Abu Hureyra

Upstream some 200 km from Bouqras, was Abu Hureyra. At 11.5 ha, this was the largest pre-pottery settlement known from Syria during the span 9,600-9,200bp. Andrew Moore reports finding mud-brick houses of similar style across the entire mound. He describes them as having "several rooms and were separated from each other, even if only by narrow passages and courts. The rooms were always small, no more than from 1.4 to 2 m. wide and 3 to 4 m. long." Some houses may have had lofts supported by poles socketed into the tops of the mud-brick walls (Moore 1975:60). He notes that the settlement was densely crowded and may have held many thousands of inhabitants, with a consequent need for some form of "community government to regulate not only affairs between families but also to oversee the well-being of the community as a whole, to apportion rights of land around the settlement and even to arrange simple irrigation works" (Moore 1981:450).0ther contemporary sites along the Euphrates were much smaller, and Moore raises the interesting possibility that Abu Hureyra may have been a "regionalcenter"(Moore 1975:69).

The preliminary reports on this site do not differentiate between buildings that date to the various periods, but only illustrate what we must assume are typical houses of the "Neolithic 2" or latest PPNB (a span he estimates to cover 9,600-8,000bp). Some of these houses are smaller and have a simpler layout than those from Bouqras. The only complete house plan illustrated from Abu Hureyra shows a structure with five "rooms" arranged in a long rectangle (Figure lm) (Moore 1981: Figure 2c). Another structure has a sleeping platform and oven in one of its rooms (Moore 1981:Plates 1,21, but most buildings appear to have lacked such features. On the other hand, small segments of architecture retrieved from other narrow trenches suggest the kind of room arrangements typical of Bouqras (Moore 1981:Figure 2a, b). None of the 162 burials examined displayed unusual signs of status, and some, in keeping with PPNB practices, lacked skulls (Moore 1975:61). In sum, the evidence presented reflects a stable community founded on agriculture (or intensive collecting of cereals, legumes, and pulses) and hunting that later incorporated domestic herds of sheep. As with Bouqras, the family residence was the module, although perhaps it housed fewer people, ifthe single house illustrated is typical. At this stage of our understanding there is no obvious indication of communal facilities, cultic activities, or status differences. We must bear in mind, however, that very little of Abu Hureyra was excavated.

The situation at Abu Hureyra may have been similar to that at Bouqras— a locally propitious place for a settlement at the edge of the steppe and the alluvial river plain. Abu Hureyra receives 50 mm more precipitation than

Bouqras, although such a total does not support predictable agriculture today. The bottom of a nearby wadi may have facilitated either agriculture or harvesting of wild crops and the site was in the migratory range of gazelles whose abundance sustained the inhabitants for well over 1,000years. These two sites on the Euphrates would seem to argue for the importance of ecological opportunity in the establishment of large settlements during the Early Neolithic. Other known sites in the same general region are all very much smaller, and it remains to be determined whether environmental factors could account for the size differences.


Cayonu, in southeastern Anatolia, covers an area of 2-3 ha, about the same as Bouqras and much smaller than Abu Hureyra. The site was occupied for more than 1,500 years (ca. 10,300-8700bp) during which some twenty-five building levels have been discerned; there is no implication that the entire site was ever occupied simultaneously. In no sense, then, can the site be said to be "large" in comparison with a number of other roughly contemporary sites. Nevertheless, Cayonu—unlike either Bouqras or Abu Hureyra— has a variety of architecture that surely indicates activities that are not simply domestic, as well as some differentiation among the domestic structures. Among the special buildings are a large rectangular building with a terrazzo floor; a "skull building" in which the remains of at least ninety individuals were discovered; and a building with a buttressed wall, paved with flagstones in which two stelae were set. These three structures differ in nearly all respects from the abundant and well-preserved houses (Schirmer 1988,

