Obed time

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Distribution map of the Obed culture.
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 Obed period (also Obed horizon or English Ubaid culture ) is an archaeological period of the late Chalcolithic in Mesopotamia . It lasted from around 5500 to 3500 BC. And is named after the Obed culture.

Research history

The Obed period is named after Tell el-Obed , a settlement mound ( Tell ) in Mesopotamia.


The Obed culture lasted from about 5500 to 3500 BC. The obed phase is defined by the ceramic . Their decoration consists of dark, circumferential ribbons and patterns inserted between them. The pattern repertoire is markedly simplified compared to earlier periods. The execution of the drawings indicates the use of a rotating worktop ( tournette ), but not yet a rotating potter's wheel . The pottery was initially only produced in the south of Babylonia. Later it spread over the whole of the Near East to Mersin ( Cilicia ), Syria and Eastern Anatolia .

A distinction is made between four periods based on the decoration and color of the ceramic  :

  • Eridu pottery: around 5500 BC Chr.
  • Obed I: around 5300 BC Chr.
  • Obed II: about 4800 BC Chr.
  • Obed III: around 4400 BC Chr.
  • Obed IV: around 3900 BC Chr.

Then the oldest stage of the Uruk period begins .


During this period agriculture was already practiced in central Mesopotamia with the help of artificial irrigation . The most famous settlements of this period are Eridu , Ur and the eponymous Tell el-Obed . A house with a new floor plan appears, the middle hall house . Here, a central room served as a functional center and distributor to the adjacent rooms. Bitumen remains as fragments of sealing material for ships that are more than 7000 years old have been discovered by archaeologists in as-Sabiyah (Kuwait), a Neolithic village, on the edge of a lagoon. Presumably there was a landing stage for Mesopotamian traders. There is some evidence that Obed ceramics, which were found along the Arabian Peninsula as far as Bahrain and Qatar and on the other side of the Persian Gulf , were transported by sea and not by land.

Social structure

The differences in status expressed in different buildings also seem new. There were also central communal buildings that were obviously not used for the cult. The completely excavated Tell Abade is particularly revealing . It is very likely that the development of a political and / or religious elite had already taken place, i.e. that a hierarchy had taken place.

For the first time, supra-regional centers also seem to have emerged. In Tepe Gaura, for example, three large central buildings (possibly “temples”) were found that could not possibly have been designed for a settlement of this size. It can be assumed that this place was the cultic center of the region. Overall, the finding is still incomplete and fuzzy due to the lack of other meaningful findings. Only in Susiana can one prove a supra-regional cultic center with great certainty, since a larger area has been investigated here and no cult buildings like in Susa have been found in smaller places .


In the economy control mechanisms have already been used, which can be proven by the finds of counters and stamps in a wide range of patterns, which were found mainly on terracottas of small people and animals. The creation of irrigation canals - albeit in rain-fed agriculture - has also been proven.


Why this culture was so widespread compared to its predecessors is debatable. For a long time it was assumed that the bearers of the Obed culture migrated. Newer theories assume a simultaneous, converging development in different population groups. The socio-economic structures could have developed and expressed in parallel, not uninfluenced by one another, but independently, more likely through cultural exchange than immigrant groups.

Simultaneous cultures

The development in the Iranian highlands was similar in parts. The ceramics were painted as in other parts of the Middle East - although the patterns were mostly more figurative than elsewhere. However, the middle hall house is not proven. The traditional connection between Mesopotamia and Iran already seems to begin here. On the one hand, there was always a cultural connection in the period that followed, with independent development at the same time.


  • Reinhard Bernbeck : The dissolution of the domestic production method. The example of Mesopotamia (= Berlin contributions to the Middle East. Vol. 14). Reimer, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-496-02525-5 (also: Berlin, Freie Univ., Diss., 1991).
  • SAA Kubba: Architecture and linear measurement during the Ubaid Period in Mesopotamia (= British Archaeological Reports. International Series. Vol. 707). Hedges, Oxford 1998, ISBN 0-86054-944-5 .
  • Cinzia dal Maso: The black ships of Magan. In: Spectrum of Science. Special. No. 2, 2003, ISSN  0170-2971 , p. 34ff.
  • Hans J. Nissen : History of the ancient Near East (= Oldenbourg outline of history . Volume 25). Oldenbourg, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-486-56373-4 .


  1. in the Levant
  2. a b c d in southern Mesopotamia
  3. a b c in northern Mesopotamia
  4. Michale Rice: The Archeology of the Arabian Gulf . P. 330 .