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Chalcolithic Levant

The Chalcolithic Period, BCE - BCE, was marked by endogenous change, meaning the change was from intercultural influence. Chalcolithic sites have bigger and more numerous farming villages than Neolithic sites. Climate Change? The climate region was likely changing, but this is uncertain. Intensive settlement in arid regions (along Wadi Beersehba in Negev, for exmaple) is suggestive of water management, increased humidity or both. Wadi is the Arabic word for creek. Ayn is spring.

There are four primary regional and unique Chalcolithic cultures: Golan and Galilee; Ghassulian (Jordan Valley); Beersheba; and Coastal. Ghassulian culture is typified at Teleilat Ghassul and Nahal Mishmar. A cave "Cave of the Treasure" containing 400 ceremonial copper objects made by the lost-wax method is also a great Ghassulian corpus. 10 copper crowns. Standards with animal heads, some with ibexes. Figurine standards. Scepters. Perforated disks. Chisels and hammers. Mace-heads. Other finds include hippo tusk objects, elephant ivory box, flint implements, linen fabric (some had blood stains and others even pockets), sandals and a wicker basket. Evidence for copper working. Arsenical copper used in the cultic objects in the hoard is easier to cast but harder after casting; it is not used on the chisels which is surprising. More attention is being paid to the cultic objects. En Gedi. Typical of Ghassulian chalcolithic architecture.

The variety and detail of Chalcolithic materials indicate specialized skills passed across generations:

  • Ceramics are now wheel-made.

  • Ivory and wood carving.

  • Copperworking in the Beersheva Valley.

  • Stoneworking, mostly basalt.

  • Specialized pastoralism (animal breeding).

Horticulture and Secondary Products Revolution

Although plants and animals were domesticated during the Neolithic (agriculture), the Chalcolithic is marked by horticulture and the secondary products revolution. Fig (ficus carica) domestication was Neolithic, but during the Chalcolithic there was a horticultural explosion and olives (olea europaea), grapes (vitis vinifera), pistachio nuts (pistacia atlantica) and dates (phoenix dactylifera l.) were all domesticated. Golan contains olive pits; Ghassulian likely had irrigated olive crops; olives grown on the western flanks of the Judean hills and Mount Carmel were likely not cultivated; and in Nahal Mishmar and Ghassul, grapes were grown. In addition to horticulture, the Chalcolithic is marked by the secondary products revolution whereby animals were being used in secondary ways.

The Chalcolithic Levant was at the level of chiefdom:




The populations at some sites were sufficiently large.


There was craft specialization, as described above.


There were public sanctuaries in En Gedi, Ghassul and Shiqmim.


Societial stratification emerged in the Chalcolithic, ending egalitarianism. Some houses were larger and contained more artifacts.


There were temples, an example of cultic installation.

Dating the Chalcolithic Era in the Levant

The Chalcolithic Period in Ancient Israel overlaps with end of Predynastic culture in Northern Egypt, between the end of Badarian ( BCE - BCE) and beginning of Amratian/Naqada I ( BCE - BCE). Subdivisions are not particularly reliable: regional assemblages no longer overlap to allow subdivided phases. Dates are relative to earlier (Neolithic) and later (EB) phases. Further, the Chalcolithic began in the north before permeating to the south, further complicating chronology.

Chalcolithic sites

Classic neolithic sites were abandoned (ie, Jericho). marginal areas occupied (Negev). Regional cultures (Golan & Galilee, Ghassulian, Beersheba, Coast). Also, Gilat and Shiqmin. Wadi Rabah was notable.