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Near East Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Wadi Rabah Culture (Pottery Neolithic B) (Levant)
c.5200 - 4400 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). In turn the PPNA evolved into the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B culture (or PPNB).

The Yarmukian was one of several localised cultures which witnessed an early arrival of the Pottery Neolithic. This general cultural period succeeded the PPNB after that had been adversely affected by a climate-related event. Labelled the '8.2 kiloyear event' this is dated to 6200-6000 BC and is a recognised climatic cooling event which persisted for two hundred years. When it relented it provided a climatic bounce-back which triggered the start of the Pottery Neolithic.

Alongside the Yarmukian was the highly similar Lodian culture, or Jericho IX. As the alternative name suggests, this was focussed on the ancient city of Jericho which had been inhabited since about 9000 BC. The Wadi Rabah culture was the direct successor to the Lodian in and around Jericho. The word 'wadi' means 'valley', so the cultural name could be translated as 'Raba' or the Rabah valley culture. Artefacts have also been found at Megiddo, which had previously been a Yarmukian centre.

Only a few sites have been discovered to show the extent of this culture. It does seem to have covered a smaller area than the cultures it succeeded, presumably with the more generalised Pottery Neolithic dominating elsewhere. Rectangular structures have been unearthed at sites which could be dwellings. Larger versions have been found at Munhata, Wadi Rabah, and Ein el-Jarba, each possibly centred on a private courtyard. Perhaps the largest single site was Ein Zippori, with finds being reported in a 2012 press release (via Heritage Daily amongst others).

Neolithic farmers in the Levant

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies, Peter Bellwood (Second Ed, Wiley-Blackwell, 2022), and from External Links: Tracing the Origin and Spread of Agriculture in Europe, Ron Pinhasi, Joaquim Fort, & Albert J Ammerman (PLOS Biology, published online 29 Nov 2005), and Archaeobotany: Plant Domestication, Chris Stevens & Leilani Lucas (Reference Module in Social Sciences, 2023, available via Science Direct), and Wadi Rabah Culture finds discovered at Ein Zippori (Heritage Daily).)

c.5200 BC

The Pottery Neolithic of the Fertile Crescent most firmly arrives in the Nile region. The Fayum A culture there is the local expression of Neolithic farming practises from the Near East. At about the same time the Wadi Rabah Pottery Neolithic B culture emerges in the Levant to succeed at a distance the Lodian and Yarmukian cultures.

A tablet from the Wadi Rabah culture of Jericho
Jacob Kaplan in the late 1950s recognised the Wadi Rabah culture as a distinct cultural entity of the southern Levant, and suggested possible interconnections to the northern Levant, Mesopotamia, and Egypt

c.5000 BC

A re-inhabited Jericho of the Wadi Rabah culture begins to display a degree of influence from developments which have been taking place in the north. There, in Syria, an ever-increasing number of villages have already appeared. These are still Neolithic but are now marked by the use of pottery.

Jericho's first pottery users live relatively primitive lives compared to those of the first two waves of settlement (the PPN phases). They occupy simple huts which are sunk into the ground, probably being pastoralists for the most part. Occupation remains sparse and possibly intermittent for the next two millennia, possibly also with these pastoralists using the site on a seasonal basis.

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.4500 BC

The discovery of copper metallurgy has developed into an industry which can be used as part of everyday life. This now heralds the start of a regional Chalcolithic or 'Copper Age'. The Wadi Rabah culture soon begins to follow this transition.

c.4400 BC

 The Pottery Neolithic Wadi Rabah culture in the Levant and, especially, around Jericho, transitions into the Ghassulian culture of Chalcolithic Canaan and lower Syria.

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