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La géoarchéologie française au xxie siècle

Nathalie Carcaud
Gilles Arnaud-Fassetta

Partie II. Les hydrosystèmes fluviaux, entre climat et anthropisation/Section 2. Fluvial hydrosystems, between climate and “anthropogenic processes”

Chapter 9. The Neolithic in Anatolia at the regional scale

Some issues concerning chronology and environmental contexts

Catherine Kuzucuoğlu

Texte intégral

The data presented are framed by long-running common multi-disciplinary research with many archaeologists in Turkey whom the author would like to thank for their interest and collaborative support, their sharing of interest and scientific questioning. These many archaeologist and geomorphologist colleagues, whether Turkish or French, Italian or English, will recognise in this article elements of common discussions and researches. Among these colleagues, the author would like to express a special gratitude to the archaeologists of the Prehistory Department of Istanbul University, especially N. Balkan-Atlı, M. Özbaşaran, E. Bıçakçı, M. Özdoğan, also A. Tibet from the IFEA in Istanbul, and the French archaeologists in Turkey, D. Binder and C. Marro. This article is based on activities and data collected during the ENVOL project (2010-2013) on environment, volcanism and their relationships with human societies during Holocene in southern Cappadocia. The ENVOL programme has been financed by the Paleo2 and Mistrals/PaléoMex Programme of the CNRS. Many thanks are addressed to G. Arnaud-Fassetta and N. Carcaud for their support, help and contribution to the publication, and also to M. Özbaşaran for reading and discussing a first version of this article.


1For several decades, the relationships between climate and human history and their consequences on past societies have been a key subject in the scientific literature of geoarchaeology, palaeoclimatology and archaeology. This debate is particularly vivid and productive regarding the Neolithic to Bronze Age periods in the Fertile Crescent and the Eastern Mediterranean. After direct correspondence was proposed between climate (wet/dry) and cultural (Early, Middle, Late) phases (e.g., Issar and Brown, 1998), the parallel timing of climatic and cultural changes marking the ends of the Bronze Age phases in the Near East is now well established (except for the transition Middle/Late Bronze Age; see references in Kuzucuoğlu, 2009; Roberts et al., 2011). In face of such correlations, several papers have proposed that in some cases, environmental and resource degradation triggered by climate change caused civilisation collapses (e.g., Weiss et al., 1993; Dalfes et al., 1997; Weiss, 2000; deMenocal, 2001; Issar and Zohar, 2004). This deterministic interpretation is much debated in the scientific community. An increasing number of highly detailed specific cases studies on the processes linking climate and cultural elements within chronologies suggests the necessity of reconsidering, if not denying, simplistic climatic determinism (e.g., van der Leeuw, 1998; Wilkinson, 2003; Kuzucuoğlu and Marro, 2007; Miller-Rosen, 2007). Such arguments point to (i) the variety of cultural responses to climatic changes, (ii) the variety of timing and intensity in environmental responses to climatic changes, (iii) the chronological uncertainties in the climate/culture possible correlation, (iv) the variety and complexity of causes of political and economic disturbances, which may have risen from the constraints both internal and external to the society. Points (i) and (ii) specifically depend on the regional scale of the elements involved in the cultural changes observed. Point (iii) depends on uncertainties in dating palaeoclimate/environment proxies and cultural indicators. Point (iv) depends on cultural interpretations and reconstructions provided by archaeological data.

  • 1 All the dates in this paper have been obtained by calibration of14 C dates. They are presented in (...)

2This paper questions the regional scale of the distribution and development of human societies and cultures in Anatolia on the one hand, and that of vegetation and climate changes on the other hand. Two key-periods are focussed on: (i) the birth and development of Neolithic practices and technologies west nd/or south towards Europe and the Mediterranean. These events occurred in Anatolia during the first part of the Holocene, from the beginning of the Younger Dryas (YD) ca. 10.4-10.2 ka BC1 to the start of the climatic Optimum ca. 6-5.8 ka BC.

Chronology and periodisation of the Neolithic cultures in Anatolia

  • 2 In this paper, SE stands for the southeastern region of Anatolia (see shaded SE region in Figs. 2 (...)
  • 3 For definition of the PPN in the Near East, see for example Aurenche et al. (1987).

3Like other areas in the Fertile Crescent, the Neolithic in Southeastern (SE2) and Central Anatolia is divided into Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN3) and Pottery Neolithic (PN). In central Anatolia, the PPN is divided in two phases: “Early PPN” and “Late PPN” with a chronological boundary dated ca. 8.5 ka BC. The chronological boundary of the start of PN is dated 7-6.8 ka BC but these dates vary regionally. In the following presentation, the data concerning archaeological sites have been mainly collected from the TAY Project database (tayproject. org), which provides access to all published and reported data from surveys and excavations in Turkey. Using these data with the addition of complementary information from recent publications, Figs. 1 to 5 in this paper illustrate the geographic distribution of Neolithic sites in Anatolia presented by broad cultural periods.

