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Houses, Households, and Changing Society in the


Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic of the Southern
Levant
ARTICLE in PALORIENT JANUARY 2010
DOI: 10.3406/paleo.2010.5311

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1 AUTHOR:
Edward Bruce Banning
University of Toronto
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HOUSES, HOUSEHOLDS, AND CHANGING


SOCIETY IN THE LATE NEOLITHIC
AND CHALCOLITHIC OF THE SOUTHERN
LEVANT
E.B. BANNING

Abstract: Characteristics of the built environment provide a source of evidence for the complex social landscapes of the Late Neolithic
and Chalcolithic of the Southern Levant. Rather than an inexorable evolutionary progression, this evidence suggests considerable
variability and flexibility throughout these periods. At various times and places, individual houses isolated themselves from the rest
of their settlement within a walled courtyard that also protected their stores and livestock. At others, we find clusters of apparently
quasi-independent households sharing a courtyard enclosed by the houses themselves, and most storage space sequestered within the
houses, while other activity areas were shared. Throughout, we also usually find some isolated houses not clearly associated with any
courtyard or house cluster. Furthermore, we find considerable variation among contemporary houses in their size, elaboration, and
storage capacity, suggesting some degree of economic differentiation, perhaps difference of rank, and possibly interhousehold competition. Some of these characteristics suggest that heads of houses made strategic choices with regard to the size of their household, its
alliances with other households, the accumulation of herds or grain stores, and competitive display, in order to promote their houses
political and economic advantage. Possibly this pattern fits C. Lvi-Strausss concept of house societies.
Rsum : Dans le Sud du Levant, les constructions architecturales tmoignent de la complexit des paysages sociaux au Nolithique
rcent et au Chalcolithique. Plutt quun processus volutif, leurs caractristiques suggrent une variabilit et une flexibilit considrables tout au long de ces priodes. diffrentes poques et selon les lieux, des btiments individuels ont t isols du reste de la
communaut, dans une cour mure qui servait galement protger leurs provisions et leur btail. Ailleurs, nous trouvons des zones
dhabitations apparemment quasi-indpendantes, partageant une cour enclose par les maisons elles-mmes qui renfermaient une
grande part de lespace ddi au stockage, alors que dautres secteurs dactivit taient partags. Partout, nous observons galement
des maisons isoles qui ne semblent associes ni la cour ni la zone dhabitation. En outre, parmi les maisons coexistantes, nous
distinguons dimportantes variations dans leur taille, leur mode de construction, et leur capacit de stockage, suggrant un certain
degr de diffrentiation conomique, peut-tre une diffrence de rang, et probablement une forme de concurrence entre les habitations. Certaines caractristiques suggrent que les chefs de maisons aient fait des choix stratgiques en ce qui concerne la taille de
leur demeure, leurs alliances avec dautres maisonnes, laccroissement des troupeaux ou laccumulation des stocks de grains, quils
affichent de faon concurrentielle afin de promouvoir lavantage politique et conomique de leur maison. Ce modle pourrait correspondre au concept de C. Lvi-Strauss des socits maison .
Keywords: Levant; Syria; Late Neolithic; Yarmoukian; Chalcolithic; Wadi Rabah; Ghassulian; Built Environment; Architecture;
Households.
Mots-cls : Levant ; Syrie ; Nolithique rcent ; Yarmoukien ; Chalcolithique ; Wadi Rabah ; Ghassoulien ; Habitat ; Architecture ;
Maisons.

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For several millennia before the first cities arose in the


Southern Levant, its hills and valleys hosted camps, farms,
hamlets, and villages of the regions earliest farmers and herders.1 Undoubtedly their adoption of a fully agro-pastoral economy triggered profound social changes, yet we actually know
rather little about the social organization and social interactions
of these pioneers, especially for the Pottery Neolithic.2 Some
have argued that, by the Late Chalcolithic, they had formed
chiefdoms, partly on the grounds that Chalcolithic sites found
in at least some regions appear to conform to a two-tier settlement hierarchy.3 Hordes of wealth, as at Nahal Mishmar4 and
Nahal Qana,5 the near-ubiquity of maceheads as possible status
markers, and evidence for possible warfare6 are also consistent
with this view. However, it is actually quite difficult to demonstrate, with evidence presented so far, what social and political connections, if any, there actually were between or within
settlements in the postulated settlement systems, or how social
organization operated at the level of the household.7 There is
even less evidence for the social developments that led up to
the Late Chalcolithic.
However, we may find some hints as to how the inhabitants of Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic sites interacted socially
in their built environmentsthe interconnected spaces and
constructed barriers that structured opportunities for social
encounters.

ARCHITECTURE AND SOCIETY


A number of theoretical streams are consistent with the
view that there is a relationship between social arrangements
among people and the organization of the spaces that they
inhabit and in which they move about, carry out activities,
and encounter other people. Practice theory and other agentfocussed approaches that gain inspiration from the works of
P. Bourdieu and A. Giddens8 are prominent among these, even
though they do not always highlight the architectural aspects
1. I dedicate this paper to my friend, G. Dollfus, whose patient mentoring,
lively discussions, and generosity with material from Abu Hamid contributed immensely to my interest in the transition from the Neolithic to the
Chalcolithic in the Southern Levant.
2. GOPHER, 1995.
3. LEVY, 1995; LEVY et HOLL, 1988; LEVY et al., 2006.
4. BAR-A DON, 1980; MOOREY, 1988.
5. GOPHER and TSUK, 1996; GOPHER et al., 1990.
6. DAWSON et al., 2003.
7. P ETERSON, 2002: 44.
8. BOURDIEU, 1977; GIDDENS, 1984.

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E.B. BANNING

of habitus or structure. The theories implicit in social network analysis9 and access analysis10 are also quite compatible,
the former emphasizing social interactions and preferences,
the latter focusing on the spatial networks in which such interactions take place. While there is no reason to expect a simple
or one-to-one correspondence between architectural arrangements and social arrangements, it makes sense to expect the
spatial structure of architecture and built environments to be
subject to the influence of the social arrangements and anticipated social encounters of the builders, while at the same time
we should expect pre-existing architectural spaces and boundaries to influence the timing, frequency, location, and character
of subsequent social interactions.11 In short, the built environment and human society have a reciprocal relationship. Consequently, we can exploit this relationship to try to interpret
likely social arrangements when the architectural evidence is
reasonably well preserved.12
Bourdieu brought what we now describe as practice theory
or agency theory to prominence through his attempt to situate human domination and resistance within habitus, which
consists of individuals unconsciously internalized dispositions, as found in routinized daily actions, that determine their
perceptions of the world around them. Habitus not only structures human actions but is also structured by them. Although
he does not typically express this in architectural terms, it is
interesting that in his most famous case study of the Kabyle
Berber house,13 even though it is more structuralist in emphasis than his later work, he sees the house as something like a
book. In it, children growing up can learn to read the signs and
signals found in the architecture, furnishings, organization of
space, and behaviours of their parents and older siblings so that
they come to accept, for example, particular gender roles. Each
individuals habitus is unique because it develops through
eachs unique history of experiences of the external world, yet
somewhat shared as well, because many individuals have similar experiences conditioned, for example, by their class. In fact,
it is this class aspect that was of particular interest to Bourdieu.14 Bourdieus accompanying notion of doxa captures the
unquestioned or naturalized beliefs that also structure peoples
understanding and actions without conscious reflection.

9. MORENO and JENNINGS, 1945; WASSERMAN and FAUST, 1994.


10. HILLIER and HANSON, 1984.
11. BANNING, 2002; F ERGUSON, 1996; F ISHER, 2007; LEVY et al., 1991:
32-33.
12. LEVY et al., 1991: 32-33.
13. BOURDIEU, 1970.
14. Ibid., 1990: 60.

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Houses, Households, and Changing Society in the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic of the Southern Levant

Bourdieus work influenced that of Giddens,15 whose own


work is arguably even more explicitly relevant to the way
architecture both structures and is structured by socially relevant actions. Consequently, Giddens has influenced a number
of archaeological studies of architecture.16 In place of habitus, Giddens uses the somewhat different concept of structure, and uses the duality of structure to refer to idea that
the structures that guide individual actions are themselves
reproduced by those same actions. Unlike Bourdieu, Giddens
tries to deal with both the enabling and constraining characters of structure, credits individuals with greater capability to
reflect consciously on structures, and sees them as applying
tacit knowledge skillfully in their conduct, even when they
are not able to express those structures discursively.17 Giddens
also situates structure in space and time, which makes it very
relevant to archaeological investigations.18
A theoretical approach and methodology that explicitly
relates spatial organization to the social sphere are Space
Syntax and access analysis.19 Many archaeologists use the
former term to encompass the latter method, but really they
are different, yet related, things. Access analysis is a methodology that involves quantitatively analysing the topological
relationships among rooms in buildings (gamma analysis)
and among open spaces and lines of site (axial lines) in
settlements (alpha analysis). Space syntax is rather a
structuralism-influenced logic or grammar that describes
the spatial structure of spaces in more general terms. B. Hillier and J. Hanson propose eight elementary syntaxes (fig. 1)
that they label from z1 to z8 and classify as distributed (structure arises out of joint effect of independent spatial units) or
nondistributed (one or more units impose structure on or
control access to other units), and symmetric (relationship of one space to another is identical with respect to some
third space) or asymmetric (one space controls access from
the other space to some third space).20 It is typical, as with
access analysis, to examine these syntaxes at one of two
scales, either individual buildings or globally over whole
settlements or neighbourhoods; however, this is not essential,
and the elementary units of space syntax can in principal be
agglomerated over multiple scales (e.g., rooms grouped into
buildings, buildings into compounds, and compounds into
neighbourhoods).
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.

GIDDENS, 1984.
E.g., F ERGUSON, 1996; F ISHER, 2007.
GIDDENS, 1979: 57; DORNAN, 2002: 307.
F ERGUSON, 1996: 6.
HILLIER and HANSON, 1984.
Ibid., 1984: 66-81.

51

Unfortunately for most of our available sample of built


environments of the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic in the
Southern Levant, reliable application of gamma analysis
requires very well-preserved architecture, with consistently
reliable information on the placement of walls and doorways,
alpha analysis requires quite broad exposures of architecture, and both require that we are able to discern or reasonably
assume contemporaneity of all the architecture that we include
in a single analysis. When architectural data from excavations
are collapsed into fairly thick strata representing deposits of
several centuries, it is possible or even likely that at least some
buildings in a stratum were constructed only after some others
had gone out of use or been demolished,21 and even more likely
that we are collapsing sequences of renovations into snapshots that do not accurately represent the dynamic interaction
between architecture and its inhabitants and builders. Thus
while detailed stratigraphic and architectural analysis can
sometimes identify multiple renovation events over the short
term, as at Ain Ghazal,22 the lack of such evidence makes it
impossible to distinguish reliably, for example, the various
subphases of Munhatas Layer 2b.23
However, the space syntax aspect of Hillier and Hansons
programme can still be helpful in characterizing the architecture of sites and buildings, and several of their elementary
syntaxes are recognizable among our fragmentary evidence.
Among these are the z1 or cluster of midges syntax, whereby
one-room buildings or huts are loosely clustered in settlements,
but there is no other obvious structure, and a good deal of settlement area consists of open space. In the z3 or beady ring
syntax, each building is joined by its main or only doorway to
an open space, and these open spaces attach to one another to
create a rather jumbled street system among clumps of buildings. In the z4 or concentric syntax, a cell is enclosed by
another cell, such as a house within a fenced space, or access
to a room is controlled by the need to pass through another
room, such as an anteroom. The z5 or central space syntax
describes the situation in which a plurality of cells encloses
an open space, as when huts are arranged in a circle around a
sort of plaza, or as the classic Mediterranean courtyard house.
The z6 or estate syntax can also describe a sort of courtyard house, but in this case the structure arises, much as in z4,
from the use of an enclosure wall or fence that encloses, this
time, a plurality of cells, such as several buildings occupying
the same fenced area, or a compound defined partly by rooms
21. LEVY and A LON, 1987: 168.
22. BANNING and BYRD, 1987.
23. GARFINKEL, 1992: 17.

