Most sources state 5400 B.C. as the beginning of the Ubaid period. The Ubaid period is further divided by them into Ubaid I-IV. Wikipedia lists Tel El Oueili (6500 B.C.) as "Ubaid 0", thus placing the Ubaid period back considerably.

Since the Ubaid period is characterized by the development and spread of Eridu's culture, I always assumed that the period existed expressly for that reason. Am I wrong in this? It seems like some people might be equating it with "the oldest thing in Mesopotamia", therefore making any earlier discoveries "Ubaid".

Is Ubaid 0 at Tel el-Oueili a cultural predecessor to Ubaid 1? Also, my previous understanding was that people moved below the 5 inch isohyet in Mesopotamia after they developed irrigation, circa 5500 B.C. Does Tel-El Oueili turn this theory on its head, or were they hunter gatherers?

  • 3
    Please cite all words that are not part of common English (e.g. Ubaid)
    – MCW
    Jul 20, 2018 at 9:00

1 Answer 1


The use of zero should be a clue that "Ubaid 0" was identified later in the timeline of Ubaid archaeology, and was an attempt to fit an earlier phase into an existing structure. Eridu was first excavated in 1855, 1918, and 1919, then Tell al'Ubaid in 1919; but Tell El'Ouelli wasn't excavated until 1976-1989. The name "Ubaid period" was adopted at a conference in 1930.

There is a more relevant later article than the one you cite. The Wikipedia article on Tell El' Ouelli cites the following source:

Huot, J.-L. (1985), "Tell el'Oueili. Principaux Résultats de la Quatrième Campagne (1983)", Paléorient (in French), 11 (1): 119–123, doi:10.3406/paleo.1985.4367, retrieved 2 August 2011 (http://www.persee.fr/doc/paleo_0153-9345_1985_num_11_1_4367)

where we can see, in the English translation of the article's abstract:

Main results of last season (1983) at Tell El'Ouelli near Larsa (south Iraq). At the beginning of a sequence covering the well-known Obeid period 1-4, a new phase, provisionally called Obeid O or Ouelli Phase, was discovered.

So, occupation of this settlement in south Mesopotamia preceded Eridu, but continued through the rest of the Ubaid period, up until some time before 3000 BC. Quoting the Wikipedia article:

The excavations have revealed occupation layers dating from Ubaid 0 (6500-5400 BCE) to Ubaid 4.

The actual details are in the French text of the article, but the authors were clearly convinced that it fit into the structure of the Ubaid period.

Sous les structures, apparaissent en suite des murs associé materiél du type Eridu, ou Obeid 1.

In English:

Under these structures, material associated with walls of the type Eridu, or Obeid 1, subsequently appears.

Eridu gets pre-eminence because it continued through the Uruk Period, and then as a religious site through many later periods of Mesopotamian history. But Ouelli shows that it wasn't really the beginning. We have to relegate the notion that Ubaid was solely the spread of ideas from Eridu to a theory that had to be re-evaluated based on later findings.

  • You're quote connecting it to the Ubaid period translates as "Under the structures, appear afterwards associated material walls of the type Eridu, or Obeid 1". This sounds to me like material culture mimiced Eridu, so they are obviously refering to a later period. I'm only interested in Ubaid 0, not Tel el Oueili in other Ubaid periods. You're answer is mostly a summary of wikipedia, which provides no answer.
    – John Dee
    Jul 20, 2018 at 11:15
  • @JohnDee On the contrary, this indicates that Tell El'Ouelli was contemporary with the earliest phase of Eridu. The abstract that I quoted says there was earlier material under that. Those two together provide a strong clue that it all came under a continuous Ubaid culture. This is the original identification of Ubaid 0 from the principal investigators of the site. What more do you want?
    – Spencer
    Jul 20, 2018 at 15:07
  • I want to know why they identified it that way. Your quote is refering to "under" what "structures"?
    – John Dee
    Jul 21, 2018 at 5:34

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