–related materials are restricted to the northern area of the settlement while local
Late Chalcolithic materials remain mostly in the south. This arrangement is paralleled
with the accounting practices discussed above with the use of stamp seals only in the
southern area and cylinder seals only in the northern area. These distribution patterns,
when coupled with specialist analyses of faunal and chipped stone assemblages that
reflect distinctively different modes of production and consumption between the two
For example, over one hundred clay sealings uncovered in a single pit context on the northeast part of the
site represents approximately thirty different distinct stamp motifs (see Pittman section in Stein et al.
1996a, 232).
areas,47 point to a segregated community of Uruk colonists embedded within a local and
well–established Late Chalcolithic settlement (Stein 1999a). Thus the evidence from
Hacınebi not only reflects an economically complex indigenous community that predates
intrusions from the south, but also the continuation of a seemingly peaceful settlement
with the arrival of foreign populations. This picture is vastly different from the
circumstances we see in northern Syria where at Hamoukar for example, evidence for
warfare precludes contact from Uruk southern Mesopotamia.
Atatürk Dam
The Mustafa Kemal Atatürk Dam, initially named the Karababa, lies 60
kilometers north of Birecik on the Euphrates River bordering between the Adıyaman and
Şanlıurfa provinces. The reservoir created by the dam flooded over 800 square kilometers
of land that included over 300 historic and prehistoric sites that were extensively
surveyed (Blaylock et al. 1990, 1998; Özdoğan 1977; Serdaroğlu 1977). Of these sites,
the largest and most well–excavated is Kurban Höyük, located at the southern edge of the
dam reservoir in the upper Euphrates Valley of southeast Turkey and 60 kilometers north
of the modern city of Şanlıurfa. The 6 hectare site is composed of two mounds connected
by a saddle whose maximum height is 10 meters above the surrounding flood plain.
Kurban was excavated for five seasons (1980–1984) by the Chicago Euphrates
Archaeological Project of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago under the
direction of Leon Marfoe (Algaze 1990; Marfoe et al. 1986). A regional settlement and
land use survey was undertaken simultaneously by Tony Wilkinson (1990a).
For faunal see: Bigelow 1999; Stein et al. 1996a, 257–260. For chipped stone see: Edens 1999; Stein et
al. 1996a, 239–247, 1996b, 100–104, 1997, 124–127, 1998, 155–160.
Occupation datable to the Late Chalcolithic period (Kurban Period VIA–B) is
limited to a step trench (Area A) and two soundings (Areas C01 and F) whose
excavations revealed nearly 2 meters of deposits spanning five phases in Area A. Only
ephemeral structures with stone foundations were uncovered along with a mixture of
prepared plaster floors, pebble–paved courtyards, and beaten earth surfaces. Among the
assemblage of ceramics, chipped stone, and animal bones from these contexts, small
finds include spindle whorls, spools, copper/bronze pins and other implements, worked
bone and shell, beads, stone vessels, a macehead and a rectangular uninscribed “tablet–
like” object (Algaze 1990, 397–418).
Settlement seems to have shifted from the south mound during the earlier Period
VIB to encompass the south and north mound as well as the saddle in between during
Period VIA where a natural spring provided water for the inhabitants. There is also an
economic and agricultural shift between these two subperiods as the earliest evidence for
grape cultivation derives from Period VIA (Marfoe et al. 1986, 85–89) along with copper
implements and imported finished flint blades of the Canaanean–type that most likely
derived from neighboring Hassek Höyük (see below and Behm–Blancke et al. 1984).
This shift is also visible in the ceramic assemblage, which consequently serves as the sole
evidence by which the periodization of the two Late Chalcolithic phases at Kurban are
distinguished (Algaze 1990, 261). The earlier Period VIB exhibits a majority of chaff–
tempered wares paralleled in the Amuq (phase F) while during Period VIA grit–tempered
plain simple wares become dominant in number. Southern Mesopotamian shapes become
increasingly frequent during this latter phase including beveled–rim bowls, conical cups
with pouring rims, four–lugged jars, and drooping spouted jars (Algaze 1990, 264).