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Non distributed

Distributed

Asymmetric

Symmetric

Elementary

Examples

Elementary

Cluster

Closed cell

(xy)

(x o x)

Clump

Concentric

(xx o y)

(x o xx)

Cent ral space

Est at e

(xx o xx o y)

Examples

(x o x o xx)

Both

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52

Ring street

Kraal

Fig. 1 Schematic diagram of Hillier and Hansons eight elementary syntaxes (after HILLIER and HANSON, 1984: 78). Example plans
are inspired by real architecture at Byblos (z1, z5), atalhyk (z2), Tel Tsaf (z4, z6), Shaar Hagolan (z6), Greek cities, e.g. Olynthus (z7), and
Maasai kraals (z8). Notation for the syntaxes uses parantheses for elemental units, x for a closed cell, xx for a group of closed cells, y
for an open space, yy for a group of open spaces, and o for the act of containment.

with a common outer wall, and partly by an enclosure wall. In


the Southern Levant during the period of interest, we do not
find clear evidence of the z2, which describes atalhyk-like
aggregations of cells, the z7, which yields very formal ringstreet or grid systems, or the z8, which describes the Kraals of
Southern Africa.
Social-network analysis is another method that, like Hillier and Hansons access analysis, is potentially applicable to
the relationships among spaces in ancient settlements, sharing with access analysis a reliance on topological graphs and
quantitative measures. It does differ, however, in that it does

049-088-Banning.indd 52

not demand spatial contiguity and relies on quite different


measures of the strengths of relationships between nodes in
a graph.24 However, lacking independent evidence for interpersonal relationships, archaeologists who wish to exploit its
methods typically must restrict analysis to the interconnections of inter-permeable spaces, just as in access analysis, or
make other simplifying assumptions. Consequently, in the
archaeological context, social-network analysis shares many
24. CARRINGTON et al., 2005; NOOY (DE) et al., 2005; NEWMAN et al.,
2006; WASSERMAN and FAUST, 1994.

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Houses, Households, and Changing Society in the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic of the Southern Levant

of the limitations of access analysis. However, some of its concepts and conclusions still have a bearing on archaeological
interpretations of social and economic interactions.
Proxemics and Environment-Behaviour Studies both offer
theories that relate human behaviour and cultural practices to
the built environments in which they take place through nonverbal communication.25 E.T. Hall was pioneering in identifying such concepts as personal or intimate space, social
space, and public space and set out a programme for proxemics, the study of human behaviours and interpersonal spacing that nonverbally communicate cues to others. R. Fletcher
extended this approach to the nonverbal cues presented by
material arrangements and spacings, as among architectural
elements and furnishings.26 A. Rapoport extends it further to
architecture by making more explicit reference to the meanings of architectural elements.27
Finally, although the theoretical approach of this paper is not
human behavioural ecology, inevitably the social groups that
built, inhabited, and modified architecture were also subject to
constraints of balancing the costs and benefits of productive
(e.g., harvesting), consumptive (e.g., dining and feasting), and
reproductive (e.g., child care) activities.28 This balance is part
of decision-makers practical knowledge and takes place in the
context of individual dispositions and through agents routinized daily actions and bodily experiences. However, it also has
practical consequences for social groups ability to survive and
prosper, particularly in risky environments,29 and the size, distribution, and accessibility of architectural features related to
production, consumption, and, perhaps, reproduction, are quite
important. In particular, we should want to pay attention to
the scale of households and other cooperative groups, and the
scale of storage, in the attempt to discover how social arrangements responded to or influenced this balance.

EVIDENCE FROM THE SOUTHERN LEVANT


A number of sites provide good evidence for Late Neolithic
and Chalcolithic architecture, but inevitably also present
limitations.
Stratigraphic uncertainties, especially from older excavations like those at Byblos, sometimes frustrate our attempts to
25.
26.
27.
28.
29.

F LETCHER, 1989; H ALL, 1969; R APOPORT, 1990a-b.


F LETCHER, 1977; 1978; 1981 and 1989.
See also BLANTON, 1994: 8-13.
E.g., K RAMER and BOONE, 2002.
BOONE and K ESSLER, 1999.

53

understand settlement organization in detail. In some cases,


we lack evidence for genuine stratigraphic levels, and instead
have either arbitrary levels or ones defined by their artifact
content rather than principles of stratigraphic superposition.
Even where modern stratigraphy was practiced, we cannot be
absolutely certain that all the buildings attributed to a phase
or stratum were completely contemporary; in some cases, the
phases are long enough in duration that it is likely that some
buildings were constructed later in the phase than others,
and quite possible that others were abandoned or demolished
before the phase ended. The common practice of employing
architectural stratigraphy tends to conflate these short-term
events and, although it may provide good enough resolution
for the purposes of artifact typology, can pose problems for
any spatial analyses that presuppose strict contemporaneity
of buildings, while also making it difficult to distinguish how
newer buildings were added around and between pre-existing
ones. In many cases, furthermore, excavators have dated buildings on the basis of materials found in room fills rather than
foundation contexts or floor contexts; such fills pose a high
probability of containing post-abandonment refuse that actually dates somewhat later than the buildings construction or
use. The fact that the sites with the best exposures also tend to
have been either field schools or to have employed large numbers of labourers of uncertain training also poses the risk that
students and other inexperienced or minimally trained excavators made stratigraphic errors.
Some of these stratigraphic problems also present uncertainties in the association of architectural units with various classes
of finds that we would ideally use to assess the likely uses of
spaces within and outside of buildings. Only rather fine-grained
stratigraphic and taphonomic analyses, or at least close documentation of artifacts found directly on floors and in features,
will allow us to make such assessments with confidence.
Most of the sites also present evidence that suffers from
some combination of less-than-perfect preservation of walls
and doorways, sometimes with only foundation stones surviving, and incomplete excavation, so that portions of buildings
and associated outdoor surfaces lie in unexcavated spaces. In
such cases, we are often unable to tell where doorways were
placed, to measure room sizes, or to be certain whether buildings were associated with storage facilities or other important
features. This consequently makes certain kinds of analysis
either impossible or vulnerable to various kinds of errors. Furthermore, and especially where excavation has been rather
limited, there is likely a bias that could give the impression that
substantial buildings were rare or nonexistent. As Y. Garfinkel
points out, statistically it is quite likely that a small number

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of typical excavation areas will intersect open spaces rather


than buildings.30 This could incorrectly suggest that certain
Neolithic or Chalcolithic settlements were insubstantial and
characterized by pits and open areas when the reality is that
the excavations simply missed the associated buildings. As a
case in point, the early excavations at Shaar Hagolan gave no
hint of the dense and substantial Yarmoukian architecture at
that site.31 Even where stratigraphic excavation, exposure, and
preservation are quite good, we do not always have publication
in sufficient detail to take advantage of this information.
Finally, we should be mindful that our sample of sites and
architecture is not demonstrably representative of the architecture that existed in these periods. Smaller and more ephemeral
sites are probably underrepresented, and sites such as Shaar
Hagolan may be exceptional rather than typical.
All of these factors place limitations on how we can exploit
the evidence that is briefly summarized here.

Storage jar

"Kitchen" area

Hearth

Huwwar
plaster

YARMOUKIAN, JERICHO IX, AND BYBLOS


NOLITHIQUE ANCIEN (ca 6500-5800 cal. BC)
For the Yarmoukian, our best evidence for both houses and
settlement organization comes from Ain Ghazal and Shaar
Hagolan. Ash-Shallaf and Munhata 2b provide some more
evidence. Buildings that are likely contemporary with the Yarmoukian also come from Byblos. For Jericho IX (Lodian) architecture, Jericho and Lod provide some evidence. Excavations at
a number of other sites, such as Jebel Abu Thawwab,32 show only
fragments of architecture that provide more limited evidence.

Ain Ghazal
At Ain Ghazal, probably the most notable aspects of the
Yarmoukian occupation are the relatively high spacing of
buildings and the presence of many quite substantial courtyard walls, which, in combination with huge, pre-existing PrePottery Neolithic C (PPNC) walls at the site, may have subdivided the settlement into distinct neighbourhoods. In some
cases, the regular spacing of post holes in these courtyards
suggests that they were partly covered by shade structures.33
Near one of these large walls in the Central Field of
the site, one Yarmoukian residential building in Area 4073 is

30.
31.
32.
33.

GARFINKEL, 1993.
STEKELIS, 1972; GARFINKEL and MILLER, 2002: 12.
K AFAFI, 2001: 23-29.
Ibid., 2006: 86.

049-088-Banning.indd 54

5m

Fig. 2 Yarmoukian residential building in Area 4073 at Ain Ghazal


(after ROLLEFSON, 1997: 300). The three-room path arrangement is
a z4 syntax, while the likely enclosure of the building and cooking
area within a walled compound would be z6.

rectangular, almost 9 m long, with three interconnected rooms


in a simple path arrangement (fig. 2). A patch of huwwar plaster in the centre of the building could conceivable be a hearth
base, although it showed no obvious sign of burning. A small,
oval-shaped enclosure north of the building, containing a store
jar, two grinding slabs, and a hearth, has been interpreted as
an outdoor kitchen.34
Another Yarmoukian building, apparently constructed on
a pre-existing PPNC plaster floor, is an apsidial structure that
G.O. Rollefson and colleagues interpret as a possible cultic
building on the basis of large stones or orthostats at the centre of the apse and the presence of exclusively fine ware pottery
in the room fill.35 However, the function of this room is not
conclusive. The fine ware pottery could have been deposited
34. Ibid., 2006; K AFAFI and ROLLEFSON, 1995: 16; ROLLEFSON, 1997:
300.
35. ROLLEFSON et al., 1991: 111-112.

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Houses, Households, and Changing Society in the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic of the Southern Levant

While hearths, or at least ones of certain identification,


may have been rare within Yarmoukian buildings at this site,
firepits of various kinds occur in the open spaces and courtyards outside the Yarmoukian houses.40 As already noted, one
such fireplace was in the kitchen area outlined by stones to
the north of the long house in Area 4073.

Tabular knife
Biface cache
Hearth ?
Platform
Post hole

Cache of disks,
hematite, bone awl

Byblos
5m

Fig. 3 Yarmoukian residential architecture in Areas 4655/4455


in the South Field at Ain Ghazal (after ROLLEFSON et al., 1991).

after the buildings abandonment or be associated with a highstatus household that hosted feasts or employed pottery, architecture, and other material culture in negotiation of prestige.
The orthostats, which are unmodified limestone blocks of no
great size, could have had symbolic or aesthetic purposes without necessarily being associated with non-domestic cult, and
may simply have been conveniently available building stones
with no particular symbolic associations.
Another well-preserved, early Yarmoukian building comes
from Areas 4655/4455 in the South Field at Ain Ghazal. It had
at least two rooms in a path arrangement but has lost its eastern
walls, and could have been similar in plan to the building in
Area 4073 (fig. 3). A low stone platform occupied part of the
western room, and a shallow circular basin in the clay floor
next to this platform may have been a hearth. In the eastern
room, the floor is associated with a cache of bifacial axes and
a cluster of artifacts that included pierced and unpierced disks,
hematite, a bone awl, a stone cylinder, and possible burnishing
stones.36
There were also circular or oval structures at Ain Ghazal
during the Yarmoukian. Some of these were pit dwellings up
to about 3 m in length, with earthen floors and interior storage
features.37 Others were stone circles, 3.5 to 4.5 m in diameter,
sometimes with huwwar plaster surfaces, a hearth, and interior
stone platforms.38 Rollefson interprets these as the foundations
of tents.39

36.
37.
38.
39.

55

BANNING, 2009; K AFAFI, 2006: 85-86; ROLLEFSON et al., 1991: 110.


E.g., ROLLEFSON and SIMMONS, 1987: 105.
ROLLEFSON and K AFAFI, 1994.
ROLLEFSON, 1997: 301.

Architecture at Byblos that is probably contemporary


with the Yarmoukian comes mainly from what M. Dunand
describes as the Nolithique ancien levels.41 On the one hand,
the broad exposures carried out at Byblos provide a lot of
evidence for architecture and, ideally, for the organization of
space over much of the settlement. On the other, the excavation
was by arbitrary 20 cm levels, which has probably resulted in
considerable mixing of stratigraphic contexts and, in particular, ignored the intrusion of many pits. In addition, the publication does not consistently sort out which walls should belong
to different subphases of each stratum.42 On the other hand,
there appear to have been quite noticeable differences in the
construction of houses among the occupation levels (e.g., good
floor plaster only in Nolithique ancien), as well as substantial
spatial separation of the first three levels.
Here, the rectangular buildings typically have one room,
well-plastered floor, and a slightly raised, rectangular sockle,
probably a hearth, centred against one of the short walls
(fig. 4). One building shows a pair of small bins in one corner.43 In another, we find an apsidial room added to one end
of the building, which has a stone-paved floor rather than the
usual plaster.44 Dunand suggests that the walls did not support
40. Ibid., 1997: 300.
41. DUNAND, 1973. Notably, Garfinkel attributes much of Nolithique ancien to the PPNB, mainly but not exclusively on the basis of plastered
house floors, and only the uppermost Nolithique ancien to Yarmoukian, GARFINKEL, 2004: 176-182. Although this assessment could be
correct, and most of the artifacts with Yarmoukian affinities intrusive
or due to mixing in excavation, the Nolithique ancien architecture also
differs in important respects from LPPNB and PPNC architecture in the
Southern Levant. Plaster floors do occur in PPNC buildings, and even at
Shaar Hagolan during the Yarmoukian (GARFINKEL, 2006: 106), and
it is possible that use of plaster persisted at Byblos, while the stone tools
with PPNB technology could be residual or pertain only to the lowest
Nolithique ancien. Currently, it is difficult to distinguish between these
possibilities.
42. Note that Dunands archives include much unpublished detail that could
eventually help us solve some of these dilemmas, UNIVERSIT DE
GENVE, n.d.
43. Building 47-13, with superimposed phases 47-14, 47-15, DUNAND, 1973:
22-23.
44. Building 28-7, DUNAND, 1973: 24-25.

