Bouqras

The first site we shall consider is Bouqras, situated on a terrace overlooking the Euphrates River, in an environmental zone—the arid steppe—that today has some 150 mm of precipitation, well below the needs of agriculture. Despite this limitation, the site is estimated to cover some 2.75 ha and have held as many as 850 persons during the span (8,400—7,900bp) making it a small village by PPNB standards (Boerma 1989—90).

A careful study of the local environment makes it clear how much more favorable conditions at the site were than in the immediately sur— rounding areas (Boerma 1983). The site is at the terminus of a wadi whose bed can be farmed and that traditionally served as a route westward toward the oasis of Palmyra (Akkermans et al. 1983:336).Bouqras also lies opposite the mouth of the Khabur River, one of the principal routes to the obsidian sources in Anatolia. Thus, one reason for the agglomeration at this site may have been its location; if people had wanted to settle in this region, Bouqras was the best place.

The village plan was revealed partly by scraping the surface of the site where house walls were exposed and partly through excavation. Houses throughout the site were essentially similar: rectangular structures, ranging in area from 50-140m2, with a quarter or more of that area taken up by open courtyards. The remainder of the spaces comprised small rooms or cubicles, some of which were for storage. The buildings have a tri- or quadripartite layout but considerable variability in the way spaces were divided (Figure 1i,j). It appears that the buildings were laid out to full size from the beginning, and any subsequent changes were simply modifications to the interior; there are no auxiliary rooms tacked on to the outsides. Most of the buildings are separated from their neighbors by only a narrow corridor and are entered from one side only. Larger open areas or streets are devoid of structures. The overall impression of the site plan, based on exposure of perhaps fifty buildings, is one of monotony for none of the structures stands out as being unusual or greatly different from its neighbors except in overall dimensions. Large or small, each building seems to have had the same basic structure and function as a domestic and storage unit.

Bouqras was composed of individual households, each of which seems to have held its property separately in one of the house compounds. The excavators remark that later structures were circumscribed by extant buildings so that continuity in size, form, and location was imposed by the history of each building (Akkermans et al., 1983:343).These facts argue for the simultaneous rather than sequential use of the buildings and hence for a larger, rather than smaller, total population. It is not clear how one should estimate the number of people resident, but inasmuch as much of the site has not been revealed there may have been two or three times as many houses as presently known. A population of850, assuming five persons per house, is not unrealistic, and a considerably greater number of residents seems quite possible. with this population size it would not be unexpected to find signs of social differentiation. However, there is no hint of ceremonial or other integrative structures or evident signs of differential wealth or access to goods. In short, this large community appears to have been essentially the sum of its interchangeable parts, each of which held its property within the walls of its compound. It would be interesting to discover whether similar compound structures would be found in isolation or in small hamlets, or whether this household form is a function of an irrigation economy as Bernbeck has asserted for Tell es-Sawwan (Bernbeck 1995).

Figure 1. Nondomestic and domestic architecture at several Near Eastern sites: (Çayônû Tepe): (a) Terrazzo building, (b) Skull building, (c) Flagstone building, (e, f, k, I) domestic grill and cell plan buildings (based on Schirmer 1990); Beidha: (d) Building C1, h, Building C8, with attached basements of corridor buildings (based on Byrd 1994); (based on Schirmer 1990); Nevali Çori: (g) Building III, showing stepped entryway, interior bench, and stela; Bouqras: (i, j) domestic buildings; Abu Hureyra: (m) Neolithic house (based on Moore 1985).

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