Discoveries Of Tall Aswad: Syria Was The Center Of Prehistoric Civilizations

Arab and world news agencies were highly interested in the latest archaeological discoveries lately revealed by the Syrian- French excavation mission, which became the central subject of scientists and archeologists specialized in prehistoric eras, especially that of the Neolithic age which witnessed the period of stability, agriculture and domestication of wild animals. This period was characterized with a lot of devices and changes in many fields that changed the future of humanity and human civilizations. These changes occurred in Syria before any other place in the world in the early ninth millennium BC.

 The archaeological mission excavating in Tall Aswad since the seventies of the past century, found molded human skulls dyed in red with eyes holes filled with black tar, evidences of certain funerary rites and ancient theological beliefs that date back to the seventh millennium BC. Rites and beliefs related to our grand fathers who had left behind several ancient agricultural tools like: sickles, knives, erasing knives, arrow heads, and charred grains, things confirm that the ancient inhabitants of the place had practiced agriculture and domesticated animals. Archaeological studies and researches executed in several areas in and around Damascus confirmed that the period between the eighth millennium and the sixth millennium BC was very rich in that it witnessed several important alterations in human history which can be summarized in the following:

-Leaving caves, founding built villages and changing towards stable settlement in these villages.

-The village was a great achievement in itself in terms of deliberate development of principles of life in Syria before any other part of the world.

-Technical and ideological development occurred in the ancient Syrian villages like Tall Aswad, Tall al Ramad, Tall al Mureibet, Tall Baqrass and Tall Abu Hrere and others.

Moving towards organized productive economy was a giant step in the history of humanity. It paved the way for the progress of later civilizations, so that scientists called it the Neolithic Revolution. Abundance of water and fertility of land in Damascus and around it helped man to settle in it since old ages. All the excavations executed in Tall al Ramad and Tall al Khazami, Tall Ghreqa and tall Aswad confirmed these facts.

Tall Aswad of the Ghouta of Damascus is located in an area of swamps between two lakes. The area of the tall itself is 270X225 m. It is five m high. Carbon C14 analysis proved that human settlement started here between 7790 and 6690 BC, an era known as the first Neolithic age which preceded the industry of pottery.

Comparing stone items and tools discovered in Tall Aswad with discoveries of other sites proved the tall had a crowded quarter of round shaped houses full of ash and burnt plants. In many cases houses were connected with each other. Evidences proved that older houses were linked with newer ones. All houses have cylindrical silos (might had been used for storing grains). Excavators found large numbers of bricks of mud mixed with hay.

Each brick is flat at the bottom, concave at the top with traces of human fingers clear on them. Pieces of bricks were found burnt and charred among the rubble, and sometimes well arranged beside each other to form a platform.

Excavations and discoveries of 2006 proved that Tall Aswad was a village of small round cottages built extensively near each other and discovered half full of earth. Mud was used to make bricks to be used as tiles or to make low platforms. The upper part of the cottage was built of light materials, easy to catch fire. Discoveries showed that houses were burnt several times. It is worthy mentioning that the surrounding environment obliged the village dwellers to use light materials in building their houses. Light materials like reeds usually grow in swamps. Lakes Utaibe and Hijaneh were rich with fish used as the main food stuff. Many mud toys representing humans and animals were discovered in Tall Aswad, most of them for women with naked shoulders and chests, primary artistic achievements of the ancient man in Syria.

Many evidences were found that showed the nature of the beliefs of the ancient man in the Neolithic age, especially the worship of ancestors. When man dies he is buried in a pit in embryo position (alone or with a child).In one pit there was a separate skull with a skeleton buried in embryo position under which there was a full skeleton with four separate skulls, two of them for children, with mother of pearl beads, four sickles and two flint stone arrow heads. This proves that the tomb was used several times, and might belong to one family.

Archaeological missions found evidences of the development of human skills. In the period between 7000 and 6500 BC they discovered in Tall Aswad several species of wheat and barley in addition to industrial products of polished precious stones like rubies and emeralds ....etc. They found also large numbers of baked mud toys some of them of flat or rectangular human shapes.

We can summarize the results of excavations executed in Tall Aswad since the early seventies of the past century until this season as following:

-Agricultural tools discovered like sickles and grinding stones, prove good experience of agriculture. These tools were used to obtain grains. Fires left us charred grains useful for laboratory analysis.

- Archaeological studies allowed us to know that grain and fruit were planted in Syria in the eighth millennium BC. We have evidences about vine trees, olive, and fig trees ,palm trees and hemp since the seventh millennium BC, in addition to the continuous use of wild plants.

-Animals domestication passed several stages before it reached the status of perfection. It had been realized that dogs were the first animals domesticated in the 9th millennium BC, then sheep, goats, pigs, cows, horses, camels and donkeys followed.

Several agricultural villages grew in Damascus basin: Tall Aswad, Tall Ghreqa in which human faces were discovered and categorized by archaeologists as the Damascene Physiognomy, a category that belongs to the middle Euphrates. Natural environment of Damascus Ghouta , rich with swamps and lakes, obliged people to build simple houses of light materials like mud and reeds. Baked mud human statues representing the mother goddess besides other animals statues were found in Tall Aswad and Tall Ghreqa. Some of them representing the body of a woman seated or standing with bulged bust and legs, sometimes seated on a throne like platform, an indication of the importance of the role of women in the seventh millennium BC in ancient Syria.

Animal statues reflected the importance of animals which, in addition to their economic importance were sometimes worshipped. Many statues of bull heads were discovered from later periods which confirm that bull worship had grown widely.

-Technically there is evidence of good industrial products of flint and stones like hunting weapons, arrow heads, drills and erasers. Agricultural tools were developed also like sickles, grinding stones, mortars as well as bone tools like needles which proves that there was an industry of textile and cloth making.

Worshipping of the ancestors: This has many examples in several places like Jericho and Bisamon in Palestine, Tall al Ramad, Tall al Muraibet, and Tall Aswad in Syria, and Wadi Himar south of the Dead Sea. Skulls were plated with gypsum in an artistic way that they maintained their features for thousands of years. There were also large statues with human heads on them buried in brick holes which indicates the existence of religious funerary rites prevailing in Bilad al Sham, and which offers the evidence of the unity of thought and belief and the correlation of the social and spiritual tissue of the early inhabitants of Syria since the early Neolithic age.


Haifaa Mafalani