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Near East Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Early Near East

The pre-history of the Near East is a long and largely uncertain period in which small windows of opportunity to view events can be gained through archaeology. Masses of material are found each year by archaeologists, and a system was long ago needed to help organise all these findings.

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 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). Archaeological cultures remain the framework for global prehistory.

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).

Fresh cultures would replace the original wave, and fragmentation would occur as developments took place at differing rates and with local customisations. The Levant was the earliest area within the Near East to develop an identity of its own, with a series of cultures which start with the Antelian.

Anatolian relief

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from A Genetic Signal of Central European Celtic Ancestry, David K Faux, and Investigating Archaeological Cultures: Material Culture, Variability, and Transmission, Benjamin W Roberts & Marc Vander Linden (Eds).)


King list Mousterian Culture
(c.600,000 - 40,000 BC)

This Middle Palaeolithic Neanderthal-led culture incorporated the Afro-Eurasian region (northern Africa, the Near East, and Europe), along with early humans.

King list Levantine Cultures
(c.100,000 - 6000 BC)

The first culture which can be ascribed to the Levant alone was one which did not contain African influences, and a series of cultures followed that.

King list Far East Cultures
(c.70,000 BC)

Asia's Palaeolithic period is one of gradually encroaching human activity from the coastal regions towards the vast inland areas, starting with India.

King list European Cultures
(c.48,000 BC)

Europe's first modern human culture bridge the divide between the Neanderthal Mousterian and the Aurignacian.

King list Baradostian Culture
(c.36,000 - 18,000 BC)

Due to the paucity of archaeological remains from this period, the emergence of the Baradostian is not well understood, and neither are its possibly-Neanderthal origins.

King list Zarzian Culture
(c.18,000 - 8000 BC)

The Zarzian culture appeared in northern Mesopotamia and eastern Anatolia while the Levantine Aurignacian was being replaced by the Kebaran.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.