Beginning around 11,500 years ago, the Neolithic of the Near East encompassed some of the most profound and fundamental innovations in our species’ history. This included the establishment of the earliest sedentary villages, founded by food-producing communities who relied on wild and domesticated plants and animals for subsistence. Major changes were also seen in use of imagery, both anthropomorphic and zoomorphic, in concert with society’s struggle to control new structures of economy, social organization, and symbolism. This chapter explores how Near Eastern Neolithic figurine use changed through time, and considers how competing interpretive frameworks of phallocentrism and Goddess worship present alternative frameworks of understanding broader social meanings within these communities. Moreover, the frequency of objects, the design, and miniaturization of these objects provide insight into how Neolithic people deliberately created ambiguity and anonymity when they crafted anthropomorphic figurines.
Lloyd R. Weeks
This chapter presents evidence of the earliest farming economies and sedentary villages such as Ganj Dareh, Tepe Guran, Tepe Abdul Hosein, and Ali Kosh. The principal domesticates (cultivars and animals) are discussed, along with burial practices, architecture, lithics, and ceramics. Relationships with neighboring regions in the Near East and Central Asia are highlighted, as is the phenomenon of Neolithization on the Iranian plateau.
Joris Peters, Nadja Pöllath, and Benjamin S. Arbuckle
Analysis of spatio-temporal variation in patterns of animal exploitation helps our understanding of the transition from hunting to husbandry of Ovis, Capra, Sus, and Bos in Pre-Pottery Neolithic Anatolia (c.9500–7000 bce). Despite interaction with humans since the final Pleistocene, domestication of Sus in southeastern Anatolia is only evidenced after 8500 bce. This timing coincides with efforts to exert cultural control over Ovis, Capra, and Bos. Applying a broad methodological spectrum, it is shown that in southeastern Anatolia, the Neolithic ‘package’ was in place at the end of the ninth millennium bce, whereas in contemporaneous central Anatolia, livestock husbandry only included sheep and goat. Initially, animal management practices may have focused on a single species, but after 8000 bce, herding strategies comprised at least two species, likely a risk-reducing strategy. Conceivably, large-scale social gatherings, e.g. at Göbekli Tepe, promoted the spread of practices associated with ungulate management and domestication.
Stuart Campbell and Aurelie Daems
This chapter surveys the figures of prehistoric Mesopotamia, from the Epipalaeolithic to the end of the Ubaid periods (10,000–4000 bp). Figurines take a wide range of forms in different times and places, but there are also marked continuities. As well as discussion of context and breakage, there is also consideration of the modelling or omission of sexual features on figurines. Increasing numbers of figurines during the period probably can be associated with a greater diversity of material culture, and suggests that figurines can be related to changes in other aspects of society, something that is mirrored in the decline of their numbers towards 4000 bp.
This chapter discusses human figurines from later Iranian prehistory and pays special attention to the figurines from the sites of Tepe Sarab, Zaghe, Hajji Firuz, and Choga Mish. It also presents an overview of human figurines produced at other Iranian sites. Drawing on the analyses of the figurines’ morphologies, materials used, production processes, contexts of disposition, breakage patterns, bodily details, and representation of attire, these figurine industries from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods of Iran have the potential to enlighten us about communal and private matters, bodily concerns through the life cycle, and issues related to identity constructions via dress, posture, and corporeality.
Patterns of animal exploitation in western Turkey: from Palaeolithic molluscs to Byzantine elephants
Canan Çakırlar and Levent Atici
This chapter presents a first overview of zooarchaeological research in western Turkey, a vast region between the Anatolian Plateau and the Aegean Sea. The reason for this overview is twofold. First, although zooarchaeological research began early on within the history of archaeology in the region, almost all zooarchaeological studies have been site-based, masking their potential contribution to the cultural and environmental narrative of the region and beyond. Second, recent zooarchaeological research has shown that the region carries path-breaking potential for elucidating patterns of human–animal relationships in both prehistoric and historic periods. This chapter probes the zooarchaeological evidence from the Palaeolithic through historical times and highlights the results of zooarchaeological research on topics such as Epipalaeolithic foraging, Neolithic husbandry, urban animal economies, trade, and the symbolic role of animals.
Ellen Belcher and Karina Croucher
This chapter discusses prehistoric (c.10,000—5000 bc) figurines from archaeological sites in modern Turkey. Sources and methods of excavation, publication, interpretation, and display are presented and critiqued. We propose a new interpretive method, focusing on manufacture and materials, ambiguities and relationships, gender, and fragmentation. Two case studies of figurine assemblages—Domuztepe and Çatalhöyük—are presented and discussed, demonstrating new possibilities for the interpretation of figurine datasets.