Chalcolithic Stamp Seals

Chalcolithic Stamp Seals

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The Hamoukar Expedition

Tell Hamoukar promises to reveal important new information on the culture and history of northeastern Syria during the 4th and 3rd Millennia, BC. Work was initiated in 1999 by a joint Syrian-American expedition directed by McGuire Gibson of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and Muhammad Maktash of the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums.

The site, only eight kilometers west of the Syrian-Iraqi border, is one of the larger mounds in the Khabur River basin. The site is unusual in that it is not directly situated on a branch of the Khabur River, as are similarly-sized mounds such as Tell Leilan and Tell Brak. But its position on a major ancient route between Nineveh and Aleppo must be taken into account in assessing the reasons for its size.

Hamoukar has long been recognized as a site that should be excavated. Potsherds on the surface show that there is an occupation of the late Uruk period (c. 3500-3000 BC), as well as occupations of the earlier 4th millennium (4000-3500 BC). The city was at its greatest extent in the 3rd Millennium BC, with evidence of incised and excised Ninevite 5 pottery and ceramics that are dated by comparison with Tell Brak to the time of the Akkadian empire and the post-Akkadian period. The continuation of occupation at the site after the Akkadian period is important in light of recent suggestions that northern Syria was abandoned at the end of the Akkadian.

Remains in Area A and B point to a Late Chalcolithic settlement of about 13 hectares, in which there is evidence of cooking on an institutional scale. Stamp seals and clay sealings found in the cooking area have been interpreted as implying an administrative hierarchy with differing levels of responsibility. A substantial wall of mudbrick, which may prove to be a defensive wall, was found in Area A in Late Chalcolithic levels. Above the Late Chalcolithic in both Areas A and B were remains of late Uruk date, including a range of ceramics (beveled rim bowls, four-lugged vessels, conical cups, handled cups, etc.) and two cylinder seal impressions.

The expedition expects to be in the field for its second campaign from August through October, 2000. Goals for the upcoming season are (a) to build an expedition house on the site, (b) to expose a good part of a temple of the late 3rd Millennium in Area C, (c) to investigate a very early 4th Millennium settlement that covers a very large area of the fields to the south of the main tell. Future seasons will see a return to the upper levels of Area A, to expose 3rd Millennium and late Uruk buildings there, as well as a widening and deepening of Area B, the buildings with cooking facilities.

Environmental, paleobotanical, paleozoological, and landscape studies will continue to be an integral part of the research program.

7,000-year-old seal impression marks prehistoric site as early trade hub

Amanda Borschel-Dan is The Times of Israel's Jewish World and Archaeology editor.

The ancient Beit She’an Valley village of Tel Tsaf may have been a prehistoric commercial mecca, according to a recent article published in the journal Levant.

Alongside mounting evidence of organized large-scale agricultural production, a tiny 7,000-year-old blob of clay with geometric patterns — the earliest impressed sealing discovered in the region — is giving academics new insight into what may have been one of the earliest trade hubs and administration centers in the southern Levant.

According to Hebrew University Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, the sealing was used on a grain silo door or a commodities sack or vessel much in the manner of a hair placed on a doorjamb — to catch trespassers.

“Even today, an electrical meter is sealed with a plomba [lead seal] to see if somebody has opened it and played with the numbers,” Garfkinkel explained to The Times of Israel on Thursday. “It’s an administrative device still used today — like wax and notaries’ stamps.”

The clay sealing was uncovered in a Middle Chalcolithic context (5200–4500 BCE) during excavations conducted by Garfinkel and Ariel University’s Prof. David Ben-Shlomo and Dr. Michael Freikman in 2004–2007.

According to their recently published article in Levant, “A stamped sealing from Middle Chalcolithic Tel Tsaf: implications for the rise of administrative practices in the Levant,” the Tel Tsaf sealing is “thus far, the earliest known sealing from the southern Levant dated prior to the 4th millennium BCE, with an actual seal impression.”

The authors further propose that, taken alongside previously excavated complex agricultural storage systems, the new sealing may be first evidence of a trade hub, or “administrative control of trade and transportation of goods between local communities in the same area.”

According to the researchers, the minuscule partially preserved sealing — the original bulla was at least 10 millimeters long and some 6 millimeters wide — is impressed with at least two different seals.