It is unclear whether or not there was a sudden abandonment of the site at the end
of Period VIA or whether the settlement area was slowly contracting throughout this
phase concluding in the establishment of an Early Bronze community (Period V)
restricted to the north mound. Based solely on ceramic evidence, the excavators see
parallels in the expansion of the Late Chalcolithic settlement at Kurban, with its
increasing frequency of grit–tempered wares and southern Mesopotamian vessel types,
and the wider sociopolitical developments occurring across the region during this time.
Small exposures limit my ability to determine exactly how Kurban fit within these
regional developments. However, a shift in the ceramic sequence is evident, though
whether this change derived from Late Uruk intrusions into the north remains debatable.
Upriver there is a similar situation at the large mound of Samsat. Now flooded by
the waters of the Atatürk Dam reservoir, the large mound of Samsat once towered 40
meters above the west bank of the Euphrates River measuring 500 by 350 meters at its
base for a total area of 17.5 hectares. The site was first excavated by T. Goell in 1964
and 1967 and later surveyed by various teams (Blaylock et al. 1990, 1998; Özdoğan
1977; Serdaroğlu 1977). Salvage excavations were conducted by Middle East Technical
University under the direction of Nimet Özgüç between 1978 and 1989 as part of the
Lower Euphrates Project (Özgüç 1987, 1988, 1992).
Much of the architectural remains dated to the Late Chalcolithic are limited to a
16 by 20 meter area on the eastern slope of the mound and were largely destroyed by
latter occupants. Extensive pebble surfaces and fireplaces were preserved, along with a
drain pipe (Level XX; Özgüç 1992, 152), a possible fortification wall (Level XXIV;
Mellink 1989, 114) and numerous child inhumations below the house floors. The ceramic
assemblage is represented by both local and Uruk styles with primary examples being
chaffy “casseroles” and straight–spouted jars along with reserve slip jars, beveled–rim
bowls, stone goblets, and red polished lug jars (Özten 1984). Small finds include a
terracotta cylinder seal, stone stamp seals with tête–bêche animals, and stone and
obsidian beads.
This mix of local and non–local cultural elements is echoed at Hassek Höyük,
located 40 kilometers north of Samsat in the Elaziğ province. The site was excavated by
Manfred R. Behm–Blancke between 1978 and 1986 on behalf of the Deutschen
Archäologischen Instituts (Behm–Blancke 1986; Behm–Blancke et al. 1981, 1984). The
earliest settlement at Hassek dates to the Late Uruk (LC 5; Hassek level 5 A–C).48 A
complex of buildings surrounded by a thick enclosure wall were excavated on the high
point of the mound (Hügelplateau). These consisted of a large tripartite building with
attached anterooms (Haus 1), a single–room structure with three lateral doorways (Haus
3) and two smaller workshop and storage buildings (Haus 2 and 4). Haus 1 is most
reminiscent of Mittelsaal houses at Habuba–Süd with frying pan–shaped fireplaces in the
central hall.
Together Uruk and local ceramics are associated with these buildings including
beveled–rim bowls, nose–lugged jars, drooping spouts, burnished cook pots, hammer–
head and carinated bowls (Helwing 1999, 2002; Hoh 1981, 1984). Other finds include a
spectacle–topped idol paralleled at Brak, cylinder seals with geometric and figural
design, clay tokens, and a copper pin along with evidence for Canaanean blade
production (Behm–Blancke et al. 1981, pl. 11–14). This Late Chalcolithic phase is
Most recent ceramic analysis suggests that only levels 5 A–B are Late Uruk in date and that level 5 C is
much earlier (Helwing 1999, 94).
burned in a violent destruction and later rebuilt but with a completely different
configuration. Uruk–style pottery continues to be used, however the Mittelsaal style
house vanishes.
The identification of Hassek as a “station” within the larger Uruk trading network
has been accepted by many scholars, including the excavators (see chapter 1 and Behm–
Blancke et al. 1984, 40). However, as Helwing (1999) has pointed out, much of the
material culture assemblage at Hassek reflects more local trends. This includes
Canaanean blade production and seal designs common to north Syria and southeast
Anatolia. The relatively simple enclosure wall more closely resembles the fortifications
found at later Early Bronze I levels at Tarsus (Goldman 1956) than the elaborate bastions
at Habuba–Süd. Even much of the Uruk pottery found at Hassek, traditionally heavy in
grit temper, surprisingly are mostly chaff suggesting that indigenous inhabitants and not
Uruk colonists were copying southern Mesopotamia forms (Helwing 1999, 96).
