, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 1-92
Date: 09 Apr 2009

The Chalcolithic Period of the Southern Levant: A Synthetic Review

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In the southern Levant, the late fifth millennium to mid-fourth millennium BC—traditionally known as the Chalcolithic period—witnessed major cultural transformations in virtually all areas of society, most notably craft production, mortuary and ritual practices, settlement patterns, and iconographic and symbolic expression. A degree of regionalism is evident in material culture, but continuity in ceramic styles, iconographic motifs, and mortuary practices suggests a similar cultural outlook linking these sub-regions. Luxury items found in group mortuary caves provide good evidence for at least some inequality in access to exotic materials. The level of complexity in social organization, however, is still debated. Divergent interpretations of Chalcolithic socio-economic organization suggest that, with the large amount of new information now available, a reevaluation of the debate is due. In this article we synthesize the more recent evidence and weigh interpretations of processes that led to the widespread fundamental changes witnessed during the late fifth to early fourth millennium BC.