The researchers suggest that the use of multiple seals to impress the bulla could be an indication of a much more sophisticated administration than previously thought and “testified to the presence of representatives of two different communities during the transaction, rather than the management of stored goods within the boundaries of the same settlement.”

Clay expert Ben-Shlomo told The Times of Israel that the material used for the small seal came from approximately 10 kilometers away from the site. “Potters often travel several kilometers to take clay from a rich site,” he said. “However, it could indicate that Tel Tsaf is possibly a central site to which neighboring smaller sites brought their wares.”

Some 150 plain partial sealings were discovered at the site alongside the impressed piece. Garfinkel said that a possible next step in the research is to identify the origins of these materials as well.

According to Garfinkel, the site at Tel Tsaf is notable for its well-organized very early silos and immense storage capabilities. He said their capacity was such that there was simply too much grain to have been constructed for a single family’s consumption prior to spoilage and it was therefore a reasonable assumption that they were used in trade.

A small family could consume up to 1.5 tons of grain a year, Garfinkel explained, but at Tel Tsaf, there were multiple silos, each of which could hold up to 30 tons. Though he cautioned that due to erosion and incomplete excavation, the evidence for the village’s size is only partial, he still argued that the amount of storage space in the grain silos vastly outstripped the residents’ consumption needs.

This massive amount of grain, alongside a number of previously discovered exotic items from foreign lands, leads Garfinkel to conclude that grain was being traded for items of prestige.

“I think they [the Tel Tsaf settlers] exchanged the grain with exotic artifacts which had become status symbols at the time — all the beads, ceramics, exotic items,” he said. They were purely to exhibit wealth, he said. “They were like diamonds, you cannot eat them, cannot do anything with them… If you’re starving, even with 10 tons of gold, you’ll die.”

The very early sealing could, therefore, be indicative of a mercantile exchange.

“The appearance of the stamped sealing at Tel Tsaf may reflect the emergence of the need to claim ownership of commodities and to ensure authorized access,” write the authors. And in an era prior to the written word, “It has been proposed that the seals bearing geometric motifs were a means of identifying a person, or a group of people, within the society, or of protecting private property,” the authors write in the article.

Meet the Flintstones

Settlement at Tel Tsaf, near the Jordan River and the modern state of Jordan, dates to circa 5200-4700 BCE. The site was initially identified in the 1940s during a Beit She’an Valley archaeological survey.

The first detailed excavation took place in 1978-1980, when findings from deep probe trenches suggested that there were two occupation periods at the site: the Pottery Neolithic period and the Early Chalcolithic period. Another set of excavations was undertaken by Garfinkel, et al, between 2004 and 2007, uncovering evidence of Middle and Early Late Chalcolithic settlement. University of Haifa Prof. Danny Rosenberg, who was not part of the study, has been excavating at Tel Tsaf since 2013.

Discovery of large-scale food storage suggests that the ancient people had reached an early formative stage in the development of human society. Excavations at Tel Tsaf have also unearthed well-preserved mudbrick architecture and evidence of long-distance trade. In 2014, archaeologists unveiled a 7,000-year-old copper awl, one of the earliest metal object yet found in the Middle East.

Rosenberg told The Time of Israel that there is “much evidence that the site was a hub for long-distance trade.”

“Tel Tsaf is unique in its accumulation of wealth and the storage and use of early bureaucracy,” said Rosenberg.

Rosenberg said that while his overarching interpretations of the site may differ from those of Garfinkel, he too has noted that the site exhibits an accumulation of wealth — mainly grain — and he sees that the Tel Tsaf community was engaged in far-flung trade, including “contacts with communities far away from Egypt, eastern Jordan, northern Levant and even beyond that.”

“Definitely something is going on and we think that Tsaf is the earliest evidence for increasing complexity if you like, maybe a move from the old Chalcolithic, early Chalcolithic way of life into something which later will be much more pronounced in terms of social complexity — social and economic complexity — that we’ll see in the late Chalcolithic, a few hundred years later,” said Rosenberg.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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Daimabad’s Mystery Man

The Dancing girl of Mohenjo-daro is perhaps the most famous icon of the Harappan civilization. The priest-king, also of Mohenjo-daro is a close second – with his officious expression and embossed robes. But have you heard of the Daimabad man, who has foxed historians, archaeologists, and Indologists for long? Enigmatic, authoritative, and unique, this symbol of a lesser known, but as old, settlement further south, in Maharashtra is fascinating. More so because many believe that this may have been one of the oldest depictions of Shiva!

