By the mid-sixth millennium the third of the
Neolithic Mesopotamian farming cultures had appeared, this time
in northern Mesopotamia. The Halaf culture (5500-4500 BC) was named
after the site of Tell Halaf, in the Khabur Valley in north-eastern
Syria, where it was first identified.
It was centred on northern Mesopotamia between Lake
Van and Samarra (south of modern Tikrit in Iraq), filling the gap
between the Tigris and the Zagros Mountains, but initially it
extended little further west than that.
The arrival of Halaf culture
Halaf was unrelated to earlier north
Mesopotamian cultures, and may represent the arrival of new settlers
from outside the region. For its first few centuries, it was
concentrated to the east of the Euphrates, before it began spreading
west into northern Syria towards the footsteps of the Taurus
To date, no Halaf settlement has been extensively
excavated but some individual buildings have been uncovered. Tell
Aswad (in the Balikh Valley in Syria) and also perhaps Chagar Bazar
saw the transition into the Halaf, while many other settlements in
this region such as Tel Aqab and Tepe Gawra were probably first
occupied during this period. Tell Brak is another of these, though
it is possible it was first settled in an earlier period.
Architecture and burials
Its architecture was distinctive, characterised by
domed round-houses built of sun-dried clay, the largest exceeding ten
metres in diameter. Among the best-known Halaf sites are Arpachiyah,
Sabi Abyad (south-east of Yunus and outside the main Halaf coverage
area), and Yarim Tepe, small agricultural villages with distinctive
buildings which are perhaps inaccurately known as tholoi in
reference to much later Greek structures.