Tell Bouqras is situated in eastern Syria, on the right bank of the Euphrates, c. 35 km south-east of Deir ez-Zor (35°05′ 12″N, 40°23′ 50″E). The ‘neolithic’ village was built on a promontory of the plateau area overlooking the Euphrates floodplain, just opposite the mouth of the Khabur (fig. 1). H. de Contenson and W.J. van Liere (1966) conducted a trial excavation at the tell in 1965. Their results showed that the ‘hunter-shepherd society’ of Bouqras (van Liere and de Contenson 1963; Hooijer 1966) dated from the second half of the seventh millennium bc (Vogel and Waterbolk 1967).
Before this period villages with an economy based on agriculture and animal husbandry mainly occupied the mountainous areas bordering the ‘fertile crescent’. During the second half of the seventh and the first part of the sixth millennia be the spread of such villages can be observed outside of the areas formerly occupied. The chronological and geographical position of Bouqras makes the site particularly suited to be investigated as an example of the sedentary communities which started to settle the more downstream Euphrates and Tigris drainage basins in the lowlands of eastern Syria and Iraq, beyond the regions where rainfall-fed farming would have been possible. Furthermore, the location of Bouqras at similar distances, as the crow flies, from Pre-Pottery Neolithic sites in western and northern Syria and early sixth millennium settlements in northern Iraq, would give the opportunity to trace contacts between these separate regions.
With these objectives a team from the Universities of Amsterdam and Groningen, directed by Prof Dr H. T. Waterbolk and Prof Dr M. N. van Loon, undertook new excavations at Bouqras from 1976 to 1978. Financial support was obtained from the Netherlands Organization for the Advancement of Pure Research, the A. E. vanGiffen Instituut voor Prae- en Protohistorie in Amsterdam and the Biologisch-Archaeologisch Instituut in Groningen. We express our gratitude to Dr A. Bahnassi and Dr A. Bounni of the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums in Damascus, for granting the excavation and survey permits and for their interest in our work. Mr A. Mahmoud of the Museum of Deir ez-Zor was very helpful during our stay in the field.