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Atlas of Jordan

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Myriam Ababsa

Chapter two - From the First Men’s Steps to the Hellenistic Age (-1.5 mya – 323 BC)

The First Villages. The Neolithic Period (10,000-4500 BC)

Bill Finlayson

Texte intégral

1The Neolithic period is when people began the enormous process of change from relying on wild resources to manipulating and domesticating their world, the foundation on which all later civilizations are built. Jordan is one of the key places where these changes occurred. Some of the most visible changes that occurred were in the nature of settlements and their position in the landscape.

2In the earliest Neolithic age (the pre-Pottery Neolithic A, 10,000 – 8550 BC) people began to live in more permanent settlements. In order to stay in one place they established these settlements at the junction between different environments, so that they could obtain food from many different habitats without having to move. The site of Wadi Faynan 16 is a good example, being located at the mouth of the Wadi Ghuwayr, giving people easy access to the river and its resources, a route up into the mountains, at the same time as looking out over the Wadi Araba (plate II.6).

Plate II.6 ­— Location of Wadi Faynan 16 between the mountains and open lands (Finlayson).

Plate II.6 ­— Location of Wadi Faynan 16 between the mountains and open lands (Finlayson).

3People also made it easier to stay in one place by beginning to sow and harvest wild plants such as barley. At Dhra’, situated in a similar location at the base of the mountains leading up to Kerak, people began to build granaries, allowing them to store the harvest and consume the grain over the rest of the year (fig. II.9).

Figure II.7 ­— Distribution of Neolithic Sites.

Figure II.7 ­— Distribution of Neolithic Sites.

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Figure II.8 ­— Shkarat Msaied PPNB small settlement with circular architecture.

Figure II.8 ­— Shkarat Msaied PPNB small settlement with circular architecture.

Drawing Moritz Kinsel

5In the next period (the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B, 8550‑6300 BC) the wild animals and plants that had been increasing controlled, gradually became domesticated, and the old geographical positions were no longer required. Settlements spread over much of Jordan (fig. II.7) as population rose with the new food sources. At the beginning of the period people still lived in small settlements with circular architecture, such as at Beidha and Shkarat Msaied, although this became more elaborate and solid (fig. II.8). By the end of the period, settlements had become large and densely packed, famously so at the mega sites of Ayn Ghazal and Basta, made of rectangular buildings with little space between them (fig. II.10). The rising importance of farming led people to place these large settlements along the edge of the Jordanian plateau, in a similar setting to where modern agriculture is practiced. Small sites began to appear in the arid areas of Jordan, such as the Jafr basin, where crops were probably being grown in temporary settlements, from where food may have been brought back to the large sites to help feed the rising populations (fig. II.11). By the end of the period, pastoral economies had begun to develop, with some of the population taking their animals into the arid zone, and only returning for part of the year to the permanent settlements. This development was very important for Jordanian history, as it provided the roots of the relationship between nomadic pastoralists and settled farmers.

Figure II.9 ­— PPNA Granary at Dhra’.

Figure II.9 ­— PPNA Granary at Dhra’.

Drawing Eric Casson

6The system of major sites collapsed, probably due to a combination of climate change affecting environments around these large sites that had been over exploited by a mixture of tree felling (to use as fuel for both domestic and industrial purposes, and for architecture) and goat herding to sustain the large settled populations, with no developed understanding of soil management. Around that time a new phase started (the Late Neolithic, or Pottery Neolithic, 6300-4500 BC). Again, settlement patterns changed. One significant change was that instead of the focus being on the large sites, many people dispersed into small settlements, that we can understand as agricultural villages. Another change was that people moved into more open country, such as Tell Wadi Faynan, set in the middle of what are still used as agricultural fields. Another big change to the landscape was the first real signs of what many would understand as farming, the building of terraces to hold soil, and the spreading of domestic rubbish to fertilise the soil. Some famous Jordanian sites, such as Pella, seem to have first been occupied in this period.

Figure II.10 — Ba’ja PPNB large settlement with rectangular architecture.

Figure II.10 — Ba’ja PPNB large settlement with rectangular architecture.

Drawing Moritz Kinsel

Figure II.11 ­— Sketch map showing relationship between temporary sites and large settlements.

Figure II.11 ­— Sketch map showing relationship between temporary sites and large settlements.

Table des illustrations

Titre Plate II.6 ­— Location of Wadi Faynan 16 between the mountains and open lands (Finlayson).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/4881/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 140k
Titre Figure II.7 ­— Distribution of Neolithic Sites.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/4881/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 164k
Titre Figure II.8 ­— Shkarat Msaied PPNB small settlement with circular architecture.
Crédits Drawing Moritz Kinsel
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/4881/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 124k
Titre Figure II.9 ­— PPNA Granary at Dhra’.
Crédits Drawing Eric Casson
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/4881/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 120k
Titre Figure II.10 — Ba’ja PPNB large settlement with rectangular architecture.
Crédits Drawing Moritz Kinsel
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/4881/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 36k
Titre Figure II.11 ­— Sketch map showing relationship between temporary sites and large settlements.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/4881/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 151k

© Presses de l’Ifpo, 2013

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