At the start: Epipalaeolithic sites (20-9 ka BC)

4In the region around Antalya on the warm Mediterranean coast, a cluster of excavated cave sites in the Taurus limestone cliffs provide the earliest Epipalaeolithic industries of Anatolia (Fig. 1). These industries exhibit cultural affinities with the southern Levant. Among these caves, Öküzini contained Epipalaeolithic material associated with grinding stones in a level dated ca. 10 ka BC (Yalçınkaya et al., 2002). These findings point to a very early emergence in Mediterranean Anatolia of processing collected plant foods. A coring performed in a marsh in front of the Öküzini cave (Fig. 7) confirmed cereal collection and storage during YD (between 10.6 and 10.2 ka BC: Emery-Barbier, 2002; Kuzucuoğlu et al., 2002). Other well-known Epipalaeolithic cultures are located in the Marmara (Özdoğan, 1997), SE Taurus (Algaze et al., 1991), and Konya (Baird, 2002, 2012) regions. Dates provided by excavations, as well as research across much of Anatolia, show evidence that, during Early Holocene, Epipalaeolithic hunter-gatherers populations continued to live in the neighbourhood of PPN – and possibly Pottery Neolithic – populations with whom they shared territories (Özdogan, 1997).

Pre-Pottery Neolithic in Anatolia: Chronology and regional distribution

5Some of the earliest transitions from mobile hunter-gatherers to sedentary farmers in the world occurred in SE and central Anatolia (Fig. 2). From data collected in field surveys and excavations, the Early Neolithic of Turkey is subdivided in two main phases (Gérard and Thissen, 2002): (i) an Early PPN (EPPN: 10.2-8.5 ka BC), with permanent settlements of hunter-gatherers practicing pre-domestication technologies and activities; (ii) a Late PPN (LPPN: 8.5-7 ka BC) characterised by advanced practices and skills applied to plant and animal pre-domestication and domestication, in association with new rituals and artistic productions, new technologies, new architectural types and settlement organisation.

Fig. 1. Epipalaeolithic sites in Turkey.
Sources:; Sagona and Zimansky (2009); Düring (2011).

In SE Anatolia (ca. 10.2-7 ka BC)

6A few sites reveal the start of EPPN at the end of the YD in the upper reaches of the Tigris (Hallan Çemi, among others) and Euphrates (Murat branch: Çayönü, among others) catchments (Özdoğan et al., 2011, 2012; Fig. 2). The microlithic industry exhibits relationships with the local Epipalaeolithic. The oldest levels are stonebuilt and paved with sandstone slabs (Hallan Çemi: site no. 3 in Fig. 2) or walled by mud-plastered weed and wattle (Çayönü: site no. 7 in Fig. 2). In this region, the number of PPN sites increases strongly during the centuries that follow the onset of the Holocene ca. 9.2 ka BC. During this period, the outstanding ritual site of Göbekli Tepe (site no. 5 in Fig. 2) was also constructed (near Urfa).

In central Anatolia (ca. 8.5-7 ka BC)

7PPN sites have been identified in several areas of central Anatolia (Fig. 2): Cappadocia, parts of the Tuz Lake plain, the Konya plain, the Lake district, and possibly, according to very recent excavations, the Izmir and Aegean regions (see references in tayproject. org and Özdoğan et al., 2012; Figs. 2 and 5). The oldest excavated sites are dated from the early 9th millennium BC onwards. They are located on the western Cappadocian plateaus (Aşıklı, site no. 32 in Fig. 2), and in the Konya plain. According to recently published archaeobotanical syntheses (e.g., Fuller et al., 2011), central Anatolia is a Neolithisation core area for plant domestication practices in the Near East, and is distinct from that of the Fertile Crescent. Other cultural features, mainly related to animal domestication, architecture and settlement organisation accentuate the regional specificity and significance of the central Anatolian PPN cultures. Together with this evolution, specific groups probably lived seasonally in Cappadocia exploiting obsidian outcrops and producing knapped material transported to PPN sites located in the SE and in the Fertile Crescent (Binder et al., 2011). Artefacts made out of obsidian produced by the workshops in the Göllüdağ volcanic complex in Cappadocia are found as far as Cyprus, the south Levant, the Aegean coast, etc. (Cauvin and Chataigner, 1998). These sources were very active during all periods of the Neolithic and the Early Chalcolithic.

8In Cappadocia, Aşıklı Höyük is, with Pınarbaşı (no. 18 in Fig. 1, and no. 38 in Fig. 2) and Boncuklu in the Konya plain, one of the earliest PPN sites excavated in inner Anatolia. Its oldest levels reached by today’s excavation are dated 8.3 ka BC (Özbaşaran, 2012a). Abandoned ca. 7.5 ka BC, this very large village with agglomerated houses presents an organisation unknown in the Fertile Crescent, but which will characterise a thousand years later the Pottery Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in the Konya plain (no. 40 in Fig. 2). Although Cappadocia hosts many other PPN sites that have not yet been excavated (Fig. 2). None is as large as Aşıklı Höyük. Close to Aşıklı, its satellite site Musular (no. 34 in Fig. 2) was occupied only during the last centuries of the 8th millennium BC (Özbaşaran, 2012b).

