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The Chalcolithic Period of the Southern Levant: A Synthetic Review

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to extend their thanks to Emily Kelley and Paul Steinle (University of Notre Dame) for their editorial assistance in the preparation of this paper, and Ciana Meyers and Gamin Bartle of the Drew University Faculty Laboratory for their help in preparing Figs. 6, 8 and 10. The authors have benefited greatly from discussions with Meredith Chesson, David Ilan, Morag Kersel, Ian Kuijt, Thomas Levy and Jaimie Lovell. Anonymous review also greatly improved this article, but any errors or omissions remain our responsibility.

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Rowan, Y.M., Golden, J. The Chalcolithic Period of the Southern Levant: A Synthetic Review. J World Prehist 22, 1–92 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10963-009-9016-4

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Keywords

  • Chalcolithic
  • Southern Levant
  • Social organization
  • Craft specialization