Daimabad is a Chalcolithic or copper age site (2200-1000 BCE) on the left bank of Pravara, a tributary of the Godavari in the Ahmednagar district of present-day Maharashtra. The site was discovered by archaeologist BP Bopardikar in 1956 and the site was excavated three times in the span of two decades. The findings created a stir. Daimabad turned out to be the largest chalcolithic site in Maharashtra and evidence showed that the last inhabitant who lived there, deserted the site at the beginning of the 1st millennium BCE. The site had been untouched by human habitation since then!

One of the most significant discoveries at the site is what has come to be known as the Daimabad man, a bronze sculpture of a man riding a chariot drawn by bulls. Around 45 cm long and 16 cm wide, the sculpture is detailed. It depicts a man riding an elaborate chariot yoked with two bulls. The two wheels of the chariot are solid and there is dog standing on the central pole just in front of the man. The platform on which the man rises is truncated and oval in shape and on either side of the man is a pair of birds facing opposite directions. Stylistically these are related to the terracotta bird whistles found in Harappan sites.

Daimabad man could have been a representation of a proto phallic cult – perhaps even the early depiction of a deity that became Shiva!

Interestingly the Daimabad man and other sculptures discovered in the site, didn’t come to light during the excavations. They were found later when locals of the Bhil community were digging out roots of a tree for firewood. There has of course been a lot of discussion on the sculpture. Eminent Archaeologist, the late MK Dhavaliaker who worked on the bronze sculptures of Daimabad has described the 16 cm sculpture as that of a man who was probably a proto-Australiod, similar to the terracotta figurines found in Kalibangan, a contemporary Harappan site. The man has a broad, snub nose with wide nostrils and a thick and protruding his lower lip. His hair is gathered at the back in a sort of elongated roll, but he looks more like a bald man with thick masses of hair on the side and at the back of his head.

Interestingly, he is shown without any lower garment but there is a vertical projection of the lower abdomen, shaped like a hooded cobra. There are different views on whether it was part of a lower garment, or was it a phallic symbol. The latter has led some to suggest that this could have been a representation of a proto – phallic cult – perhaps even the early depiction of a deity that became Shiva!

Given that copper was an extremely scarce commodity in the Chalcolithic period, there is little doubt that the Daimabad man, made of copper, had a religious significance. Prof MK Dhavalikar himself opined that the Daimabad man riding a bull driven chariot is the precursor of Pashupati (the lord of the Beast), similar to the one depicted in a seal found form Mohenjo-daro. This famous seal shows a man sitting crossed leg and surrounded by animals. Another aspect that links the Daimabad man to Shiva is the fact that his chariot is driven by bulls – after all, Shiva is associated with Nandi, his bull.

There are various theories of how the Daimabad man reached so far away from Harappan sites, further north. One view that archaeologists are taking is that the wider spread chalcolithic sites co-existed with Harappan sites and by the late Harappan period there was a fair amount of interaction between them. The ‘Pashupati cult’ could have been introduced in these exchanges.

The Daimabad Man was part of a hoard of four bronzes found in Daimabad. The others depict a variety of animals, including an elephant, a rhinoceros and a water buffalo indicate the workmanship of the sculptors of the period, living in this forlorn site. All the bronzes are presently housed at the National Museum in Delhi. But the haunting sculpture of the Daimabad Man astride a chariot – reflects far more – it is a peep into the life, times and belief of a community – frozen in time.

7,000-Year-Old Seal Impression Found in Israel Offers Clues to Prehistoric Trade

Archaeologists conducting excavations at the prehistoric Israeli village of Tel Tsaf have uncovered a 7,000-year-old piece of clay bearing the impressions of at least two seals inscribed with geometric patterns. The object is the oldest of its kind found in the southern Levant to date and may point to Tel Tsaf’s status as a bustling administrative hub.

