First Published: 2007-10-23

 
Archaeologist uncovers 11,000-year-old artefacts in Syria
 

Latest discoveries in Syria date back to start of Neolithic era in Epipalaeolithic period.

 

Middle East Online

By Talal el-Atrache - DAMASCUS

A small stone anthropomorphic Neolithic figurine

Deep in the heart of northern Syria, close to the banks of the Euphrates River, archaeologists have uncovered a series of startling 11,000-year-old wall paintings and artefacts.

"The wall paintings date back to the 9th millennium BC. They were discovered last month on the wall of a house standing two metres (6.6 feet) high at Dja'de," said Frenchman Eric Coqueugniot, who has been leading the excavations on the west bank of the river at Dja'de, in an area famous for its rich tradition of prehistoric treasures.

The etchings are "polychrome paintings in black, white and red. The designs are solely geometric, and only figurative. The composition is made up of a system cross-hatched lines, alternating between the three colours," Coqueugniot said.

They were found in a circular building, around 7.5 metres (25 feet) in diameter. The excavated house features three solid blocks where the paintings were located.

The main pillar has been completely excavated and stands almost two metres high displaying the new murals, said Coqueugniot, a researcher for the Paris-based National Centre for Scientific Research.

The remains of the building, much larger than the small and rectangular domestic dwellings of the period, "must have been used as a meeting place for the whole village or for a clan," he added.

Apart from the organic artefacts, which have decomposed over time, the site has provided many well-preserved treasures.

Carved stone tools, flints, seed-grinding implements and brick-grinding stones have been recovered. Many bone objects were also found -- both remnants of the animals that made up part of the daily diet and intricately fashioned tools.

The dig also uncovered several figurines made of gypsum, chalk, bone and clay. The most recent discovery, an 11,000-year-old statue of a man is "particularly important and well preserved," Coqueugniot said.

This item will allow comparisons with other similar sculptures found on sites in the Urfa region of southern Turkey, added the French scientist, who has overseen archaeological projects at Dja'de for 15 years.

"The figures could have had religious significance. The female statuettes could also have been fertility symbols. But they could have had entirely different ritual meanings," Coqueugniot said

"We can only offer hypotheses," he added. "It is still very difficult to say what was the significance of this 11,000-year-old statue of the woman."

The latest discoveries date back to the start of the Neolithic era, in a period known as the Epipalaeolithic.

Many artefacts from this period have been discovered in northern Syria, in particular at Jerf al-Ahmar, a site destroyed by the Tishrin dam, Coqueugniot said. It was one of several built over the past three decades that have flooded a number of archaeological sites.

For example, the dam at Tabqa flooded an area of around 650 square kilometres (250 square miles) after it was erected in 1976. Prior to that, the government approved testing of 56 sites, 20 of which were spared when the dam was built.

 

Supplies dwindle, strikes intensify in Syria's Aleppo

Morocco’s main secular party takes on ruling Islamists

Yemeni forces kill suspected Qaeda chief

Palestinians condemn Trump vow on Jerusalem

Famous archway collapses on Moroccan beach

Israel prosecutor general denies going easy on PM

Iran frees Iranian-Canadian academic

Rebels, civilians quit Homs under deal with regime

Oman court closes national newspaper, jails three journalists

Israel-US consortium signs $10 billion gas deal with Jordan

Closure of Palestinian pages sparks Facebook censorship fears

British FM on key visit to Turkey

Ten Turkish soldiers killed in PKK attacks

Jordanians protest over writer's murder

Moniz says Washington has met its side of Iran nuclear deal

Coalition prefers final Yemen settlement to 'short' truce

Deutsche Welle sues Turkey over confiscated interview

Iran conservatives advise Ahmadinejad to stay out of election

Moscow slams 'unacceptable' UN statements on Syria

Bulgaria court error delays trial over Hezbollah bombing

Oil prices rise modestly ahead of OPEC meeting

Qatari official banned from AFC vote

Trump says he'll recognize Jerusalem as Israel's 'undivided' capital

US, Russia split on Syria’s Aleppo carnage

Death toll from Egypt migrant shipwreck jumps to 168

Warplanes pound Aleppo ahead of UN Syria meeting

Dubai drops charges against Briton who promoted charity

Israel sentences Islamic cleric for incitement

Turkey sets precondition for joining US Raqa operation

Campaigning for parliamentary polls begins in Morocco

EU mission to train Libya coastguard faces delay

Gunman kills prominent writer on steps of courthouse in Jordan

Mosul offensive to start in ‘next few weeks’

New wave of air strikes pummels Aleppo

US, Russia trade blame for collapse of ceasefire in Syria

Hadi vows to ‘extract Yemen from claws of Iran’

Obama vetoes bill allowing 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia

Morocco asks to rejoin African Union

Air raids pound rebel-held Aleppo

Turkey arrests prominent writer brothers

Egypt shipwreck death toll rises to 133

Gulen says will return to Turkey if US backs extradition

Occupation troops shoot, wound Palestinian with knife

UN eyes alternate aid delivery route for Syria's Aleppo

Iran condemns Saudi strikes in Yemen