Unfortunately very little has been excavated around the walled enclosure to place this
building complex in context.
Keban Dam and Beyond
The Keban Dam, one of the northernmost dams on the Euphrates in Turkey, was
also one of the first to be completed in 1974. Located just below the junction of the
Euphrates and Murat Rivers in Elazığ province, the dam produced a long narrow lake that
covers a huge area of 680 square kilometers. This reservoir covers hundreds of historic
and prehistoric sites as far east as the Altınova, a broad alluvial plain due east of Elazığ,
which were surveyed and recorded by Charles Burney (1958) and Robert Whallon
(1979). The Middle East Technical University (METU) Keban Dam Area Salvage Project
was also responsible for a series of publications documenting the survey and excavation
of a number of archaeological sites within the dam reservoir area.49
A major site occupying the Altınova valley figures prominently within the Uruk
Phenomenon debate: Tepecik. This multi–period mound is located 30 kilometers east of
the modern city of Elazığ. The site, flooded by the waters behind the Keban Dam, stood
17 meters in height and was approximately 200 meters in diameter. Tepecik was first
identified by Charles Burney (1958) in his survey of the region and later by Robert
Whallon and Sonmez Kantman (1970). The site was geophysically surveyed and
excavated between 1968 and 1974 under the directorship of Ufuk Esin (1970, 1971,
1972a, 1972b, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1982).
Evidence from the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age I transitional
settlements are limited to a deep sounding on the northeast side of the mound and a single
structure on the southwest slope. The sounding produced no architecture, but instead a
hearth, stone and sherd pavement, lumps of copper, and a large amount of animal bones
and beads perhaps as part of a midden (Esin 1972a). Wheel and handmade ceramics of
chaff–faced simple wares paralleled with Amuq F were recovered along with a handful of
reserved slip fragments. The single structure was composed of stone foundations with a
mud brick superstructure divided into several rectangular rooms and a courtyard. Three
building episodes are evident by the slight modification of walls and doorways and the
reapplication of reed and plaster flooring. Inside this structure a wealth of artifacts were
uncovered including grinding stones, copper awls, fine bone pins, a terracotta idol head,
Middle East Technical University Keban Project Publications, 1968–1974 Activities.
and flint Canaanean–type blades and obsidian implements inside a coarse handmade jar
(Esin 1979, 110).
The ceramic assemblage is composed of both southern Mesopotamian styles from
the end of the LC 5 and EBI forms that are paralleled at sites further west. The Uruk
types include beveled–rim bowls, spouted jars, short–necked jars with perforated ledge
handles, and reserved slip pithoi (Esin 1976, 115). Adjacent to this structure, large pits up
to two meters in diameter and furnaces were found containing evidence for metal
working such as slag and arsenical copper ores (Çukur and Kunç 1989). Such little
evidence from Tepecik is difficult to interpret; however, the occurrence of southern
Mesopotamian ceramic types shows how the Uruk Phenomenon touched the Altınova
region, though seemingly in a small degree. Other evidence, such as copper production
and chaff–tempered ceramic wares, places the settlement at Tepecik firmly within a local
Anatolian cultural sphere.
Interestingly southern Mesopotamian material culture does not seem to have
penetrated other sites in the region. Norşuntepe for example, located 30 kilometers
southeast of Elazığ, had architecture and ceramics reminiscent of local and Amuq styles.
The large multi–period tell was excavated by Harald Hauptmann on behalf of the German
Archaeological Institute between 1968 and 1974 when the site was submerged below the
waters behind the Keban Dam.50 All Late Chalcolithic exposures spanning the entire
fourth millennium BCE derived from a deep sounding on the western slope of the mound
where numerous superimposed buildings and a mud brick fortification wall were
uncovered. The former were single–room houses with round interior hearths and
Annual reports authored by Hauptmann can be found in the Keban Project Activities volumes, 1968–
associated child burials, many in pots (Hauptmann 1976, pl. 42, 1979, pl. 41). One of
these houses had two interior niches with a frescoed wall painting in between that
depicted a stylized horned animal in black outline with red fill (Level 8; Hauptmann
1976, pl. 42).
