When primitive human groups began to spread over the soil of this planet, before and during the Stone Age, Syrian civilizations emerged before recorded history, thus establishing the so-called Paleolithic beginning one million years ago and continued until 12000 BC. The Middle Stone Age extends from 12000 BC to 8000 BC. The Neolithic Age lasted from 8000 BC to 6000 BC, during which the pottery era emerged and lasted until 4000 BC.
The oldest site in which the Paleolithic period began was along the banks of the Northern Kabir River in Syria, which dates a million years ago. We also see traces of this era in the Orontes Basin, but they date back to half a million years. To the west of Hama, a site of this age was found, considered one of the world’s most important and rarest sites. The ancient Syrians produced the first stone tools, axes, cleavers, and scrapers during this period and knew how to initiate fire.
There are caves in every part of Syria’s natural lands which reveal traces of the migration of ancient man. Groups of human beings that spread throughout Syria for 50,000 years inhabited these caves. After that, the Neanderthals appeared and became more civilized. They were skilled sculptors who used bones to manufacture tools and charred wood and organic earth elements to create decorative art. They also practiced specific rituals for burying their dead.
Homo Sapiens appeared at the end of this era around 40.000 BC and became the direct ancestors of present-day man.
Consequently, the concept of civilization’s collective memory began to be established.
During the Mesolithic Period, aka the Middle Stone Age, which lasted from 8600-5500 BC, ancient Syrians came out of the caves, forming villages and inventing more sophisticated means of life and housing as archaeological evidence has shown in Yabroud, Jayrud, and Al-Koum. Man of this era created wheels and simple tools out of stone, bone, and wood. From Wadi Al-Natuf in Palestine, the Natufian civilization spread until it reached the banks of the Euphrates River in Syria where they built houses and used fish bones and shells for decoration.
Around 8500 BC, the population relied on hunting animals and fish and collecting plants. Syrians began sowing seeds in 7700 BC and they built circular mud buildings with decorated walls and covered them with domed roofs made of twigs, herbs, and mud.
During the Neolithic Period, which began in 7000 BC, Syrians began producing their own food by planting grain and raising animals, thus moving away from their former lives as hunters/gatherers.
From the seventh millennium BC, man began to establish the first pastoral societies and agricultural communities. They developed their homes and made polished stone weapons. It was not long before they started using baked clay to make pots, statues, and totems.
A stone building erected in Jericho, Palestine, is the oldest building believed to have been made of trimmed stone. Its traces remain today, dating back to the seventh millennium BC.
The use of pottery in this area predates that of ancient Europe. Pottery artefacts have been found on the banks of the Euphrates that date back to the beginning of the agricultural era in the sixth millennium BC. Some statues made of clay were found representing human faces with red-colored eyes as well as some stone vessels.
Syria is distinguished throughout the Fertile Crescent for its use of pottery and metal, especially copper which emerged at the beginning of the fifth millennium BC.
In the fourth millennium BC, Syria witnessed the emergence of the first urban villages that practiced wheat and barley cultivation and the domestication of livestock such as goats, sheep, and cows. Rectangular, as well as circular houses, began to appear. In the same period, the people began developing their doctrines of the mother goddess and the sacred bull. The philosophy of ancestor worship also emerged in this era.
Houses were often built adjacent to roads that were created to facilitate travel. Houses expanded to become multi-room dwellings decorated with skulls of the parents of the inhabitants. The skulls were placed on bases similar to clay statues in the middle of the buildings to honor and glorify the ancestors.
The original site of what is now known as the city of Damascus is located at Tel al-Ramad near the town of Qatana. Early man was able to successfully plant trees and grains at Tel Aswad, and Tel al-Salihiya due to the creation of new systems for watering and fertilizing lands.
A critical discovery of the scope of the Neolithic era is the emergence of walls in the area. The construction of walls provides evidence of political independence and the emergence of an administrative and military system that served to protect the growing settlement from external aggression.
All the stages of establishing the collective memory of the ancestral Syrians have served to preserve their history, from its original transmission through spoken words, to the invention of linear symbols that originally appeared in a very primitive pattern and then Sumerian cuneiform writing in the middle of the fourth millennium BC. The oldest cuneiform tablets were found in Eridu, Uruk and Ur.
However, the first creative surprise of its kind in all civilizations occurred in the Kingdom of Ugarit in an area called Ras Shamra north of the city of Latakia on the Syrian coast. It was there that the Canaanites founded the Modern Bronze Age which lasted from about 3300 BC to 1200 BC during which the oldest written alphabet in human history was invented. It is the Ugaritic alphabet, which is similar in arrangement to the Arabic alphabet with some differences.
Ugaritic alphabet characters were not limited to writing alone. Clay tablets containing what is believed to be one of the first musical notations composed in Ugaritic cuneiform around 1400 BC were excavated in the 1950s from the ruins of the city of Ugarit in Syria. Its original musical scale was adopted by Pythagoras for western music a thousand years after its first appearance in Ugarit.
According to the above information, it can be said that Syrians have appropriately formulated their collective memory in accordance with the chronological timeline of historical events which is a cosmic and existential requirement according to what is seen in the progressive innovations of Syrian civilization.