As Amanda Borschel-Dan reports for the Times of Israel, the seal impression is one of around 150 discovered at the site between 2004 and 2007. Of these so-called sealings, or bulla, only one—the specimen newly detailed in the journal Levant—was stamped with a design the rest served a similar purpose but were essentially just small lumps of unembellished clay.

The seal impression’s owner likely used it to mark a shipment or secure a grain silo door shut. If the sealing was later found broken, the person would know that someone had disturbed their property.

“Even today, similar types of sealing are used to prevent tampering and theft,” says study co-author Yosef Garfinkel, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in a statement. “It turns out that this was already in use 7,000 years ago by landowners and local administrators to protect their property.”

Per the study, the sealing dates to the Middle Chalcolithic period (5200� B.C.) and was originally part of a larger object. One of the surviving fragment’s sides features a long line running lengthwise, with shorter strokes intersecting diagonally, while the other sports parallel zigzag lines. According to Rossella Tercatin of the Jerusalem Post, the fact that the bulla contains multiple impressions could indicate it was stamped by two people coordinating a transaction.

Tel Tsaf's residents may have used seal impressions to seal grain silos (pictured here). (Boaz Garfinkel)

The age and design of the artifact suggests that Tel Tsaf may have been one of the first trade hubs in the southern Levant. As co-author David Ben-Shlomo of Ariel University tells the Times, the material used to craft the sealing originated in an area more than 6 miles away from the settlement.

“Potters often travel several kilometers to take clay from a rich site,” he adds. “However, it could indicate that Tel Tsaf is possibly a central site to which neighboring smaller sites brought their wares.”

Though researchers in the region have previously discovered seals dating back 8,500 years, no seal impressions from that era had been found until now. The fact that the sealing came from so far away may indicate it was used to seal a portable container brought to Tel Tsaf by a passing merchant, reports Ruth Schuster for Haaretz. Other artifacts unearthed in the village, from Egyptian shells to Turkish obsidian to Mesopotamian pottery, further testify to its thriving exchange networks.

“There is no prehistoric site anywhere in the Middle East that reveals evidence of such long-distance trade in exotic items as what we found at this particular site,” says Garfinkel in the statement.

The Tel Tsaf sealing’s discovery hints at an early form of administration that predates the development of writing. Most more recent seal impressions found in the region include script, such as the bearers’ names, according to the statement.

As Jesse Holth writes for ARTnews, excavations at Tel Tsaf have previously revealed ceramics, beads, shells, animal remains, flints and a clay figure resembling a dog. In one grave, researchers found the body a woman buried alongside a metal awl, obsidian beads and a belt adorned with 1,668 ostrich eggshell beads.

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Chalcolithic Stamp Seals - History

32 seals illustrated here were mainly coming from the James Mellaart's excavation which took place during the first half of the 60's. 4 of them are coming from the ongoing excavation in Çatalhöyük. The majority of clay seals are from Level II,III,IV,VI ,one from Level VII. So far 20 seals were published by J. Mellaart (Mellaart,1964,p.96-98) as giving its details. Whereas 8 more examples (one is fragmentary) have not been published somehow , only some of them can be seen in other books as photo beside the others. They are for the first time coming up in this publication. My first aim is to publish what we have got known as seals from Çatalhöyük owing to the permission given by Ministry of Culture of Turkey to make research in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. Therefore, the seals could be examined meticulously so as to take their photos and present them in 1/1 size drawings in a more detailed way.

These seals are made of baked clay and bear incised ornaments with many different shapes apart from the classical shapes known from other Levant & S.E European neolithic stamp seals (i.e Balkans). Despite the dominant form is flat faced round (or elliptical) base with conical or rounded apex (sometimes pierced) as handle. Some of them show interesting forms which are very unique to Çatalhöyük.This eccentric forms make them us more suspicious about their functions suggested before in other publications. The function will be discussed later in detail.

Firstly, a typological analysis and description will be essential before the discussion to re-examine all material with the new ones discovered in Ankara A. M. Muzesi.The shape and incised patterns on the facesides are two indicators to understand the relevant function and meaning behind the concepts which constitutes the patterns( or symbols).
The forms of the seals could be divided into 4 groups as following:

    1, Classic stamp seal forms : These are mainly stamps which have oval, elliptical(or sub-rectangular) base with conical or rounded apex as handles .Some handles are perforated (, These forms consist of main repertoire of the Neolithic seals from Levant and Balkans.