The ceramics recovered inside many of these buildings reflect an Early to Middle
Chalcolithic date (LC 2–3) whose painted wares seem to draw from the preceding ‘Ubaid
levels at the site. Later Amuq F parallels are present supporting occupation through at
least LC 4. The assemblage is characterized by chaff–faced simple wares and decoration
ranging from painted to stamped and incised patterns paralleled at Gawra XI–IX (LC 2–
3; see Gülçur 2000). Copper processing seems to have taken place within the settlement
as attested by the presence of copper slag. A stamp seal and clay bulla with the impressed
image of an ibex reveal at least a low level of administrative control, perhaps in
association with metallurgy. Overall the cultural assemblage at Norşuntepe is indigenous
to southeast Anatolia and the Amuq.
Similarly Korucutepe, another Altınova site, has no evidence for the use of
southern Mesopotamian material culture, specifically ceramics. Now flooded by the
waters of the Keban Dam, Korucutepe was a 16–meter–high mound located northeast of
Norşuntepe and approximately 30 kilometers east of the modern city of Elazığ. The site
was first surveyed by Burney (1958) and Whallon and Kantman (1970) and then
excavated over three seasons, from 1968 to 1970, by teams from the University of
Chicago, UCLA, and the University of Amsterdam directed by Mauritis N. van Loon,
Giorgio Buccellati and Philo Houwink ten Cate (van Loon 1971, 1973, 1975; van Loon
and Buccellati 1970; van Loon and Güterbock 1972).
The excavated data for the Late Chalcolithic period (Phase B: Strata XXX–
XXXIII 3500–3000 BCE), though limited in scope, reflects a completely local cultural
assemblage. Over 1.5 meters of accumulated deposit held multiple superimposed
domestic structures with central hearths, evidence for reed matting, and crushed
sherd/pebble pavements. The ceramic assemblage is comparable to other Altınova sites
with mostly handmade chaff–tempered wares, though grit does occur, and heavy chaff–
facing. The forms are all local Anatolian styles with no evidence for southern
Mesopotamian Uruk influences (Brandt 1978a). A small cemetery was unearthed on the
northwest corner of the mound that held two rectangular tombs made of mud bricks with
wooden roofs. These tombs contained numerous grave goods including a mace head,
silver band with spirals, belts, metal and stone beads, silver rings and a stamp seal whose
design is comparable to Gawra IX (Brandt 1978b, 62).
West of these important Altınova sites on the Euphrates River, outside of any
flood zone, is perhaps the most well preserved and significant site for the discussion of
local cultural development and complexity both pre– and post–Uruk contact. That site is
Arslantepe, a 5 hectare mound located 15 kilometers west of the Euphrates River and 6
kilometers northeast of the modern city of Malatya. Excavated by the Italian
Archaeological Expedition of the University of Rome “La Sapienza” under the direction
of Salvatore M. Puglisi (1975–1982), Alba Palmieri (1983–1990), and Marcella
Frangipane (1990–current), Arslantepe contains a deep chronological sequence of
settlements that span the fourth and early third millennium BCE. The earliest Late
Chalcolithic level (Period VII; LC 3 ca. 3500 BCE)51 is characterized by both domestic
structures and monumental architecture, in particular a large tripartite mud brick structure
Based on carbon dates in Alessio et al. 1983, 578–579.
with painted walls and mud columns (Building XXIX; Frangipane 1993; Frangipane and
Balossi 2004). Within the structure, mass–produced conical and flint–scrapped bowls
were uncovered along with a collection of unimpressed clay balls, presumably unused
Period VIA (LC 4/5, ca. 3500–3000 BCE),52 though distinguished by the minimal
inclusion of characteristically southern Mesopotamian elements, retains an overwhelming
local Anatolian character. The greatest example is the “palace–temple” complex built on
top of the preceding Period VII structures. The complex is composed of a conglomerate
of four terraced buildings (Building I, II, III, and IV) that were most likely two–storied
and connected by several passages. Two of these structures (I and II) were designated as
temples (A and B) based on the occurrence of circular offering tables with adjacent
fireplaces, rectangular mud brick basins, internal niches, and elaborate paintings and
plastic decorations on the walls (Frangipane and Palmieri 1983; Frangipane 1997b).
