[Back] [Forward] [Contents] [Home]

2.0 What are tells?

In simple terms, tells are settlement mounds, a result of repeated occupation over a delimited area. Although the mechanics of tell formation are not well understood (see Halstead 1999, 88), it is generally assumed that formation occurs when architectural features decay or are demolished, and their material is incorporated within the body of the mound. Successive structures are erected within the settlement space and the process continues. On a landscape scale, tells are often recognisable as visually prominent mounds standing clear above the general topographic trend.

The first southeast European tells appear in eastern Greece during the seventh millennium BC, with their distribution spreading northwards during the next two millennia. The northern limit of tell distribution is marked by those in eastern Hungary, appearing at the end of the fifth millennium BC (Whittle 1985; Whittle 1996; Bailey 2000).

The pattern of diffusion of tells across southeast Europe led Childe to see them as icons of a Neolithic economic revolution developed in the Near East. The appearance of tells in the valleys of the Danube marked the local acceptance of a lifestyle based around a rural economy or, as Childe put it, the assimilation into a 'great cultural province encompassing the Aegean and Western Asia Minor' (Childe 1929, 414).

[Back] [Forward] [Contents] [Home]

© Internet Archaeology URL: http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue16/7/2.html
Last updated: Thur Nov 11 2004