Visualising social space: investigating the use of space and human-animal interaction in Neolithic built environments in the Zagros Mountains and adjacent lowlands

Lelek Tvetmarken, Cecilie
Visualising social space: investigating the use of space and human-animal interaction in Neolithic built environments in the Zagros Mountains and adjacent lowlands. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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The Neolithic in the Near East witnessed increased duration of settlements and the emergence of food production. Research has in recent decades become increasingly focused on the social mechanisms that underpinned these developments. There has been considerable debate about the extent to which Neolithic built environments reflect new forms of social relationships, household composition and interaction, and the degree to which these may be linked to new economic practices. Most discussions have, however, focused on the Levantine record as it presents a more comprehensive data set. Despite the increase in fieldwork taking place in the Zagros and adjacent lowlands since the late 1990s, there are still temporal gaps in our understanding of the transition from mobile hunter-gatherer groups to more sedentary communities in this area. Additionally, discussions have tended to focus on the reconstruction of economic strategies, and especially the question of caprine domestication, with little consideration of the social transformations that took place in this area. The main aim of this thesis is therefore to begin to redress this situation by providing a contextualised examination of social practices within Neolithic communities in the central and northern parts of the Zagros Mountains and adjacent lowlands. The methodology employed in this thesis utilises a computer-based modelling approach that allows us to visualise architectural remains as lived-in spaces by considering how people lived within and utilised the built environment. Various scenarios were modelled to assess the physical affordance of space for human occupancy, different scales of social interactions and activities associated with daily life, human-animal interaction, and potential storage capacities. This facilitated an examination of how the structuring and use of space may reflect the social practices that existed within individual communities. The modelling has indicated that there was considerable variability in the structuring and use of space within the built environments considered in this thesis, which indicates differing social practices within these communities. Especially interesting is the differences in the spatial configurations between the roughly contemporary level D at Ganj Dareh in the Zagros uplands and the later occupational phases at Nemrik in the lowlands of northern Iraq, which suggests that there were significant differences in the spatial patterning of activities and social practices at these two sites. The modelling has also shown that instead of the increased compartmentalisation purportedly associated with increased household autonomy there appears to be a decrease in internal sub-division throughout the Neolithic in the Zagros. This is accompanied by an increase in the spatial separation of co-resident units and an increased affordance of space for animals within the built environment. The modelling also indicates that there was no substantial increase in storage capacities as all structures examined had the capacity to facilitate storage of enough food and fodder to support the co-resident unit and a small herd of goats.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Date: 2012-12 (completed)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Neolithic, Zagros Mountains, Architecture, Social practices
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Histories, Languages and Cultures
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2013 10:28
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2022 01:07
DOI: 10.17638/00011913