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56

10 m

Fig. 4 Examples of houses from Nolithique ancien of Byblos (after DUNAND, 1973:
pl. H.a), scattered in what is probably the z1 syntax.

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a roof or even extend much higher than 30 cm, but instead


that the house area was covered with a light superstructure of
bent poles covered by plaited mats, skins, or reeds, the top of
the wall serving as a sort of bench.45 It is difficult to discern
a pattern to the distribution of buildings in these levels. There
is not a consistent orientation of buildings, although a rough
tendency to orient the long axis along the slope,46 and in places
where houses are in proximity they are often in rows and quite
likely lining streets, even if informal ones. In other places,
they appear scattered and widely spaced, although this could
be an accident of preservation, excavation, and superposition
by later buildings that were not removed. Dunands plans also
show some long, curvilinear walls, especially in the latest Nolithique ancien, and these seem to be courtyard walls or the
boundaries of streets, although it is not at all clear how they
relate to nearby buildings or one another.47 The arrangement of
some structures in Areas 22 and 47 also hints at the possibility
that they are associated with courtyards but, as O. Aurenche
points out,48 the stratigraphic difficulties and the likelihood that
some walls were terrace walls makes it difficult to be certain.

57

5m

Pier
Standing
stones

Jericho
At Jericho, the Pottery Neolithic A (PNA) and Pottery Neolithic B (PNB) levels are most notable for their numerous pits,
but there is also some substantial architecture. In Trench I, in
addition to the many pits, we find in Stage XXIX (PNA) a complex, probably with several rooms and a courtyard, with both
straight and curvilinear walls built of stones and bun-shaped
mudbricks (fig. 5a).49

Lod
Jericho IX architecture at Lod/Nev Yaraq includes circular pit houses, 2-3 m in diameter, dug into the dune sand, with
mudbrick walls lining the pit and continuing to a height at least
77 cm above the pit brim.50 A sequence of living floors in a 3 m
building showed debris from a variety of domestic activities
and the uppermost floor had a burnt feature that is probably a
cooking hearth or the remnant of an oven.

45.
46.
47.
48.
49.
50.

DUNAND, 1973: 14-15.


Ibid., 1973: 10.
These include walls 22-33, 22-34, 22-35, DUNAND, 1973: pl. H.b.
AURENCHE, 1981: 236.
K ENYON, 1981: 94.
GOPHER and BLOCKMAN, 2004.

5m

Fig. 5 Pottery Neolithic architecture from Jerichos Stage XXIX


(a) and Stage XXXI (b) (after KENYON, 1981). Assuming that the
Stage XXIX building is in a walled compound, it would represent a
z4 or z6 syntax.

Munhata
At Munhata, Garfinkel attributes a number of circular and
oval, stone-founded buildings, ranging from 3.5 to 4.5 m in
diameter, in the southwestern and northern fields to Level 2b
or the Yarmoukian.51 In the southwestern field, these are associated with several outdoor features or hearths; in both these
fields, the huts are close to what appear to be outdoor living
surfaces. In all the open areas there were many pits, and it
is likely that at least some of these were originally used for
storage, even if they later served some other purpose, such as
51. GARFINKEL, 1992: 20-25 and 1993: 128.

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c
cc

c
c

c
c

10 m

Fig. 6 Yarmoukian building complexes in Area E, Shaar Hagolan (after GARFINKEL


and BEN-SHLOMO, 2001a). C marks rooms with cobbled surfaces and the circle marks a storage jar.

rubbish disposal. A large pithos had been sunk into one such pit
(504) in the western field,52 most likely as a storage repository. In
total, Garfinkel attributes 78 pits to Level 2b, the largest nearly
9 m2 in area, although it is difficult to estimate their volume on
the basis of published evidence.53 In the eastern field, there is
also a cobbled platform or pavement about 8 m2 in area.54

Shaar Hagolan
Garfinkel and his colleagues have discussed the architectural evidence from Shaar Hagolan at some length.55 Unlike
Ain Ghazal, Shaar Hagolan, at least in part, seems to have
been densely covered with architectural units that were separated by streets, although with more open space in areas that
M. Stekelis excavated.56 Here we benefit from fairly large
exposures and excavations that are much more recent than
those, for example, at Byblos. However, on published evidence,
we still cannot be certain of the contemporaneity of buildings
52.
53.
54.
55.
56.

GARFINKEL, 1992: 21.


Ibid., 1993: 128.
Locus 567; GARFINKEL, 1992: 21.
GARFINKEL, 2006; GARFINKEL and BEN SHLOMO, 2002a-b.
STEKELIS, 1972; GARFINKEL and MILLER, 2002: 12-13.

049-088-Banning.indd 58

and features, or discern how each building complex developed


over its life history.
Area E is particularly noteworthy, showing most or all of
two large courtyard buildings or compounds (Building Complexes I and II) and portions of at least one other (Building
Complex III), separated by well-defined streets and alleys
(fig. 6). Building Complex I provides a particularly neat picture of what appear to be three or four residential units, each
with apparent living and storage spaces, arranged on two sides
of a nearly triangular, walled courtyard in which we find a
number of small pavements, a sort of bench, and a low, thin
wall. One such unit, consisting of rooms C and D, is larger
than the others, and all but one has a small, room paved with
basalt pebbles at right and a larger, unpaved one on the left,
two of which had circular stone features that might be hearths.
There are tantalizing hints in the plan that one unit, at least,
was a later addition, creating an awkward northeast corner, but
we lack stratigraphic information to evaluate the construction
sequence. In another corner of the courtyard, next to the probable gateway, a rounded structure could be a shared storage
facility,57 but a circular, basalt-built feature within it, similar to

57. GARFINKEL and BEN-SHLOMO, 2002a: 59.

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59

Silo
C

N
N

C
A

Pebbles

10 m

Fig. 8 Cluster of curvilinear structures A through F in Area A at


Ash-Shallaf (after BIENERT and VIEWEGER, 2000). Small, unmarked
circles denote likely hearths.
C

5m

Fig. 7 Structures and courtyards in Area H, Shaar Hagolan (after GARFINKEL , 2006: 106). C marks rooms with
cobbled surfaces, and P marks a plastered floor.

probable hearths in other rooms of the compound, could be a


cooking installation or have some other non-storage purpose.
The larger and more complicated Building Complex II similarly consists of a number of apparent residential units, typically with one paved and one unpaved room, arranged around
a common courtyard.58 Again, we lack information on whether
these were built about the same time or resulted from gradual
infilling of the space, although the continuous outer walls, lining the streets, suggest that the building lot was well defined
early on. In the courtyard, we find a number of pits, pavements,
some stone mortars, several stone circles, some of which might
be hearths, and a line of standing stones.
Area H also shows clear evidence of structures associated
with courtyards (fig. 7). The best-exposed examples are associated with Courtyard A, which, somewhat like Complex I, has
an entrance from a street and is bordered by five two-room

58. GARFINKEL and BEN-SHLOMO, 2002a: 62-68.

units, in four of which one room is stone-paved and perhaps


served for storage. A basalt mortar was on the floor of the most
northeasterly room, which only had cobble flooring in its eastern half.59

Ash-Shallaf
Excavations by the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology in Amman at this site in Wadi ash-Shallalah in 1998
and 1999 uncovered foundations of Yarmoukian curvilinear
structures that may have been huts with superstructures built
of reeds or other organic materials.60 Indeed, fragments of fired
clay with reed impressions are consistent with this view. The
clustering of these foundations in such a way that they open
onto a common space in one of the excavation areas suggests
a sort of house compound with several rooms of varying size
and function (fig. 8). Structure A is somewhat subrectangular,
with at least three small chambers; the others are oval to semicircular in plan. Two features appear to be stone-and-claylined hearths. A small, slab-lined silo occurred immediately
north of Structure E, while a pebbled surface or platform lay
just southwest of Structures A and B. Overall, the architecture
is rather different than that found at large Yarmoukian sites
such as Ain Ghazal and Shaar Hagolan.

59. GARFINKEL, 2006: 106.


60. BIENERT and VIEWEGER, 2000.

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C
B

5m

Fig. 9 Domestic architecture from Wadi Rabah levels at Wadi


Rabah (after K APLAN, 1958). The perpendicular wall extending
from Building B suggests the possibility of a walled compound (syntax z4 or z6). The greyed areas represent cobbled surfaces.

WADI RABAH SITES (ca 5800-5100 cal. BC)


Among sites with Wadi Rabah affinities, evidence for probable houses is available from Wadi Rabah, itself, Munhata 2a,
PNB Jericho, and Neve Yam. There are also contemporary buildings from the Wadi Rabah-related site of Tabaqat al-Bma and,
again, many buildings at Byblos that are likely contemporary,
most likely from the Nolithique moyen levels.61 Few of these
sites give much indication of overall settlement organization,
Byblos and Tabaqat al-Bma providing the broadest exposures
relative to overall site size among the sites reviewed here.
At Wadi Rabah (fig. 9), J. Kaplans excavations exposed a
single fairly complete building (B) and a paved area (C) that he
interpreted as the foundation of a massive wall.62 Building B
is the stone foundation of a rectangular broad-room building, probably with a doorway at the middle of the northeastern
long wall. Structure C is more plausibly a cobbled surface or
platform, similar to ones known at contemporary sites, such as
al-Basatn,63 and could have served as the base of some storage facility or as the floor of a tent or other light structure.
Fragments of walls extending at right angles from Building Bs
southeast and southwest walls also suggest the possibility of
courtyard walls or similar outdoor enclosures.
61. GARFINKEL, 2004: 182-183.
62. K APLAN, 1958.
63. K ADOWAKI et al., 2008.

049-088-Banning.indd 60

5m

Fig. 10 Architecture from Munhata Level 2a, including at least


two architectureal subphases (after GARFINKEL , 1992).

The architecture from Munhatas Wadi Rabah component,


Level 2a, consists of rectangular stone or stone-founded buildings that appear often to consist of two or three small rooms
in a row,64 possibly with multiple entrances on one long side so
that each room was independent of the others (fig. 10). However, there are also one-room architectural units. The lack of
detailed stratigraphic information makes it difficult to disentangle what is clearly a palimpsest of buildings. Open space
adjacent to the rooms contained several pits, not quite as large,
on average, as the Yarmoukian ones, that could originally have
been used in food preparation or storage. That they did not
contain much pottery65 suggests that they may not have been
for rubbish disposal.
At Jericho, in Stage XXXI (PNB), the PNA architecture
gives way to a more rectilinear structure (fig. 5b) built of
stones and bun-shaped bricks, but with the curious feature of
three standing stones, 42 to 60 cm in height, arranged around
one side of a circular feature or pier made of two courses of
flat stones.66
The basal level at Abu Hamid, Phase I, appears to date
ca 5250-5050 cal. BC and, whether or not it should be classified as Wadi Rabah, it seems comtemporary with the latest

64. P ERROT, 1964; 1965; 1966 and 1967; GARFINKEL, 1992: 23-26.
65. GARFINKEL, 1992: 24.
66. K ENYON, 1981: 95.

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Hearth

Terrace

wall

Silo

5m

Fig. 12 Exposed architecture from the Late Neolithic Level 3 at


Tabaqat al-Bma (after K ADOWAKI, 2007). C marks rooms with
cobbled floors.
0

5m

Wadi Rabah-related sites.67 It exhibits a number of pits up to


180 cm deep and up to 3 m in diameter, which have apparent living floors and sometimes pis walls and appear to have
been residential. Geomorphological study has shown evidence
of both trampling and intentional floor preparation in some of
these pits.68 Hearths were not found in these pits, but on the
associated surfaces outside, where there were also small bins,
occasionally plastered, and post holes.

Architecture of Byblos Nolithique moyen appears to be


fairly well segregated from both Nolithique ancien and Nolithique rcent buildings, as it lies in the southern portion of
Dunands deeper excavation and is not superimposed on any
older buildings except in a small area.69 The excavated sample is unfortunately quite small (fig. 11). It exhibits considerable continuity with the earlier architecture, but Dunand only
shows a single example that might exhibit a raised rectangular hearth against one wall.70 Among the characteristics that
distinguish it from the previous buildings, well-made plaster
floors no longer appeared, although at least one building shows
evidence of a poorer sort of plaster. Rarely, some buildings
have a small chamber at one end of the room, defined by a

67. LOVELL et al., 1997 and 2007: 54-55; BANNING, 2007: 89-90.
68. HOURANI 1997: 73-74.

69. DUNAND, 1973: 95.


70. Building 46-17, DUNAND, 1973: 98.

Fig. 11 House structures from Nolithique moyen levels


at Byblos (after DUNAND, 1973).

