Replica of bronze sceptre from the Nahal Mishmar Hoard (at Hecht Museum, Haifa)
Teleilat el-Ghassul
Teleilat el-Ghassul on the map of Jordan
Eneolithic, Aeneolithic
or Copper Age
Stone Age

Near East

Ghassulian culture, Naqada culture, Uruk period


Yamna culture, Corded Ware
Cernavodă culture, Decea Mureşului culture, Gorneşti culture, Gumelniţa–Karanovo culture, Petreşti culture, Coțofeni culture
Remedello culture, Gaudo culture, Monte Claro culture


Ahar-Banas culture, Jorwe



Metallurgy, Wheel,
Domestication of the horse,

Bronze Age
Ghassulian ossuary, ca. 3500 BC, Palestine (at the British Museum)

Ghassulian refers to a culture and an archaeological stage dating to the Middle Chalcolithic Period in the Southern Levant (c. 3800–c. 3350 BC).[1] Its type-site, Teleilat Ghassul (Teleilat el-Ghassul, Tulaylat al-Ghassul), is located in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea in modern Jordan and was excavated in the 1930s.

The Ghassulian stage was characterized by small hamlet settlements of mixed farming peoples, and migrated southwards from today's Syria into today's Jordan, Israel and Palestine. Houses were trapezoid-shaped and built mud-brick, covered with remarkable polychrome wall paintings. Their pottery was highly elaborate, including footed bowls and horn-shaped drinking goblets, indicating the cultivation of wine. Several samples display the use of sculptural decoration or of a reserved slip (a clay and water coating partially wiped away while still wet). The Ghassulians were a Chalcolithic culture as they also smelted copper. Funerary customs show evidence that they buried their dead in stone dolmens.[2]

Ghassulian culture has been identified at numerous other places in what is today southern Israel, especially in the region of Beersheba. The Ghassulian culture correlates closely with the Amratian of Egypt and may have had trading affinities (e.g., the distinctive churns, or “bird vases”) with early Minoan culture in Crete.


Ghassulian, a name applied to a Chalcolithic culture of the southern Levant, is derived from the eponymic site of Teleilat (el) Ghassul, northeast of the Dead Sea in the Great Rift Valley. The name has been used as a synonym for Chalcolithic in general and sometimes for late phases, associated with late strata at that site and other sites considered to be contemporary. More recently it has come to be associated with a regional cultural phenomenon (defined by sets of artifacts) in what is today central and southern Israel, the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, and the central area of western Jordan; all either well-watered or semi-arid zones. Other phases of the Chalcolithic, associated with different regions of the Levant, are Qatifian and Timnian (arid zones) and Golanian. The use of the name varies from scholar to scholar.

Dates and transition phases

The Ghassulian, if used as a synonym for the entire Chalcolithic period and not, as more appropriately, just to the Late Chalcolithic, followed a Late Neolithic period and was succeeded by an Early Bronze I (EB I) period. Little is understood of the transition from the latest Chalcolithic to the earliest EB I, but there was apparently some transition of ceramic, flint-knapping and metallurgical traditions, especially in the southern regions of the southern Levant. The dates for Ghassulian are dependent upon 14C (radiocarbon) determinations, which suggest that the typical later Ghassulian began sometime around the mid-5th millennium and ended ca. 3800 BC. The transition from Late Ghassulian to EB I seems to have been ca. 3800-3500 BC.

See also


  1. Hitti, 2004, p. 26.
  2. A. Gorzalczany, "Centre and Periphery in Ancient Israel: New Approximations to Chalcolithic Funerary Practices in the Coastal Plain", Antiguo Oriente 5 (2007): 205-230.


External links

Coordinates: 31°51′39″N 35°38′26″E / 31.86083°N 35.64056°E / 31.86083; 35.64056

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