These temples are composed of a single cella with side storage rooms filled with local
style ceramics including pithoi, chaffy cook pots, wheel–made high–stemmed bowls, and
mass–produced conical bowls. In fact the only real evidence for southern Mesopotamian
materials at Arslantepe comes from inside these temple storerooms where a drooping
spouted jar, high shouldered red–slipped jar, beveled–rim bowl fragments and two
elongated vessels identical to ones found at Susa, Uruk–Warka, Habuba–Süd, Brak and
Hassek were recovered. Other items include Canaanean flint blades, copper pins,
andirons, and mat impressions (Palmieri 1977).
Though the published stratigraphy from Arslantepe refers to Period VII as “Late Chalcolithic” and
Periods VIA and VIB as “Early Bronze I A and B” respectively, I retain the designation Late Chalcolithic
or LC here to avoid confusion. The carbon dates however from Period VIA do show a transition into the
early part of the third millennium BCE.
A great deal of administrative and redistribution activities were centered inside
the many storerooms throughout the complex as evidenced by thousands of stamp and
cylinder sealed impressed bullae and clay fragments discovered in stockpiles. In one
room (A206), over five thousand clay–sealing fragments were uncovered representing
124 different designs with sealings of similar design being grouped together. These
designs, while in some cases exhibiting thematic elements mirrored at Uruk–Warka IV,
Susa and Chogha Mish,53 retain a local Anatolian glyptic style. There was also evidence
for arsenic bronze manufacture and finished products like a cache of bronze swords,
spearheads, and a quadruple spiral plaque found within Building III (Caneva and Palmieri
1983; Palmieri 1981).
The succeeding occupation (Period VIB) saw a complete shift in the nature of
settlement and material culture at the site, though some evidence of these new cultural
trends were already becoming evident in the preceding period.54 The “palace–temple”
complex is burned and hastily abandoned, only to be resettled by local nomadic groups
using wattle–and–daub construction techniques and later, rectangular mud brick
architecture (Hopkins 1996). Handmade Red–Black Burnished ware now dominates the
ceramic assemblage along with some Ninevite V and ETC ware types (Palmieri 1977). A
large rectangular cist grave lined with stone slabs was also found on the western edge of
the former Period VIA complex area that contained a presumed elite individual, four
The best examples of this are a cylinder seal impression of an intertwined snake and another impression
from room A206, Building IV depicting a person (or statue?) within a canopied sledge being carted by an
ox with a driver (for image and discussion, see Frangipane and Palmieri 1983, 419, 1). Motifs of
intertwined snakes are found at Uruk–Warka (Heinrich 1938, pl. 30 i), Susa (Amiet 1972, pl. 6, 63, 64) and
Chogha Mish (Delougaz and Kantor 1996, pl. 36 H).
For example, arsenic bronze production and techniques for the manufacture of “Red Black Burnished
Ware” ceramics characteristic of the Early Transcaucasian Culture (ETC) were already evident in Period
VIA (Frangipane 1997b, 69).
adolescents, and a wealth of grave goods including ceramics and a wide selection of
metal objects (Frangipane et al. 2001).
The downfall of the “palace–temple” complex at Arslantepe seems to be a
reflection of the larger sociocultural changes evident throughout the region at the close of
the fourth millennium, though the excavators, perhaps rightly, contend that internal
political strife underlies the upheaval that ended the settlement (Frangipane 1997b). In
terms of the Uruk Phenomenon, Arslantepe stands as an example of a well–established
community that was active in local networks of production, exchange and redistribution
that was either outside the sphere of southern Mesopotamian interaction or unable to be
affected by it.
