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La Cappadoce méridionale de la Préhistoire à l'époque byzantine

 | 
Aksel Tibet
, 
Olivier Henry
, 
Dominique Beyer

II. De la Préhistoire à l'Âge du Fer

The early Sedentary Community of Cappadocia: Aşıklı Höyük

Mihriban Özbaşaran et Güneş Duru

Résumé

Aşıklı Höyük is an Aceramic Neolithic site located on the Cappadocian region of Central Anatolia, Turkey. Research carried out for more than two decades at the site had exposed well-preserved remains and detailed data of the VIIIth mill cal. BC inhabitants of the settlement. Recent research that started in 2010 focus basically on the early levels, radiocarbon dated to the mid and late IXth mill; the aim is to understand the way of living of the early sedentary communities of the region and the diachronic changes through time. The paper below presents the preliminary results of the work of the IXth mill way of living.

Texte intégral

The authors thank the members of the Aşıklı team, the BA students from Istanbul University, the local villagers of Kızılkaya and the following specialists; Ç. Algül, L. Astruc, H. Bozbay, H. Buitenhuis, R. Christidou, D. Erdal, M. Ergun, N. Kayacan, S. Mentzer, M. Özbek, N. Munro, J. Peters, N. Pöllath, J. Quade, M. Stiner, M. Tengberg, C. Tuncer, G. Willcox. Our thanks also go to the ‘core field team’ with whom we have been working for a long time: E. Birçek, B. Gökalsın, H. Gültekin, F. Kalkan, O. Oral, Ö. Sarıtaş, Ö. Toprak, M. Uzdurum. We are thankful to Marion Cutting who kindly accepted to review the paper. We would also like to thank Kültür Varlıkları ve Müzeler Genel Müdürlüğü and the Scientific Research Projects Coordination Unit of Istanbul University (Project nos 15794 and 24030), as well as the Faculty of Letters for their financial and administrative support.

Introduction

  • 1 Slimak/Dinçer 2007.
  • 2 As evidence from Pınarbaşı shows, Baird 2012.
  • 3 The VIIIth mill. settlement, represented by Levels 1 and 2, was extensively excavated during the fi (...)

1Long before early sedentary communities appeared, Cappadocia was an attractive geographical region for a variety of reasons for various groups. The first was Homo erectus, followed by the Neanderthals; both groups have been identified by their material culture in Kaletepe Deresi 3, Göllüdağ/West Cappadocia1. However, there is no evidence in this area of the presence of early Homo sapiens during the Upper Palaeolithic and the succeeding period of the Epipalaeolithic despite the fact that hunter-gatherer mobile groups were foraging in the Konya Plain by around 13,000 BC2. Although we have no evidence in Cappadocia for foraging groups contemporary with these, we do have detailed and well-dated data about the earliest sedentary communities from the IXth and VIIIth millennium cal. BC site of Aşıklı Höyük near the modern city of Aksaray. The many years of research at Aşıklı, led by U. Esin of Istanbul University between 1989 and 2004, mainly exposed the upper levels (Levels 1-2), i.e. the VIIIth millennium settlement. The current work at the site, which started in 2010, focuses mainly on the earliest levels (Levels 3 and 4) and, therefore, on the IXth millennium way of life. An uninterrupted sequence of about a millennium allows us to study the settlement’s diachronic evolution and to show how the early community developed new ways of living. This short paper presents some preliminary results of this recent work at Aşıklı; it focuses mainly on the early levels but makes some references to the later VIIIth millennium3 levels in order to underline the changes that took place over time.

The early ways of living

2The settlement of Aşıklı Höyük is located on the alluvial fill of the east bank of Melendiz River (fig. 1). It is ca. 40 km north of Hasandağ and 25 to 30 km northwest of the obsidian sources of Nenezi and Göllüdağ. Melendiz and Ihlara valleys, located within the volcanic landscape of the region and dominated by steppes, have a rich habitat that supports a variety of plants and animals. The wide spectrum of hunted animals and gathered plants, nuts and fruits suggest that the Aşıklı community was well aware of the opportunities offered by the landscape, the facilities of the micro-niches of Ihlara and Melendiz and the accessibility of these resources.

Fig. 1: Aşıklı Höyük and river Melendiz, from W to E

Fig. 1: Aşıklı Höyük and river Melendiz, from W to E

Aşıklı Project Archive

  • 4 The population of the early community has not yet been estimated. However, the settlement pattern s (...)
  • 5 During the recent field season, we started excavating a structure that is the lowest one stratigrap (...)