Fig. 2. Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) sites in Turkey (ca. 10200-7000 BC). Sources:; Sagona and Zimansky (2009); Düring (2011); Steadman and Mc Mahon (2011); Özdoğan et al. (2011, 2012).

9In the Konya plain, the excavation of the Epipalaeolithic and PPN Pınarbaşı sites and from the PPN Boncuklu site illustrates the relationship of the central Anatolian PPN to the local Epipalaeolithic (Baird, 2012; Baird et al., 2012). In Boncuklu, artifacts (included symbolic ones) found in well-preserved Neolithic houses prefigure the remarkable paintings (Mellaart, 1967) of the nearby Çatalhöyük Pottery Neolithic site (no. 40 in Fig. 2; nos. 40 and 41 in Fig. 3). According to Özdoğan et al. (2012), a late PPN phase is also present west from the Konya plain through the Lake District to the Aegean and NW regions where it is dated end of the 8th millennium BC. In the sites excavated, the stratigraphy is continuous between PPN and the oldest Pottery Neolithic layers. The PPN occupation is defined by activities (hunting, farming and trade with other local communities) and practices (rituals) in settlements, which are not dense as in Aşıklı (PPN) and Çatalhöyük (PN) but comparable to those in Boncuklu and Pınarbaşı (PPN). The chronological and regional distribution of these sites (Fig. 5) suggests that interactions between central Anatolian communities and their neighbours increased after ca. 7.4 ka BC, allowing the intensification of the diffusion of Neolithic practices and activities shortly after 7.2 ka BC, i.e. two centuries before the approximate date of appearance of ceramics. This date is two centuries earlier than the one associated with the start of Neolithic dispersal towards Europe and the Mediterranean (e.g., Rasse, 2008).

Pottery Neolithic in Anatolia: Chronology and regional distribution

10After the 7.5-7 ka BC transition phase, Pottery Neolithic in Anatolia is divided in two phases (Düring, 2011; Duru, 2012): (i) Early Pottery Neolithic: ca. 7-6.9 to ca. 6.5-6.4 ka BC, and (ii) Late Pottery Neolithic: ca. 6.4 to ca. 6.1-6 ka BC. After 6-5.8 ka BC, the Chalcolithic period starts. It will last until the first Early Bronze Age settlements ca. 3.2-3 ka BC. It is important to underline that, at least in central Anatolia, this phasing is much discussed in the light of contemporaneity between “Late Neolithic” and “Early Chalcolithic” sites. Indeed, the signiicant cultural change occurs ca. 5.5 ka BC (between Early and Middle Chalcolithic; G. Duru and M. Özbasaran, pers. com.).

Fig. 3. Early Pottery Neolithic sites in Turkey (from ca. 7000-6900 to ca. 6500-6400 BC). Sources:; Gérard and Thyssen (2002); Sagona and Zimansky (2009); Düring (2011); Özdogan et al. (2011); Duru (2012); Özdogan et al. (2012).

11Figures 2 to 5 allow the comparison of the chronology of the Neolithic west from Cappadocia and the Konya plain across Anatolia. This appearance during Early Neolithic results from cultural interactions, which started to occur, possibly, as early as ca. 7.4 or 7.3 ka BC, i.e. during the last centuries of the PPN (?). Interactions operatedin two directions (Figs. 3 and 4): west to the Lake District (Suberde, site no. 44; Hacılar, site no. 43), and southwards to Cilicia (Yumuktepe Höyük, site no. 55), Lake District cultural affinities are recognisable in the Aegean (Ulucak Höyük, site no. 69) and NW (Keçiçayırı, site no. 88) towards the western Marmara. In the NE around the eastern part of the Marmara, however, the Pottery Neolithic (Fikirtepe, site no. 80) is rooted in local tradition transferred from the Epipalaeolithic Ağaçlı group (Özdoğan, 2011; Fig. 1). By the start of the Neolithic this region was independent from the rest of Anatolia as it reveals no inluences from central Anatolia. Figures 3 and 4 also reveal the absence of PPN and Pottery Neolithic sites north and northeast of a line joining the Marmara region to SE Anatolia. his puzzling distribution of Neolithic sites in Anatolia remains today a geoarchaeological question-mark in Turkey’s archaeological research.

Puzzling pattern: The absence of Neolithic sites in north-central, northeastern and eastern Anatolia

12Several suggestions have been made for explaining this puzzling evidence (e.g., Düring, 2008, 2011).

Research strategies discriminating some periods and regions?

13Over two centuries and until approximately ity years ago, the priorities of archaeological research in Turkey concerned almost exclusively certain themes and civilisations whose remains were the most evident in the landscape or were the focus of most interest from western visitors and researchers (mostly the antiquity and Classical times; Özdoğan, 1997). Consequently and for a long time, archaeological history in Anatolia was considered to occupy a marginal position in the archaeological landscape of the Eastern Mediterranean (Özdoğan, 1997; Düring, 2011). On the basis of this interpretation, it was often admitted until the 1950s, that there was no Anatolian prehistory prior to the Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC) or, at the very earliest, to the Late Chalcolithic (end of 4th millennium BC). he marginal vision of the peninsula may explain incomplete knowledge concerning regions, and some cultural and environmental contexts prior to the 3rd millennium BC.

