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

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

Researcher(s)
Allistone, Georgia; Almond, Matthew; Batchelor, Rob; Bendrey, Robin; Bogaard, Amy; Bosomworth, Matt; Britten, Mathew; Bull, Ian; Charles, Mike; Diffey, Charlotte; Elliott, Sarah; Fattah, Othman; Fleitman, Dominik; Flohr, Pascal; Garcia-Suarez, Aroa; Godleman, Jessica; Green, Chris; Guaggenti, Alessandro; Hawas, Hawar; Herman, Jeremy; Iversen, Ingrid; Johnson, Jessica S.; Maeda, Osamu; Matthews, Roger; Matthews, Wendy; Moore, Tom; Morlin, Mel; Mudd, David; Portillo, Marta; Rabbani, Maria; Rasheed Raheem, Kamal; Richardson, Amy; Rofes, Juan; Raeuf Aziz, Kamal; Salah, Hero; Smith, Rhi; Speed, Chris; Stone, Adam; Thornley, David; van Neer, Wim; Walsh, Sam; Whitlam, Jade

­The Eastern Fertile Crescent region of western Iran and eastern Iraq hosted major developments in the transition from hunting and gathering to more sedentary agricultural lifestyles through the Early Neolithic period, 10,000-7000 BC. Within the scope of the Central Zagros Archaeological Project, excavations have been conducted at two Early Neolithic sites in the Kurdistan region of Iraq: Bestansur and Shimshara, as well as survey in the region of the Epipalaeolithic site of Zarzi since 2012. Bestansur represents an early stage in the transition to sedentary, agricultural life, where the inhabitants pursued a biodiverse strategy of hunting, gathering, herding and cultivating, maximising the new opportunities afforded by the warmer climate of the Early Holocene. They also constructed a substantial settlement of mudbrick, including a major building with a minimum of 78 human individuals buried under its floor in association with hundreds of beads. ­ These buildings and human remains provide new insights into social relations, mortuary practices, demography, diet, health and disease during the early stages of sedentarisation. ­ The material culture of Bestansur and Shimshara is rich in imported items such as obsidian, carnelian and sea-shells, indicating the extent to which Early Neolithic communities were networked across the Eastern Fertile Crescent and beyond along routes that later became the Silk Roads. This volume includes final reports by a large-scale interdisciplinary team on a wealth of new data from excavations at Bestansur and Shimshara, through application of state-of-the-art scientific techniques, integrated ecological and social approaches and sustainability studies. ­ The net result is to re-emphasise the enormous significance of the Eastern Fertile Crescent in one of the most important episodes in human history: the Neolithic transition.

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