2, Drilled forms: These objectsNos,1,7,8,13 are drilled right from the center. The shapes recall wristguards or stone-polishers . They are sub-rectangular or round, drilled at the center of the face-side, in shape. They might be used as pendants. When we think their slightly curving edges and shallow carved patterns. It is hard to think of them as stamp-seals. Especially one of them can not be seal, its form (very rounded ) and its grid pattern (very smooth incision which does not leave any mark) are definitely not suitable for stamping. In fact , these objects which are sharing same patterns (pseudo-meanders), should be considered another assemblage for another purpose.

    4, Floral form : The form with 4 leaf panels (quatrefoil) recalls a floral design which is also seen on many wall paintings in Çatalhöyük (Mellaart,J,1967,Pl,29,31,33,34). The same pattern can be seen in L.Neolithic Hacilar bowls( Mellaart,J,1970,Vol.I,ps,58,61,65) and on many wall paintings from the east wall of shrine VI.B.I and shrine A.III.8 as floral symbols.
    1) Pseudo-meander patterns : Especially these patterns, Nos.4,6,7,8,9,10,11,20 make the majority group of the patterns among the seals. They are subject of great interest .They can be traced up to Early Chalcolithic Anatolian assemblages and Early and Late Balkan Neolithic cultures. In Chalcolithic Anatolia, a millennium later, the same pseudo-meander(The regular meanders with dots in the center) forms reappear in CanHasanI wallpaintings (French,D1962,Pl II, Fig 9-4) and pottery, In Hacilar, Chalcolithic Seals of IIB, 5480-5250 B.C, ( of a bit distorted style) shows the continuity of this tradition right from Çatalhöyük until Middle Chalcolithic in Anatolia. According Mellaart, Chalcolithic pottery with bold curvilinear ornaments in fantastic style owes its origins to the meandroid patterns of the C.H seals.
    These patterns are frequently seen in every major category of the Çatalhöyük seals. Moreover. No.6 is much noteworthy with its two curving figures confronting each other. Inevitably, it seems likely to be the main concept behind the pseudo-meander patterning.
    The meaning behind this repetitive design which occurs on pottery , wallpaintings and later seals, should be investigated within the character of abstract, symbolist Neolithic art .

2) Spirals : These ones,no.21,22, shows spiral on the seal face with a conical handles rising from the base. Face bears deep and wide engraved channel of simple clockwise spiral. These patterns which are very common in Balkan Neolithic seals , makes very close parallels with the ones from E.Neolithic Nea Nikomedia in Greece, Karanovo I-II sites Azmaska, Kirdzali in Bulgaria (J.Makkay,1984) The deep carved ones from N.Nikomedia are especially noteworthy. It should not be forgotten that these cultures are slightly later than Çatalhöyük!


When the shapes and form of the patterns are examined, we encounter with the abundance of the forms and patterns. Naturally, these combinations are forcing me to think of some "stamp-seals" even beyond its true function as "seal". So, 2 possible category can be considered for the seals as follows below.

1) STAMPING or AS SEAL: The majority of "seals" seem to be used on stamping However, we do not have any sealing, despite the recent excavations for 5 years, or any positive evidence which can show on which material were they applied. But it should not mean that these may not be discussed. We have still interesting evidence from Çatalhöyük itself and from other relatively late Neolithic settlements.
Firstly, the flat sided seals might be considered to be applied onto textile if we think the textile works existed once in Çatalhöyük. Besides that, wooden stamps are still used or painting textiles by using vegetable dyes ( basma in Turkish means stamping) in Anatolia, especially in Central Anatolia, and the Near East. Here the question arises, were these textiles ornamented with vegetable dyes by Çatalhöyük folk? Unfortunately, vegetable dyes are fugitive (i.e organic remains) and carbonized material does not preserve color. Although some white or black spots can be distinguished on some seals,nos.7,12, by naked eye, We can not make any decisions about it. So, they need chemical analysis inevitably. These spots can be remains of either stamp's own painted itself or its application on textile.
Mellaart pointed out " such stamp seals become extremely common in Level , from which no wall paintings have so far been recovered. Did Stamped cloth hangings take the place of textile paintings in the earlier shrines ?"(J,Mellaart,1964,p.97) But, when we examine the number of seals related to their levels, the result contradicts with Mellaart's. Because, the majority of seals coming from Level IV which the wallpaintings are seen in 5 shrines!

