The Art of the Middle East Including Persia, Mesopotamia and Palestine

By Leonard Woolley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
ELAM BEFORE THE COMING OF THE INDO-EUROPEANS

In our first chapter the al 'Ubaid people, the earliest settlers in the Euphrates delta, were described as 'newcomers from the east'. The statement derives a ertain support from tradition -- "as they journeyed from the east they found a plain in the land of Shinar (= Babylon) and they dwelt there"; 1) but it is based on the material evidence of the pottery of al 'Ubaid and of Susa respectively, and on that evidence it is generally agreed that the al 'Ubaid people were related, culturally and presumably ethnically, to the early inhabitants of Elam.

Al 'Ubaid, Susa

POTTERY

The Susa pottery does not stand alone. In the late neolithic and in the chalcolithic periods painted pottery was produced over a vast area of Asia. In a Stone Age site near Persepolis, at Nihavend and at Tepe Siyalk south of Teheran; at Tepe Hissar south of Astrabad; eastward, near Ashkhabad, at Anau and Ak-Tepe and at Namazgah-Tepe; on the edge of the Kara Kum desert at Jeitun and Chopan-Tepe; as far away as Baluchistan, where we have the Kulli painted wares, and up in Mongolia where the finest of all the decorative schemes were evolved; in all these and in many other intermediate sites excavation has produced painted pottery which is not indeed the same everywhere (different local schools can easily be distinguished), but shows a similarity of technique and parallels in design and motive which are sufficiently close to suggest, if not a common source, at least contacts and exchanges resulting in something like cultural uniformity. Naturally, in different areas development might follow independent lines. Thus, at Namazgah-Tepe, where the stratification yielded a very definite sequence, the wares of Level III are not only much more sophisticated than those of the lowest Level I but include new designs not unlike those of the Tell Halaf pottery, while Level IV finds parallels at Susa; independence and something like cross-fertilisation seem to go together. Because of these local differences, and also because our knowledge of the various Iran schools of ceramics is still very imperfect, we cannot point to any one area from which the al 'Ubaid people migrated into the delta. We cannot even say that their pottery is derived from that of Susa -- many authorities indeed hold that its early phases antedate the real Susa ware -- but it is related;

Development

FIG. 1

PLATE P. 39

-37-

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