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partition wall, and, in one case, two partitions divided the


structure into three rooms.71
Tabaqat al-Bma, although quite a small site, provides a
more extensive view of architecture and use of space during this
period than most other sites (fig. 12).72 S. Kadowaki argues, on
the basis of site-formation processes, artifact distributions, and
spatial organization, that the site was occupied by two closely
cooperating households around 5700 cal. BC but that, through
subsequent stratigraphic and architectural phases, came to be
occupied by increasingly independent households.73 There was
considerable open space around the buildings in all phases,
although a few walls appear to define a courtyard or fenced-in
area all these phases.

MIDDLE CHALCOLITHIC SITES


(ca 5000-4600 cal. BC)
There is less consensus over which site components should
belong to this period or, indeed, what the term Middle Chalcolithic even means. Quite aside from the terminology used
to label it, I would include on chronological grounds the architecture from Tel Tsaf that recent excavations have exposed,74
as well as architectural remains from Abu Hamid Phase II,75
and pit structures from Levels H/I at Tuleilat Ghassul.76 There
is less extensive evidence from other sites that appear to date
to this interval, including Tubna in Wadi Ziqlab77 and Pella.78
Although its chronological relationship to the other sites in this
group is far from certain, here we will also include architecture that Dunand assigned to Nolithique rcent at Byblos.79
Tel Tsaf probably provides the best glimpse of architecture
of this period. The recent excavations have exposed parts of
several courtyard areas defined by well-constructed mudbrick
walls,80 and with two major stratigraphic phases. In one courtyard area (I), we find a rectangular one-room structure that we
might describe as a broad-room house, about 23 m2 in area,
along with outdoor roasting pits (fig. 13a). In the lower phase,
five circular platforms that are likely storage silos accompany
the building, replaced by four larger ones in the upper phase.
71.
72.
73.
74.
75.
76.
77.
78.
79.
80.

DUNAND, 1973: 95-97.


BANNING et al., 1994 and 1996; BLACKHAM, 1997; K ADOWAKI, 2007.
K ADOWAKI, 2007.
GARFINKEL et al., 2007a-b and 2009.
LOVELL et al., 2004 and 2007.
BOURKE, 2007: 19-20.
BANNING et al., 1998; BANNING, 2007: 96.
E.g., BOURKE et al., 1998: 180.
Cf. GARFINKEL, 2004: 183-185.
GARFINKEL et al., 2009.

049-088-Banning.indd 62

In another courtyard area (II), the upper phase appears to lack


roasting pits but does have three of the round storage features,
as well as two circular mudbrick structures, about 3.7 m and
1.8 m in diameter. Garfinkel and his colleagues interpret these
round structures as domestic architecture also, as indicated by
living floors, cooking installations, pottery, flints and grinding
stones.81 They contrast them with the rectangular broad-room
building, and suggest that they might reflect Halaf affinities or
some social distinctions at the site.82 However, recent micromorphological analyses by E. Hubbard show that the rectangular
building has typical domestic floor deposits, while the circular
buildings have both laminated and disturbed deposits rich in
phytoliths and dung spherulites, indicating probable use as animal pens.83 Parts of two other courtyard areas of the lower phase
were also exposed, showing an unusual rectilinear building and
at least one round silo, and two rectangular buildings with at
least two associated silos, respectively (fig. 13b).
Abu Hamid Phase II, an occupation that appears to have
started ca 4850-4650 cal. BC,84 exhibits rectangular architecture with fairly long (or broad) rooms with areas of 18-25 m2,
as well as smaller rooms, of which the smallest, on the order of
2.8-6 m2, may be candidates for storage facilities (fig. 14). The
former have living floors, hearths, benches, and small storage
pits. These are attached to wall segments that may be remnants
of courtyard walls, while the likely courtyard areas exhibit
stone-filled fire pits and many plaster-coated pits and basins,
perhaps associated with food-preparation activities. There
were also deeper cylindrical and conical pits in open areas.85
Ghassuls Levels H/I, which S.J. Bourke and colleagues
describe as Late Neolithic, appear to date to this period. Here,
in Trenches AII and AIII, we find semi-subterranean, ovoid
dwellings on the order of 8 m2, and likely with superstructures
of pis or perishable materials.86 None appear to have had
internal features, aside from some structural posts, but there
are storage pits and patches of pebble paving in outdoor areas.
Excavated exposures at Tubna, in combination with the shallowness of some of the Chalcolithic deposits, leave us with only
limited evidence of architecture and domestic arrangements at
this site, and no very clear sense of overall settlement organization. In the sites earliest level, which probably began ca 50004800 cal. BC,87 we have at least one example of a sort of pit
81.
82.
83.
84.
85.
86.
87.

Ibid., 2009: 315.


Ibid., 2007b.
HUBBARD, 2010.
BANNING, 2007: 90.
LOVELL et al., 2007: 55-57.
BOURKE, 2007: 19.
BANNING, 2007: 96.

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63

10 m

10 m

10 m

Fig. 14 Architecture from Abu Hamid, Phase II (after LOVELL et


al., 2007). Several walls appear to enclose courtyards that contain
fire pits and plaster-coated pits and basins.

Fig. 13 Middle Chalcolithic courtyards, domestic structures, and


probable silos at Tel Tsaf upper (a) and lower (b) levels (after GARFINKEL et al., 2007b and 2009).

structure, partially occupying a hollow in the limestone bedrock


that the inhabitants modified with additional large stones. Flat,
laminated surfaces within this hollow appear to be living floors
for what was probably a somewhat insubstantial structure, perhaps walled and roofed with organic materials such as sticks and
reeds, although we lack direct evidence for this.88
At Byblos, architecture of Nolithique rcent is found in
the area just southwest of the spring. Here, we continue to find
one-room rectangular structures with cobbled floors, but also
quite a few examples of long buildings subdivided into three
rooms. One or two of the long buildings along with two or
more single-room ones are sometimes found arranged around

88. BANNING et al., 1998.

a rectangular courtyard (fig. 15), providing an example of


Hillier and Hansons z5 syntax (fig. 1).89 We also seem to find
single-room houses arranged along a narrow street along the
eastern side of the area where excavation reached this depth,
although it is possible that there were courtyards in the unexcavated portion. Circular pavements of various sizes, probably
the foundations of silos, appear to be scattered in this eastern
area but without clear association with the houses. Others are
found inside house structures. The interior furnishings of the
structures occasionally include a plastered square podium
that might be a formal hearth, and this occupies a prominent location against one of the end walls or, in one case that
Dunand interprets as a possible sanctuary, is equidistant from
the walls at one end of a large room.90

89. DUNAND, 1973: 129, pl. H.b; HILLIER and HANSON, 1984: 78.
90. DUNAND, 1973: 133-134.

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64

10 m

Fig. 15 Selected architecture from the Nolithique rcent levels at Byblos (after DUNAND, 1973:
pl. H.b). Note that this plan omits architecture that clearly underlies or overlies the selected walls,
but also many short segments of walls of uncertain placement. Those selected include complete and
plausibly reconstructed buildings that do not overlap and tend to share orientation, but we cannot
be certain, on published evidence, that these are all contemporary. The circles represent probable
storage features, mostly paved platforms.

LATE CHALCOLITHIC SITES (ca 4500-3800 cal. BC)


We are generally much better served with architectural
evidence for the Late Chalcolithic, including substantial exposures from the old excavations at Byblos, Tuleilat Ghassul, Br
as-Safadi and Tell Abu Matar, and more recent excavations at
Shiqmim, Gilat, Tel Teo, the Golan, and Abu Hamids upper
levels. Smaller exposures or individual buildings from Horvat

049-088-Banning.indd 64

Beter,91 Grar,92 Abu Snesleh,93 Sahab,94 Tell Fendi,95 En Esur,96


Tubna97 and others provide less information, but sometimes
91.
92.
93.
94.
95.
96.
97.

DOTHAN, 1959.
GILEAD, 1995.
LAMPRICHS, 1998; LEHMANN et al., 1991.
IBRAHIM, 1974: 61 and 1975: 78-81.
BLACKHAM et al., 1997 and 1998.
YANNAI, 2006.
BANNING et al., 1998.

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10 m

Fig. 16 Architecture from the nolithique ancien levels at Byblos (after DUNAND, 1973).

particular details about storage, house form, or the possible


presence of courtyards. Here we will only review a subset of
the evidence with relatively large exposures or notable details,
and must keep in mind that it is not necessarily representative
of the period as a whole.

Byblos
Although, once again, we must be skeptical of the stratigraphic phasing, a good deal of the extensive architecture that
Dunand assigns to the Nolithique rcent or nolithique
ancien should be contemporary with Late Chalcolithic sites in
our sample, and here we will include the latter.98 There appears
to have been considerable continuity from earlier periods at

98. DUNAND, 1973. Although Garfinkel equates nolithique ancien at Byblos with Late Chalcolithic, he argues that there was only a cemetery there
during this period (GARFINKEL, 2004). This leaves open how we should
date the buildings that Dunand assigns to nolithique ancien and, lacking independent dating evidence at present, here I follow Dunands attribution. We can at least be confident that it is earlier than Early Bronze I
(EBI), which appears to correspond well with nolithique rcent, BENTOR, 1989.

Byblos, even allowing for some degree of stratigraphic confusion. Once again, we find a large number of fairly simple rectangular or subrectangular buildings, usually with one room or
a main room plus a small chamber in one corner, and with a circular hearth, usually centred in one half of the principal room
(fig. 16). The overall plan is apparently of the broad-room
house type, even though the locations of doorways are often
unknown. However, there are also much larger, more impressive buildings, prompting Dunand, to remark on la grande
tendue de certaines maisons. Elles sont beaucoup plus vastes
que ce qui a t bti jusquici et que ce quon btira plus tard
().99 Another innovation of this period was the placement of
a circular hearth in some buildings, centred on the rooms long
axis in much the same position as a podium found in one
building of the previous stratum. Notably, the practice of clustering buildings around courtyards disappeared, and we find a
return to the less patterned scatter of buildings also found in
Nolithique ancien, possibly on Hillier and Hansons z1 or z3
syntax.

99. DUNAND, 1973: 170.

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10 m

Fig. 17 Late Chalcolithic architecture from Pontifical Institute excavations at Tuleilat Ghassul, on Tell 1,
Level IV (after MALLON et al., 1934: 33). The circles indicate probable silos.

Ghassul
The Pontifical Biblical Institutes excavations at Tuleilat
Ghassul from 1929 to 1938 and 1960100 created considerable
exposures of Late Chalcolithic architecture, providing some
our best evidence for the organization of space, tempered by
the need to be sensitive to the methodological limitations of
their day. Later excavations by J.B. Hennessy were focused
more on stratigraphic depth than spatial exposure, and thus
only provide glimpses of architectural fragments,101 while the
most recent excavations have again created somewhat broader
exposures, yet with close stratigraphic control.102 At this site,
we find fairly dense clusters of architecture distributed over
several distinct hillocks at the site, not all of which need to
be exactly contemporary in occupation. Each cluster appears
100. MALLON et al., 1934; KOEPPEL, 1940; NORTH, 1961.
101. H ENNESSY, 1969.
102. BOURKE et al., 1994; 2000 and 2007.

049-088-Banning.indd 66

to be subdivided by mudbrick courtyard walls, streets, and


alleys into distinct compounds, each with a one- or two-room,
broad-room house and associated outdoor storage and foodprocessing features.
The architectural plan of Level IV on Tell 1 is well known
(fig. 17), and exhibits well-defined yet irregular streets and an
arrangement of buildings around the periphery of the tell that
at first glance gives this portion of the site the impression of
a concentric settlement (the z7 syntax). In this case, however, there is no continuous ring street, leading to a fair degree
of spatial asymmetry and something more like the z3 syntax,
which would imply the house compounds agglomerating by
the spaces outside the courtyard entries.103 However, given the
stratigraphic imprecision, it is just as likely that the Ghassul
pattern developed through the gradual in-filling of a settlement that was originally of the z1 type, the growing number of
103. See fig. 1 and HILLIER and HANSON, 1984: 78.

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10 m

Fig. 18 Late Chalcolithic architecture from Pontifical Institute excavations at Tuleilat Ghassul, on Tell 3, Level IV A
(after KOEPPEL , 1940: pl. II). The circles indicate probable silos.

distinct rooms and compounds partially enclosing interconnected and gradually disappearing open spaces (z5). There
are well-defined courtyards that contain many silos and other
installations, but these also occur frequently within the broadrooms and other rooms of the house structures.
R. Koeppel attributes architecture on Tell 3 to two levels,
IV A and IV B. Although it is common for modern archaeologists to question the stratigraphic integrity of old excavations,
including those at Ghassul, Koeppel makes a fairly convincing argument that interconnecting ash layers in the courtyards
and stratigraphic sections assure that the architecture of each
level can be considered effectively contemporary within a
short time interval, with only a few walls and silos that appear
to have been used in both levels.104 In addition, the excavators recognized that ruins of the earlier IV A in many cases
were still standing or visible in IV B. These levels show large
numbers of rooms arranged around broad courtyards, some of
which contain well-constructed, stone-lined silos, and clear
streets and alleys, sometimes paved (fig. 18).105 However, it is
not always easy to be certain which rooms should belong to the

same building, and only some entrances are marked by recognizable thresholds, generally on one of a rooms long walls.
Stone-lined, brick-lined, and clay-lined silos also occurred
within houses, as at Tell 1, including semi-circular bins against
walls and isolated brick silos.106 Although we cannot be certain
that all were in use simultaneously, they were often in multiples, suggesting sometimes substantial volumes of storage in
protected areas within each house.

