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The Neolithic
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Levantine corridor
Heavy Neolithic
Shepherd Neolithic
Trihedral Neolithic
Qaraoun culture
Tahunian culture
Yarmukian Culture
Halaf culture
Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period
Ubaid culture
Pre-Pottery (A, B)
Tell Aswad
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farming, animal husbandry
pottery, metallurgy, wheel
circular ditches, henges, megaliths
Neolithic religion

Pottery jar from Late Ubaid Period
Cultural influences on Ubaid culture: Samarran Farmers from the North, trans-Arabian bifacial indigenous hunter-gatherers, and circum Arabian nomadic pastoral complex

The Ubaid period (ca. 6500 to 3800 BC)[1] is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The name derives from Tell al-`Ubaid where the earliest large excavation of Ubaid period material was conducted initially by Henry Hall and later by Leonard Woolley.[2]

In South Mesopotamia the period is the earliest known period on the alluvium although it is likely earlier periods exist obscured under the alluvium.[3] In the south it has a very long duration between about 6500 and 3800 BC when it is replaced by the Uruk period [4]

In North Mesopotamia the period runs only between about 5300 and 4300 BC.[4] It is preceded by the Halaf period and the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period and succeeded by the Late Chalcolithic period.


The Ubaid period is divided into three principal phases:

  • Ubaid 1, sometimes called Eridu[5] (5300–4700 BC), a phase limited to the extreme south of Iraq, on what was then the shores of the Persian Gulf. This phase, showing clear connection to the Samarra culture to the north, saw the establishment of the first permanent settlement south of the 5 inch rainfall isohyet. These people pioneered the growing of grains in the extreme conditions of aridity, thanks to the high water tables of Southern Iraq.[6]
  • Ubaid 2 — [5] (4800–4500 BC), after the type site of the same name, saw the development of extensive canal networks from major settlements. Irrigation agriculture, which seem to have developed first at Choga Mami (4700–4600 BC) and rapidly spread elsewhere, form the first required collective effort and centralised coordination of labour in Mesopotamia.[7]
  • Ubaid 3/4, sometimes called Ubaid I and Ubaid II[8] — In the period from 4500–4000 BC saw a period of intense and rapid urbanisation with the Ubaid culture spread into northern Mesopotamia replacing (after a hiatus) the Halaf culture. Ubaid artifacts spread also all along the Arabian littoral, showing the growth of a trading system that stretched from the Mediterranean coast through to Oman.[9][10]

The archaeological record shows that Arabian Bifacial/Ubaid period came to an abrupt end in eastern Arabia and the Oman peninsula at 3800 BC, just after the phase of lake lowering and onset of dune reactivation.[11] At this time, increased aridity led to an end in semi-desert nomadism, and there is no evidence of human presence in the area for approximately 1000 years, the so-called "Dark Millennium".[12] This might be due to the 5.9 kiloyear event at the end of the Older Peron.


Ubaid culture is characterized by large village settlements, characterized by multi-roomed rectangular mud-brick houses and the appearance of the first temples of public architecture in Mesopotamia, with a growth of a two tier settlement hierarchy of centralized large sites of more than 10 hectares surrounded by smaller village sites of less than 1 hectare. Domestic equipment included a distinctive fine quality buff or greenish colored pottery decorated with geometric designs in brown or black paint; tools such as sickles were often made of hard fired clay in the south. But in the north, stone and sometimes metal were used.

During the Ubaid Period [5000 B.C.– 4000 B.C.], the movement towards urbanization began. "Agriculture and animal husbandry [domestication] were widely practiced in sedentary communities". There were also tribes that practiced domesticating animals as far north as Turkey, and as far south as the Zagros Mountains.[13]


The Ubaid period as a whole, based upon the analysis of grave goods, was one of increasingly polarised social stratification and decreasing egalitarianism. Bogucki describes this as a phase of "Trans-egalitarian" competitive households, in which some fall behind as a result of downward social mobility. Morton Fried and Elman Service have hypothesised that Ubaid culture saw the rise of an elite class of hereditary chieftains, perhaps heads of kin groups linked in some way to the administration of the temple shrines and their granaries, responsible for mediating intra-group conflict and maintaining social order. It would seem that various collective methods, perhaps instances of what Thorkild Jacobsen called primitive democracy, in which disputes were previously resolved through a council of one's peers, were no longer sufficient for the needs of the local community.

Ubaid culture originated in the south, but still has clear connections to earlier cultures in the region of middle Iraq. The appearance of the Ubaid folk has sometimes been linked to the so-called Sumerian problem, related to the origins of Sumerian civilisation. Whatever the ethnic origins of this group, this culture saw for the first time a clear tripartite social division between intensive subsistence peasant farmers, with crops and animals coming from the north, tent-dwelling nomadic pastoralists dependent upon their herds, and hunter-fisher folk of the Arabian littoral, living in reed huts.

