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The Chalcolithic Radiocarbon Record and Its Use in Southern Levantine Archaeology

  • Margie Burton (a1) and Thomas E Levy (a1)

Abstract

Archaeological evidence suggests that the Chalcolithic period (5th–4th millennium BCE) in the southern Levant was a time of significant settlement expansion and increasing social complexity. Important technological and social developments during this era set the stage for the later rise of fortified sites and nascence of urbanization in the Early Bronze Age. Controversy surrounding the chronology of Chalcolithic settlement and the reconstruction of social trajectories has stimulated an interest in building a database of radiocarbon dates to measure the tempo of change and help resolve these issues. To facilitate social evolutionary research, this paper reviews and updates published 14C data for the southern Levantine Chalcolithic. The now-substantial database supports the generally accepted time frame for this archaeological period and allows synchronic comparisons across diverse geographic subregions in the southern Levant. In addition, it helps to temporally place the emergence of sophisticated technologies and the development of complex social institutions within the Chalcolithic period. However, radiometrically based attempts at pan-regional internal periodization of the Chalcolithic and fine-tuning of protohistoric events such as site establishment and abandonment are frustrated by the lack of precision in 14C dates, which limits their ability to resolve chronological sequence. Improved delineation of Chalcolithic social trajectories can be achieved most effectively by focussing research efforts on stratigraphic and typological investigations of deeply-stratified settlement sites such as Teleilat Ghassul and Shiqmim within their local contexts.

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