Fig. 4. Late Pottery Neolithic sites in Turkey (from ca. 6500-6400 to ca. 6100-6000 BC). Sources:; Gérard and Thyssen (2002); Sagona and Zimansky (2009); Düring (2011); Özdogan et al. (2011); Duru (2012); Özdogan et al. (2012).

Fig. 5. Regional presentation of some important Neolithic sites excavated in Turkey (The reference sites presented here are selected among a total of 89 sites, with a focus on the best-known ones and on those with the earliest dated level for the period and the region considered).

14Starting from the 1960s however, there was more interest and research into the Neolithic, in the process discovering remains in Cappadocia, the Konya plain and the Lake District. In parallel, the number of research programmes concerning the oldest Neolithic settlements in the SE increased. Both in the SE and in the central plateaus, results increasingly revealed that Anatolia has a historical role different from the Near East, and also from that of a transitional zone through which this inluence would have difused to other regions of the world.

15It has been suggested that this focus on Neolithic societies in the SE and the central plateaus during the 1960s and 1970s provoked a disinterest in launching surveys and excavations in other regions, generating a a lack of data in the north-central, north, and eastern parts of Turkey. Sites prior to the Chalcolithic would then have remained unseen and unidentified because their cultures and artefacts would have not been recognised, and thus not reported.

Insuicient surveys and excavations?

16In order to search for Neolithic sites north of this dividing line (Figs. 3 and 4) and also to better deine the prehistoric as well as Classical cultures in these regions, several exhaustive multi-disciplinary surveys were conducted during the last iteen years: Kuzucuoğlu et al. (1997) in the Kastamonu region; Matthews (2002) in Paphlagonia; Düring et al. (2010, 2011, 2012) in the mid-Black Sea coast; Sagona and Sagona (2000) in the north-eastern Anatolia; Marro and Özfırat (2003, 2004, 2005) in eastern Anatolia. In spite of these eforts, none of these surveys revealed Neolithic sites. he absence of Neolithic sites in this part of the peninsula thus remains intriguing.

Visibility – Taphonomy?

17The surprising negative result of the surveys north of the Neolithic divide, may be due to the fact that surveys inevitably concentrate on the soil surface, and can only access the sub-surface when they come across accidental natural or man-made sections in supericial formations.

18Soil erosion and, even more importantly, accumulation of sediment during the Holocene appear to have been able to significantly affect archaeological site visibility in Turkey, to such an extent that present-day geomorphic dynamics provide the most reliable explanation for the absence of Neolithic sites in the north of Anatolia. These geomorphic factors are triggered by tectonics (uplift, subsidence) and are most often related to sediment aggradation in flood valleys, which is stimulated in Anatolia by steep slope erosion, and soil erosion enhanced by soil and vegetation exploitation associated with increasingly intense agricultural practices and more or less sustainable modes of production. The impacts of these factors on the sedimentary dynamics in large valleys have been clearly revealed in the Euphrates and Tigris valleys, and also in the Aegean grabens where adverse effects of recent tectonics together with anthropogenic erosion led to continuous modifications, during the Holocene, of the valleys occupying the grabens and the coastal areas. This aggradation has been responsible for the burial of sediments associated with many Early Holocene settlements across the peninsula. When partially buried, tells can be located, but when totally buried, they remain unknown.

19Soil erosion having been continuous everywhere in Anatolia for several millennia, burial impacted first the oldest sites, which ultimately may have disappeared from the landscape. Clearly, as these oldest sites are dated Late Glacial and Early Holocene, such a dynamics would have affected more the PPN and PN sites than the younger ones, leading in turn to more difficulties for the identification of the cultures to which these older sites belong. In the north and north-eastern valleys of Anatolia, no research has yet confirmed that sites may be hidden by thick sediment accumulation, except for a few exploratory corings (Kuzucuoğlu et al., 1997; Kuzucuoğlu, 2012). The possible presence of Neolithic sites located at the bottom of valleys below sediments buring them is a still open research question important.

Climate-dependant environmental impacts?

20Another hypotheses postulated for the absence of Neolithic sites in half the peninsula addresses specific environmental constraints, which would be related to climate and vegetation cover, and which would have intervened with the development of Neolithic practices or with the human penetration in this region. However, no environmental specificity of such an order of magnitude, neither as an absolute barrier nor as of a multi-regional concern is suggested from the available palaeoenvironmental data in the region. They do not suggest either that these territories could not provide the resources necessary for sustaining the domestication of plants and animals.