On the other hand, they might have been applied on textile bags to show ownership or classify them , still used on tea or wheat bags in Turkey.

Second, some small cylindyrical stamps Nos. 25,26 contradicts the seal use with their smooth patterns which does not leave a recognizable mark or trace even on clay. Their shapes and patterns are as if they were made roughly and gropingly. They look like the ones from The Near East. I think, they ,probably, were being used as "calculi" as a counting device. However, the clay balls in uniform size can be considered within this "calculi" system as well. They might have been in use for quantities of grain and livestock. In other words, the earliest tokens probably recorded the most basic staples. A wider argument was made by Denise-Schmandt-Besserat(D,S,Besserat,1997,p151-156)

Their context are another subject of matter Especially, the ones coming from burials,Nos.16,23, are noteworthy. They were found in lesser male burials in Level IV and VI , Here the question arises , are they signs of male gender which have the control of the resources in Çatalhöyük, It is hard to answer exactly how they can be associated with male or beyond it, power situation in Çatalhöyük. I think , they will give the best answer If they come up in burials in future excavations, So far, they are only two seals from burials

Pittman, Holly. Mesopotamian intraregional relations reflected through glyphic evidence in the Late Chalcolithic 1-5 periods

Publication Information The main body of the Publication Information page contains all the metadata that HRAF holds for that document.

Author: Author's name as listed in Library of Congress records Pittman, Holly

Title: Mesopotamian intraregional relations reflected through glyphic evidence in the Late Chalcolithic 1-5 periods

Published in: if part or section of a book or monograph Uruk Mesopotamia & its neighbors : cross-cultural interactions in the era of state formation, edited by Mitchell S. Rothman

Published By: Original publisher Uruk Mesopotamia & its neighbors : cross-cultural interactions in the era of state formation, edited by Mitchell S. Rothman Sante Fe, NM: School of American Research Press. 2001. 403-443 p. ill.

By line: Author's name as appearing in the actual publication Holly Pittman

HRAF Publication Information: New Haven, Conn.: Human Relations Area Files, 2000. Computer File

Culture: Culture name from the Outline of World Cultures (OWC) with the alphanumberic OWC identifier in parenthesis. Late Chalcolithic Mesopotamia (MH60)

Subjects: Document-level OCM identifiers given by the anthropology subject indexers at HRAF Writing (212) Property in movables (422) Visual arts (5311)

Abstract: Brief abstract written by HRAF anthropologists who have done the subject indexing for the document In this article Pittman turns to the study of seals and sealing in the greater Mesopotamian region, primarily differences, if they exist, between the northern and southern regions. She shows that her analysis of the use of glyptics and glyptic style indicates that no subregion was more advanced than any other in the Mesopotamian tradition. 'In addition , she notes that the various subregion traditions were never 'eradicated.' Further, only northern societies emulated southern designs, Northern seal types are, however, found in the south. To the degree that sealing represents administrative technology, much more refinement and elaboration occurred in the south than in the north. She sees in the process of emulation distinct changes in the favored routes of interaction, the Euphrates route having been most active in the LC 3 [Late Chalcolithic 3] period, the Tigris route in the LC4 [Late Chalcolithic 4], and again the Euphrates route in the LC5 [Late Chalcolithic 5]' (Rothman, 2001, no. 18, 22).

Document Number: HRAF's in-house numbering system derived from the processing order of documents 28

Document ID: HRAF's unique document identifier. The first part is the OWC identifier and the second part is the document number in three digits. mh60-028

Document Type: May include journal articles, essays, collections of essays, monographs or chapters/parts of monographs. Essay

Language: Language that the document is written in English

Note: For bibliographical references see document 17:Rothman

Field Date: The date the researcher conducted the fieldwork or archival research that produced the document no date