3The first inhabitants were not, it seems, a crowded group4. They constructed their buildings around an open space, based on archaeological exposures at northern part of the mound. Their buildings were semi-subterranean and sub-oval in form (fig. 2). These buildings were, on average, 4.0 m in diameter. The walls of the deeply dug pits (mudbrick) blocks5. These blocks were rectangular, sun-dried and of various sizes. In some cases, they were set in place while still wet and the finishing touches were done once they were in situ. The oval buildings were constructed, using long rectangular blocks by the superposition technique. Walls and floors were then plastered. In one well-preserved semi-oval building, Building 3 (B.3, Level 4), a layer of sand and gravel was spread out as a subfloor (about 1.5 meters high) were constructed of kerpiç and then covered with a calcareous plaster which continued without a break up the sides of the walls. There were postholes on the floors marking the roof supports. In a later building in Level 3, four postholes were exposed on the east half of the building. They were regularly spaced on the floor and close to the wall (fig. 3). Above the plastered floor and the floor fill of this building, two separate groups of collapsed beams were found. The northern group had four or five beams, the southern two. Both were covered with layers of phytoliths, identified macroscopically as reeds. The orientation of the beams, the four post-holes along the east wall and a central posthole enabled us to reconstruct the roof of this oval building (fig. 4).

Fig. 2: The IXth millennium settlement with sub-oval semi-subterranean buildings and the open space

Fig. 2: The IXth millennium settlement with sub-oval semi-subterranean buildings and the open space

Özgür Toprak

Fig. 3: The floor level of B.18 (Level 3)

Fig. 3: The floor level of B.18 (Level 3)

Özgür Toprak

Fig. 4: The reconstruction of B.18

Fig. 4: The reconstruction of B.18

Canay Tuncer and Güneş Duru

4The features and finds found inside the buildings indicated some indoor activities. In B.3, a plastered quadrangular platform, three pits and a central fireplace were exposed at floor level. The pits were 35-40 cm in diameter, unplastered and without any significant archaeological material. Central to the room was a round shaped fireplace. Its form and location were entirely different to the typical hearths of the VIIIth millennium. In another building (B.1), slightly later stratigraphically, a similar hearth, paved with cobbles and lined with kerpiç kerbs, had a thick layer of ash and charcoal lying over its cobbles (fig. 5). To the West of the inner space an oval kerpiç basin, a small basket placed upside down, a finely worked bone spatula and two ground stone tools (fig. 6) indicated a work or activity area within the building. The contents and condition of this in situ assemblage suggests the sudden abandonment of the building.

Fig. 5: The floor level of B.1

Fig. 5: The floor level of B.1

Özgür Toprak

Fig. 6: The work area in B.1; the basin, ground stones, bone spatula and the basket
  • 6 Astruc/Grenet 2012.

5The inventory of the finds within the buildings helped us to reconstruct some of the daily activities and to suggest how the inner spaces might have been used. On the other hand, the external open spaces between the buildings reflected a wider spectrum of activities. They were intensively and collectively used as work-areas. Some were defined by plastered surfaces or surrounded by post-holes; others seem to have been used on an ad hoc basis. One of the well-defined work areas was a regular round space of about 4 m in diameter. It was used regularly as a work area (fig. 7) and its surface renewed repeatedly. On one of its floors, on the south side, four post-holes were located. Each hole was placed about a meter apart. On its north side, there were two more post-holes, one of which was probably the renewed or repaired hole of the original. The plan of the structure suggests either that the area was covered with a light organic shelter or semi-enclosed. Activities identified via the study of the worked bone and obsidian tools found here indicate that it served as a multi-function area. Use-wear analysis on obsidian tools showed that skin working, the preparation of vegetal material and cutting soft material were among the activities6.

Fig. 7.1: In situ material on the multi-function activity area

Fig. 7.1: In situ material on the multi-function activity area

Özgür Toprak

Fig. 7.2: One of the earlier floors of the activity area with post- holes

Fig. 7.2: One of the earlier floors of the activity area with post- holes

Özgür Toprak

6Analysis of the sickle blades indicated that they were brought and stored here after the harvest. Knapping within the area was clearly attested by cores, tablets, flakes and chips.

  • 7 Ergun et al. 2012.

