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'Ain Ghazal (Jordan)

Pre-Pottery Neolithic Site in the Levant

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Plaster Sculptures from Ain Ghazal

Plaster Sculptures from Ain Ghazal

Jean Housen

The site of 'Ain Ghazal is an early Neolithic village site located along the banks of the Zarqa River near Amman, Jordan. The name means "Spring of the Gazelles", and the site has major occupations during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) period, about 7200 and 6000 BC; the PPNC period (ca. 6000-5500 BC) and during the early pottery Neolithic, between ca 5500-5000 BC.

'Ain Ghazal covers some 30 acres, three times the size of the similarly dated levels at Jericho. The PPNB occupation has several multiroomed rectangular dwellings which were built and rebuilt at least five times. Nearly 100 burials have been recovered from this period.

Living at Ain Ghazal

Ritual behavior seen at 'Ain Ghazal include the presence of numerous human and animal figurines, some large human statues with distinctive eyes, and some plastered skulls. Five large lime plaster statues were recovered, of quasi-human forms made of reed bundles covered with plaster. The forms have square torsos and two or three heads.

Recent excavations at 'Ain Ghazal have considerably augmented knowledge of several aspects of the Neolithic. Of particular interest has been the documentation of a continuous, or near continuous, occupation from early through late Neolithic components, and a concomitant dramatic economic shift. This shift was from a broad subsistence base relying on a variety of both wild and domestic plants and animals, to an economic strategy reflecting an apparent emphasis on pastoralism.

Domesticated wheat, barley, peas and lentils have been identified at 'Ain Ghazal, as well as a wide variety of wild forms of these plants and animals such as gazelle, goats, cattle and pigs. No domesticated animals were identified in the PPNB levels, although by the PPNC period, domestic sheep, goats, pigs, and probably cattle were identified.

Sources

'Ain Ghazal is a part of the About.com Guide to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, and part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Goren, Yuval, A. N. Goring-Morris, and Irena Segal 2001 The technology of skull modelling in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB): Regional variability, the relation of technology and iconography and their archaeological implications. Journal of Archaeological Science 28:671-690.

Grissom, Carol A. 2000 Neolithic Statues from 'Ain Ghazal: Construction and Form. American Journal of Archaeology 104(1). Free download

Schmandt-Besserat, Denise 1991 A stone metaphor of creation. Near Eastern Archaeology 61(2):109-117.

Simmons, Alan H., et al. 1988 'Ain Ghazal: A Major Neolithic Settlement in Central Jordan. Science 240:35-39.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

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