Friday, August 3, 2012

The life of men and women in the Neolithic village of Abu Hureyra




Abu Hureyra is a place now buried under the Lake Assad, in Syria. Before the waters invaded the place, there was a mound and, as usually where there is a mound there is digging, a team of archeologists came to unearth the remains of a Neolithic village. 

After digging, washing, brushing, cleaning, classifying and annalizing they came to some conclusion about how did people lived in Neolithic, especially in the period when they settled to live in one place, cultivating plants and raising livestock versus migrating from place to place, fallowing the animal herds and crop seasons. 

According with the book "The early human world" by Peter Robertshaw and Jill Rubalcaba, that follows the discoveries at Abu Hureyra, the life of Neolithic people was very hard: hours and hours and long physical work, repetitive (and boring according with modern standards) daily jobs, and enduring, alienating illnesses. 

The conclusions revealed by archeologists after digging and analizing the site looks like a heart breaking, hard to believe picture of a small society trying to survive by farming and raisins sheep and goats. 

The archeologists have uncovered seeds of wheat and barley, and remains of sheep, goats, pigs and cattle. 

The Neolithic villagers used to carry their crop from the field to their houses on their heads, so the neck bones grew larger. Also, from heavy lifting, their upper arms got stronger, causing the bones to bulge. 
They used to grind the grains between two rocks for hours, with  their toes curled under their feet until their big toe bones would wear off. They often used their teeth as a tool. The archaeologists think they hold cane so they can have free hands for other tasks and/or chewed plants to make strings. So much they used their teeth that they carved deep grooves, that must have hurt a lot since they were down to the roots. 

One particular deformity of the bone speaks about their health. The eye sockets were pitted and this particular condition was attributed to the parasites, eroding the bone. 

The book mentioned above is full of surprises about the life of Neolithic men and women. The picture is often very different then what we may think after learning from our textbooks. The style is vivid and entertaining. To be honest, I find it fascinating.