Centralisation at the end of the fourth millennium BC. The Period VI A “Palace” complex.

Period VIA. Late Chalcolithic 5 – 3350-3000BCE

In the final centuries of the fourth millennium at Arslantepe there is evidence of a massive boost given to the system of centralising and redistributing goods. The development of this system also strengthened the central political power, and the élites that represented it. It was in this period, which runs parallel to the Late Uruk phase in Mesopotamia, that a huge monumental public architectural complex was built. Because of its division into sectors with different functions and different architectural features (temples, stores, areas for discarding administrative materials, a courtyard, corridors) it may be considered to be the first known example of a “palace” to have been discovered in the whole of the Near East, with areas set aside for performing the main public religious and secular functions. The whole area was dominated by two temples, standing on the uppermost parts of the slope of the ancient mound, which had been terraced, probably giving these buildings a position of predominance. The floor plan and the dimensions of the two Arslantepe temples are almost identical and exhibit many original features which, even though they generically form part of a tradition shared with the whole of the so-called “Greater Mesopotamian” regions, were designed to meet local needs and customs.

The entrance to the palace is through a monumental gate and corridor sloping steeply upwards, covering a water runoff channel. Everywhere there are evident traces of a fire, which have preserved all the materials in their original positions. Red and black pictorial representations on a white plaster background decorated the walls palace with complex scenes and motifs comprising both human figures and animals, arranged near the entrances and along the walls of the great access corridor. These are today preserved on site and visible at the site.

In the latter half of the fourth millennium there was a great development in metallurgy, evidenced from the discovery of a vast range of copper, copper-arsenic alloy and silver objects, the most outstanding of which was a group of 22 weapons, swords, spears and a quadruple spiral plaque, the first evidence ever of the use of the sword.

The vast complexity of the administrative organisation in the Arslantepe palace is documented by thousands of clay sealings, bearing seal impressions that have been found in several different places within the palatial complex. In one small room an exceptional deposit of about 2000 clay sealings has been found. These clay sealings constitute a kind of “deleted” archive, providing an extraordinary amount of information on the administrative system in use there, as well as on the art of engraving seals in this region at the end of the fourth millennium.

The store sector so far brought to light has two store-rooms which demonstrate the two main phases of collecting and redistributing goods: one room was an actual deposit, containing almost exclusively large containers, jars, and bottles to hold food; the other room, which seems to have been used for redistribution, was smaller and, in addition to few large containers and jars, also contained 130 clay sealings and hundreds of mass-produced bowls.

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