104. KOEPPEL, 1940: 11-12.


105. Ibid., 1940: 13.

106. Ibid., 1940: 13-14.


107. P ERROT, 1955 and 1984.

Tell Abu Matar and Bir as-Safadi


J. Perrots excavations at Tell Abu Matar and Bir as-Safadi
(fig. 19) provided the first good view of the subterranean chambers found in some Late Chalcolithic sites in the Negev and
elsewhere.107 By his interpretation, the first two stratigraphic
levels at these sites consisted exclusively of these troglodytic
chambers, of which he recognized several distinct types. One
type consisted of fairly large chambers (~ 7 x 3 m), sometimes
fairly rectangular so that they resembled in plan the broadroom house, and with one or two small annexes. A second type

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the site that might indicate spatial segregation of status groups,


although it is possible that some of the larger structures were
non-domestic, and with many subterranean chambers similar
to those at Tell Abu Matar and Bir as-Safadi.111 It is not always
easy to decide exactly which rooms belong together, but again
houses appear to be associated with courtyards. There are
also streets and alleys,112 and the shared orientation of most
buildings suggests to the excavators that the settlement was
planned.113

Golan
0

10 m

Fig. 19 Late Chalcolithic subterranean chambers and surface


architecture at Tell Bir as-Safadi (after PERROT, 1984: 82), combining stratigraphic levels.

was a sort of hut, about 4 m in diameter, sunk 1.5 to 2 m into


the ground, where one of the previous types had collapsed, and
roofed over at ground level. The third type consisted of long
chains of small, interconnected chambers. In the final occupation, which Perrot attributes to new arrivals, we find the more
typical above-ground, long rectangular structures, sometimes
with the door at one end in contrast to the broad-room type.
These are usually on the order of 7.5 x 2.5 m in size, and with
the usual complement of interior hearths and silos. Outside
there are hints of possible courtyard walls and more features,
including large, shallow depressions filled with ash and debris,
and other burnt features associated with volumes of apparently
fire-cracked rock.108 Perrot suggests that the subterranean
chambers were an ideal form of settlement in the hot, arid
Negev because of their thermal properties, were less costly and
easier to excavate than to construct built houses, and even provided physical and psychological security.109 However, there is
also an alternative hypothesis that the subterranean chambers
were used in conjunction with the surface architecture.110

C. Epstein has published considerable evidence for small


villages of up to 50 houses and hamlets of 15 or 20 houses that
were scattered across the Golan (or Jawln) during this period.114 These consist of broad-room houses, often arranged
end-to-end in east-west chains that resemble the arrangement of recent Bedouin tents in some respects, and irrespective
of local topography (fig. 21). They often have internal subdivisions, with a small room or two or three small chambers at one
end, probably for storage, and sometimes also a longitudinal
partition wall leaving a narrow corridor at the back (north)
side of the building. Where preserved, the house entrances are
always in the southern long wall, fairly close to the middle.
Often the house floors are cobbled with basalt and some have
a small stone silo.

Tell Abu Hamid


Tell Abu Hamids Phase III (Levels 1 and 2) again shows
broad-room rectangular structures that are apparently distributed among courtyard areas delineated by straight walls
(fig. 22) that in the case of Level 1 even hint at a grid-like
arrangement.115 The likely living structures are sometimes
freestanding, presumably within walled courtyards, but some
rectangular rooms are also integrated into courtyard walls.
Living room sizes vary from 6-7.5 m in length and 2.4-3.5 m in
width (areas of 14.5-26 m2), but there are also smaller rooms,
sometimes built against a living room or a courtyard wall, and
generally more square in shape.

Shiqmim
Excavations at Shiqmim (fig. 20) have similarly provided
quite broad exposures and some well-preserved examples of
architecture, apparently with variation in structure size across
108. P ERROT, 1984: 87.
109. Ibid., 1984: 88.
110. GILEAD, 1987.

049-088-Banning.indd 68

111.
112.
113.
114.
115.

LEVY and A LON, 1987; LEVY et al., 1991.


LEVY and A LON, 1987: 160.
Ibid., 1987: 179.
EPSTEIN, 1998.
DOLLFUS et K AFAFI, 1986 and 1988; DOLLFUS et al., 1988; LOVELL
et al., 2007.

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Subterranean
chambers

Area E

10 m

Fig. 20 Subterranean chambers and surface architecture from Shiqmim (after LEVY, 1987).

Tabaqat Fihl (Pella)

Givat Ha-oranim117

Excavations at this deep site have penetrated Chalcolithic


remains in several areas but generally lack broad exposures at
such depth. Consequently, here we will concentrate on just a
few notable features of the sites Chalcolithic architecture.
Among these is what appears to be a substantial storage
facility in Trench XXIID.116 Here we find a large, rectangular platform, at least 5 x 4 m, consisting of two courses of
fieldstones capped by a single course of bun-shaped mudbricks. A stair of three steps leads up onto the platform from
the east, possibly from a walled courtyard bounded by one or
more walls that abut the platform. Several apparent grain silos
occurred just southwest of the platform. In burnt remains from
a remnant of a courtyard surface associated with the top of
the platform, the presence of sifted wheat suggests that the
platform, like the nearby silos, was part of a very large grainstorage facility.

This site, near Nahal Beit Arif in the Lod Valley of Israels
south-central coastal plain, exhibits numerous subterranean
caverns in the limestone bedrock (fig. 23), most of which
appear to have been used for habitation during the Late Chalcolithic.118 There were round roof openings to allow ventilation
of the caves and many of the chambers had artificially levelled
or prepared floors, artificial pits, standing stones, copper artifacts, and other evidence, including abundant pottery, chippedstone and basalt artifacts, to indicate that the chambers were
used for storage, dwelling, burials, and rituals. In addition,
there were cup marks, bedrock mortars, basins, and other
rock-cut installations on the surface. Some of the cavern complexes are rather linear, while others are more clustered with
small chambers radiating out from a larger, central one.

Tel Teo
Excavations at this site uncovered in Strata VII and VI,
stone-built houses of typical broad-room plan arranged

116. BOURKE et al., 1994: 85-86; 1998: 180-181 and 2003: 337-339.

117. Ibid., 2003: 339.


118. SCHEFTELOWITZ and OREN, 2004.

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10 m

Fig. 21 Chains of Late Chalcolithic houses at Golan site 12, Rasm Harbush (after EPSTEIN, 1998).

around a courtyard (fig. 24).119 In Stratum VII, the small chamber at the west end of the northerly broad room showed evidence of cooking activities, while the main room had a paved
119. EISENBERG et al., 2001: 27-39.

049-088-Banning.indd 70

platform and a silo with a volume of about 0.4 m3. In Level VI,
a sort of bin was constructed in the western chamber of the
north house, perhaps for use as a storage silo, while the houses
on the eastern and southern sides of the courtyard are both
partitioned into three rooms. In the case of the larger (62 m2

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1010

1004

1065
1066

1745

1770
1729

1776
Walls Levels 1c-a
0

5m

5m

Walls Levels 2c-a

Fig. 22 Late Chalcolithic architecture from Tell Abu Hamid,


Phase III (after LOVELL et al., 2007).

interior area) southern one, the entrance leads into a central


entry chamber, the eastern room with its silo and bin appears
to have been for storage, and the larger west room, with a small
bin and platform, appears to have been the main living room.
The eastern house has two small chambers at the north end,
apparently accessed in a path arrangement, and its entrance
appears to have been on the unexcavated eastern side, rather
than from the courtyard shared by the other houses. In all three
buildings, a stone-lined silo was either in or near the small
end-rooms, suggesting that all of these small chambers were
associated with storage. Interestingly, there is also a very large
(~ 1.7 m3) silo in the open area just west of the main entrance
into the courtyard, suggesting that what we have here is a pair
of interconnected courtyards, as it seems unlikely that anyone
would store such a large volume in a public street.

Fig. 23 Subterranean rock-cut chambers at Givat Ha-oranim


(after BOURKE et al., 2003).

CHANGES IN ARCHITECTURAL,
INFRASTRUCTURAL, AND SOCIAL
ARRANGEMENTS
To some extent, buildings in the Southern Levant retained
the simple spatial organization of the Natufian and Pre-Pottery
Neolithic through the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods.
Whether rounded pit dwellings and tents or rectangular brick
or stone structures, the buildings for the entire period from
ca 6500 cal. BC onward were typically one- or two-roomed
structures showing evidence that many domestic activities took
place out of doors. By Late Chalcolithic, if not earlier,120 the
broad-room house became typical,121 even though there are
many exceptions.122 Some of the variety we see could be due
to changes that occur over the life-cycle of the household,123
120. P ERROT, 1984: 91.
121. E.g., Fasael, PORATH, 1985; Tell Fendi, BLACKHAM et al., 1998; Ghassul, H ENNESSY, 1969: 5; Sahab, I BRAHIM, 1975.
122. LEVY and A LON, 1987: 180.
123. GOODY, 1958; BANNING and BYRD, 1988; HORNE, 1994: 185; LEVY
and HOLL, 1987: 390.

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the organization of labour, gender roles, and accumulation and


redistribution of wealth. There are also some indications of
more formal street systems and, although these may not resemble the grid-like z7 syntax as much as some authors imply, they
may still have some implications for intracommunity cooperative behaviour.

ATYPICAL LARGE OR COMPLEX BUILDINGS

5m

Fig. 24 Courtyard structures at Tel Teo, Stratum VI


(after EISENBERG et al., 2001).

although we do not generally have the sort of micro-stratigraphic evidence we would need to demonstrate this. Where
we have enough exposure to show it, settlement organization
was also usually quite simple, quite often exhibiting Hillier and
Hansons z1 or possibly z3 syntax;124 in other words, with houses
somewhat scattered, not very densely, among open spaces, as
at Byblos in Nolithique ancien, or a beady ring street system, as we might find at Tuleilat Ghassul. However, there are
also some differences, both synchronically and diachronically,
that warrant attention. These include the occasional appearance of larger and more complicated buildings, differences in
the use and arrangement of outdoor or courtyard spaces, the
relationship of structures to courtyards, the size and placement
of storage facilities, and accommodation of livestock. Many
of these differences are quite likely related to differences in
124. Fig. 1 and H ILLIER and HANSON, 1984: 78.

049-088-Banning.indd 72

Relatively simple one- and two-room buildings, often of


broad-room type, predominate in our diachronic sample,
often with areas on the order of 50 m2 in the Late Chalcolithic but sometimes substantially smaller, especially in earlier
periods, when 20-30 m2 is more common. However, there are
occasional anomalies that hint at something more complex.
As early as the Yarmoukian, some buildings were at least a
little more complex. Setting aside for the moment the issue of
courtyards, we see at Ain Ghazal examples of buildings with
path arrangements: a sequence of rooms accessible only one
after another (fig. 2). In Hillier and Hansons terms, this maximizes Relative Asymmetry and control over access to the
deepest spaces, where we might also expect a lower probability
of social encounters with people from outside the household.
In the example from South Field (fig. 3), what would be either
the deepest or the middle room (depending on how we reconstruct the west end of the building) has a platform, hearth, and
evidence for domestic and possible craft activities that would
have been shielded from the view of non-residents.
However, the most notable departures from the typical
pattern of rather modest houses are found in the Late Chalcolithic. Tell 3 at Tuleilat Ghassul (fig. 18) exhibits at least three
remarkably large, multiroom buildings that are nothing like
the broad-room house. One, in the northwestern part of the
excavation (B1-C2), appears to have 14 or 15 interconnected
rooms and a total roofed, ground-floor area of about 175 m2.
Another, in the south-central part of the excavation (D5-E6),
has eight rooms, what appears to be a stairway to an upper
floor (long, narrow space), and a probable ground-floor roofed
area of 90 m2. These would seem quite surprising, and it is
unfortunate that evidence for doorways in them is incomplete,
so we cannot determine their access patterns with any confidence. However, in one case, what were probably three of
the deepest, most inaccessible rooms each had a human burial.
Interestingly, both these buildings may have been two-story
structures (the narrow space adjacent to Room 9 may also have
been a stairway, with another two burials), and both exhibit
pairs of square chambers, with areas of 2.3 to 3.8 m2, that may

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have been some kind of large storage facility, in addition to the


silos and bins that are quite common at the site. These buildings are candidates for the residences of socio-economically
privileged households.
While the Ghassul examples are particularly notable, there
are also indications of unusually large structures or complexes
at Shiqmim (fig. 20) and Tell as-Safadi125 that might be residences of high-ranking or wealthier households. As already
mentioned, Dunand also considered the scale and building
quality of some structures of Bybloss nolithique ancien
(fig. 15) to be quite remarkable.

