Hassuna culture

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Approximate distribution area
The old Orient
The city gate of Nimrud
Timeline based on calibrated C 14 data
Epipalaeolithic 12000-9500 BC Chr.
Pre-ceramic Neolithic 9500-6400 BC Chr.
PPNA 9500-8800 BC Chr.
PPNB 8800-7000 BC Chr.
PPNC 7000-6400 BC Chr.
Ceramic Neolithic 6400-5800 BC Chr.
Umm Dabaghiyah culture 6000-5800 BC Chr.
Hassuna culture 5800-5260 BC Chr.
Samarra culture 5500-5000 BC Chr.
Transition to the Chalcolithic 5800-4500 BC Chr.
Halaf culture 5500-5000 BC Chr.
Chalcolithic 4500-3600 BC Chr.
Obed time 5000-4000 BC Chr.
Uruk time 4000-3100 / 3000 BC Chr.
Early Bronze Age 3000-2000 BC Chr.
Jemdet Nasr time 3000-2800 BC Chr.
Early dynasty 2900 / 2800-2340 BC Chr.
Battery life 2340-2200 BC Chr.
New Sumerian / Ur-III period 2340-2000 BC Chr.
Middle Bronze Age 2000-1550 BC Chr.
Isin Larsa Period / Ancient Assyrian Period 2000–1800 BC Chr.
Old Babylonian time 1800–1595 BC Chr.
Late Bronze Age 1550-1150 BC Chr.
Checkout time 1580-1200 BC Chr.
Central Assyrian Period 1400-1000 BC Chr.
Iron age 1150-600 BC Chr.
Isin II time 1160-1026 BC Chr.
Neo-Assyrian time 1000-600 BC Chr.
Neo-Babylonian Period 1025-627 BC Chr.
Late Babylonian Period 626-539 BC Chr.
Achaemenid period 539-330 BC Chr.
Years according to the middle chronology (rounded)

The Hassuna culture is an archaeological culture of the ceramic Neolithic in northern Mesopotamia ( Iraq , Syria ). Its characteristic pottery was first discovered in a deep cut in Nineveh in the bottom layer, but it was only recognized as an independent culture between 1943 and 1945 after excavations by the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad on the eponymous Tell Hassuna . However, most of the knowledge about the Hassuna culture was gained by Soviet archaeologists while exploring the Yarim Tepe I in the 1960s and 1970s.

Due to its temporal and spatial overlap with the Samarra culture , its connection with it has been discussed again and again.

Temporal and geographical location

The Hassuna culture is dated to about 6400-5800 BC. Dated, according to other sources around 6500-5500 BC. BC and also 6300-5800 BC Are called. So far there is only one age determination using the radiocarbon method , layer V of the Hassuna site at 5090 ± 200 BC. BC ( uncalibrated ) dated.

Ceramic finds led to the assumption that the Hassuna culture extended over large parts of northern Mesopotamia; since these ceramic finds are largely unpublished, this assumption remains uncertain. The core area of ​​the Hassuna culture lies on the middle Tigris , bounded to the southeast by the Great Zab ; in settlements beyond this border there was a mixture with material legacies of the Samarra culture.

Material legacies

The Hassuna culture is particularly known for its characteristic ceramics. In addition, there are architectural and burial remains as well as small finds . The settlements usually had 100 to 200 inhabitants.


Hassuna ceramics are divided into two groups: The archaic Hassuna ware is strongly rooted in the tradition of the Umm Dabaghiyah culture and includes hand-made, rough vessels that were fired at low temperatures. Thin-walled ceramics made of red clay, with partially black surfaces, which have been decorated with incisions and then polished to a gloss, are also typical.

The standard Hassuna ware is lighter than the archaic ware and is painted or has scratched hatchings and is generally not polished. Spherical vessels with low necks are particularly typical, the upper area being decorated with incised herringbone and triangular, sometimes crescent and dot patterns. Flat bowls with a grooved base, which were probably used to peel legumes, are also characteristic of both archaic and standard goods. They are therefore usually referred to as husking trays . In parallel to the standard Hassuna goods, Samarra goods often appear in Hassuna settlements and vice versa.


