History Files

Near East Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Early Levant

FeatureThe system which has evolved to catalogue the various archaeological expressions of human progress is one which involves cultures. For well over a century, archaeological cultures have remained the framework for global prehistory. The earliest cultures which emerge from Africa and the Near East are perhaps the easiest to catalogue, right up until human expansion reaches the Americas. The task of cataloguing that vast range of human cultures is covered in the related feature (see link, right).

The earliest cultures of the Near East are perhaps the easiest to catalogue. These include the near-universally widespread Mousterian culture which reached Africa and Europe as the immediate predecessor of the first wholly Homo sapiens-driven cultures, the Baradostian and Emireh.

FeatureThe latter is especially interesting as it charts human progress after around 25,000 BC, roughly around the time at which the most recent ice age was building to a peak (very severely in Europe and less so in Central Asia, although routes into Siberia and the Americas would long remain difficult to access), and around the time that the last of Europe's Neanderthals were dying out (see feature link).

IndexNow humans had no cultural competition except from other humans, provided of course that they could survive another fifteen thousand years of ice age (see the 'Prehistoric World' index for information on pre-modern human Earth, via the link on the right).

The Emireh has no recognisable African influences, potentially making it the Levant's first home-grown culture. Furthermore, it is generally seen as a transition culture which bridged the gap between the Neanderthal-originated Mousterian and later, wholly Homo sapiens cultures. The similar and contemporary Bohunician in Europe has the same footing. It is also central to the idea of a Levantine corridor through which early human groups accessed Europe from around 48,000 BC.

However, a good deal of debate and disagreement about the Emireh's precise role, nature, and timeline remains after many decades of disagreement. Although it was eventually succeeded by the Ahmarian culture, its influences can also be seen in the subsequent Levantine Aurignacian, the first of a series of specifically Levantine cultures which would lead directly to the Neolithic Farmer revolution in the Fertile Crescent.

Anatolian relief

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Makers of the Early Aurignacian of Europe, Steven E Churchill & Fred H Smith (Yearbook of Physical Anthropology Vol 43:61-115 (2000)), from The Palaeolithic Prehistory of the Zagros-Taurus, Harold L Dibble, and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Encyclopaedia of Human Evolution and Prehistory, Second Edition, N Benco, A S Brooks, E Delson, C Kramer, & J J Shea (PDF Extract, 2000), and Makers of the Early Aurignacian of Europe, Steven E Churchill & Fred H Smith (2000).)


King list Emireh Culture
(c.100,000 - 30,000 BC)

The relationship between the older Emireh and the later Baradostian remains unclear, with flint spear tips and other tools all seemingly locally designed.

King list Ahmarian Culture
(c.46,000 - 42,000 BC)

The Ahmarian has often been regarded as a precursor of the proto-Aurignacian in arguments which support the occurrence of a human cultural spread into Europe.

King list Levantine Aurignacian
(c.30,000 - 18,000 BC)

The Levantine Aurignacian set the scene for a series of specifically Levantine cultures, being closely connected to the inlux of humans into Europe.

King list Kebaran Culture
(c.18,000 - 12,500 BC)

After about 15,000 BC the climate improved enough to allow the Kebaran to flourish in the southern Levant, with a type site at Kebara cave.

King list Natufian Culture
(c.12,500 - 9700 BC)

The Epi-Palaeolithic is the bridge between the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic in the Near East, also sometimes being referred to as the proto-Neolithic.

King list Shepherd Neolithic
(c.10,200 - 8800 BC)

This style or industry of Lebanon could be a localised expression of the Natufian culture, as a filler ahead of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A.

King list Near East Neolithic
(c.9700 BC)

The Near East's Neolithic farming revolution emerged in small steps which were taken during the Natufian culture, making this the first Neolithic culture.

King list Harifian Culture
(c.8800 - 8000 BC)

This was a specialised regional Epi-Palaeolithic development in the Negev Desert, the region's version of the recently-faded Natufian.

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