Ubaid period

Ubaid period

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The Ubaid period is a prehistoric
Prehistory
Prehistory is the span of time before recorded history. Prehistory can refer to the period of human existence before the availability of those written records with which recorded history begins. More broadly, it refers to all the time preceding human existence and the invention of writing...

 period of Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

. The tell
Tell
A tell or tel, is a type of archaeological mound created by human occupation and abandonment of a geographical site over many centuries. A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with a flat top and sloping sides.-Archaeology:A tell is a hill created by different civilizations living and...

 (mound) of al-`Ubaid west of nearby Ur
Ur
Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

 in southern Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

's Dhi Qar Governorate has given its name to the prehistoric Pottery Neolithic to Chalcolithic culture, which represents the earliest settlement on the alluvial plain
Alluvial plain
An alluvial plain is a relatively flat landform created by the deposition of sediment over a long period of time by one or more rivers coming from highland regions, from which alluvial soil forms...

 of southern Mesopotamia. The Ubaid culture had a long duration beginning before 5300 BC and lasting until the beginning of the Uruk period
Uruk period
The Uruk period existed from the protohistoric Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age period in the history of Mesopotamia, following the Ubaid period and succeeded by the Jemdet Nasr period. Named after the Sumerian city of Uruk, this period saw the emergence of urban life in Mesopotamia. It was...

, c. 4000 BC. The adoption of the wheel
Wheel
A wheel is a device that allows heavy objects to be moved easily through rotating on an axle through its center, facilitating movement or transportation while supporting a load, or performing labor in machines. Common examples found in transport applications. A wheel, together with an axle,...

 and the beginning of the Chalcolithic period fall into the Ubaid period.

Timeline


The Ubaid period is divided into three principal phases:
  • Ubaid 1 sometimes called Eridu
    Eridu
    Eridu is an ancient Sumerian city in what is now Tell Abu Shahrain, Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq. Eridu was considered the earliest city in southern Mesopotamia, and is one of the oldest cities in the world...

    (5300–4700 BC), a phase limited to the extreme south of Iraq, on what was then the shores of the Persian Gulf
    Persian Gulf
    The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

    . This phase, showing clear connection to the Samarra culture
    Samarra
    Sāmarrā is a city in Iraq. It stands on the east bank of the Tigris in the Salah ad-Din Governorate, north of Baghdad and, in 2003, had an estimated population of 348,700....

     to the north, saw the establishment of the first permanent settlement south of the 5 inch rainfall isohyet. These people pioneered the growing of grains in the extreme conditions of aridity, thanks to the high water table
    Water table
    The water table is the level at which the submarine pressure is far from atmospheric pressure. It may be conveniently visualized as the 'surface' of the subsurface materials that are saturated with groundwater in a given vicinity. However, saturated conditions may extend above the water table as...

    s of Southern Iraq.
  • Ubaid 2 — (4800–4500 BC), after the type site of the same name, saw the development of extensive canal networks from major settlements. Irrigation agriculture, which seem to have developed first at Choga Mami
    Choga Mami
    Choga Mami is a Samarra ware archaeological site of Southern Iraq which shows the first canal irrigation in operation at about 6000 BC. It is no longer clear which way cultural developments were flowing in the 6500 to 4500 BC period .-References:...

     (4700–4600 BC) and rapidly spread elsewhere, from the first required collective effort and centralised coordination of labour.
  • Ubaid 3/4, sometimes called Ubaid I and Ubaid II — In the period from 4500–4000 BC saw a period of intense and rapid urbanisation with the Ubaid culture spread into northern Mesopotamia replacing (after a hiatus) the Halaf culture
    Tell Halaf
    Tell Halaf is an archaeological site in the Al Hasakah governorate of northeastern Syria, near the Turkish border, just opposite Ceylanpınar. It was the first find of a Neolithic culture, subsequently dubbed the Halaf culture, characterized by glazed pottery painted with geometric and animal designs...

    . Ubaid artifacts spread also all along the Arabian littoral, showing the growth of a trading system that stretched from the Mediterranean coast through to Oman.


The archaeological record shows that Arabian Bifacial/Ubaid period came to an abrupt end in eastern Arabia and the Oman peninsula at 3800 BC, just after the phase of lake lowering and onset of dune reactivation. At this time, increased aridity led to an end in semi-desert nomadism, and there is no evidence of human presence in the area for approximately 1000 years, the so-called "Dark Millennium". This might be due to the 5.9 kiloyear event
5.9 kiloyear event
The 5.9 kiloyear event was one of the most intense aridification events during the Holocene. It occurred around 3900 BC, ending the Neolithic Subpluvial and probably initiated the most recent desiccation of the Sahara desert. Thus, it also triggered worldwide migration to river valleys, e.g...

 at the end of the Older Peron
Older Peron
The Older Peron transgression was a period of unusually warm climate during the Holocene Epoch. It began in the 5000 BCE to 4900 BCE era, and lasted to about 4100 BCE...

