A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the Division of the Humanities in Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

By Stephanie Lesan Selover

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Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
University of Chicago
Commitee: Gil Stein, David Schloen, Yorke Rowan, Maria Nené Lozada


The study of prehistoric warfare in the ancient Near East is often evoked in Near Eastern scholarship, but remains understudied in a comprehensive or objective manner. This dissertation delves into the quantification and interpretation of the evidence of warfare and  interpersonal violence in the archaeological record from central Anatolia and southeastern Anatolia, from the Early Chalcolithic to the end of the Early Bronze Age (ca. 5000-2000 BCE). A holistic view of all visible signs of warfare and violence left behind in the archaeological record is presented. The data collected includes the study of violence on human remains, as well as the remains of identified ‘warriors,” changes in weapons technologies and in fortification systems over the course of the time period studied, evidence of destruction from within archaeological sites, iconography of warriors, kings and violence created by the cultures studies as well as contemporaneous cultures, and the use of landscape and trade routes in and around the settlements. The data utilized originates primarily from published excavation reports on central and southeastern Anatolian Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age sites. The evidence from a total of 73 archaeological sites is collected, 35 from central Anatolia and 38 from southeastern Anatolia.
     From the start of the Chalcolithic to end of the Early Bronze Age, settlements in Anatolia transformed from simple farming communities to early complex societies. It was during this era that war intensified and became codified as a part of civilization. This dissertation questions how warfare affected this change, and vise versa. An overview of the political history of Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age Anatolia is presented in order to more fully evaluate the environment and conditions under which this alteration occurred in both central and southeastern Anatolia, before delving into a detailed look at all available areas of archaeological evidence.
     Finally, an anthropological theoretical model, based primarily on similar practice theory models originated from scholarship on prehistoric Andean warfare, is presented to organize and understand the collected data. Other models often used to understand warfare and violence in state societies of the ancient Near East, in particular circumscription theory, worlds systems theory and trade-diaspora, are considered and combined into a hybrid model that takes into account the history of thought in Near Eastern scholarship as well as the  practice theory model that has only more recently been applied to this region. Warfare in this time period became a tool for achieving set goals, such as acquiring goods and creating and strengthening power of local elites. As trade increased, so did violence and warfare. By establishing the ruling elite as the ultimate warrior and by codifying violence as an important aspect of society, the threat of violence was controlled by the ruling elite to further their agenda and to solidify their power.