Some environmental records of climate evolution in Anatolia during the Early Holocene

21Bordered by four seas (Mediterranean, Aegean, Marmara, Black Sea) and with a mean altitude up to 1000 m asl, the Anatolian peninsula offers an extraordinary variety of landscapes and resources (Fig. 6). The centre of the peninsula corresponds to 1200 to 1400 m high plateaus where closed depressions are, or have been occupied by lakes. This centre is circled by mountain barriers (the Taurus, the Aegean highlands, the Pontus, the Kaçkar chain and the high eastern Anatolian massifs; Fig. 6A). The altitude of the peninsula rises from west (Aegean) eastwards (Eastern Anatolia: 3000-4500 m asl) and from north (the Pontus range: 1800 to 2300 m asl) southwards (the Taurus range: 2500 to 3500 m asl). In the southeast, the Taurus overlooks the Syrian and Iraki lower plateaus, while eastern Anatolian highlands join eastwards the Zagros and the Caucasus chains. This distribution of relief is accompanied by various climates and vegetation (Fig. 6 B and C), topographies and soils, producing a complex association of landscapes that forms a high variety of regions providing as much variety of resources. Accordingly, it may be assumed that, when climate change occurs whether today or in the past, Anatolian complexity gives rise to a high variability of environmental responses and resilience at the regional scale.

The YD and the onset of the Holocene

22In sediment records at various locations in Anatolia (Kuzucuoğlu and Roberts, 1997), YD is dated 12.4-11.4 ka cal. BP (10.4-9.4 ka BC) and is characterised by very dry conditions: Late Glacial tree cover contracted drastically, replaced by drought-indicating herbs such as Artemisia and other Chenopodiaceae (Figs. 7 and 8). The YD started rapidly, ending slowly with a transitory period (11.4-11 ka cal. BP) during which Artemisia was absent and Chenopodiaceae were still present, but the tree cover was expanding.

23Two facts are noteworthy. First, the starting date of the YD (ca. 10.4 ka BC, i.e. 12.4 ka cal. BP) corresponds to the dates of the first permanent PPN settlements in SE Anatolia (Hallan Çemi and other sites in the upper Tigris catchment). Second, the YD ends at 11.2 cal. BP (9.2 ka BC; Fig. 8), a date that is associated with the start of pre-domestication practices in several distinct core areas in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East (Fuller et al., 2011; Willcox et al., 2012). In Anatolia outside the SE, the regions concerned are: the central Anatolia with the Konya plain (Baird et al., 2012) and Cappadocia (Özbaşaran, 2012 a and b), and the Antalya region (Emery-Barbier and Thiébault, 2005). In parallel, in Cappadocia (Woldring and Bottema, 2003) and on the Mediterranean coast (Emery-Barbier, 2002), the start of Early Holocene is underlined by a change in vegetation composition and in tree cover due to a rise in temperatures and humidity.

Early Holocene

24Between the end of the YD and the 8.2 ka cal. BP event (ca. 6.1 ka BC), the climatic trend during Early Holocene is a rise in humidity that Bottema (1987) demonstrated to be uneven across the peninsula both in magnitude and in timing. In west-Anatolian pollen diagrams for example, tree percentages start to increase at the beginning of the Holocene ca. 9 ka BC (i.e., 11 ka cal. BP); in contrast in the Lake Van area in eastern Anatolia, this increase occurs only ca. 5 ka BC. Bottema and van Zeist (1981) and Bottema (1987) also reported that (i) the rise in temperature and humidity during Early Holocene in central and eastern Anatolia was rather slow, and that (ii) the time delay for forest to expand increased from west to east. Hypotheses about causing factors include, for example, the impact of regular tree cutting or firing related to the development of agriculture practices and of sedentary life (Bottema et al., 1999; Roberts, 2002). More convincingly, Bottema and van Zeist (1981), and Bottema and Woldring (1984) suggest that this W-E increasingly late response of the AP/NAP ratio to the rise in Early Holocene precipitation and temperature reflects a parallel slow and delayed rise in precipitation across the peninsula. Figure 8 illustrates this time and space contrasts in the AP/NAP ratio during Early Holocene.

A regional dry event ca. 7.6 to 7.2 ka BC (9.6-9.2 ka cal. BP)?

25In Cappadocia and in Eastern Anatolia, the Early Holocene humidity rise was interrupted ca. 7.6 ka BC by a climatically event similar to the YD although shorter, since it lasted a few hundred years (until ca. 7.2 ka BC, i.e. 9.2 ka cal. BP, depending on dating uncertainties of the sequences in Fig. 8). This drought is mainly recorded by evaporation proxies such as evaporites or isotopes in sediments, and not by pollen (at that time eastern Anatolian vegetation has not yet recorded the Early Holocene rise in precipitation). This contrast between a drier eastern and east-central Anatolia compared to a wetter western and NW Anatolia, may be a response to changes in the influence areas of different atmospheric systems (Mediterranean cyclonic activity, Indian monsoon, eastern European circulation patterns; Kuzucuoğlu et al., 2011). The fact that this signal seems restricted to east-central and eastern Anatolia suggests an origin in a modification of the Indian monsoon intensity and circulation pattern (Roberts et al., 2011).

