Breaking with Tradition: Rethinking the Ubaid-Arabian Interaction of the 6th and 5th Millennia B.C.E.
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The goal of this thesis is to argue that the bitumen-reed-boats utilized in the maritime trade between Mesopotamia and the Arabian Peninsula during the later Ubaid period (ca. 5300 - 4800 B.C.E.) probably originated as a Mesopotamian tradition, and not a coastal Arabian one. Therefore, Ubaid-Arabian interaction – known from the appearance of Ubaid pottery at coastal Gulf sites – can be understood by emphasizing tradition, technology, and consumption, since reed-boat technology appears to be deliberately rejected by local Arabian coastal communities, likely due to differences in social organization. By foregrounding technology, especially the technology of reed-boat building, this thesis examines the development of, and different reactions to, bitumen-reed boat technology in terms of disparate socio-cultural traditions, i.e., between “Mesopotamian” and “Arabian” communities. This thesis analyzes multiple complementary lines of evidence that include boat models, boat remains, bitumen, ceramic distribution, and faunal remains from published archaeological excavation reports, in order to establish that 1) bitumen-reed boat technology probably originated in southern Mesopotamia, 2) it spread elsewhere around Mesopotamia but not into the Arabian Peninsula, 3) it was not adopted by coastal Arabian communities because they had no perceived use for it, and 4) the unique material assemblage of the site H3 in Kuwait is a direct result of its location at the intersection of these two different spheres of tradition.
Vanzin, Rudi Helena (2015). Breaking with Tradition: Rethinking the Ubaid-Arabian Interaction of the 6th and 5th Millennia B.C.E.. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from