I have long been championing the cause of rethinking the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ in Greece and elsewhere, but it seems more and more to me that we should take a long look, and perhaps reappraise, exactly what was happening in the late Neolithic era in the Mediterranean and fertile crescent.
In Deir Ezzor, 432kms northeast of Damascus in Syria, a village named Tal Bokrous shows a level of sophistication which exemplifies why this period is thought of as a time of rapid development in human technology.
This site is the only one of the Middle Euphrates region which belongs to this particular phase beginning about 9500BC, considered the latest phase of the Stone Age.
The village has clear architectural features, and numbers an astonishing 188 houses (to date) along two sides of an open area within the urban setting. Each house, according to archaeologist Yarub al-Abdullah, includes three rooms made of sun-dried brick, painted with mud and plaster on both the wall and floor surfaces.
There are even traces of colourful wall-paintings representing fowl. The population of the village apparently depended on agriculture and livestock and both plaster louvers (part of feeding stalls?) and the remains of charred plants have been discovered.
Studies showed that barley grew naturally in the area, and then the locals developed agriculture with the cultivation of grain and lentils. They also worked such raw materials as they had to make various artefacts, including stone needles, drills, sculptures and utensils. The inhabitants also shaped and baked mud to make sculptures of women (two have been found) and a man's head.
The findings from the site have amplified our view of the agricultural societies in the Middle Euphrates and enriched our understanding of how people lived at this time. Further excavations at the site are eagerly anticipated!