26The drought is not revealed in the Early Holocene pollen curves from the Marmara region (Yeniçağa: Bottema et al., 1995) and western Anatolia (Gölhisar: Eastwood et al., 1999) presented in Fig. 8. In these wetter regions, P/NAP ratio and herb species may not record the humidity decrease because humidity may still have been sufficient for sustaining a temperate vegetation. At Gölhisar, rainfall may have remained high because of a regional specificity due to warming up of cyclonic humid air masses of Mediterranean origin over the western Taurus barrier (A. Sarıkaya, pers. com.), a process that would water the rather dry closed depressions at the foot of the highlands.

27Regional factors also favoured distinct local responses. For example, local rainfall in the Konya plain was deficient untilca. 6 ka BC (8 ka cal. BP; Kuzucuoğlu, 2002), initiated ca. 7.5 ka BC (9.5 ka cal. BP) construction of an alluvial fan contemporary to the first Neolithic settlement at Çatalhöyük East (Boyer et al., 2006). This latter example suggests that the western geographic limit of the eastern Anatolian 7.6-7.2 ka BC humidity depleted period was located between Cappadocia and the Konya plain.

The 8.2 ka cal. BP event (6.2-6 ka BC)

28Before vegetation fully developed during the “Holocene climatic Optimum”, another signal occurred across the peninsula ca. 6.1 ka BC (Fig. 8). This drought corresponds to a well-known global signal (the “8.2 ka cal. BP event”). It lasted until ca. 6-5.9 ka BC (8 ka cal. BP) and was immediately followed by the Climatic optimum.

29This signal is the first local rainfall increase in the northern rain shadow of the Taurus range since the beginning of the Holocene. It is recorded in the Konya plain where wetlands expand in the lowest areas that are totally rainfall-dependant (Kuzucuoğlu, 2002). This humid period in the central plateaus ended around 4.5-4 ka BC. In other regions, the phase ending the humid Early Holocene starts between between 5 and 4 ka BC.

Fig. 6. Geographical presentation of Anatolia. A: Relief of the Anatolian peninsula. B: Average annual rainfall in Turkey. C: Main vegetation formations in Turkey. 1: Eu-Mediterranean vegetation; 2: montane forests; 3: mixed broad-leaved and needle-leaved woodland resistant to cold; 4: open tree and shrub vegetation; 5: cold-deciduous forests; 6: dwarfshrubland (steppe); 7: subalpine and alpine vegetation; 8: lakes.

Regional dimensions of relationships between climate, environment and Neolithic societies in Anatolia

Cultural dynamics at the regional scale before the PN transformations

30In Anatolia, Early Neolithic settlements (Figs. 2 to 4) have been identified in four broad regions:

  1. South-eastern Anatolia. This region corresponds to the eastern Taurus range, with valleys and a piedmont overlooking the Syrian low plateaus. It also includes the head valleys of the Euphrates (the branch of the Euphrates, which is called Murat and runs north to west of Lake Van) and Tigris (the source of which is located on the topographic threshold of Lake Van).
  2. The central plateaus. They correspond from east to west to Cappadocia, the Konya plain and the Lake District, all regions where the oldest PPN sites of central Anatolia are found;; from this region, PN cultures diffused both southwards abd westwards. Rooted in local traditions (Özbaşaran, 2011; Baird, 2012; Baird et al., 2012) this Pottery Neolithic extended SW areas (Sagona and Zimansky, 2009).
  3. Western Anatolia. Some new foundings are emerging nowadays from excavations of early PN (and PPN?) sites located in the vicinity of Izmir. The new data claim that PPN cultures preceeded PN cultures also in the Aegean region. There, PPN and PN material also show connections both with the Lake District Neolithic and with local Aegean cultures (Özdoğan, 2011).
  4. North-Western Anatolia (eastern Marmara region) where a distinct local Pottery Neolithic is strongly rooted in local Epipalaeolithic cultures (Özdoğan, 1999; Karul, 2011), and exhibits strong relationships and affinities with Neolithic cultures from the northern side of the Bosphorus straight (ca. 9.2-9 ka cal. BP (7.2-7 ka BC; Nicholas et al., 2011; Soulet et al., 2011).

31Is there a correlation between region-scaled climate signals and transformations of the local Neolithic cultures? Three climate fluctuations occurred during the time that Early Neolithic communities appeared, developed, expanded and transformed: (i) the beginning and end of the YD, (ii) a possible regional drought (?) that would be approximately dated 7.4-7.1 ka BC (9.4-9.1 ka cal. BP) and (iii) a global climatic stress between 6.1-5.9 ka BC (8.2-7.9 ka cal. BP). In these three cases, humidity decrease may have depleted water and food resources of populations who may then have searched for new technologies, new resources, new territories or new periods identified had any relationship to changes in Neolithic societies in Anatolia.

Fig. 7. Location of sites presented in Fig. 8.

Fig. 8. Dry/wet phases indicated by vegetation phases deduced from pollen, by isotopes and by evaporitic minerals in sediments of different regions of Anatolia. 1: dense forested landscape; 2: increasing Arboreal Pollen percent; 3: low arboreal pollen percent; 4: tree-less landscape; 5: high Chenopodiaceae percent (rare or no Artemisia); 6: high Artemisia percent; 7: evaporation stress; 8: drought; 9: dry climatic phase recorded in several regions (Anatolian signal); 10 :14C dated level in sequences.

