Discuss the basic archaeological data used to divide Near Eastern antiquity into epochs such as Neolithic Period, Chalcolithic Period, Early Bronze Age, Middle Bronze Age, Iron Bronze Age, Hellenistic Period and Roman period.  Also, specify the approximate date of each period.

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The Neolithic is characterized by a wealth of specialized stone tools in the archaeological record. Stone technology originates with the Paleolithic, and these tool-making techniques were gradually passed from population to population until it was the general tool of choice. The Neolithic Revolution is heavily tied in with the Agricultural Revolution, and many of the new types of stone tools we see appearing in the record around 10,000 BCE are related to the practice of farming. Just as with the development of stone tool technology, the transition to using more specialized stone tools was not an instantaneous process, and it gradually moved from the Near East out into Europe and Asia.

The Chalcolithic is either considered to be a very early portion of the Bronze Age, or falling between the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. The date for the Chalcolithic is roughly from 5300-1700 BCE. This period is characterized by copper-working and craft specialization. The production of metal, ceramic, and stone goods was often a regional specialty, with these goods fetching a higher value farther from their production center.

The Bronze Age is characterized, as the name implies, by the widespread use of bronze tools. Bronze Age culture also has early features of urbanized civilization like proto-writing systems. The Bronze Age in the Near East dates from 3300-1200 BCE. The Early, Middle, and Late Bronze Ages are characterized by an increasingly urban and differentiated society, as evidenced by burials, architecture, and changes in pottery styles.

The Iron Age, similar to the Bronze Age, is defined by the most preferential or most advanced metalworking technique of the time. Bronze fell out of fashion as it required creating an alloy from two relatively hard to find materials which were not always in supply. Iron also had the advantage in the fact that it could be sharpened, whereas bronze required casting for any sort of fine edge. In the Near East, the Iron Age occurred between 1200 and 500 BCE.

The Hellenistic Period dates from the death of Alexander the Great in 323BCE to the beginnings of the Roman Empire in 31 BC. In this time, art and crafting were highly specialized, with the predominant styles being of Greek influence. Greek colonies were established in the Near East and Hellenistic culture, not just materials, were imported and became dominant. The Hellenistic Period is distinctive in the archaeological materials for the heavy influence of Greek material culture and the negotiation of identity through material goods.

The Roman Period is characterized by a prevalence of public works like roads and baths throughout the entire empire, including the Near East. Similar to the import-export relationship of Greek culture during the Hellenistic Period, Roman culture was effectively transplanted into the lives of Near Eastern peoples. The dates for the unified Roman Empire are from 27BCE to 395AD, though Roman culture persisted in the East for a much longer period through the Byzantine Empire.

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