Diorama showing trephination in Neolithic times (Wellcome Images / CC BY-SA 4.0)

True Civilization Sites Predating the Neolithic Revolution


The beginnings of what archaeologists often call ‘true civilization’ are most often attributed to the Neolithic Revolution, which began at different places around the world from around 10,000 BC. It marked one of the most important periods in human history when nomadic hunter-gatherer-fisher ancestors began settling as new agricultural methodologies were being developed. However, while most of the earliest known human settlements date back to the Neolithic, a collection of the archaeological sites predate them by sometimes tens of thousands of years and contain some of the earliest works of art on the planet. ‘True civilization’ could have been born long before the Neolithic Revolution.

The Taking of Jericho by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (c. 1896-1902) (Public Domain)

The Taking of Jericho by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (c. 1896-1902) ( Public Domain )

Tell es-Sultan Jericho

 Age: c. 9000 BC;  Location:  Jericho, West Bank, Palestine;  Discovered: 1868;  Primary Use: Fortified settlement

Scatterlings of flint tools and the remains of mudbrick houses were discovered in 1868 at Tell es-Sultan, also known as Tel Jericho, the site of Biblical Jericho which is today a UNESCO-nominated archaeological site on the West Bank, located two kilometers north of the center of Jericho. Inhabited from the 10th millennium BC this settlement is often referred to as ‘the oldest town in the world’ and during the Younger Dryas stadial, of colder climates and droughts, Tell es-Sultan was a popular camping ground for Natufian hunter-gatherer groups. According to Steven Mithen in his 2006 book  After the ice: a global human history, 20,000-5000 BC this particular site was of great value because of the nearby Ein es-Sultan spring, around which ancient hunter-gatherers left tiny crescent-shaped microlith tools.

During the Middle Bronze Age Jericho was a small prominent city of the Canaan region and the mound, or tell of Jericho was surrounded by a great earthen rampart. (Public Domain)

During the Middle Bronze Age  Jericho was a small prominent city of the Canaan region and the mound, or tell of  Jericho was surrounded by a great earthen rampart. ( Public Domain )

Around 9600 BC the droughts and cold weather of the Younger Dryas period began to end allowing Natufian hunting groups to live at this site all year-round and a permanent settlement was founded. Archaeologists have found evidence to suggest epipaleolithic construction at Jericho predates the invention or development of agriculture, with these Natufian structures dating to before 9000 BC at what was the beginning of the Holocene epoch in geologic history.


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Ashley Cowie  is a Scottish historian, author and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems, in accessible and exciting ways. His books, articles and television shows explore lost cultures and kingdoms, ancient crafts and artifacts, symbols and architecture, myths and legends telling thought-provoking stories which together offer insights into our shared social history .

Top Image : Diorama showing trephination in Neolithic times ( Wellcome Images / CC BY-SA 4.0)

By Ashley Cowie



You may want to watch this documentary about Jericho:

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