Upper Tigris
As discussed in chapter 4, the Upper Tigris region of southeast Turkey occupies a
river valley between the modern city of Diyarbakır and the Tigris–Batman River
confluence approximately 60 kilometers to the east. Within this region there are a number
of sites that have been surveyed and partially excavated, though none equaling the
breadth and depth of exposures at Kenan Tepe. The westernmost of these sites in the
valley is Kavuşan Höyük, located 10 kilometers southeast of Bismil and south of where
the Seyhan Çayi meets the Tigris River. The site is composed of a higher northern end
that rises 8 meters and a lower southern area 2 meters in height. The mound is almost 200
meters in length east to west and 75 meters in width north to south, occupying a total of
1.3 hectares. Since 2000, intensive survey and excavations have been undertaken by
Gülriz Kozbe, Kemalettin Köroğlu and Haluk Sağlamtemir under the auspices of the
Diyarbakır Museum (Kozbe et al. 2003, 2004). The Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze
Age occupy the earliest levels at the site (Building level V in Trench No. III) and consist
of 2 meter diameter pits with mud plastered floors containing handmade pottery and
well–fired thin metallic wares along with animal bones, zoomorphic figurines, and flint
tools (Kozbe et al. 2004, 499). The Late Chalcolithic pottery consists of burnished pots
with no necks and everted rims and bowls with exaggeratedly inverted rims, all with
coarse fabrics of large grit and dense chaff temper (Kozbe et al. 2004, 500).
Across the river from Kavuşan is the site of Giricano, located 11 kilometers
southeast of Bismil on a strategic crossing of the Tigris and was excavated between 2000
and 2003 under the direction of Dr. Andreas Schachner with financial support from the
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Schachner 2003, 2004; Schachner et al. 2002). The
site measures 170 by 120 meters and was founded on top of a low natural hill
overlooking the Tigris flood plain. On the southern side of the site only a single test
trench produced well preserved architectural remains of a large (6 meters long) and
regularly planned building whose associated painted ceramics and stamp seal impressed
clay bulla date it relatively to the middle of the fourth millennium (Level 06). Beveled–
rim bowls from this context also attest to connections with a wider network of interaction
that extend beyond the Upper Tigris valley.
Continuing further east past Kenan Tepe (see chapters 4 and 5) is Salat Tepe, a
site that lies atop a 6–meter–thick alluvial terrace overlooking the Salat Çay, a tributary
of the Tigris River, approximately 14 kilometers east of Bismil and 35 kilometers west of
Batman. The site is composed of a single mound 30 meters in height and 115 by 110
meters in length and width (Ökse 1999, 345). There is a 45 by 30 meter flat area on the
summit and a northwest terrace measuring 100 by 65 (Ökse et al. 2001, 620). The site
was first identified by Algaze in his 1988 survey (Algaze et al. 1991, 213) and, based on
ceramic analysis, found to be occupied from the fifth millennium BCE to the Byzantine
Period. From surface surveys, Ökse and her team have recovered Late Chalcolithic chaff
temper, coarse handmade pottery, Early Bronze Age hand–made burnished wares,
wheel–made monochrome, and metallic wares. Excavations, which began in 2000, have
uncovered early Islamic burials and the remains of a Neo–Assyrian settlement.
Architectural remains of the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age have yet to be
uncovered (Ökse 2004; Ökse and Alp 2002).
