Map of Southern Mesopotamia with Today’s Gulf Shoreline
Oriental Institute, Choga Mish II p.226, modified in blue by REJBurke
You’ll notice in the above modern map that Choga Mish and Susa are only 18 miles apart; they were linked by Ubaid heritage 8000 years ago. Susa is presently 109 miles north-northwest of the Persian Gulf (measured from modern Bandar Mahshahr, not shown), 152 miles northeast from Eridu, and 195 miles north of the Gulf at Kuwait City (not shown).
Forming a quadrangle by connecting the dots from Susa to Eridu to Kuwait City to Bandar Mahshahr and back to Susa, we will recall that most of this area was an estuary flooded by the Gulf between 8000 and 6000 years ago. Ur and Eridu were ports on the estuary
Harbor at 4th millennium Eridu. By Таис Гило [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Reed boats with shallow drafts navigated the marshland and the Persian Gulf as far as Dilmun ports along the Arabian littoral. An important point is that Ubaid moving ahead of the rising Gulf would have needed to go as far as Eridu and Choga Mish.
Why is this important? We are now focused on locating Ubaid settlements during the time window 8000-6000 BP (6000-4000 BC) in order to demonstrate that Ubaid settlements surrounded the present Persian Gulf littoral once it had risen to its present coast line. We suggest establishing this fact, recommended by Occam’s Razor, will demonstrate that the Ubaid are the root stock that populated the Persian Gulf Valley.
This would suggest the Ubaid had been developing agriculture incrementally in what are now flooded lands beneath the Gulf, and this answers the conundrum about why the Ubaid “hit the ground running” and developed agriculture so quickly in Southern Mesopotamia. The fact is they didn’t, but had been developing it in the Gulf Valley, moving every few generations to higher ground, following the fresh water upstream.
To make this case, we will need to find evidence of Ubaid settlements around the modern periphery of the Gulf. Real progress will continue to be slow for political reasons. However, once hostilities subside on that periphery, there will be an exciting opportunity for both land-based and marine archaeologists to survey the entire area and write Q.E.D.–or not to this idea. For now, I’m using published data which is publicly available.
In last week’s post, we assembled a check-list of the artifacts that indicate the presence of Ubaid. I intend to proceed around the Gulf looking for different places where Ubaid evidence has already been found, and perhaps where it is expected to be found once archaeologists can search for it without undue risk of their lives.
Using the latest and final Oriental Institute reports (Volumes I and II, especially the plates and figures) about their earlier excavations at Choga Mish (now abandoned for obvious reasons), I have found the following evidence regarding a Ubaid presence –which I’ll also consider sufficient to apply to nearby Susa and the rest of Susiana.
Source: Choga Mish. Volume I, Part 2, plates.
26. Pot with huge snake killing a goat, probably an ibex. Picture shown is last post.
69. Elongated skull indicating infant head wrapping. Picture shown in last post.
118. Ritual vessel of two large intertwined snakes with two lions.
141. D and E. Large intertwined snakes in heraldic design.
142. A thru F. Large individual and intertwined snakes in heraldic design.
156. C. “Master of Snakes” holding two boa-sized intertwined snakes in each hand.
158. A. “Master of Snakes” holding four intertwined Anaconda-sized snakes.
175. F and H. “Fine ware” with snake painted on side.
234. A. Figurine wearing a labret. The rest of the page is mainly labrets.
76H. Seal impression of huge snake eating calf.
78. Page full of fragments of figurines. Body shapes, paint, “coffee bean eyes” similar to Ophidians.
79. More figurine fragments similar to 78.
81. Personal ornamentation including labrets (“plugs”)
82. Clay sickles.
1. Panoramic photo of Choga Mish tell with Zagros Mountains in background (for your enjoyment).
12.Two photos of Tripartite buildings.
13. Two photos of Tripartite buildings.
17. Simple burials.
18. Simple burials.
27A. Head fragment of figurine. Archaeologist suspects elongation of head was broken off. This would complement elongated skull (Vol I, Part 2, Plate 69 shown above).
28. Fragments of baked clay figurines, similar to Ubaid ophidians.
That’s enough for this post. Next week, we will resume our search for evidence of Ubaid material culture around the periphery and within (like in Bahrain) the Persian Gulf littoral. It will be a tough search for obscure reports to complete the above matrix, but who knows what we’ll find as we extend our search for the roots of the Ubaid?
Thanks for visiting,
R. E. J. Burke