Village on the Euphrates: From Foraging to Farming at Abu Hureyra

Village on the Euphrates: From Foraging to Farming at Abu Hureyra

Village on the Euphrates: From Foraging to Farming at Abu Hureyra

Village on the Euphrates: From Foraging to Farming at Abu Hureyra

Synopsis

Tel Abu Hureyra, a settlement by the Euphrates River in Syria, was excavated in 1972-73 by an international team of archaeologists that included the authors of the book and scientists from English, American, and Australian universities. The excavation uncovered two successive villages: in the first village (c. 11,500-10,000 BP), inhabitants foraged vegetation and hunted local wildlife, the Persian gazelle, in particular. In the second village (c 9700-7000 BP), inhabitants employed a more sophisticated method of food production, the cultivation of grain crops and the pasturing of sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs. Documented first hand in this book, these findings capture the transition in human history from the hunting-and-gathering to the farming way of life.

Excerpt

Abu Hureyra is one of the few archaeological sites in the world to have revealed the remains of a settlement of hunters and gatherers that developed into a village of early farmers. That, together with the great size and excellent preservation of the site, and its location in a region where agriculture began earlier than anywhere else, gives it extraordinary significance. This book is an account of the excavation of Abu Hureyra and of the results of our research on its remains. Our main interest throughout has been the sequence of cultural development of the two settlements at Abu Hureyra, and what the site has to tell us about the transition from foraging to farming.

The project began as a salvage excavation, since Abu Hureyra was to be flooded by the construction of a dam across the Euphrates River. The site was so important, however, that from the beginning we conceived of the excavation as an exercise in research that should be conducted to the highest prevailing standards. We devised an excavation plan, beginning a year in advance of the dig itself, that encompassed not only the placing of our trenches but also appropriate methods of systematic recovery of artifacts and organic remains. We assembled our team of specialists and prepared an outline plan for the subsequent study of the site and preliminary publication of our results well before starting fieldwork. Our principal objectives in the excavation were to determine the sequence of occupation and to reconstruct the economy of the site. We established the outline of the cultural sequence during our first season of excavation and continued to fill in the details in subsequent analysis. This outline provided the framework for all our subsequent research, yet once achieved it ceased to be the principal focus of our attention. We found that the enormous quantities of organic remains and artifacts we had recovered enabled us to investigate economic, social, and environmental changes at Abu Hureyra in unprecedented detail. We could trace them through the entire span of occupation thanks to tight control of the exemplary stratification of the site and an unusually precise chronology determined through radiocarbon dating.

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