Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor



From: JASA 18 (March 1966):

I would like to express my appreciation for the article, "The Development of Civilization in Ancient Mesopotamia" by Stanley D. Walters in the Journal for September, 1965. 1 would also like to add the following comments:

1) Two works on religious beliefs during the Stone Age that may be of interest are: G. Rachel Levy, Religious Conceptions of the Stone Age (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963); and Beatrice L. Goff, Symbols of Prehistoric Mesopotamia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963). The latter work deals in part with magic amulets. Iron objects made by hammering meteoric iron come from early third millennium sites in Egypt and Mesopotamia. [See Jacquetta Hawkes and Leonard Wooley, Prehistory: The Beginnings of Civilization (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), pp. 56-65.]

2) The change from a "food-gathering" stage to a "food-producing" stage, commonly called the "Neolithic Revolution," cannot be adequately discussed without reference to Jericho-the earliest Neolithic site in the world, dated c. 7000 B.C. Jarmo, even by Braidwood's estimate, dates back to 6500 B.C.; the radio-carbon dates would indicate an even later date. See Kathleen Kenyon, Digging Up Jericho (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1957); Robert Braidwood, "Jericho and its Setting in Near Eastern History," Antiquity, 31 (1957), 73-81; and Kathleen Kenyon, "Reply to Professor Braidwood," Ibid., pp. 82-84.

3) Neolithic sites are being excavated in such a manner that it is difficult to keep up with them. Three recent sites of importance are:

a) Robert Braidwood's excavation at Canyonu in southeastern Turkey. [See Newsw~eek (Nov. 2, 1964), p. 66.] The chronological data in the news article are not precise. But the site dates back between 6-7000 B.C. "Cold hammered" copper found there, the earliest example yet, seems to be dated about the middle of the 6th millennium. The earliest examples heretofore had come from Mersin XXIII in southeastern Turkey and from Sialk in Iran from the 5th millennimn.

b) James Mellaart's excavation at Catal Hilyilk in south central Turkey. [See Time (January 1, 1965), p. 61.] Radio-carbon dates range from 6500-5700 B.C. For further bibliography see, Machteld Mellink, "Archaeology in Asia Minor," American Journal of Archaeology, 69 (1965), 133-49.

c) The excavation of Nea Nikomedeia in Macedonia by Robert Rodden and David Clarke-the earliest Neolithic site in Europe with a radio-carbon date of 6220 B.C. [See Robert Rodden's article in The Scientific American (April, 1965).]

4) 1 would disagree with the author's emphasis on the supposed discontinuity of the Neolithic revolution. It is not such a revolution that would constitute man's humanity.

a) There are reasonable ecological changes that can explain the transition, whether one accepts Kenyon's "oasis" hypothesis or Braidwood's "grassy steppe" hypothesis.

b) The change was not as "sudden" as the author implies. In the earliest Natuflan phase at Eynan in Palestine numerous animal bones indicate that hunting continued to be a prime source of food along with the development of agriculture.

c) There are still groups today that have not learned to practice agriculture, e.g. the Australian aborigines, who gather seeds, roots, insects, and hunt kangaroos for their food. Are they less than "human?" They do have languages; translators from the Summer institute of Linguistics are working with them. And they certainly have religious beliefs, e.g. their totemism.

5) The author dates the earliest working of iron after 1500 B.C. (p. 72). The earliest iron blade, known to this writer, dates from 2300 B.C. It was iound in the royal tomb at Alaca. Hiiyilk in north central Tunrkey. [See Seton Lloyd, "The Early Settlement of Anatolia," in The Dawn of Civilization, ed. by Stuart Piggott (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961), p. 186.1

6) One final and minor note: the author cites V. Gordon Childe's New Light on the Most Ancient East, 4th edition, n.d. but about 1950. This work was first published in 1928 as The Most Ancient East; reprinted in 1929; revised as New Light on the Most Ancient East in 1934; reprinted with some corrections in 1935; revised in 1952; reprinted with some corrections in 1954; reprinted in 1958 and in 1964.

Edwin Yamauchi
History Department
Rutgers: The State University 
New Brunswick, New Jersey