The Neolithic Period 10.200- 5000 BC   

This was Characterized by the development of agriculture, the domestication of animals, settlements or semi-permanent dwellings, and eventually the invention of pottery. Also, the stone tools were often made by grinding and polishing, rather than by chipping flakes. These developments took place at different times in different places. In the Middle East, Neolithic cultures started to develop at around 8,000 BC. A key to the development of the Neolithic period is the harvesting and cultivation of plants as crops - particularly grain, which could be stored, ground to flour, and cooked. The forerunner of domesticated wheat appears to be "emmer" or "einkorn" - which still grows wild in the Middle East. In order to grow a crop and harvest it, people must settle in a region, at least long enough for the plants to grow and come to harvest.

The Neolithic Period is traditionally subdivided into Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) and Pottery Neolithic (PN). Very few PPN sites have been excavated in Jordan.

  • The Per-Pottery Neolithic Period

During the PPNA the circular or oval houses of Jericho, which possibly developed from primitive huts or nomadic tents were built with unbaked clay which was formed into small rectangular bricks or mud. The houses sometimes had an entry porch with either two to three steps or a slight slope leading down to the main room.

During PPNB rectangular houses with several rooms and broad entryways were grouped around the courtyards. The foundations were made of stone while the walls were built with bricks which were sun dried and sometimes had a protective plaster coating. The floors were of beaten earth or mud plaster.

Ceramics were not invented yet, but plates and dishes of stone or wood were used. Some stone bowls from Jericho, the Baydha millstone and lithic tools evidence the agricultural orientation of that population. Prototypes of ceramic shapes can already be seen as excavations at Baydha and ‘Ayn Ghazal have shown.

Reflecting the rare number of sites for this period throughout the Levant, only three Jordanian sites, Sabra 1, Iraq ad-Dubb and adh-Dhra' are assignable to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A.

Adh-Dhra': Located above the eastern shore of the Dead Sea at an elevation of ca. 40m below sea level, Adh-Dhra' covers an area of less than 0.4(hectares) and has extensive evidence of oval or circular structures made of stone and mud. One excavated house was about 3m in diameter and had stone walls standing to a height of 85cm, a low stone feature, possibly a bench was inside the building.

'Ain Ghazal: The site of 'Ain Ghazal is an early Neolithic village site located along the banks of the Zarqa River near Amman. The name means "Spring of the Gazelles", and the site had major occupations during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) period, about 8800BC and 6900BC; the PPNC period (ca. 6,900-6,400 BC) and during the early Pottery Neolithic, between ca 6,400-5,000 BC.

'Ain Ghazal covers some 30 acres. The PPNB occupation has several multiroomed rectangular dwellings which were built and rebuilt at least five times. Nearly 100 burials have been recovered from this period.

Ritual behavior seen at 'Ain Ghazal include the presence of numerous human and animal figurines, some large human statues with distinctive eyes, and some plastered skulls. Five large lime plaster statues were recovered, of quasi-human forms made of reed bundles covered with plaster. The forms have square torsos and two or three heads.

Recent excavations at 'Ain Ghazal have considerably augmented knowledge of several aspects of the Neolithic. Of particular interest has been the documentation of a continuous or near continuous, occupation from early through late Neolithic components, and a concomitant dramatic economic shift. This shift was from a broad subsistence base relying on a variety of both wild and domestic plants and animals, to an economic strategy reflecting an apparent emphasis on pastoralism.

Domesticated wheat, barley, peas and lentils have been identified at 'Ain Ghazal, as well as a wide variety of wild forms of these plants and animals such as gazelle, goats, cattle and pigs. No domesticated animals were identified in the PPNB levels, although by the PPNC period, domestic sheep, goats, pigs, and probably cattle were identified.

  • The Pottery Neolithic Period (6400-5000BC)

The invention of ceramics represents a significant step in the evolution of mankind. Earlier attempts to fashion pottery from calcareous plaster had certainly been made at ‘Ain Ghazal and at Baydha resulting in the “white ware” of the previous period. Stone vessels and other types made with wood, leather and woven fibers were also in use, but it was not until the end of the Neolithic period the man systematically began to fashion vessels of clay mixed with vegetal and mineral tempers. The use of this new material along with the inventiveness of the craftsman led to the production of vessels used to gather, preserve, store and cook food, thus making everyday life easier.

The architecture of this period is not well known. No completely intact house has been found even in Jericho, however, we do know something of their building techniques. The rooms are rectangular and the walls were built of handmodelled, unfired, mud bricks resting on a stone foundation. The floors were covered with mats. In Jordan itself, architecture is not well-represented in the excavations>The area of Ghrubba revealed circular semi-subterranean dwellings which are also found at contemporary Jericho and Tulaylat al-Ghassul.