32Several differences in the modes of appearance and development of PPN societies in Anatolia exemplify the variety of impacts of the climate changes that occurred at the beginning and end of the YD on the development of the earliest Neolithic societies in Anatolia (SE and central plateaus). First, the evidence of PPN cultural elements does not share the same chronology in both regions. In the SE, PPN develops during and after the YD, while in central Anatolia it appears at the onset of the Holocene. Both PPN timings respond to different climatic and environmental changes (drier conditions start with the start of the YD; temperature and humidity rise with the start of the Holocene). In the central Anatolian plateaus the YD climatic conditions were possibly drier and ecosystems poorer and this may have impacted negatively the development of pre-domestication practices and sedentism. On the contrary the warming and increasing humidity of the Early Holocene onset favoured an increase in biodiversity and ecosystem richness, which accompanied the pre-domestication practices and agglomerated village formation. At any case, it is obvious that climate and its environmental impacts on the natural resources necessary for food production favoured PPN innovations such as predomestication practices and sedentary life.

33More than climate indeed, the environmental conditions and especially the variety of natural ecological zones obviously provided the resources available for the development of PPN. Whether in the SE (upper reaches of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates) or in central Anatolia (Konya plain and Cappadocia), PPN sites are located in positions offering access to a wide-variety of environments composed of arable land associated with valley floors, floodplains and plateaus, pasture lands, steppe and forests associated with highlands, the vicinity of springs, river passes and lakes all valuable for water resources and for hunting activities. This variety made possible, in many locations and situations the transition from hunting-gathering to foraging. The abundance and complementarity of resources provided by this variety also explains why in central Anatolia during Early Holocene, even large settlements like Aşıklı (wide and agglomerated villages inhabited by crowded groups with hundreds of people) could be sustained by hunting and gathering with limited cultivation agriculture (Özbaşaran, 2011). In this context, the PPN started and developed in separate regions with elements imprinted by local traditions. Indeed, archaeological data from these early Neolithic Anatolian societies point to the major role of cultural developments and discontinuities at the local scale, nuancing much the possible role of climate during this period. In Anatolia, early Neolithic cultures developed out of local Epipalaeolithic communities, whether in the SE or in the central plateaus. These local continuities and transmissions caused many cultural and material differences in the Neolithisation of both regions, which have nothing to do directly with either climate or environment. Another example of the importance of cultural continuity occurred elsewhere in Anatolia but in a very different time context. In the Marmara region, the Pottery Neolithic (Fikirtepe culture; Fig. 3) developed out of local Epipalaeolithic (Ağaçlı culture; Fig. 1) during the 7th millennium BC. This is emphasised by the archaeological material of Fikirtepe being different from that of contemporary sites in the Dardanelles/western Marmara (Özdoğan, 2011), which presents cultural links with the Aegean and connections with the Lake District Pottery Neolithic (cf. TAY project). This Marmara culture was enriched by further contacts with European Black Sea regions, ending in the formation a specific Neolithic culture, which is distinct from that of all other Anatolian regions.

34Discontinuity also occurred. The Lake District and Cilicia first and in a second step in western Anatolia, and the Aegean. There, the discontinuity marked by the appearance, during the last centuries of the 8th millennium BC, of a way of life initiated in the central Anatolian sites of Konya and Cappadocia. This cultural discontinuity expands during the 7th millennium BC from the central plateaus along an east-west continental route and/or a south-westto north marine route. It is not possible to give any evidence that the cultural change displacing westward and southward from Cappadocia and Konya has any relationship with the 7.6-7.15 ka BC period during which humidity decreased in Cappadocia and eastern Anatolia (Fig. 8). But neither climate nor environment generated the rather uniform cultural landscape through half the Anatolian peninsula to the Balkans over the following millennia; it was caused by the westward development of the sedentary way of life and of agricultural activities during the 7th millennium BC (Sagona and Zimansky, 2009), and the following transformations of this cultural heritage.

35Even if a regional climate triggered changes in life conditionss in Cappadocia and in its surroundings, the regional interactions seem to record an earlier geographic distribution produced by the distinct PPN developments in the SE and in central Anatolia. With the Taurus Mountains acting as a boundary, different economic subsistence strategies and sedentism modes had developed in different environmental conditions in these regions (Sagona and Zimanksy, 2009). Neither the dynamics of the interactions west and south from Central Anatolia during the Early PN nor the local PN developments encompassed this cultural limit formed during the YD and the very early Holocene (Düring, 2011). Meantime on the south-eastern side of the Taurus and over these 4000 years from the 11th millennium BC to the early centuries of the sixth (ca. 5.8 ka BC), no ommunity belonging to Upper Mesopotamian early to late Neolithic seems to have attempted contacts or diffusion into other regions (Sagona and Zimansky, 2009).

