EpiPaleolithic Zarzian Culture in Iraq
HOME / Table of Contents = Civilizations - Cultures - Areas - Regions - Prehistory
Other Archaeological Sites / The Neolithic of the Levant (500 Page Book Online)
McDonald Ancient Near East Book Auction Ad Infinitum

Epi-Palaeolithic Zarzian Culture

Zarzi is a cave in northern Iraq which has given its name to an Epi-Palaeolithic Culture in which microlithic tools are present .....

BACKGROUND: The Mousterian is followed by an Upper Palaeolithic flint industry called the Baradostian. Radiocarbon dates suggest that this is one of the earliest Upper Palaeolithic complexes; it may have begun as early as 36000 BC. Its relationship to neighbouring industries however remains unclear. Perhaps caused by the maximum cold of the last phase of the most recent ice age or Würm glaciation the Baradostian was replaced by a local Epi-Palaeolithic industry called the Zarzian. This tool tradition marks the end of the Iraqi Palaeolithic sequence .....

Robert Braidwod and Bruce Howe et al (1960)
The Oriental Institute : LC # GN 776 I65 B7

Thr Oriental Institute in Chicago

Zarzian Horizon (Pages 59-60 : 155-157 : 169-170 : 180)


The sort of diminutive [small] blade industry represented in the Zarzian assemblage and containing various kinds of microliths has commonly been called either Epi-Palaeolithic or Mesolithic [European term] depending on typology, accompanying remains, stratigraphy and the kind of site [cave or open-air]. This sort of assemblage is here considered as referring to a terminal aspect of the food-collecting era .....

On the basis of stratigraphy and typology at Zarzi itself we are sure that the lithic [stone] industry has at least an earlier and a later phase. We consider the Zarzian to have been in existence by 12000 years ago and in all probability even earlier. It appears to have ended about 11000 years ago. The Zarzian seems to be the last *horizon in which the cave was a primary focus of human settlement in Iraqi Kurdistan .....

The environment and climate 12000 years ago of the uppermost Pleistocene could not have been much different from that of today if we examine the faunal remains of Zarzi. Few animal bones were recovered at Zarzi [though]; the vertebrates consisted only of fox, gazelle, goat and the ubiquitous land tortoise (Testudo). The wild goats were undoubtedly hunted on the rocky ridges behind and above the shelter ....

The Zarzian industry has a much fuller and more varied and specialized tool kit than any that precedes it and there are clear hints of both developmental phases within the [lithics] industry and [also] regional or at least site variation even within Iraqi Kurdistan. Some of the older tool types persist but there are many new forms in the blade-tool tradition as well as a few oddments in ground stone and even some mortar and pestle fragments. The use of obsidian continues although still as a minor element .....

We see the Zarzian as the terminal aspect of the pure food-collecting way of life in Iraqi Kurdistan. Some Zarzian settlements were probably open-air sites but whether for all of the year or only seasonally and thus alternating with cave dwellings is not yet clear .....

* a cultural area or level of development
indicated by separated groups of artifacts


The Re-excavation of Zarzi
Proceedings of the Pre-Historic Society
G Wahida (1981) Volume 47 [Pages 19 - 40]

In Association with Amazon.com
The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium