The Early Neolithic of the Eastern Fertile Crescent: Excavations at Bestansur and Shimshara, Iraqi Kurdistan [Hardback]

Roger Matthews(Editor); Wendy Matthews(Editor); Kamal Rasheed Raheem(Editor); Amy Richardson(Editor)

ISBN: 9781789255263 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Series: Central Zagros Archaeological Project | Volume: 2 | Year of Publication: 2020 | Language: English 720p, H11.7 x W8.3, b/w and color
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The Early Neolithic of the Eastern Fertile Crescent


The Eastern Fertile Crescent region of western Iran and eastern Iraq hosted major developments in the transition from hunter-forager to farmer-herder lifestyles through the Early Neolithic period, 10,000-7000 BC. Within the scope of the Central Zagros Archaeological Project, excavations have been conducted since 2012 at two Early Neolithic sites in the Kurdistan region of Iraq: Bestansur and Shimshara. Bestansur represents an early stage in the transition to sedentary, farming life, where the inhabitants pursued a mixed strategy of hunting, foraging, herding and cultivating, maximising the new opportunities afforded by the warmer, wetter climate of the Early Holocene. They also constructed substantial buildings of mudbrick, including a major building with a minimum of 65 human individuals, mainly infants, buried under its floor in association with hundreds of beads. These human remains provide new insights into mortuary practices, demography, diet and disease during the early stages of sedentarisation. The material culture of Bestansur and Shimshara is rich in imported items such as obsidian, carnelian and sea-shells, indicating the extent to which Early Neolithic communities were networked across the Eastern Fertile Crescent and beyond. This volume includes final reports by a large-scale interdisciplinary team on all aspects of the results from excavations at Bestansur and Shimshara, through application of state-of-the-art scientific techniques, methods and analyses. The net result is to re-emphasise the enormous significance of the Eastern Fertile Crescent in one of the most important episodes in human history: the Neolithic transition.

Table of Contents


Preface and acknowledgements

1. The Neolithic transition in the Eastern Fertile Crescent: project themes, aims and objectives

Roger Matthews, Wendy Matthews, Amy Richardson and Kamal Rasheed Raheem

2. Excavation, recording, and sampling methodologies

Amy Richardson, Roger Matthews and Wendy Matthews

3. Palaeoclimate and environment of the Iraqi Central Zagros

Matt Bosomworth, Dominik Fleitmann and Maria Rabbani

4. Intensive field survey in the Zarzi Region

Roger Matthews, Wendy Matthews, Amy Richardson and Kamal Raeuf Aziz

5. Fluxgate gradiometry survey at Bestansur

David Thornley

6. Geoarchaeological borehole, sediment and microfossil analyses at Bestansur

Chris Green, Rob Batchelor, Maria Rabbani, Alessandro Guaggenti and Wendy Matthews

7. Ethnoarchaeological research in Bestansur: insights into vegetation, land-use, animals and animal dung

Sarah Elliott, Robin Bendrey, Jade Whitlam and Kamal Raeuf Aziz

8. Conservation

Jessica S. Johnson

9. Excavations and contextual analyses: Bestansur

Amy Richardson, Roger Matthews, Wendy Matthews, Sam Walsh, Kamal Raeuf Aziz and Adam Stone

10. Excavations and contextual analyses: Shimshara

Wendy Matthews, Roger Matthews, Kamal Raeuf Aziz and Amy Richardson

11. Radiocarbon dating of Bestansur and shimshara

Pascal Flohr, Roger Matthews, Wendy Matthews, Amy Richardson and Dominik Fleitmann

12. Sustainability of early sedentary agricultural communities: new insights from high-resolution microstratigraphic and micromorphological analyses

Wendy Matthews

13.integrated micro-analysis of the built environment and resource use: high-resolution microscopy and geochemical, mineralogical and biomolecular approaches

Wendy Matthews, Aroa Garcia-Suarez, Marta Portillo, Chris Speed, Georgia Allistone, Ian Bull, Jessica Godleman and Matthew Almond

14. Microarchaeology: the small traces of neolithic activities

Ingrid Iversen

15. Animal remains and human-animal-environment relationships at Early Neolithic Bestansur and Shimshara

Robin Bendrey, Wim Van Neer, Salvador Bailon, Juan Rofes, Jeremy Herman, Mel Morlin and Tom Moore

16. Early Neolithic animal management and ecology: integrated analysis of faecal material

Sarah Elliott with contributions from Wendy Matthews and Ian Bull

17. Bestansur molluscs: regional context and local activities

Ingrid Iversen

18. The charred plant remains from Early Neolithic levels at Bestansur and Shimshara

Jade Whitlam, Charlotte Diffey, Amy Bogaard and Mike Charles

19. Human remains from Bestansur: demography, diet and health

Sam Walsh

20. Early Neolithic chipped stone worlds of Bestansur and Shimshara

Roger Matthews, Amy Richardson and Osamu Maeda

21. Material culture and networks of Bestansur and Shimshara

Amy Richardson

22. Ground stone tools and technologies

David Mudd

23. Public archaeology at Bestansur

Rhi Smith, Othman Fattah, Hero Salih, Hawar Hawas, Mathew Britten and Wendy Matthews

24. The Neolithic transition in the eastern Fertile Crescent: thematic synthesis and discussion

Wendy Matthews, Roger Matthews, Amy Richardson and Kamal Rasheed Raheem


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