added by archaeologs
Type-site of the transitional phase between the late Uruk period and the Early Dynastic I period in southern Iraq. The Jemdet Nasr period (c.3100–2900 BC) was initially defined by a distinctive style of painted pottery (buffcoloured jars painted with red and black designs), first excavated in strata between the Uruk and Early Dynastic phases at Jemdet Nasr in 1925, as well as by the apparent proliferation of a deeply drilled style of cylinder seal.
Most other aspects of Jemdet Nasr material culture (including the majority of the pottery) are virtually indistinguishable from the preceding Uruk period (c.4300–3100 BC), and few sites have yielded sufficiently continuous stratigraphy from Uruk to Early Dynastic I to allow Jemdet Nasr material to be properly characterized. Finkbeiner and Röllig (1986) have therefore suggested that the Jemdet Nasr ware – which is relatively rare compared with other ceramics of the same period – might be better interpreted as a geographical variant of the Uruk culture rather than an indication of post-Uruk date. The balance of opinion, however, still favours the retention of a Jemdet Nasr period, on the grounds that there are other ceramics peculiar to the period (Killick in Finkbeiner and Röllig 1986), as well as a distinctive type of semipictographic CUNEIFORM tablet (Nissen 1986). Jemdet Nasr pottery was excavated not only at other sites in Mesopotamia but also at sites in Oman and along the Gulf coast (e.g. Hafit, see ARABIA, PREISLAMIC), clearly indicating a wide trading network like that of the Uruk period.
Jemdet Nasr itself, located in southern Iraq about 30 km northeast of Babylon, consists of several tells covering a total area of about 15 ha, which were first excavated by Steven Langdon and Christian Watelin in 1925–8. A substantial mud-brick structure of the Jemdet Nasr period, identified by Langdon as a temple and by Watelin as a palace, is likely to have been an administrative structure, particularly in view of the tablets inscribed with ‘Uruk III’ texts that were found inside it.
E. Mackay: Report on excavations at Jemdet Nasr, Iraq (Chicago, 1931); H. Field and R.A. Martin: ‘Painted pottery from Jemdet Nasr’, AJA 39 (1935), 310–20; U. Finkbeiner and W. Röllig, eds: Gamdat Nasr: period or regional style? (Wiesbaden, 1986); H.J. Nissen: ‘The Archaic texts from Uruk’, WA 17 (1986), 317–34; R.J. Matthews: ‘Excavations at Jemdet Nasr, 1989’, Iraq 52 (1990), 25–40 [preliminary report on the excavations of the late 1980s].