Stein and Özbal describe the Near East oikumene that resulted from Ubaid expansion, contrasting it to the colonial expansionism of the later Uruk period. "A contextual analysis comparing different regions shows that the Ubaid expansion took place largely through the peaceful spread of an ideology, leading to the formation of numerous new indigenous identities that appropriated and transformed superficial elements of Ubaid material culture into locally distinct expressions".[14]

The earliest evidence for sailing has been found in Kuwait indicating that sailing was known by the Ubaid 3 period.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Carter, Robert A. and Philip, Graham Beyond the Ubaid: Transformation and Integration in the Late Prehistoric Societies of the Middle East (Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization, Number 63) The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (2010) ISBN 978-1-885923-66-0 p.2, at http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/catalog/saoc/saoc63.html; "Radiometric data suggest that the whole Southern Mesopotamian Ubaid period, including Ubaid 0 and 5, is of immense duration, spanning nearly three millenia from about 6500 to 3800 B.C".
  2. ^ Hall, Henry R. and Woolley, C. Leonard. 1927. Al-'Ubaid. Ur Excavations 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ Adams, Robert MCC. and Wright, Henry T. 1989. 'Concluding Remarks' in Henrickson, Elizabeth and Thuesen, Ingolf (eds.) Upon This Foundation - The ’Ubaid Reconsidered. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press. pp. 451-456.
  4. ^ a b Carter, Robert A. and Philip, Graham. 2010. 'Deconstructing the Ubaid' in Carter, Robert A. and Philip, Graham (eds.) Beyond the Ubaid: Transformation and Integration in the Late Prehistoric Societies of the Middle East. Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. p. 2.
  5. ^ a b Kurt, Amélie Ancient near East V1 (Routledge History of the Ancient World) Routledge (31 Dec 1996) ISBN 978-0-415-01353-6 p.22
  6. ^ Roux, Georges "Ancient Iraq" (Penguin, Harmondsworth)
  7. ^ Wittfogel, Karl (1981) "Oriental Despotism: Comparative Study of Total Power" (Vintage Books)
  8. ^ Issar, A; Mattanyah Zohar Climate change: environment and civilization in the Middle East Springer; 2nd edition (20 Jul 2004) ISBN 978-3-540-21086-3 p.87
  9. ^ Bibby, Geoffrey (2013), "Looking for Dilmun" (Stacey International)
  10. ^ Crawford, Harriet E.W.(1998), "Dilmun and its Gulf Neighbours" (Cambridge University Press)
  11. ^ Parker, Adrian G.; et al. (2006). "A record of Holocene climate change from lake geochemical analyses in southeastern Arabia". Quaternary Research 66 (3): 465–476. doi:10.1016/j.yqres.2006.07.001. [dead link]
  12. ^ Uerpmann, M. (2002). "The Dark Millennium—Remarks on the final Stone Age in the Emirates and Oman". In Potts, D.; al-Naboodah, H.; Hellyer, P. Archaeology of the United Arab Emirates. Proceedings of the First International Conference on the Archaeology of the U.A.E. London: Trident Press. pp. 74–81. ISBN 1-900724-88-X. 
  13. ^ Pollock, Susan (1999). Ancient Mesopotamia: The Eden that Never Was. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-57334-3. 
  14. ^ Stein, Gil J.; Rana Özbal (2006). "A Tale of Two Oikumenai: Variation in the Expansionary Dynamics of Ubaid and Uruk Mesopotamia". In Elizabeth C. Stone. Settlement and Society: Ecology, urbanism, trade and technology in Mesopotamia and Beyond (Robert McC. Adams Festschrift). Santa Fe: SAR Press. pp. 356–370. 
  15. ^ Carter, Robert (2006). "Boat remains and maritime trade in the Persian Gulf during the sixth and fifth millennia BC". Antiquity 80 (307). 


  • Martin, Harriet P. (1982). "The Early Dynastic Cemetery at al-'Ubaid, a Re-Evaluation". Iraq 44 (2): 145–185. doi:10.2307/4200161. JSTOR 4200161. 
  • Moore, A. M. T. (2002). "Pottery Kiln Sites at al 'Ubaid and Eridu". Iraq 64: 69–77. doi:10.2307/4200519. JSTOR 4200519. 
  • Bogucki, Peter (1990). The Origins of Human Society. Malden, MA: Blackwell. ISBN 1-57718-112-3. 
  • Charvát, Petr (2002). Mesopotamia Before History. London, New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-25104-4.
  • Mellaart, James (1975). The Neolithic of the Near East. New York: Scribner. ISBN 0-684-14483-2. 
  • Nissen, Hans J. (1990). The Early History of the Ancient Near East, 9000–2000 B.C. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-58658-8. 

External links[edit]

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York Daily Record/Sunday News
Mon, 01 Sep 2014 12:30:00 -0700

The space allows people to watch as conservators work to preserve artifacts and mummies. Researchers believe the bones belong to a 50-year-old man from the Ubaid period, which lasted from 5500 to 4000 B.C. Complete human skeletons from that era are ...


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Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:03:45 -0700

The space allows people to watch as conservators work to preserve artifacts and mummies. Researchers believe the bones belong to a 50-year-old man from the Ubaid period, which lasted from 5500-4000 B.C. Complete human skeletons from that era are ...

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Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:32:47 -0700

Visitors can look at the 6,500-year-old remains beginning Saturday at the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Museum. Archaeologists first excavated the specimen from southern Iraq around 1930. But it sat for decades in the museum's basement without any ...
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Thu, 28 Aug 2014 15:30:00 -0700

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Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:48:45 -0700

Testing revealed that the layer was 2,000 years older than the cemetery, dating back to the Ubaid period (c. 5,500 to 4,000 BC). A total of 48 human remains were found in the layer, but 'Noah' was the only skeleton in good enough condition to be removed.
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Fri, 29 Aug 2014 09:45:37 -0700

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