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Abstract

Using recently excavated material from the large Chalcolithic site of Tell Zeidan, Syria, this dissertation considers a new approach to one of the most debated questions in the field of Prehistoric Near Eastern Archaeology today—how did formal, multi-tier social hierarchies first develop in ancient Mesopotamia in the late 5th millennium BC (Late Chalcolithic 2 period). In order to understand this issue, I propose that the answer lies in the time leading up to that change—the Late Ubaid and Late Chalcolithic 1 (LC 1) periods (mid-5th millennium BC)—the former yielding innovations in various aspects of the craft and subsistence economies that allowed for a wider range of socioeconomic and sociopolitical strategies in the latter. , While the Ubaid period has been a major focus of archaeological study for decades, only recently has the poorly-known LC 1 period received attention as a key source of data for discussing the development of social complexity. Based on recent fieldwork and the development of new, more locally-focused chronologies, we can now identify roughly 80 sites in Greater Mesopotamia as dating to the LC 1. Building off of this reassessment, this dissertation explores concepts such as the impact of what I call “instrumental innovations” in the Ubaid period on the range of potential economic strategies in the LC 1 period, and this proposed sequence of development can provide a new path toward understanding a major shift in the sociopolitical organization of Mesopotamian society. I document an integral part this shift—the middle—by reevaluating the available data for the LC 1 period and by examining craft production, subsistence strategies, and degree of sociocultural cohesion at one of the largest LC 1 sites ever excavated, Tell Zeidan.

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