HOUSEHOLDS, COURTYARDS, AND SOCIAL


ORGANIZATION
As Garfinkel has pointed out, an important development in
the Late Neolithic was the courtyard house.126 Not only at Shaar
Hagolan (fig. 6), but also at Ain Ghazal (fig. 2), we see groups
of rooms or small structures arranged in or around open spaces
and probably accessible only by passing into a courtyard. The
particularly good examples from Shaar Hagolan may signal
the Mediterranean Courtyard House (MCH), even though
they do not show continuity with the later, classic examples
of that house type. Like the MCH, or the Middle Eastern
Liwan house,127 these may sometimes exhibit the z5 class of
space syntax (fig. 1), the courtyard being defined by the rooms
that enclose it. Buildings arranged around courtyards at Nolithique rcent Byblos (fig. 15) and Late Chalcolithic Shiqmim
(fig. 20) and Tel Teo (fig. 24) also belong to this type. Yarmoukian examples of courtyard compounds from Ain Ghazal
and actually most of those at Shaar Hagolan are different, with
courtyards delineated by an enclosure wall, and the buildings
within ranging from circular tents to multiroom rectangular
houses. Where the compound wall encloses a single building,
we have z4, while cases where it encloses several buildings, the
z6 class. In some cases, where the courtyard seems partially
bounded by rooms, this may at first glance appear to be z5 but,
from the space-syntax perspective, these rooms are effectively
attached to an enclosure wall. The small PNA exposure at Jerichos Trench I with its courtyard wall (fig. 5a) also seems a
clear example of the z4 or z6, as are the courtyard compounds
of Tel Tsaf (fig. 13). There are many ethnographic examples of
the z6 syntax, including the Berber or Kabyle example in which
125. LEVY et HOLL, 1988; LEVY et al., 1991: 33; P ERROT, 1984: 82 and 87.
126. GARFINKEL, 2006.
127. R AGETTE, 1974: 68-89.

73

several houses share a single court accessible by one gate.128


Presumably, one important distinction between these arrangements and the previous one of having outdoor work areas in
shared or public spaces is that such outdoor domestic work
space was now controlled, with limited access, and perhaps
more limited visibility.
What is less clear is what this may have meant in terms
of social arrangements. Garfinkel suggests that the courtyard
units at Shaar Hagolan housed extended families, each tworoom unit around the courtyard being allocated to a nuclear
family that shared the courtyard with closely related families.129 This seems reasonable. However, it is also noteworthy
that the families that shared the courtyard and used it to buffer
themselves from the rest of the settlement nonetheless appear
to have had their own independent stores, and there are generally no obvious candidates for major shared storage of cereals
in the courtyards. It also appears that cooking and consumption
ordinarily took place independently. Consequently, the courtyard unit does not appear to have functioned economically as a
large household,130 but rather as a cluster of associated households that likely cooperated in some tasks and, as Garfinkel
suggests, perhaps acted as a single decision-making unit in the
community. It thus differs from the classic MCH, such as that
of classical Greece or the compounds of some Arab extended
families,131 which formed a unitary economic household. It
also brings to mind the Berber example in which buildings
sharing a courtyard housed conjugal families that were not
fully independent households, in the sense used above, but were
closely related, shared some domestic equipment, and showed
strong social solidarity. However, the individual houses were
the locations where Berber women prepared and served food
for their husbands and children, so that the extended family
was not a unitary household either.132 In addition, we should
be mindful of the possibility that courtyard groups are a very
poor fit to households, which in some ethnographic cases can
own rooms and buildings scattered in different parts of a settlement.133
The temptation to implicate women in food preparation as
in the Berber example brings to mind the possible relationship
of courtyard houses or compounds to gender roles. Unfortunately, the relatively poor preservation of human remains from
128. BASAGANA et SAYAD, 1974: 18-20.
129. GARFINKEL, 2006.
130. Sensu NETTING, 1982; NETTING et al., 1984. Cf. BANNING and
CHAZAN, 2006: 10-11.
131. E.g., R AGETTE, 2003: 83.
132. BASAGANA et SAYAD, 1974: 35, 69 and 121.
133. HORNE, 1994: 186-191.

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most Chalcolithic sites, overrepresentation of children, and


rarity of burials altogether for the Late Neolithic make it difficult to evaluate changing gender roles through musculoskeletal stress markers.134 This leaves us with the less satisfactory
approach of seeking spatial clues to possible differentiation of
tasks that could have been gender-based, without being able
to specify (at least not without gender stereotyping) who did
what. We might speculate, for example, that the use of courtyard walls, anterooms, and other architectural strategies to distance some household tasks from outsiders could be connected
with a tendency to segregate particular categories of household
members, perhaps not to the extent that women are segregated
through purdah in some Muslim communities,135 or to exercise control over the productive labour of certain members,
potentially including children and even non-kin. Alternatively,
it could be a strategy, in a highly competitive environment, to
limit outsiders information about the households economic
activities and resources.
In Wadi Rabah-related sites, we do not find clear examples
of the z5 syntax, and house units are typically single, broad
rooms, but there are hints of walled courtyards that could be z4
or z6. At Wadi Rabah itself (fig. 9), it is possible that House B
had its own, somewhat substantial, storage on Platform C,
and the fragments of attached walls may be all that remains
of a fenced-in yard. If the houses outside space was indeed
enclosed in this way, it would likely belong to the z4 syntax. At
Munhata 2a (fig. 10), we have no evidence for any fences, but
the pits that may have been used for storage, along with probable domestic tasks, occupy outdoor space opposite the room
entrances, suggesting either the z4 (if there were perishable
fences) or z3, with neighbouring household units agglomerating by their outdoor work spaces. At contemporary Tabaqat
al-Bma (fig. 12), fragments of walls and terrace walls indicate that there were at least some fenced-in spaces associated
with the small number of houses there, and Kadowaki suggests
mainly on the basis of the lithic assemblages that two independent households at the site cooperated in some tasks through
the sharing of outdoor space in Phase LN3 (ca 5600 cal. BC),
but became increasingly independent by LN5 (ca 5200
cal. BC).136
In the Middle Chalcolithic (ca 4800 cal. BC), Tel Tsaf
(fig. 13) provides excellent evidence for the z4 or z6 type of
syntax, with one or two single-room structures occupying a

134. P ETERSON, 2002: 35-39.


135. E.g., A BU LUGHOD, 1987: 163 and 167-169; PAPANEK , 1973;
VREEDE-DE STUERS, 1968.
136. K ADOWAKI, 2007.

049-088-Banning.indd 74

E.B. BANNING

fenced-in courtyard that also contains several large storage


facilities, animal pens, or both. Here the evidence points to
the importance of protecting both agricultural stores and herds
that belong to the household. This leads us into what seems
to be the common Late Chalcolithic pattern, with the use of
walled courtyards to distance the households residence from
the street, shield many household activities from view, and provide a place to protect livestock at night. In the Nolique rcent
of Byblos (fig. 15), we find at least two examples of large, rectangular courtyards southwest of the spring. Unlike the Tel
Tsaf ones, these are defined by the enclosure of several rooms
(the z5 syntax), usually including a long building divided into
three rooms as well as two or more smaller, one-room buildings. Some small, paved areas in courtyards may be related to
shared storage, but there are also storage features in some of
the rooms and large, circular pavings that are probably silos
in open areas or large courtyards that are not clearly related to
houses and thus hint at communal storage.
In Late Chalcolithic, sites such as Tuleilat Ghassul and Abu
Hamid indicate that walled courtyards surrounding individual
broad-room houses were widespread, each, as earlier at Tel
Tsaf, exhibiting several storage and food-preparation facilities.
Thus the z4 syntax seems to be common at the household level,
but at the level of the community there is also a sort of street
system, which may fit the z3 syntax better than the more formal
z7 grid system.
Yet the Late Chalcolithic also exhibits great variability,
ranging from sites with substantial systems of underground
chambers and tunnels (figs. 19 and 23) and highly asymmetric
accessibility, through Tel Teos and Shiqmims courtyard compounds (figs. 20 and 24), to the unusual chain houses of the
Golan (fig. 21).
If the grottos of sites like Givat Ha-oranim (fig. 23), Tell
Abu Matar and Bir as-Safadi (fig. 19) are not simply underground stores and livestock pens,137 they would have to indicate the highest degree of exclusion of strangers in our sample,
thus contributing to the impression that insecurity and need
for defence contributed to this unusual arrangement. Nothing in their organization suggests any inter-household sharing
of work or social spaces, and the long chains of chambers, in
particular, represent an extreme form of the z4 syntax (fig. 1),
each chamber controlling access to the next. Where these sites
also show surface buildings, however, they can be the typical
broad-room type (but sometimes actually long-room), and
quite likely conform to the pattern seen elsewhere, with much
137. On a number of grounds, they would be extremely uncomfortable and
seem not very suitable for habitation, GILEAD, 1987.

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activity out-of-doors, either in open spaces or in fenced yards


that are difficult to detect.
Tel Teos compounds (fig. 24) echo in some ways the type
of courtyard house found in the Nolithique rcent at Byblos.
They provide a good example of the distributed yet asymmetric z5 syntax,138 with access to a group of households strictly
controlled by a single entrance into the courtyard, but the
courtyard itself defined jointly by buildings that enclose it on
four sides, even if some of these belong to neighbouring courtyard groups. These enclosing buildings may be associated with
three or four distinct households, each with its own storage
and probably cooking facility, yet the courtyard shared among
at least two households suggests a degree of kinship or affinity among them, not to mention some practical cooperation in
some spheres, perhaps including the shared penning of livestock. The likelihood that the excavated courtyard is accessible
only through another courtyard suggests that this kinship or
affinity extended to some households occupying nearby structures to the west. Structures in Areas C, D, and E (and perhaps
others) at Shiqmim (fig. 20) also appear to be arranged around
rectangular courtyards, and the courtyard groups in this case
may have controlled or shared in the production of copper,
among other goods.
The Golan cases are quite interesting. Here we find some
fairly typical broad-room houses, as well as others that have a
longitudinal partition not typically found elsewhere, and seemingly creating a narrow storage area isolated from the outside
(fig. 21). The broad-room structures are often joined end-toend in long clusters (a linear variation on z3) that, as in the
courtyards above, could be associated with social groups that
cooperated in at least some tasks or decisions. They face onto
a common but elongated open area, but we have no evidence
that it was fenced in. Epstein suggests that chains of up to six
houses were the residences of extended families and that larger
settlements, up to about 40 houses, were the sites of fairly egalitarian communities organized by clans.139
Generally, we seem to find at least three different spatial
solutions that involve courtyards or other means for grouping
nuclear families into larger social groups. Some of the courtyard compounds appear to be residential space for autonomous households, with a single house and its outdoor storage
and other features enclosed by a courtyard wall (z4 syntax).
This solution seems common in the Late Chalcolithic but also
occurs sporadically earlier, as at Ain Ghazal during the Yarmoukian and probably Jericho during PNA. Here the restricted
138. HILLIER and HANSON, 1984: 78.
139. EPSTEIN, 1998: 6-8.

75

access to the courtyard protects storage and livestock, while


also probably moving the locus of interaction between visitors and residents farther from more private residential spaces.
Other courtyard houses have a courtyard largely or entirely
defined by the several buildings that surround it (z5 syntax), or
have several buildings built against or incorporating part of a
compound enclosure (z6), and at first glance these two variants
seem similar to the classic MCH. However, the difference is
that, where we have enough evidence to tell, the several buildings around the courtyard appear to belong to somewhat independent households in the sense that they each appear to have
had their own storage and food-preparation areas. While the
households around the courtyard may well have been closely
related, and may well have cooperated in some ways, this
cooperation does not appear to have extended to shared food
storage, at least not on a large scale. This is the solution we find
as early as the Yarmoukian at Shaar Hagolan and occasionally later, as at Byblos in Nolithique rcent and Tel Teo and
probably Shiqmim in Late Chalcolithic. It is also, in a revised
form, what we may have at the Golan sites, where the chains
of houses share the space in front of them in a distributed but
more linear way. Whether arranged linearly or around a courtyard, the defining characteristic is the use of a shared unroofed
space by several otherwise independent households, combined
with the segregation of this shared space from outsiders (by a
narrow access to the courtyard or, in the Golan, by spatial distance from other house chains). A sort of hybrid of these alternatives, possibly found at Tel Tsaf, is the z6, with two houses
found within the confines of the same courtyard wall.
One aspect of these z4 and z6 candidates that we are illequipped to evaluate, however, is whether the compound was
erected as a unit, or grew by the gradual accretion of rooms or
buildings. Hillier and Hanson were more interested in the final
pattern than in the processes that yielded it but, as archaeologists, we should consider this diachronic element indispensable. This will require detailed analysis that does not collapse
architecture into levels or strata accumulated over many
decades.

SCALE, ORGANIZATION AND ACCESSIBILITY


OF STORAGE
As K.V. Flannery recognized,140 the scale and relationship of storage facilities to houses is an important clue to the
economic organization of households. Specifically, among
140. F LANNERY, 1972.