Neighboring Salat is Aşağı Salat, a low–lying mound topped by the village of
Aşağı Salat located 20 kilometers east of Bismil and 2 kilometers east of where the Tigris
is joined by the Salat Çayı (Ay 2001, 717; Şenyurt 2002b). The site measures 150 by 100
meters though there is evidence of heavy flood damage in the present, and probably the
past as well, since the mound itself lies only 5 meters above the river (Şenyurt 2002a,
689). The primary context here is an Early Bronze Age cemetery extending over a 50
square meter area at the most and containing cist graves and graves with a stone
enclosure and cover. All the graves exhibit pebble floors and are capped with limestone
slabs (Şenyurt 2002a, 694). Due to a high salt content in the soil, the skeletal material in
many of the graves were too deteriorated to determine the positions of the individuals. A
similar problem was observed in the Early Bronze Age cemetery at Birecik (Sertok and
Ergeç 1999, 90). However a single intact grave (M–14), allowed the excavators at Aşaği
Salat to note a Hocker position oriented east–west with the head on the east facing north
(Şenyurt 2004, 665). Signs of robbery are evident as the east end of all the cover stones
were found broken and the ceramics and other grave goods broken and scattered. Among
the grave goods recovered were bronze pins, beaded necklaces made from mountain
crystal, white frit and black stone, and a bone “idol” in the form of a stylized human
Of the ceramics recovered from these graves, most common are buff–colored fruit
stands and pedestal bowls, spouted vases, buff and beige colored biconical vases with
string–cut holes, and ring base bowls with greenish cream colored fabrics similar to
Ninevite V forms at Hassek Höyük (Behm–Blancke 1988). According to the excavator,
this Early Bronze Age ceramic assemblage shows a continuation of the Late Uruk pottery
tradition uncovered through surveys at the site (Ay 2001, 697). Finally within the
stratigraphic sounding at the southeast part of the mound, a two–roomed building with a
three course stone foundation was uncovered, along with a square platform composed of
stone posts, grinding stones, and cobbles. A baked clay wall mosaic and several beveled
rim bowls characteristic of the Late Chalcolithic/Late Uruk period were found associated
with this stone platform (Şenyurt 2004, 661).
Continuing further east in the valley is Grê Dimsê, a medium–sized mound 30
meters high with steep sides and a flat circular top 60 meters across (Karg 1999, 283). It
is located at the junction of the Batman Su and the Tigris, roughly 15 kilometers
southwest of Batman and just over 1 kilometer north of the village of Köprüköy (Karg
2001, 671). A surface collection and scrape survey was carried out in 1998 with
excavations commencing in 1999. Primarily Hellenistic–Roman and “Imperial” to “Post–
Assyrian” architectural levels have been uncovered, with the only Late Chalcolithic
remains being chaff–tempered pottery and whole mouth jars with globular to ovoid
bodies recovered from survey (Karg 1999, 284).
The final site in the eastern most extension of the river valley is Hirbemerdon
Tepe, an approximately 10 hectare mound located 30 kilometers east of Bismil at the
confluence of the Batman Su and Tigris Rivers (Laneri 2005; Laneri et al. 2006). The site
is composed of a “high mound” (4 hectares), “lower town” (3 hectares) and “outer town”
(3 hectares). Middle to Late Chalcolithic material, dating specifically to the first half of
the fourth millennium, has been uncovered in a two meter square sounding in the outer
town (Laneri et al. 2006, 158). A yellowish sandy layer uncovered in this sounding shows
ancient flooding by the Tigris occurred sometime between the Late Chalcolithic and the
end of the third millennium. Very little in the way of architecture has been uncovered,
apart from a portion of a surface and a shallow pit. The pottery assemblage is dominated
by local, cream–brown chaff faced wares in the forms of globular pots with simple rims,
jars with short necks and straight or slightly everted rims. Charring on the outside of most
of the sherds indicates presence of a fire that probably destroyed the settlement.
Egypt and the Levant
The impact of the Uruk Phenomenon in the Levant, specifically along the eastern
Mediterranean littoral from Lebanon south through Israel/Palestine, seems to have been
minimal. Evidence for connections with southern Mesopotamia via north Syria are
limited to ceramics at a handful of sites. In the ‘Amuq area of inland west Syria, chaff–
tempered bowls and jars dominate the local assemblage but a small number of beveled–
rim bowls and drooping spouted bottles were recovered from Tell al–Judeideh and some
reserved slip examples from the ‘Amuq F sequence equating to LC5 (Braidwood and
Braidwood 1960, 232). Along the Orontes River valley, Phase K at Hama revealed more
beveled–rim bowl fragments and a possible terra cotta eye idol in its characteristically
indigenous assemblage (Thuesen 1988). 55 South of Hama however, there is no
documentation of southern Mesopotamian Uruk ceramics until one reaches the Nile Delta
(see below). The glyptic evidence for interaction is slightly wider spread, but in no terms
serving as a direct linkage to Uruk–Warka itself. Instead the evidence suggests inland
west and north Syrian sites participated in the Syro–Anatolian tradition (W.F. Collins
2005; Philip 2002, 218). Stamp seals with zoomorphic decoration are attested at ‘Amuq
F–H and Hama. A cylinder seal from Ras Shamra (Level IIIB) that most likely dates to
the end of the fourth millennium (Amiet 1992) depicts a procession of horned animals
exceedingly similar in design to those from Habuba–Süd.
