Ghassulian refers to a culture and an archaeological stage dating to the Middle Chalcolithic Period in the Southern Levant (c. 3800–c. 3350 BC). Considered to correspond to the Halafian culture of North Syria and Mesopotamia, its type-site, 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 Syria into Palestine Canaan. 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.
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 in the thought 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 Palestine and western Jordan; all well-watered and 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.
The Ghassulian or Chalcolithic period 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.
- Pre-history of the Southern Levant
- History of pottery in the Southern Levant
- Syro-Palestinian archaeology
- Chalcolithic Temple of Ein Gedi
- Proto-Semitic homeland
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