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other things, he associated shared storage facilities with social


groups larger than the nuclear family (such as polygynous
extended families), and smaller storage bins within houses
with economically independent, nuclear-family households.
The privatization of storage that Flannery identified in the
Neolithic would likely have increased greatly the opportunities for economic intensification and differentiation, potentially leading to social stratification. In classic or functionalist
household archaeology, storage facilities are deeply concerned
with the households functions of distribution, consumption,
and transmission.141 From a Marxist perspective, similarly,
production of agricultural surpluses frees up some labourers
for non-agricultural tasks, such as craft production, that lead
to accumulation of capital and potentially to creation of debt
relationships.142 In the prehistoric context under review here,
this surplus could be used for conspicuous consumption in the
quest for status or, under conditions of risk and uncertainty, to
foster dependence of less fortunate households on those that
were more successful. Archaeologists investigating the Neolithic and Chalcolithic of the Southern Levant have continued
to emphasize the importance of storage to social structure.143
The data with which to delineate variation in the scale
and organization of preserved storage facilities is spotty, and
presents a number of difficulties. Storage of subsistence goods
and wealth would likely include livestock and hanging dried
goods from ceilings, and not just grain silos. Furthermore, we
cannot be certain which pits and silos were actually storage
features, whether they were in use simultaneously or sequentially, or whether they were used to store grain or some other
resource. Finally, at most sites, we lack detailed information
on the volumes of likely storage features. For the purposes
of the present paper, we will limit discussion of storage to a
few notable examples and reserve detailed consideration for
another paper.
For the Yarmoukian, our evidence for storage is scant,
except in the case of Shaar Hagolan. There, the stone-paved
room or platform that seems to occupy one end of each domestic unit in the multi-unit compounds was most likely a storage
feature.144 The probable capacities of most of these features,
on the order of 1.5-3.3 m3 (or 1-2.3 tons of grain, but 6 m3 and
4 tons for the largest), seems about what one might expect for
a single nuclear familys needs, assuming some reserve against
the risk of a drought year. Meanwhile, the associated court-

yards could have served, along with other purposes, for the
penning of small herds of livestock. Other Yarmoukian sites
show little evidence of major storage features.
For Wadi Rabah, storage seems to have been on a modest
scale. At Tabaqat al-Bma, two small stone cists and one claylined, bell-shaped feature, all of which served ultimately for
burial of deceased children, and all associated most closely
with the building in D35/E35, may originally have been storage silos. These have quite small volumes, totaling only about
0.3 m3. The most substantial potential storage facility is a cobble-floored room attached at its corner to the main room of the
D35/E35 house. Its area is about 2.3 m2, and it likely could
have contained about 2.5 m3 or 2 tons of stores. There is also a
cobbled platform close to this structure but built during a later
phase, which has an area just under 2 m2. Despite problems
with assessing storage fully, it seems clear that it was not on
a large scale at this site, even if some of the larger jars also
served for storage.145
Tel Tsaf provides our best evidence for storage in the Middle Chalcolithic. Garfinkel et al. report capacities of the probable silos ranging from about 7 m3 to some 41 m3, among the
highest observed here, making the point that these far exceed
the needs of individual families.146 Similar circular pavings at
Bybloss Nolithique rcent are also sometimes of substantial
size, but the largest ones are outside and it is difficult on published evidence to associate them with houses. Platforms and
silos within houses of this level at Byblos are more modest in
size and, again, much what we would expect for the subsistence needs of a small household.
By the Late Chalcolithic, one of the most common forms of
storage facility is the in-ground, stone-lined silo, found in most
parts of the Southern Levant even earlier. We have good reason
to assume that at least one of the functions of these features was
grain storage. At Golan site 18, near Ain al-Faras, one of these
silos in House 1 contained charred grains of emmer wheat, as
well as some tiny fragments of olive pits.147 However, we also
find other kinds of features that likely served for storage of some
kind, including small rooms, clay-lined and brick-lined silos,
clay or brick bins, and paved platforms. In a number of cases,
we have pretty good data on silo volumes, including Horvat
Beter148 and the old Pontifical Institute excavations at Tuleilat
Ghassul. These vary considerably in size and distribution
and, notably, the same room often mixes storage features of

141. WILK and R ATHJE, 1982.


142. LEWIS, 1954; F EI and R ANIS, 1961 (in a capitalist context); LEVY,
1993.
143. BYRD, 1994; GARFINKEL et al., 2009.
144. GARFINKEL, 2006: 104, 106 and 108.

145.
146.
147.
148.

049-088-Banning.indd 76

Ibid., 1999: 127; GARFINKEL et al., 2009: 319.


GARFINKEL et al., 2009: 312.
EPSTEIN, 1998: 110.
DOTHAN, 1959: 7; see also pit volumes at Grar, GILEAD, 1995: 134.

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different types, which suggests that they may have had different
purposes, or stored different kinds of material.149 Even though
it is often difficult to decide which storage features are associated with which groups of rooms, it is also clear that house
structures differed markedly in storage capacity. This could be
construed as indicating some socio-economic differentiation,
and is consistent with Bourkes observation that there is a lot of
variability among houses on Tell 3 at Ghassul.150

77

Garfinkel has advocated the view that the streets evident at


Shaar Hagolan indicate a community-level decision-making
authority, which could tend to suggest overall community planning, and goes so far as to reconstruct a rather formal street
system.151 Apparently formal streets and alleys, as well as large
walls that seem too large to be simply courtyard walls, were
also found in even earlier contexts at Ain Ghazal. Clearly,
these are important indications, although we should be wary of
drawing too extensive conclusions from excavations that provide, after all, such small samples of site area,152 and at best
limited confidence in the contemporaneity of buildings. Excavations at Byblos seem to have revealed streets of the Nolithique ancien, and those at Ghassul detected paved streets
and alleys of the Late Chalcolithic. Some of these are quite
clear in the plan for Tell 1, Level IV, at Ghassul but the Pontifical Institute excavations also identified probable streets in
several parts of Tell 3 in both Levels IV A and IV B. Like some
portions of Ghassuls Tell 3, much of Shiqmims plan and that
of Phase III at Tell Abu Hamid, although not as extensively
exposed, shows tantalizing hints of a possibly grid-like street
system, as indicated in the right-angles of the courtyard walls
and parallel buildings. Byblos also seems to show a preferred
orientation in Nolithique rcent that is somewhat grid-like,
leaving open spaces that apparently could have been used as
streets. Since most excavations are not as extensive as those at
the sites where excavators have identified probable streets, it is
likely that they were more common than our sample suggests.
What are the implications of these features?
Garfinkels main point with respect to these streets (and also
wells) is that they would have constituted communal efforts.

This () raises various questions concerning public decisionmaking: Who organized the work? How often were the streets
repaired? Who carried out the work and who supervised it?153
In common with other researchers who have studied settlement
structure in the Late Chalcolithic or later periods,154 Garfinkel is apparently implying that such communal works would
have required (perhaps coercive) supervisory or coordinating
authority, or planning, so that they constitute evidence for
hierarchical political systems.
In most of these instances, we would expect the construction and maintenance of these features to have required at least
some cooperation among householdsfor example, among
those along opposite sides of a streetbut this need not have
involved planning or coercion at the community scale. One of
the fascinating and perhaps counter-intuitive implications of
many of Hillier and Hansons syntaxes, as well as some of
the implications of social network analysis, agent-based simulation, and game theory,155 is that such global structure can result
from the distributed or collective action of multiple agents.
Since we have no evidence, at present, on which to conclude
that the settlement plans of sites like Shaar Hagolan or Ghassul
Tell 1 were laid out all at once, it is quite possible, indeed likely,
that the routes of streets began simply as pathways leading from
houses to the river (Shaar Hagolan) or other hillocks (Ghassul)
and to one another. As the settlement grew, new houses were
situated in such a way as to avoid blocking such paths, to take
advantage of them, or both. Later, as the settlement began to
fill in, the paths became more formalized, the most important
of them becoming major streets, and households bordering on
them probably cooperated in their maintenance or improvement
(while also using them as convenient dumps for refuse). Indeed,
the courtyard walls that frame these streets and make them seem
more formal presumably had as at least one of their main functions the task of screening the household from passersby. Hillier
and Hansons syntaxes are not perfectly suited to this diachronic
approach to the emergent qualities of street systems, but suggest ways that agent-based simulations of organic settlements
might proceed.156 At Shiqmim, Abu Hamid, Phase III, and perhaps Shaar Hagolan in the Yarmoukian, we do get some indication of what might be a more geometrical arrangement that
could have resulted from some top-down planning, but the
exposures are still too small to be certain of this, and linear
arrangements do not require such planning.

149. Cf. atalhyk storage rooms during the Pottery Neolithic, ATALAY
and HASTORF, 2006.
150. BOURKE, 2001: 120.
151. GARFINKEL, 2006: 107-108.
152. Cf. KOEPELL, 1940: 11.

153.
154.
155.
156.

STREETS, NEIGHBOURHOODS,
AND INTRACOMMUNITY SPATIAL ORGANIZATION

GARFINKEL, 2006: 110.


E.g., H ERZOG, 1978 and 1992; LEVY, 1995: 229.
A XELROD, 1984 and 1997.
Cf. BANNING, 1996a.

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Thus, streets, wells, large walls, and other communal features of some Yarmoukian and Chalcolithic settlements may
provide evidence for a level of cooperation above the individual household, as Garfinkel suggests. However, we should be
cautious of assuming that this was the level of the whole community, or that it required coercion by some central authority.

CONCLUSIONS
When we examine evidence for built environments over
the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic, they do not exhibit any
monotonic trends or even step-wise ones. Instead, we find
considerable variability within periods, as well as intermittent
reappearance of spatial forms found in earlier periods, such as
the z5 courtyard complex. Rather than see these as part of some
evolutionary development, arguably it is better to interpret this
variety in terms of peoples informed and sometimes skillful
manipulations of their own environments as they jockeyed for
social position or economic advantage.
Yet these people were also constrained somewhat by preexisting features of the built environment. Some of these they
exploited expediently. For example, they sometimes used the
stubs of ruined or razed walls as foundations for new walls
but did not feel strongly constrained by these. More importantly, new construction had to fit within the local environment of neighbours houses and public spaces, such as paths
and streets; especially if neighbours and relatives assisted in
house construction, we would expect fairly strong social sanctions against unwelcome architectural intrusions onto communally useful spaces. At a minimum, we would expect new
construction to avoid blocking access to neighbouring houses
(this is the simple basis of the z3 syntax). At the same time,
these same neighbours, under some circumstances, might suggest such intrusions when they might discourage outsiders
people from other neighbourhoods or other settlementsfrom
penetrating their own spaces.
It is against this backdrop that we should interpret variations
in the built environment over this period, asking ourselves what
circumstances may have led some householders to cluster with
other (related) households within courtyard groups or Golan
chains, others to segregate their own households from others by
high walls and narrow gateways, and what relationships, if any,
these decisions had with variations in wealth or status, family or
household size, and degree of household independence.
The case of the z4 syntax, with apparently independent
households buffered from the rest of their community by court-

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yard walls, is rather suggestive of a situation in which households competed with one another for resources and prestige.
Their courtyards on the one hand provided restricted access
that protected their livestock and silos while, on the other hand,
they also provided arenas for the selective display of wealth to
family members or visitors. In some instances where we have
enough exposure to assess it, as at Ghassul, we see substantial
differences in the sizes of courtyards, of houses, and of storage
capacities, and this is consistent with such competition among
households and the increasing social and economic differentiation that it fosters. If any of these building complexes housed
extended families, they do not show the obvious repetition of
independent household units found, for example, at Shaar
Hagolan, indicating that associated families were likely linked
by a relation of dependency, more junior branches of the family being subordinated to a more senior one that was the main
decision-making agent for all the residents of the compound.
This is what we may find, for example, in the very large and
possibly two-storied buildings on Tell 3 at Tuleilat Ghassul.
Other, smaller, units appear to represent nuclear-family households or smaller extended families that did not have the same
political or economic resources as the very large households.
Among those that selected a variety of the z5 or z6 syntax,
with several somewhat independent households sharing some
outdoor space that is segregated from the rest of the settlement,
we see a different strategy. These households, perhaps consisting of closely related families, such as a parental household
plus those of two or three adult offspring, apparently found it
advantageous to band together for some purposes, while still
reserving their own rights in terms of agricultural production
and maintaining their own facilities for the preparation and
consumption of food. For the most part, we can only speculate about the spheres in which they cooperated, but these
may have included child care, the care and perhaps ownership of livestock, and craft production based on the labour
of household members who had more time for weaving, potting, shell-working, copper-working, or other craft activities
because of the economies of scale that the allied households
enjoyed. Possibly the larger labour pools, economies of scale,
and opportunities for more efficient scheduling of labour that
such alliances afforded the cooperating households some edge
over households that tried to make it on their own.157 A cluster
of households may also have gained some advantage in terms
of social networks. With all members of the same courtyard
group in daily face-to-face contact, with presumably minimal
social distance, every member of that group was only one step
157. BANNING, 1996b.

