Ubaid Culture

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The Neolithic Period in UAE or the Late Stone Age is not marked with a great number of archeological findings. Therefore, the most well-known among them make up special contribution to form a general conclusion on the life peculiarities and culture in the settlement. Among the most important and distinguishing documentations of the period, one should mark out the findings belonging to the history of Mesopotamia of 6500 - 3800 BC. This period is referred to as Ubaid and has exceptional role for the UAE archaeology for its representation of the unique culture of the early period. This paper is focused on the evidences that Ubaid culture is important for the UAE history as it provides black-on-buff pottery, copper dishes, special imprint tools, cultic statues, peculiar characteristics of settlements and temples as evidences of the developed and well-organized life of the ancient Arab culture in the Stone Age. Furthermore, such evidences contribute to the knowledge about connection between different social groups that inhabited the Gulf offshore.

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The name Ubaid originates from the Tell al-`Ubaid mound that became the source of numerous archeological findings of the Ubaid Period. The timeframes between 6500 and 3800 BC comprise three phases that represent some peculiar features of this culture. Therefore, Ubaid culture is “the organizational entity” of the local “material-culture variations” (Beech et al., 2000). One can distinguish between Southern Arabian Gulf territory (Dalma Island), Sharjah (Between Arabian and Oman Gulf), Umm Al Quwain , Al Hamra Island and other territories. Different phases of the period acquaint archeologists with the peculiarities of Samarra, Choga Mami and Halaf cultures (Roaf, 1966). Each of these cultures is different from another, but has some characteristics that unify them into one entity of the earliest UAE period of Ubaid culture. Some common features for many Ubaid findings on different territories include large settlements, houses of rectangular frm, centralized organization with the first temples in the center (Roaf, 1966). Therefore, the Ubaid period is considered by many scholars as the beginning of urbanization period in the UAE.

In order to analyze the culture more deeply, one should refer to the scholars’ works. Among such, archeological excavations in the Southern-Arabian Gulf which provided exciting discoveries (Beech et al., 2000). The coast was, obviously, a long-term dwelling place for the inhabitants. The peculiar structure of the settlement and organization of dwelling was the first interesting finding pertaining to the Ubaid period. The Dalma radiocarbon results represented the settlements of the Gulf offshore islands as the earliest and dated them back to the early 6th  millennia BC. An interesting feature of the settlements was that the houses were built of palm fronds. Some discoveries can be regarded as evidence that early people were learning to exploit the stands of date palms. Additionally, the round house-like structures could be considered as the temples due to their location in the center of the village. Some other findings offered the idea on regular production of local plaster vessels. Beech at al. (2000), emphasized that availability of sweet water, flint gypsum, hematite and other marine resources and advantageous geographic location made this place a favorable point for trade. Production that was sold throughout the region included plaster vessels with chevron decorations.

Ubaid pottery as one of the distinguishing characteristics of the early Mesopotamian culture was quite peculiar and easily recognizable by archeologists. As this pottery was found in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Quatar, the evidences of its sea distribution throughout the coasts were provided. In his article, Carter (2006), paid special attention to the sea-going boat remains as the evidences of the developed maritime exchange system in the Arabian Neolithic period. In support of this fact, the research (Carter, 2006) concludded that sailing and boat building technologies of the time were developed at a high level. The boat-related findings were done in As-Sabiuah, Al-Ubaid, Eridu, Oueili, Uruk, Tell Uqair and Mashnaqa. Among such, one can find reed-bundle boat ceramic model, depiction of a sailing boat on the painted disk, bituminous amalgam representing some fragments of sea boats and waterproof coasting. However, none of the findings provides details about construction.

Pottery as one of the main distinguishing features of the Ubaid culture was distributed throughout Mesopotamia. Ubaid pottery was usually decorated with the geometric figures, of brown and black colors. The style of this hand-made pottery has got the name of Black-and-Buff for its dark tones and resemblance to the color of the skin of buffaloes (Roaff, 1966).  It was used for serving food as well as for ceremonial acts and gifts-giving. Distribution of such pottery within the territory of the Gulf can be considered as the evidence of strong liaisons between people in the society, who could exchange pottery in feasting context or communal cohesion or boundaries expansion (Carter, 2006). Additionally, findings of the pottery testify hospitality and some common rituals of the peoples, who inhabited different parts of the Gulf. Among the other goods that were exchanged, one can find pearls, stones (flint, obsidian), shell jewellery, ochre, cattle and some perishable goods. The hand moulding is also represented by the statues of different animals and women, whose figures vary according to different locations.

To sum it up, the Ubaid culture can be defined as unification of several early cultures in the UAE with a number of essential characteristics for the researchers of the Arabic history. The period can also be defined as the beginning of Arabic urbanization. Moreover, it refers to the earliest historical periods and shows the settled way of the life, marks out liaisons between the communities that were based on religious feasts and sea trade.

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