Let us first consider the houses (Figure le, f, k, 1). These have been interpreted to consist of a series of changing styles that share approximately the same sizes and shapes and are built on foundations of stones (Ozdogan and Ozdogan 1989). Although the superstructures are missing, the plans suggest single-family dwellings that ranged in size from 20 to 60 m2, not counting exterior spaces assigned to the house. These houses are roughly aligned in the site and stand less than 5 m apart. Although the floor areas are not unusually large by contemporary standards, one sign of social differentiation is seen during the cell phase (ca. 9,600-9,200bp). At this time contemporary houses in the eastern part of the site, surrounding an open plaza of about 1,000 m2 where the special buildings stood, are some 60% larger and better made than those on the western end of the site (Davis

1991). Only these houses in the plaza area possess skirting stone podiums, each is equipped with a porch, and some have stone pavements on exterior surfaces (Ozdogan and Ozdogan 1989:74).Michael Davis notes that only in these larger houses are certain "special"artifacts found, including chess-pawn-like stone objects,long obsidian blades, and two life-sized stone sculptures of featureless human heads. Further, all artifacts made of exotic materials are confined to this area of the site, including a huge obsidian nodule and large cores. Finally, in the cell phase, where more than 100 burials are known, three graves are exceptionally rich, containing large obsidian tools. In sum, the distribution, sizes, quality, and contexts of the houses on the east side all suggest greater wealth or prosperity.

The eastern part of the site also contains the special buildings (Ozdogan and Ozdogan 1989). The oldest of these, the "flagstone building," has a breadth of 10.7m and is approximately 5.5 m deep (Figure 1c)(Schirmer, 1990:378).The north wall has two buttresses, and standing directly in front of these at a distance of 2 m are two upright stone slabs, perhaps roof supports. A third such slab stood in front of a "bench" on the east side. The floor of the room was paved with large and carefully fitted slabs f limestone. The room has approximately the same area as a house, but it has different proportions and lacks the underlying footings. No other structural or contextual information informs on the uses of this building.

The second structure, belonging to the "intermediate period," is called the "skull building" because the remains of as many as 400 individuals have been discovered there, including some ninety skulls (Figure lb) (Schirmer 1990:378-382).Apparently this building underwent at least two reconstructions. The first is a crudely built, double-walled apsidal structure,with skulls on the floor and a deep pit in which there were many human skeletons as well as Bos bones. A second skull building was constructed next to the remains of the apsidal structure by first digging a deep trench into which the "cells" were placed. The cells were covered with flagstone lids and two upright slabs were placed opposite them. A pit dug into the sunken floor contained Bos horns and bones. Completing the picture is an interior bench surrounding the extant east and west sides of the room. The final skull building saw the construction of chambers above the cell pits, with buttresses replacing the now-covered upright stelae. The floor now had a coating of lime plaster and a carefully polished large limestone slab was placed on the floor. As before, the chambers held skulls and bones.

One is not engaging in unwarranted speculation to assert that the skull building played an important role in the funerary rites ofthe community. A clue as to the nature of these rites has emerged from analyses of blood residues taken from the stone slab that lay on the floor. This slab has traces of blood from three species: humans, cattle, and sheep. The evidence is unequivocal. Further possible evidence is a flint dagger found lying in this room, which also had blood traces of Bos and human blood (Loy and Wood 1989). It is probable that sacrifices or operations were performed either as part of the funerary ritual or on other occasions. Since skulls were routinely detached from postcranial elements, it may be that the human blood on the slab resulted from postmortem decapitation, and it seems that on some occasions Bos heads also were severed. As we shall see, there is a similar slab feature at Beidha in southernJordan.

The final special-purpose building, also in the same area of the site, is the terrazzo building, known from its extraordinary floor surface that has remained largely in tact for some 9000 years (Figure 1a). This structure measures 11.75 x 9 m andisthus the largest ofthe special buildings. Thin buttresses decorate the interior walls, and the floor is carefully laid red terrazzo with two sets of parallel lines composed of white limestone chips all set into lime plaster. After its laying the floor was carefully polished. In one corner is a round depression that was not covered with terrazzo on the stone rim of which have been found traces of human blood. Blood also occurred on a limestone slab on which a human face is carved in relief.

