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Near East Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Mureybetian Culture (Pre-Pottery Neolithic A) (Syria)
c.9300 - 8600 BC

The term 'Fertile Crescent' refers to a geographical area in the Near East which arcs between the Jordan Valley of the Levant and the Euphrates and Tigris estuary. It also reaches up into southern and central Anatolia (modern Turkey), which is part of the northern Syrian zone in which true farming first seems to have occurred. It was in this Fertile Crescent that the distant effects of the most recent ice age faded perhaps the quickest, which allowed Neolithic Farmer processes to be undertaken in small but significant steps.

Moves towards full-farming went through ever-improving steps being taken towards the creation of civilisation, most notably during the Natufian period. The subsequent Khiamian accelerated the process as an early phase of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (abbreviated to PPNA). The Mureybetian appeared as a sub-phase or regional variant of the PPNA on the west bank of the Euphrates (in today's Raqqa governorate of northern Syria).

This settlement mound or tell is known as Mureybet, after which the culture is named. First settled as a Natufian site around 10,200 BC, Mureybet was initially a small village which was occupied by hunter-gatherers. While hunting remained important, wild crops were first being gathered and then cultivated as the process was gradually improved. Phases IIIA and IIIB which date between 9300-8600 BC represent the actual culture following that initial development.

The Mureybetian typically employed the use of Helwan points, sickle-blades with base fittings or a short stem and terminal retouch. In fact its tool assemblage was much like its Khiamian predecessor, but its people were learning how to farm. Other Mureybetian sites include Tell Sheikh Hassan (or Sheyk Hasan) and Jerf el Ahmar (the latter in use between 9200-8700 BC), both in northern Syria.

The site was excavated between 1964-1965 and 1971-1974 but was lost in 1976 to the rising waters of Lake Assad and the Tabqa Dam. It had been occupied until 8000 BC. During its final stages the people of Mureybet also had domesticated animals on the site as a clear signal that the Neolithic farming revolution was proceeding apace, but the site's use did not persist.

Neolithic farmers in the Levant

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The spread of Neolithic plant economies from the Near East to northwest Europe: a phylogenetic analysis, Fiona Coward, Stephen Shennan, Sue Colledge, James Conolly, & Mark Collard (Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol 35, Issue 1, January 2008, pp 42-56), from First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies, Peter Bellwood (Second Ed, Wiley-Blackwell, 2022), and from External Links: Archaeobotany: Plant Domestication, Chris Stevens & Leilani Lucas (Reference Module in Social Sciences, 2023, available via Science Direct), and The Neolithic Site of Tell Mureybet (Harvard University).)

c.9300 BC

A Levantine Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) sub-phase appears in the form of the Mureybetian culture. This is specific to the middle Euphrates region, largely within today's northern Syria. It sees Natufian hunter-gatherers progress into early PPNA wild-crop Neolithic Farmers, with animal domestication arriving later as climate conditions steadily improve.

Map of the Fertile Crescent of the Neolithic
This map shows the general area of the Fertile Crescent from where - especially along its northern edges - the origins of agricultural farming emerged between about 10,000-6000 BC (click or tap on map to view full sized)

c.9200 BC

Early constitutive elements of emerging early Neolithic Farmer practices soon merge to create sedentary communities which are increasingly reliant upon domesticated plants and animals. Around this point in time Pre-Pottery Neolithic B 'farming villages' first appear in the Euphrates valley. They rapidly spread in use throughout the Near East.

c.8800 BC

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic B culture (or PPNB) succeeds the PPNA. This not only appears in the Levant, it also quickly expands farther south, north, east (towards the Zagros Mountains), and west (into Anatolia). This is the early phase of the culture, during which the farming revolution is still finding its feet.

Mureybetian town remains
Phases 3A and 3B of the Mureybet type site date to 9300-8600 BC and represent the Mureybetian culture, a sub-phase of the PPNA which saw architecture diversify, with rectangular, multi-cellular buildings appearing next to the older round buildings of the Khiamian culture

c.8600 BC

The Levant's Mureybetian culture of Neolithic Farmers now fades into the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B, just two centuries or so after the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A had transitioned in the same direction.

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