.

Description


Ubaid culture is characterized by large village settlements, characterized by multi-roomed rectangular mud-brick houses and the appearance of the first temples of public architecture in Mesopotamia, with a growth of a two tier settlement hierarchy of centralized large sites of more than 10 hectares surrounded by smaller village sites of less than 1 hectare. Domestic equipment included a distinctive fine quality buff or greenish colored pottery decorated with geometric designs in brown or black paint; tools such as sickle
Sickle
A sickle is a hand-held agricultural tool with a variously curved blade typically used for harvesting grain crops or cutting succulent forage chiefly for feeding livestock . Sickles have also been used as weapons, either in their original form or in various derivations.The diversity of sickles that...

s were often made of hard fired clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

 in the south. But in the north, stone and sometimes metal were used.

During the Ubaid Period [5000 B.C.– 4000 B.C.], the movement towards urbanization began. "Agriculture and animal husbandry [domestication] were widely practiced in sedentary communities." There were also tribes that practiced domesticating animals as far north as Turkey, and as far south as the Zagros Mountains
Zagros Mountains
The Zagros Mountains are the largest mountain range in Iran and Iraq. With a total length of 1,500 km , from northwestern Iran, and roughly correlating with Iran's western border, the Zagros range spans the whole length of the western and southwestern Iranian plateau and ends at the Strait of...

.

Society


The Ubaid period as a whole, based upon the analysis of grave goods
Grave goods
Grave goods, in archaeology and anthropology, are the items buried along with the body.They are usually personal possessions, supplies to smooth the deceased's journey into the afterlife or offerings to the gods. Grave goods are a type of votive deposit...

, was one of increasingly polarised social stratification
Social stratification
In sociology the social stratification is a concept of class, involving the "classification of persons into groups based on shared socio-economic conditions ... a relational set of inequalities with economic, social, political and ideological dimensions."...

 and decreasing egalitarianism
Egalitarianism
Egalitarianism is a trend of thought that favors equality of some sort among moral agents, whether persons or animals. Emphasis is placed upon the fact that equality contains the idea of equity of quality...

. Bogucki describes this as a phase of "Trans-egalitarian" competitive households, in which some fall behind as a result of downward social mobility
Social mobility
Social mobility refers to the movement of people in a population from one social class or economic level to another. It typically refers to vertical mobility -- movement of individuals or groups up from one socio-economic level to another, often by changing jobs or marrying; but can also refer to...

. Morton Fried
Morton Fried
Morton Herbert Fried , was a distinguished Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University in New York City from 1950 until his death in 1986. He made considerable contributions to the fields of social and political theory.Fried attended Townsend Harris High School and then the City College of New...

 and Elman Service
Elman Service
Elman Rogers Service was an American cultural anthropologist.- Biography :He was born on May 18, 1915 in Tecumseh, Michigan and died on November 14, 1996 in Santa Barbara, California. He earned a Bachelors Degree in 1941 from the University of Michigan. He earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from...

 have hypothesised that Ubaid culture saw the rise of an elite class of hereditary chieftain
Tribal chief
A tribal chief is the leader of a tribal society or chiefdom. Tribal societies with social stratification under a single leader emerged in the Neolithic period out of earlier tribal structures with little stratification, and they remained prevalent throughout the Iron Age.In the case of ...

s, perhaps heads of kin groups linked in some way to the administration of the temple shrines and their granaries, responsible for mediating intra-group conflict and maintaining social order. It would seem that various collective methods, perhaps instances of what Thorkild Jacobsen
Thorkild Jacobsen
Thorkild Jacobsen was a renowned historian specializing in Assyriology and Sumerian literature.He was one of the foremost scholars on the ancient Near East.-Biography:...

 called primitive democracy
History of democracy
The history of democracy traces back to Athens to its re-emergence and rise from the 17th century to the present day. According to one definition, democracy is a political system in which all the members of the society have an equal share of formal political power...

, in which disputes were previously resolved through a council of one's peers, were no longer sufficient for the needs of the local community.

