In contrast to regions such as the Negev or Jordan Valley, our knowledge of life in the Galilee during the Chalcolithic period (c. 4500-3600 BC) is very limited. For example, we have no radiocarbon dates for a Chalcolithic settlement in the Galilee, nor do we have an architectural plan. This is unfortunate because the Chalcolithic period, a key transitional time between the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, witnessed the first metallurgy, the first pottery formed on a wheel, and dramatically new burial practices for the dead.
The new research initiative launched by the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago and led by Dr. Yorke Rowan is designed to examine the dramatic changes in the relationship of villages, ritual sites and mortuary practices during this poorly understood period. Their goal is to understand why this period witnessed dramatic changes such as rapid diversification, intensification in craft production, and agricultural expansion. By comparing material culture in the Galilee with other areas of the southern Levant (lands bordering the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea), Dr. Rowan and his team will obtain samples for botanical, faunal, and geomorphological analyses to further interpretations of Galilean subsistence economy during the Chalcolithic period.
Dr. Rowan and crew had an extremely successful first season, but in the coming seasons, support for survey tools, radiocarbon dating, geomorphological analysis, and transportation will help the team further explore Marj Rabba and ultimately expand the project to other Galilean Chalcolithic sites.
Based on the good state of preservation of architectural features and faunal remains, Marj Rabba shows great promise for expanded, intensive investigation made possible by new funding to offer fresh insights into this key transitional era which some have called the 'end of prehistory'.
Yorke Rowan is a new Research Associate in the Oriental Institute focused on the late prehistory of the southern Levant (Israel, Jordan and Palestine). Trained as an anthropological archaeologist, his research focuses on the rise of social complexity, craft specialization, and prehistoric ritual and mortuary practices. In addition to Marj Rabba, he is currently investigating two large prehistoric mortuary sites in the eastern desert of Jordan.
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