Evaluation: In this alphanumeric code, the first part designates the type of person writing the document, e.g. Ethnographer, Missionary, Archaeologist, Folklorist, Linguist, Indigene, and so on. The second part is a ranking done by HRAF anthropologists based on the strength of the source material on a scale of 1 to 5, as follows: 1 - poor 2 - fair 3 - good, useful data, but not uniformly excellent 4 - excellent secondary data 5 - excellent primary data Archaeologist-4

Analyst: The HRAF anthropologist who subject indexed the document and prepared other materials for the eHRAF culture/tradition collection. John Beierle 2007

Coverage Date: The date or dates that the information in the document pertains to (often not the same as the field date). 6000-5000 BP (4000-3000 BC)

Coverage Place: Location of the research culture or tradition (often a smaller unit such as a band, community, or archaeological site)

Greater Mesopotamia (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey)

LCSH: Library of Congress Subject Headings Middle East--Civilization--To 622/Erech (Extinct city)

Copy and paste a formatted citation or use one of the links below to export the citation to your chosen bibliographic manager.

Building a Reconstructed Chalcolithic Roundhouse on Cyprus

The area around the village of Kissonerga near Paphos, Cyprus, is rich in prehistoric remains but these small-scale and dispersed sites are often difficult for the general visitor to appreciate. In order to increase understanding of their archaeology and raise awareness of their cultural heritage issues, there is a major project in progress under the directorship of Lindy Crewe of the University of Manchester to integrate the archaeology of Kissonerga into an accessible narrative and to tell the story of its communities over 10,000 years of occupation.

Stage 1 of the project is to build a replica of a Chalcolithic roundhouse for both educational and tourism purposes. The building is located within the roofed and fenced visitor area of the site of Kissonerga-Mosphilia, excavated by Professor Edgar Peltenburg of the University of Edinburgh from 1979 to 1992. The site was one of the largest and most important Chalcolithic settlements on the island, dating from around 4,000 to 2,400 B.C.

Lindy Crewe and her research team chose to reconstruct Building 3, which dates to the Late Chalcolithic period (around 2800–2400 B.C.). This building is also known as the “Pithos House” as it contained an unprecedented number of large storage vessels and is of international renown, discussed widely in archaeological literature (excavated and published by Edgar Peltenburg [1998]). At nine meters in diameter, the Pithos House is the largest Late Chalcolithic building on Cyprus and there are several additional features that make this structure an ideal choice for bringing the story of Chalcolithic Kissonerga to life.

First, the Pithos House was destroyed by fire, leaving a uniquely rich assemblage of goods preserved on the floor, as shown in the illustration (Image 2). There were around 280 objects within the building, along with the remains of an infant. In addition to at least 37 storage vessels, other finds included exotic faience beads, evidence for copper-working, and one of only two stamp seals known from this period. The fire also left evidence of the different activities undertaken by the people using the roundhouse. These include tool manufacture, food and liquid preparation and consumption, and, possibly, the earliest-known olive press on the island. The fierceness of the fire suggests that many of the storage vessels may have contained olive oil. There is no doubt that the Pithos House was a building of a special nature, perhaps providing evidence for privileged access to resources by some sectors of Chalcolithic society. The Pithos House is also one of the visible and well-preserved structures within the fenced area at the site, allowing visitors simultaneously to view the archaeological foundations and experience being inside a prehistoric roundhouse.

The building reconstruction, using experimental archaeological and traditional techniques, has been funded by the A.G. Leventis Foundation, the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, and the Kissonerga Village Council. Paul Croft began building during the Easter break in March and April 2010, with help from archaeology undergraduates and volunteers from the Paphos area. In Image 1, you can see the mud and stone foundation completed, ready to add the mud walls and the timber, soil, and brush roof over the summer.

An innovative aspect of the project will be the accompanying computer reconstruction and documentary film, which were funded by an AIA Site Preservation Grant. This additional element will allow Lindy Crewe and her research team to widely disseminate the project via the Internet and through museums and schools. Matthew Dalton, who is responsible for the computer reconstruction, has now photographed all of the artifacts from the house and has begun the task of digitally rendering each one. They will be placed into their find spots and depict how the building appeared prior to destruction. The images show a ground stone ax and pottery bowl, computer-rendered in 3-D and with added textures. In addition to serving as an interactive digital resource, large color posters will be affixed to the reconstructed building’s interior, providing an extra dimension to the visitor experience.

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