Ubaid culture originated in the south, but still has clear connections to earlier cultures in the region of middle Iraq. The appearance of the Ubaid folk has sometimes been linked to the so-called Sumerian problem, related to the origins of Sumer
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

ian civilisation. Whatever the ethnic origins of this group, this culture saw for the first time a clear tripartite social division between intensive subsistence peasant farmers, with crops and animals coming from the north, tent-dwelling nomadic pastoralists dependent upon their herds, and hunter-fisher folk of the Arabian littoral, living in reed huts.

Stein and Özbal describe the Near East oikumene that resulted from Ubaid expansion, contrasting it to the colonial expansionism of the later Uruk period
Uruk period
The Uruk period existed from the protohistoric Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age period in the history of Mesopotamia, following the Ubaid period and succeeded by the Jemdet Nasr period. Named after the Sumerian city of Uruk, this period saw the emergence of urban life in Mesopotamia. It was...

. "A contextual analysis comparing different regions shows that the Ubaid expansion took place largely through the peaceful spread of an ideology, leading to the formation of numerous new indigenous identities that appropriated and transformed superficial elements of Ubaid material culture into locally distinct expressions."

Archaeology


Tell al-'Ubaid is a low, relatively small site. The mound is an oblong about 500 meters north to south and 300 meters east to west
and extends about 2 meters above ground level. The majority of the remains are from the Ubaid Period, with an Early Dynastic temple
at the highest point.

The site was first worked by Henry Hall
Henry Hall (Egyptologist)
Dr Henry Reginald Holland Hall MBE, FBA, FSA was an English Egyptologist and historian. In life, he was normally referred to as Harry Reginald Hall.-Early life:...

 of the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 in 1919. Later, C. L. Woolley
Leonard Woolley
Sir Charles Leonard Woolley was a British archaeologist best known for his excavations at Ur in Mesopotamia...

 excavated there in 1923 and 1924, followed by Seton Lloyd
Seton Lloyd
Seton Howard Frederick Lloyd, CBE , was an English archaeologist. He was President of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq, Director of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara , Professor of Western Asiatic Archaeology in the Institute of Archaeology, University of London...

 and Pinhas Delougaz in 1937, the latter working for the Oriental Institute
Oriental Institute
Oriental Institute may refer to a number of institutes of Oriental studies:United States* Oriental Institute, Chicago, part of the University of ChicagoEngland* Oriental Institute, Oxford, part of the University of Oxford...

 of the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

. The lower level of the site featured large amounts of Ubaid pottery and associated kilns, as well as a cemetery and some finds from the Jemdet Nasr period
Jemdet Nasr period
The Jemdet Nasr period is an archaeological culture in southern Mesopotamia that is generally dated to 3100–2900 BCE. It is named after the type-site Jemdet Nasr, where the assemblage typical for this period was first recognized. Its geographical distribution is limited to south–central Iraq...

. The temple of Ninhursag
Ninhursag
In Sumerian mythology, Ninhursag or Ninkharsag was the earth and mother goddess, one of the seven great deities of Sumer. She is principally a fertility goddess. Temple hymn sources identify her as the 'true and great lady of heaven' and kings of Sumer were 'nourished by Ninhursag's milk'...

 at the summit was on a cleared oval similar to that at Khafajah
Khafajah
Khafajah or Khafaje was the ancient town of Tutub in the city-state of Eshnunna...

. The wall surrounding the temple was built by Shulgi
Shulgi
Shulgi of Urim was the second king of the "Sumerian Renaissance". He reigned for 48 years, dated to 2029 BCE–1982 BCE...

 of the Ur III Empire. The earliest evidence for sailing
Sailing
Sailing is the propulsion of a vehicle and the control of its movement with large foils called sails. By changing the rigging, rudder, and sometimes the keel or centre board, a sailor manages the force of the wind on the sails in order to move the boat relative to its surrounding medium and...

 has been found in Kuwait
Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

 indicating that sailing was known by the Ubaid 3 period.

See also


  • Cities of the Ancient Near East
    Cities of the ancient Near East
    The largest cities in the Bronze Age ancient Near East housed several tens of thousands. Memphis in the Early Bronze Age with some 30,000 inhabitants was the largest city of the time by far...

  • Ubaid house
    Ubaid house
    The Ubaid house is a dwelling used by the Ubaid culture of the Neolithic era. The Ubaid house is the predecessor of the Ubaid temple as well as Sumerian domestic and temple architecture....

  • Tell Zeidan
    Tell Zeidan
    Tell Zeidan is an archaeological site of the Ubaid culture in northern Syria, from about 5500 to 4000 BC. The dig consists of three large mounds on the east bank of the Balikh River, slightly north of its confluence with the Euphrates River, and is located about east of the modern Syrian city of...


External links