The lack of any architecture is striking in the early Hassuna layers. Instead, there are only ovens and large cavities, filled with soil and rubble. It is assumed that these layers reflect the initial phase of the building activity, which served the extraction of building material.

In the early layers there were often round buildings that are actually typical of the Akeramic Neolithic . In Yarim Tepe I these had a diameter of 2.5 to 3 meters and contained remains of animal bones, jewelry and vessels as well as human skeletons under their floors, as is common in many places in the ancient Orient. Probably these are not residential buildings. In Hassuna, on the other hand, circular buildings had a diameter of up to 5 meters and had walls in their interior that divided them into several rooms. They contained ceramics, stoves and ashes, along with bone and stone tools and rubbish, which indicates that these buildings were used as living quarters.

In addition to the round buildings, there were also rectangular building complexes, which consisted of several approximately square rooms with a floor area of ​​up to 4 m² and wall thicknesses of up to 35 cm. While initially around 3–5 such rooms, with ovens often on the outside, formed a complex of unclear function, the number of rooms per settlement layer rose steadily. Rows of several low, parallel walls could have been the foundation of a warehouse or a plant for drying grain.

With the appearance of standard Hassuna and Samarra goods, the architecture also reaches a new level of sophistication and planning. The more evenly laid out rectangular houses of the upper layers consisted of several rooms to which cells could be attached, which probably served as storage rooms and were accessible via the roofs. The latter mostly consisted of clay and reed mats and were reinforced with wooden posts. There are no indications for the additional floors above, but the roofs were probably used as work areas. The walls and floors of these houses were plastered with plaster, under the floors there could also be substructures made of gravel or reed mats. Passages were provided with clay sleepers and pegs for doors, and there were also benches made of clay, often together with large mortars. Almost all buildings had a round or rectangular kiln, and large, two-stage kilns also appeared in higher layers.


Most of the skeletons found in Hassuna settlements came from children who were usually placed in clay pots, mostly under the floors, but also under the walls and doorsteps of houses. The rare skeletal remains of adults were found in a chaotic state in grain bins or under the floors of houses, and in two cases in hollows in building walls. Most of the adults were probably buried outside the settlement.

A specific orientation of the graves to cardinal points is not recognizable, in contrast to later epochs in which the orientation of the graves had a cultic significance. There were only a few grave goods . They were made of ceramics and animal bones, and in one case a collar.

Small finds

Stone tools are generally available in relatively small quantities, with tools made of flint clearly dominating over those made of obsidian in the layers with archaic Hassuna ware , while in later layers the proportion of obisidian tools increased significantly. Above all, these tools include scrapers, drills, axes / hoes and sickle blades, as well as, rarely, arrowheads. There were also blades, club heads, isolated bowls, millstones and pearls made from various minerals, including serpentine , carnelian and turquoise .

Bones were mainly processed into awls , needles and grinding tools. A shoulder blade of a cattle by Yarim Tepe I has incisions that were interpreted as arithmetic operations.

Spinning whorls and sling stones, which were widely used as hunting weapons, were made from clay in large quantities , as well as objects with a zigzag pattern, which could be forerunners of stamp seals , and small clay plugs with thickened ends, from which, among other things, it was suspected that it could be some kind of lip peg.

A lead bracelet lay under a room from Layer XII in Yarim Tepe. From Layer V of Yarim Tepe I there are also a number of female clay figurines, which presumably stood upright. They wear a high, conical headgear and were decorated with ribbons in the lower area. A painted clay flute also comes from the same layer. Female figurines have also been found in Hassuna.

Economic basis

The animal remains were composed of domesticated species such as pigs, cattle, sheep, and goats, alongside wild species such as gazelle, onager , rabbit, and wild boar. Even if a more intensive investigation of the remains is still pending, this can be used to identify livestock farming and especially hunting as a source of meat. The large number of spindle whorls also suggests the production of textiles.

Plant remains included domesticated species such as barley, but also wheat, lentils and peas. From this it can be concluded that agriculture is a further basis for food supply.