36In the north-central, NE and eastern regions, no Neolithic (PPN and PN) is known. Presently, the archaeological landscape in these plateaus and highlands indicates that Late Chalcolithic groups arrived and settled in villages only as late as the 5th millennium BC. Whether preservation of earlier sites in these regions suffered from geomorphological processes burying Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic settlements, or the regional climatic conditions made the Epipalaeolithic way of life better adapted to the environmental conditions of a sparse population, remains one of the puzzling questions addressed to archaeology in Turkey.

37Finally, possible impacts of the 8.2 ka cal. BP event on Neolithic societies in Anatolia, although of great interest, lie out of scope of this paper, which presents no detailed data (especially archaeological) related either to the Final Neolithic or to the Early Chalcolithic. The time parallelism between this transition that occurred ca. 6 ka BC points to some kind of relationship between the Final Neolithic/Early Chalcolithic transition and the 8.2 ka global climatic event. Archaeologists however, especially in central Anatolia, neither in the occupation of sites nor in the cultural aspects and traditions. Instead, and according to excavations in the Aegean region, the main cultural and material discontinuity occurs ca. 5.5 ka BC, i.e., 700 years after the 8.2 event.


38The examples discussed here of the regional distribution of the Neolithic communities in Turkey show that an exhaustive consideration of regional time scales of climatic and cultural data is needed in order to reconstruct the processes from which we can infer possible links between climate and human societies eventually responding to changes in the environmental context. Instead, presenting the regional history and characteristics of the Anatolian Neolithic in the light of the climatic reconstruction between 10.2 and 6 ka BC (12.2 to 8 ka cal. BP) gives rise to many questions. The results emphasise the important roles of environmental diversity and cultural continuity (resilience, heritage), and also the role of innovation in human organisation and activities that is generated by their interrelationships. It appears that changes in environmental conditions and resources triggered innovation in behaviours such as facilitating migration and increased contact with neighbours, thus changing the spatial dynamics of some specific activities. But, in the process of defining and reconstructing the Neolithisation phenomenon in Anatolia, as well as of searching for the causes of the interregional contacts (westwards out of Central Anatolia at the end of the 8th millennium BC and continuing during the 7th millennium BC), the main result of this overview is to conclude that the high temporal and spatial (regional, cultural) variability provides decreased support for a climatic determinism in the history of such ancient and remarkable societies as the PPN and Pottery Neolithic communities of Anatolia.



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1 All the dates in this paper have been obtained by calibration of14 C dates. They are presented in BC time-scale in order to focus on geoarchaeological aspects of the climate-human societies relationships.

2 In this paper, SE stands for the southeastern region of Anatolia (see shaded SE region in Figs. 2 and 4).

3 For definition of the PPN in the Near East, see for example Aurenche et al. (1987).

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1. Epipalaeolithic sites in Turkey.Sources:; Sagona and Zimansky (2009); Düring (2011).
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Légende Fig. 2. Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) sites in Turkey (ca. 10200-7000 BC). Sources:; Sagona and Zimansky (2009); Düring (2011); Steadman and Mc Mahon (2011); Özdoğan et al. (2011, 2012).
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Légende Fig. 3. Early Pottery Neolithic sites in Turkey (from ca. 7000-6900 to ca. 6500-6400 BC). Sources:; Gérard and Thyssen (2002); Sagona and Zimansky (2009); Düring (2011); Özdogan et al. (2011); Duru (2012); Özdogan et al. (2012).
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Légende Fig. 4. Late Pottery Neolithic sites in Turkey (from ca. 6500-6400 to ca. 6100-6000 BC). Sources:; Gérard and Thyssen (2002); Sagona and Zimansky (2009); Düring (2011); Özdogan et al. (2011); Duru (2012); Özdogan et al. (2012).
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Légende Fig. 5. Regional presentation of some important Neolithic sites excavated in Turkey (The reference sites presented here are selected among a total of 89 sites, with a focus on the best-known ones and on those with the earliest dated level for the period and the region considered).
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Légende Fig. 6. Geographical presentation of Anatolia. A: Relief of the Anatolian peninsula. B: Average annual rainfall in Turkey. C: Main vegetation formations in Turkey. 1: Eu-Mediterranean vegetation; 2: montane forests; 3: mixed broad-leaved and needle-leaved woodland resistant to cold; 4: open tree and shrub vegetation; 5: cold-deciduous forests; 6: dwarfshrubland (steppe); 7: subalpine and alpine vegetation; 8: lakes.
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Légende Fig. 7. Location of sites presented in Fig. 8.
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Légende Fig. 8. Dry/wet phases indicated by vegetation phases deduced from pollen, by isotopes and by evaporitic minerals in sediments of different regions of Anatolia. 1: dense forested landscape; 2: increasing Arboreal Pollen percent; 3: low arboreal pollen percent; 4: tree-less landscape; 5: high Chenopodiaceae percent (rare or no Artemisia); 6: high Artemisia percent; 7: evaporation stress; 8: drought; 9: dry climatic phase recorded in several regions (Anatolian signal); 10 :14C dated level in sequences.
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