The similarity among these buildings, as well as their differences from houses, and their location in one part of the site suggest that they had similar functions having to do with community-wide rituals or other activities. That these rituals may have been directed by residents in the larger houses is a reasonable inference.

Nevali £ori

Nevali Sori, a PPNB site in Anatolia, is another example of a small site with unusual architecture. Situated on a spur of land flanked by two wadis and a flowing tributary of the Euphrates, Nevali £ori occupies only about 0.7 ha, yet it contains some of the most interesting structures of the PPNB. Most of the site is composed of rectangular houses set on stone footings similar in style to the intermediate forms at £ayonu. The houses are roughly 12x6m, closely spaced, and oriented in the same way. As at other contemporary sites, detached skulls were found. In the absence of a published plan, it is not clear how much open area there may have been, but our interest today is with the special nondomestic buildings.

Building II is 13.9 x 13.5m, measuring from the outside of the walls, but with a trapezoidal-shaped interior space measuring 9.15 x 8.40 x 9.20. A bench built of stones and covered with large flat slabs lined the three walls facing the central entryway. This paved entry, which descended two steps to the floor, was flanked by massive stone slabs. Some thirteen stone pillars and sculptures once stood on the encircling bank, some set into sockets, possibly to support the roof. These pillars were 2.3-2.4m tall and 40 x 50 cm in cross section. A niche, 1.85 m wide x 2.5 m deep, is centered in the southeast wall. A pedestal may have occupied the rear portion of this niche.

Another niche/podium, flanked by T-shaped stelae was set into the corner to the right of the entry. The inner walls have traces of red and black paint and the floor is terrazzo.

Building III, built above Building II, is nearly identical in size (Figure 1g). The previous large niche was covered so that the room was square with benches again on three sides. Again the roof was supported by pillars, some of which were T-shaped, spaced about 2.5 m apart. Two such pillars flanked the entryway, which stepped down 18 cm. A small niche was directly opposite the entrance and set into the wall behind the bench. Two broken sculptures, one of a human head with a snake in high relief on the back (Hauptmann, 1993:Plates 14, 19, 20), and a fragmentary torso (Hauptmann 1993:Plate22) came from this area. Centered in the room were two additional stelae, again possibly serving as roof supports, one of which had a stylized human form in relief (Hauptmann, 1993:Plate 16). Unfortunately the tops of these stelae were eroded and broken, probably from postabandonment exposure. A "mixed" human/bird sculpture also came fromthe fill of this building (Hauptmann, 1993:Plate25). Other bits of sculpture in the site may have been dispersed from earlier buildings during later construction, after abandonment, or possibly deliberately mutilated and buried (Garfinkel 1994).

Further evidence of spectacular remains at small sites occurs at several southern Anatolia sites, such as Gobekli Tepe, Gurcutepe, and Asikli Tepe. Common features are large rooms with paved, sometimes painted and polished plaster floors, orthostats, and realistic sculptures, all of which suggest cultic activities (Esin 1993;Schmidt 1995).These sites make clear that special functions and "monumental"constructions occur even in small sites. The labor involved in moving stone slabs that weighed up to one ton (Carlson 1985) or the burning of enough lime to cement a 30-cm-thick terrazzo floor (Kingery et al. 1988) and its subsequent polishing go well beyond the ability of the individual family. Similarly,the labor and skills required to manufacture stone bowls and carve stelae imply that specialists were at work (Yoffee 1993). Thus, despite their small size and the prevailing similarity of the domestic architecture in a number of these Anatolian sites, they also show evidence of social differentiation, a focus on some kind of "cult of the dead," and nonresidential buildings.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment