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Tell Abu Hureyra

Tell Abu Hureyra ("tell" is arabic for "mound") was a site of an ancient settlement in the northern Levant or western Mesopotamia. It has been cited as showing the earliest known evidence of agriculture anywhere. It is located on a plateau near a south bank of the Euphrates River, presently beneath Lake Assad[?] in northern Syria to the east of Aleppo.[5] There were two separate periods of settlement, with a period of abandonment between.

An Epipalaeolithic settlement was established around 11,500 BC [3], probably by the Natufian culture in an northeast expansion from their earlier settlements in the southern Levant. It consisted of a small number of round huts, probably constructed from degradable materials such as wood and brush, with the settlement housing a few hundred people at most. During this time most food was obtained from hunting, fishing and gathering wild plants. Huts contained underground storage areas for food. The main animal hunted was gazelle during its annual migration, with other large wild animals such as onager, sheep and cattle killed occasionally and smaller animals such as hare, fox and birds were hunted throughout the year. Wild plants havested included einkorn wheat and emmer wheat and two varieties of rye.

Evidence has been found for cultivation of rye from 11,050 BC [7]. It has been suggested that drier climate conditions resulting from the beginning of the Younger Dryas caused wild cereals to become scarce, leading the people to begin cultivation as a means of securing a food supply. Results of recent analysis of the rye grains from this level suggest that they may actually have been domesticated during the Epi-Palaeolithic.

After a period of abandoment, a Neolithic settlement was established, perhaps 10 times as large as the earlier settlement and one of the largest at that time in the Middle East. Mud-brick houses were constructed and a large mound was built up under the settlement mainly from the remains of old houses. An increasingly wide variety of plants were cultivated and examination of human skeletons has shown various deformities that have been associated with laborious agricultural work, particularly the grinding of grain.[9]. Animals were also herded. Pottery was used from around 6000 BC and weaving some time before that. The village was abandoned around 5900 BC [4]


The site was excavated in 1972 and 1973 as a rescue operation before it was flooded under Lake Assad[?], which was the reservoir of the newly constructed Tabqa Dam[?]. A large amount of material was recovered and studied over the following decades. A preliminary report was published in 1983 and a final report in 2000 [2].

References and external links

  1. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba51/ba51news
  2. Village on the Euphrates, A.M.T. Moore, G.C. Hillman, and A.J. Legge (2000). -- http://www.rit.edu/~698awww/statement -- http://super5.arcl.ed.ac.uk/a1/module_1/sum4b1c.htm
  3. Estimated calibration of 11500 radiocarbon years BP from [2].
  4. estimated calibration of 7000 radiocarbon years BP from [2].
  5. 35 52'N, 38 24'E, according to http://users.ox.ac.uk/~orau/dl_am21
  6. BBC article -- http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_489000/489449.stm
  7. estimated calibration of 11,000 BP as cited in [2]. See also Moore, et al [2000] Village on the Euphrates. Oxford University Press.
  8. http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/proj/anthro/asb222/projects/project15
  9. Theya Molleson, http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi960.htm

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