In Egypt, there is much more substantial evidence than in the Levant for
interactions with north Syria and southern Mesopotamia between the Naqada IIc–d (ca.
3400 BCE) and Naqada IIIb (ca. 3100 BCE; see Joffe 2000), more generally known as
the Predynastic period. This evidence is limited to glyptic and ceramics as no architecture
or accounting practices (e.g., bullae, tablets, tokens) have been found do date that are
reflective of Mesopotamian or north Syrian styles (Moorey 1987). 56 During the
Predynastic period, a few large settlements in Upper Egypt like Abydos, Hierakonpolis
and Naqada itself most likely served as regional centers. The latter two sites had royal
cemeteries with elaborate mud brick–lined tombs, one of which (Tomb 100 at
This eye idol is also argued to be a tool used for the spinning of thread and not an idol (Breniquet 1996,
as cited in Philip 2002, 215).
However Wilkinson (2002, 244) postulates that “small, cone–shaped objects of fired clay” excavated in
Predynastic mortuary contexts could likely be tokens. See also Schmandt–Besserat 1992 for a discussion of
counting tokens mistakenly identified by archaeologists as gaming pieces or amulets.
Hierakonpolis) was plastered and painted with a “master of animals” scene—imagery
that is well–known and most likely derived from Mesopotamia (Adams 1996; Case and
Payne 1962). Other glyptic parallels are found on ivory knife handles, most of which are
unfortunately unprovenanced.57 These include the Gebel el–Arak and Gebel el–Tarif
handles that display scenes of hand–to–hand combat, animal attacks, boats, hunting and
the “priest–king” figure flanked by two lions.58 Ceramic evidence for interaction is much
smaller with only a few examples of imported four–lugged jars and drooping spout
vessels along with locally–made imitations deriving from burial contexts in Middle Egypt
(Wilkinson 2002, 239). Likewise cylinders seals are rare but do occur as imports and
local imitations. The imagery used on seals from Naqada—geometric patterns and lentoid
shapes representing fish—are known from Susa, Gawra and Brak.
Much debate has surrounded the route of transmission for these ceramic and
glyptic styles into the Levant and Egypt. For the former, the route seems obvious that
communications must have traveled west from the Euphrates bend (Habuba–Süd, Tell
Sheikh Hassan, Jebel Aruda) or from the northern Amuq valley. Connections with Egypt,
however, are a bit more tenuous. While early researchers argued this influence derived
from Elam and/or Uruk–Warka via a sea route around the Arabian Peninsula and into the
Red Sea (Frankfort 1951; Kantor 1952), a Mediterranean coastal route that linked the
major port cities of the time with the Nile Delta and further south into Middle and Upper
Egypt seems the most likely (Joffe 2000; Moorey 1987; Teissier 1987). For example,
One flint knife with handle was in fact excavated from a secure archaeological context in the cemetery at
Abu Zaidan (Needler 1984).
According to Holly Pittman (1996, 27–28), this is not so much a borrowing of visual ideas from greater
Mesopotamia as it is an adoption of artistic formulas whereby the particular meaning behind these images
differed by sociocultural context. For example these Mesopotamian images do not necessarily represent the
same ideas for Egyptians.
despite a direct ceramic link with Mesopotamia, Ras Shamra exhibits a primarily coastal
ceramic assemblage linking it with Byblos and further south implying maritime
communication that could have aided the transmission of Uruk glyptic to Egypt (Philip
2002, 216). More recent evidence for Amuq F plain wares, locally made clay cones, and
the use of niched mud brick decoration at the Delta site of Buto (von der Way 1992, 5;
Köhler 1992, 20–21) and the presence at Habuba–Süd of an anthracite–colored bowl with
white incrusted punctuation decoration known from Nagada II (Sürenhagen 1986) further
reflect on the relationship between Egypt, west Syria and the Levant during this period.59
Though one should note that this influence was decidedly one–sided: no Predynastic “Egyptian” artifacts
have ever been found in southern Mesopotamia or Elam.
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