I thought that because I like to write about topics in archaeology, I would devote a few posts to the various dating schemes used by archaeologists beginning with the Neolithic, the end of the Stone Age and just prior to the beginning of metallurgy in the Levant, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Mesopotamia. The worldwide beginning of the Neolithic culture is considered to be in the Levant (Jericho, modern-day West Bank) about 10,200–8,800 BC. It developed directly from the Natufian culture in the region, whose people pioneered the use of wild cereals, which then evolved into true farming and animal husbandry. The Metropolitan Museum has a beautiful collection from just this time period and location and I thought I would share. The Neolithic is known as the time humanity transitioned from hunter-gatherers to a more sedentary farming behavior. Several markers of this transition have proven to be more complicated than originally imagined. Pottery, a marker of sedentary life that produced relatively heavy objects is both older and younger than first imagined. Apparently ceramic objects were discovered and forgotten on multiple occasions in the period from 30,000 to 10,000 years BC. In fact, the Halif Culture in Syria and northern Mesopotamia only started making actual pottery around 5,500 BC. So the beginning of the Levant Neolithic Period began in the pre-pottery era. Another marker of sedentary life might be buildings. The evidence of temples built at Göbekli Tepe by hunter gatherers from at least 11,000 BC suggests that while the site formally belongs to the earliest Neolithic (PPNA), up to now no traces of domesticated plants or animals have been found. The inhabitants are assumed to have been hunters and gatherers who nevertheless lived in villages for at least part of the year. Probably the best indicator of the beginning of the Neolithic Period may be the use of grains to make bread although even that is blurred by Ohalo.
“Venus figurine” is an umbrella term for a number of prehistoric statuettes of women portrayed with similar physical attributes. “Venus figurine” is the name given to a nearly universal type of art, appearing first in the Upper Paleolithic period between 31,000 and 9,000 years ago. Archaeologically they are known from the earliest horizons of the Aurignacian (37,000 to 27,000 years ago) and extend to the end of the Magdalenian (17,000 to 12,000 years ago). Venus figurines have been found in Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia, the Ukraine, and as far east as Lake Baikal in Siberia. In appearance most are plump little creatures with exaggerated female characteristics: large breasts, thighs and buttocks. These figurines were carved from soft stone (such as steatite, calcite or limestone), bone or ivory, or formed with clay and fired. Most of them are roughly diamond-shaped, with two tapering terminals at top (head) and bottom (legs) and the widest point in the middle (hips/belly). Although the typical Venus figurine is traditionally assumed to be a voluptuous female, men, children, and animals are also depicted. Venus figurines have been found throughout Europe and Asia at sites such as Willendorf (Austria), Brassempouy (France), Hohle Fels (Germany) and Dolni Vestonice (Czech Republic). There are many different interpretations of the figurines, but like many prehistoric artifacts, the cultural meaning of these artifacts may never be known. The Venus of Brassempouy or La Dame de Brassempouy, a fragmentary ivory figurine from the Upper Palaeolithic discovered in the Grotte du Pape at Brassempouy, France in 1892, by Édouard Piette, is one of the earliest known realistic representations of a human face.