Obsidian was only found in the form of finished devices, but not as waste from the production of the same. From this and the fact that the Nemrut Dağı could be identified as the source, it is concluded that these devices come from long-distance trade.


Hassuna culture (Iraq)
Yarim Tepe I
Yarim Tepe I
most important sites of the Hassuna culture in today's Iraq

The eponymous site is Hassuna on the edge of the Tigristal, which was excavated by the archaeologists Seton Lloyd and Fuad Safar between 1943 and 1944. The site covers an area of ​​2 hectares, the first settlement being represented only by cooking pits and pits (Hassuna I). Then rectangular houses with two to three rooms were built. Building material was clay, which was known as adobe, pisé or baptism. These early houses had storage pits in the ground. In the later layers 2 to 6 the houses became larger and they were now built around an open central courtyard.

Apart from Hassuna itself (approx. 35 km south of Mosul ), whose layers I-II produced archaic Hassuna goods and layers III-V produced standard Hassuna goods in addition to Samarra goods, and Yarim Tepe I (approx. 10 km southeast of Tell Afar ), which contained archaic Hassuna assemblages in layers XII-VIII and standard Hassuna goods in addition to Samarra goods in layers VI-I, there are a number of other sites of Hassuna goods. As already mentioned, this includes the hill Kujundjik (Nineveh). During a deep cut, archaic Hassuna ware was discovered in layers I-IIa and standard Hassuna ware in layers IIb and IIc, before Halaf ceramics appeared after a hiatus in layer III . Archaic Hassuna ware was also found in Al-Khan , about 40 km northeast of Hassuna, on the Khazir , but neither standard Hassuna nor Samarra ceramics.

In the area of ​​the Mosul Dam , there were no Hassuna settlements except in Abu Dhahir and Kharabeh Shattani . In contrast, a total of 39 settlements were identified in the Ǧazīra , with a well shaft also being uncovered in Khirbet Garsour in a late Hassuna assemblage . In northeast Syria, only Tall Leilan was inhabited by the Hassuna culture.

So far, however, only a handful of settlements of the Hassuna culture have been the subject of extensive excavation work.



  1. in the Levant
  2. a b c d in southern Mesopotamia
  3. a b c in northern Mesopotamia
  4. cf. James Mellaart : The Neolithic of the Near East. Thames & Hudson, London 1975, ISBN 0-500-79003-5 , p. 149.
  5. William H. Stiebing Jr., Susan N. Help: Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture. 3. Edition. Routledge, 2017.
  6. Trevor Bryce, Jessie Birkett-Rees: Atlas of the Ancient Near East. From Prehistoric Times to the Roman Imperial Period. Routledge, 2016, p. 34.
  7. ^ Mario Liverani: The Ancient Near East. History, Society and Economy. Translation by Soraia Tabatabai, Routledge, 2014, p. 48 (Italian, Laterza, Bari 2011).
  8. cf. Roger Matthews : The early prehistory of Mesopotamia. 50,000 - 4,500 BC. Brepols, Turnhout 2000, ISBN 2-503-50729-8 , p. 66.
  9. See Roger Matthews: The early prehistory of Mesopotamia. 50,000 - 4,500 BC. Brepols, Turnhout 2000, ISBN 2-503-50729-8 , p. 63.
  10. cf. Roger Matthews: The early prehistory of Mesopotamia. 50,000 - 4,500 BC. Brepols, Turnhout 2000, ISBN 2-503-50729-8 .
  11. cf. Roger Matthews: The early prehistory of Mesopotamia. 50,000 - 4,500 BC. Brepols, Turnhout 2000, ISBN 2-503-50729-8 , p. 66.
  12. cf. James Mellaart : The Neolithic of the Near East. Thames & Hudson, London 1975, ISBN 0-500-79003-5 , p. 147 and Roger Matthews: The early prehistory of Mesopotamia. 50,000 - 4,500 BC. Brepols, Turnhout 2000, ISBN 2-503-50729-8 , p. 69
  13. ^ Seton Lloyd, Fuad Safar: Tell Hassuna , in: Journal of Near East Studies 4 (1945) 255–289.