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removed from all the immediate social contacts of every other


member of the group. As is typical in small-world networks,158
at least some individuals either in the immediate group or only
one or two social steps away would have some quite far-flung
contacts, such as trading partners or a spouses kin in another
village. Unfortunately, detailed stratigraphic information that
might help us discern whether these household groups grew
out of an original founding household, for example through
patrilocal or matrilocal residence patterns,159 or were founded
all at once as multiple-household compounds, is usually lacking. However, some instances, such as the replacement of Tel
Teos Stratum VII compound with a substantially similar, but
larger, one in Stratum VI, strongly suggest that at least some of
these compounds were built all at once by an existing group of
allied households. As Epstein suggests in the case of the Golan
chains, possibly these groups were clans.160
Just as the larger Golan sites were segregated spatially by
chain-group, we have some indications that, in some times
and places, other settlements were spatially divided in ways
that would be consistent with subdivision of the community
into distinct clan or tribal sectors. As early as PPNC at Ain
Ghazal, massive walls that may have subdivided the settlement
into distinct neighbourhoods take the z6 syntax to a higher
scale than individual houses or compounds. Quite likely, clusters of compounds organized by the z4 syntax were separated
from similar clusters by these large walls and by walled streets
that led to the Zarqa River. Much later, at Ghassul, for example, spatial segregation by occupation of distinct hillocks may
have accomplished the same thing in a more distributed way,
although we cannot at present be certain of the contemporaneity of the various hillocks. Nor can we be as confident that the
differences at Ghassul were related to clan or tribal affiliation,
since the very real material differences among the hillocks
suggest differences in socio-economic status, and similar differences seem to characterize distinct areas at Shiqmim.161
Probably throughout this period, and especially during the
Late Neolithic, communities were small enough to emerge
from, and be maintained or modified through, regular faceto-face contact in supra-household contexts within their built
environments.162 A number of features of the built environment
in some sites hint at public spaces where such face-to-face contact would most often have taken place and would have helped
158. MILGRAM, 1967.
159. For example, AURENCHE et al., 1997: 117-120; K RAMER, 1982: 143146.
160. EPSTEIN, 1998: 8.
161. LEVY et al., 1991: 33.
162. GOPHER, 1995: 220; see YAEGER and CANUTO, 2000: 5-6.

79

to structure those encounters. Streets leading to streams or


wells, as at Shaar Hagolan, would be among these places of
co-presence.163 In some sites, there are larger open courtyards
or plazas, sometimes at the junction of two or more streets or
pathways (Shaar Hagolan, Ghassul, Shiqmim), that would
be suitable for larger gatherings and, as Bourke observes, we
sometimes find a small rectangular structure in the middle of
such spaces that he suggests may have been used to feed livestock, but in any case would have been focal points.164 Quite
likely such spaces could also have served for some kinds of festivals or public performances and for political gatherings, such
as negotiations among community elders. However, by Late
Chalcolithic, some sites also appear to have had specialized
cultic buildings165 that would have been the focus of important
community rituals, while also figuring in the political machinations of the most influential households and their leaders.
It should be no coincidence that such cultic buildings occur
in sites where we find evidence for socio-economic differentiation, and particularly the large, complex buildings that appear
to have belonged to elite households. Most likely, these very
households employed ideological strategies in their attempts
to legitimize their privileged status in their communities, and
positions of leadership in public rituals, along with conspicuous consumption that perhaps included hosting feasts against
the backdrop of relatively impressive house structures, would
have been among the tactics available to them.
Even apart from claims for two-tier regional settlement
hierarchies, some might argue that these indications support
claims for chiefdoms in the Late Chalcolithic or even earlier.
This is not the place to debate this in detail, or founder among
competing definitions or classifications of socio-economic
complexity, such as those of Service and Fried.166 We should
not expect Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic communities of
the Southern Levant to fall neatly into any of these categories.
What is more important is that some of them exhibit characteristics that we might associate with political and economic
inequalities beyond those determined by gender, age, talent, or
ability. The sometimes large differences among house size and
apparent household wealth strongly suggest a degree of socioeconomic ranking, and it is possible, although by no means
163. Co-presence is a term, from GOFFMAN, 1963, for a situation of mutual
awareness. See also GIDDENS, 1984: 67-72.
164. BOURKE, 2001: 120. Similar structures also occur in large courtyards at
Shiqmim, LEVY and A LON, 1987: 160-161.
165. Ghassul (CAMERON, 1981; H ENNESSY, 1982: 56; BOURKE, 2001: 120),
Gilat (LEVY, 2006), possibly Byblos (DUNAND, 1973: 133-134).
166. F RIED, 1967; SERVICE, 1962. See also EARLE, 1991 and 1997: 5-16;
GILMAN, 1991: 146-150; K ERNER, 2001: 161-166; K RISTIANSEN, 1991:
21-22; R ENFREW, 1974: 73.

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demonstrated, that rank was inherited and determined by position in a kinship network. At Late Chalcolithic sites such as
Ghassul and Shiqmim, and possibly some earlier ones, individuals and households of higher rank probably had privileged
access to resources, including some of those essential to life, as
indications that they probably had larger stores suggest. This
could have resulted from privileged control over productive
land, greater success in raising herds, better ability to mobilize
extractive labour, or the extraction of a sort of rent or tribute
from dependent or lower-ranking households. To some degree,
at least, these high-status households were also spatially segregated in particular neighbourhoods. They may have employed
surplus production to finance the preindustrial equivalent of
capital projects, such as high-prestige craft production, sometimes including metallurgy, as well as public projects, such as
hosting feasts or organizing the digging of a well or repaving
of a street. However, to date we have no indications that access
to the highest rank was formally limited to a very few, let alone
a single, individual, or that the occupier of this rank inherited
the position. Indeed, the fact that we find quite a number of
apparently high-ranking households in the larger settlements,
none of them clearly pre-eminent, suggests a broader availability of privileged rank, and would have allowed some competition among these households. The somewhat widespread
distribution of evidence for prestige industries, especially metal-working, in some sites, and of likely status markers, such as
maceheads, is consistent with the view that a number of highranking households or lineages were competing for advantage
or pre-eminence.
This suggests another possibility. Societies in which
Houses compete with one another for social and economic
advantage, make alliances through marriage and adoption
to further this advantage, employ flexible and complex, nonunilineal systems of inheritance, emphasize titles and heraldry, and use the physical house as the arena for conspicuous
display of status may fit Lvi-Strausss concept of socits
maison or House societies.167 Such societies, notably on the
Northwest Coast of North America or in feudal Europe, can
be highly ranked, with the heads of houses using a wide variety of strategies to make claims on resources and titles. The
head of the pre-eminent House was the communitys chief
(or, in the case of Europe, duke or king). While archaeologists and anthropologists typically associate chiefdoms with
territoriality, it is noteworthy that the lands and resources of a
House could be scattered widely over a very patchy territory,
partly through marriage alliances and very flexible inheritance
167. LVI-STRAUSS, 1982; GONZLEZ-RUIBAL, 2006: 146.

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E.B. BANNING

rules. Note that this would also have unfortunate implications


for archaeologists attempts to associate them with individual
buildings.168 According to Lvi-Strauss, the defining characteristics of a House are that it holds an estate of both material
and immaterial wealth and perpetuates itself through transmission of its name through real or imaginary lineage, affinity, or
(most commonly) both.169 Houses use the language of kinship
to manipulate social relationships to their advantage, which
can be particularly important and useful in non-state societies
in which an egalitarian ethic is being challenged.
A number of aspects of the built environment of Late Chalcolithic settlements, in combination with associated aspects of
material culture, could be construed as being consistent with
this type of society. As we have seen, some apparently residential structures have unusually large buildings, courtyards, and
likely storage capacities, tending to suggest larger households,
larger pools of labour, greater capacity to entertain guests, and
better ability to withstand risks of drought or other disasters.
Even cases, such as Shaar Hagolan or Tel Teo, where the residential unit appears to have housed several somewhat independent households, this would not be out of place in a House
society, even though the argument for these representing
Houses rather than just house compounds would be stronger if
there were also better evidence for substantial shared storage
or, alternatively, highly enhanced storage for the senior unit in
the House. The fact that one of the units is sometimes larger
than the others (e.g., the northern one in Building Complex I
at Shaar Hagolan and southern one at Tel Teo), and that this
one sometimes enjoyed at least somewhat larger storage capacity, might suggest that it was there that the head of the House
resided and would entertain favoured guests, while employing
the courtyard to entertain larger groups.
The possibility that the accommodation of livestock was
among the courtyards functions could also fit such a scenario.
In many societies in which livestock are economically important, including some classic examples of segmentary or tribal
societies,170 accumulation of livestock through raiding and as
bridewealth is a significant contributor to socio-economic differentiation and the accumulation of power.171 Furthermore,
since sheep and goats were the most common livestock in the
Southern Levant, the accumulation of larger herds could also
contribute to the households textile production, potentially
providing another form of wealth.

168.
169.
170.
171.

Cf. HORNE, 1994: 186-191.


LVI-STRAUSS, 1982: 174.
EVANS-PRITCHARD, 1967.
GOODY and TAMBIAH, 1973; KUPER, 1982.

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But we should not focus only on the economic or materialist aspects of Houses. In House societies, the House is
also an important focus of ritual and a paramount symbol in
its own right. While our evidence for this is equivocal, it may
be revealing that excavators of some of the houses in our
sample here have interpreted them as possible shrines. This
includes the apsidial Yarmoukian building at Ain Ghazal,172
several buildings at Byblos,173 and some others with evidence
of wall paintings at Ghassul.174 The selective use of stone
thresholds or pivoting doors, as at Ghassul, emphasizes particular entranceways and could be a nonverbal cue marking
the transition between more public and more secluded parts of
a Houses social spaces; decoration on house-shaped ossuaries
of the Late Chalcolithic175 suggests that such doorways may
also have been marked in other ways, such as relief decoration.
That maceheads are widely distributed as likely signs of status, yet are much more elaborate and costly in some instances
than others, is consistent with House societies emphasis on
titles and heraldry. So too are crafted decorative items, such as
shell pendants and bangles,176 ivory, and copper pieces, some
of which could have constituted wealth, gifts, or even primitive money.177 Notably, the very use of house-shaped ossuaries
in some regions also suggests the importance of house-related
symbolism.178
While there is no indication of state-like society in the
Southern Levant over the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithicno
centralized redistribution, standing armies or monopoly of
forcethe built environments and associated evidence, especially for the more thoroughly documented Late Chalcolithic,
suggest a considerable degree of social complexity. The social
landscape was apparently variable, with great flexibility.
Where anomalies in agricultural production, opportunities

172. ROLLEFSON et al., 1991: 111-112.


173. DUNAND, 1973: 97 and 133-134.
174. BOURKE, 2001: 120; KOEPPEL, 1940: 82 (a building that also had many
cornets).
175. MASTIN, 1965; P ERROT et LADIRAY, 1980.
176. BAR-YOSEF MAYER, 2008: 195-196. These even include the money
cowries (Cypraea annulus/C. moneta) as early as the Yarmoukian at
Shaar Hagolan.
177. While shells can serve simply as personal decoration, it is noteworthy
how commonly they have served as special-purpose or prestige money
(DALTON, 1965; EINZIG, 1966). Meanwhile, metal objects such as the
gold rings of Nahal Qanah are good candidates for a form of wealth or
currency (GOPHER et al., 1990; GOPHER and TSUK, 1996).
178. MASTIN, 1965. Note also the rare discovery of house models in earlier
periods, such as a two-story example at Jericho during PPNB or Jericho IX, GARSTANG and GARSTANG, 1948: 56, pl. VII.

81

for production of valued metal or textile goods, or accumulation of herd animals allowed, decision-makers in some households were able to make strategic choices that gave their own
social group advantage over others. In some cases, they also
employed ideological strategies to naturalize their privileges.
In others, they probably used gift-giving,179 ostentatious hospitality180 or protection from raiding181 to make others indebted
to them. Less fortunate households and their members, meanwhile, also made decisions, based on their own understanding
of the circumstances, sometimes to ally themselves with the
former groups, at others to resist as best they could by spatial segregation or alliance with others like themselves, and at
others perhaps by emulating the practices of emerging elites.
Possibly these tensions contributed to the ebb and flow of competing architectural strategies over time, to variation from site
to site and, in the end, to the eclipse of Chalcolithic society.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank S. Kerner for inviting me to submit a manuscript in honour of G. Dollfus, the anonymous reviewers for their
helpful comments, and especially L. Maitland, who drafted about half
the illustrations. I take responsibility for remaining errors and misconceptions. The research was supported by the Social Sciences and
Humanities Research Council of Canada. Finally, I thank G. Dollfus
for stimulating my thinking about many aspects of the Neolithic and
Chalcolithic of the Near East.

Edward B. BANNING
Department of Anthropology
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario CANADA M5S 2S2
ted.banning@utoronto.ca

179. MAUSS, 1924.


180. Cf. HAYDEN, 1995.
181. Cf. GILMAN, 1991.

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