7Other parts of the external open spaces were used for diverse activities. Fires and cooking took place either directly on the ground or in roasting pits. Areas with ash and small charcoal fragments, associated with burnt hackberry seed concentrations, indicated the possibility that hackberry was processed through some kind of roasting (see below). Layers of phytoliths and several bone awls indicated the possibility of basket making in the area while an assemblage of 20 pieces of truncated obsidian blanks suggested tool making. In short, the evidence shows a concentrated and varied use of the area. Subsistence was based on the exploitation and cultivation of a variety of fruits, cereals, and legumes; and on the hunting of a wide spectrum of large and small animals. Recent archaeobotanical studies have shown that emmer and einkorn wheat were the two main domesticated cereals during the IXth millennium settlement7. The excavations revealed a large number of rachis fragments, whereas seeds were low in number. The remains of wheat and barley rachis internodes were much more numerous than the grains, suggesting that the harvesting was managed either within the settlement or adjacent to the site. De-husking also took place in or near the site, as chaff remains also outnumber grains.

  • 8 The nutritional value of Vicia and wild almonds is high. Both, however, are toxic. To avoid the tox (...)
  • 9 Ethnographic studies show that the way to obtain oil from hackberry includes crushing, roasting and (...)

8Among the legumes, bitter vetch (Vicia ervilia) was abundant. Lentil (Lens orientalis/culinaris), pea (Pisum sativum) and a few chickpeas were among the consumed cultivated plants. Almond8, pistachio and especially hackberry were intensely collected and consumed. There were huge amounts of hackberry endocarps (Celtis tournefortii), sometimes found in layers. The hackberry remains occur in two basic forms (fig. 8): complete endocarps indicate that they were eaten as fruits (they are quite juicy when they are ripe); broken endocarps, on the other hand, suggested that they had been crushed intentionally, probably to obtain oil9. On one of the floors of a building, almond shell fragments were found scattered all over the floor and also inside the three plastered pits on that floor. Wild plants and weeds were gathered; wetland plants such as Carex, Eleocharis and Scirpus maritimus were used in basket and mat making. All were locally grown along the Melendiz River.

Fig. 8: Hackberry seeds indicating two different ways of consumption

Fig. 8: Hackberry seeds indicating two different ways of consumption

Aşıklı Project Archive

  • 10 Stiner/Munro 2012.

9Hunting activities focused on wide range of animals10. Although the emphasis was always on ovicaprids, much variety was provided by small animals of which hare was the most abundant. Both large and small animals were heavily exploited, ranging in size from cattle, pig, horse, wild ass, sheep, goat, and three species of deer to small preys that included turtle, fox, water bird, bustard, hedgehog and river fish (mainly carp).

  • 11 Stiner and Munro (2012) state that there is a possibility that small bones were left around fire in (...)

10How the larger animals were slaughtered is still being studied but research on food preparation, based on burning damage, has provided some hints about the methods used. Some of the bones showed slight burning in the form of carbonization, which occurs under low to moderate heat. The relationship observed between the small fragment size of the animal bones and burning frequencies suggests that they were roasted11, as was seen in the case of the long bones of hares and birds and the outer shells of tortoises. The distribution of skeletal parts showed that in general almost all the body parts were represented on the mound, indicating that some of the animals were slaughtered on site or nearby. However, the bones of the lowermost limbs of some of the animals were under represented, raising the possibility that some of the body parts were discarded before the meat was carried into the residential areas.

11Obsidian tool manufacture was an essential task throughout the community. Obsidian was brought to the settlement from two different sources, 25-30 km away. Knapping was done in the external activity areas. Astruc and Grenet (2012) state that a wide range of different skill levels was evident. The production of both domestic and highly specialized tools indicate a considerable diversity in the degree of technical specialisation among individuals. On one of the floors of the external activity area (Space 12), material related to knapping operations was found. Cores, tablets, flakes and chips, a great quantity of used pieces (both flakes and blades), reveal knapping activities that took place here.

12Five sub-floor burials have been exposed so far in the IXth millennium settlement. The burial customs are similar to those found within the VIIIth millennium settlement. All bodies were found in the hocker in position, placed under the floor of the buildings in pits (fig. 9) which were then carefully over-plastered. Among the burials, one was exceptional: an 8-9 year old child was found lying directly on top of the cobble-paved floor of a hearth in Building 1. His/her upper body was in the hocker position but with the legs stretched out (fig. 5, right). It is unclear at present whether this was an accidental death or an intentional placement over the hearth; archaeological and anthropological investigations continue.

Fig. 9: Burial pit of a child, IXth mill BC

Fig. 9: Burial pit of a child, IXth mill BC

Mihriban Özbaşaran

13The preliminary results of these investigations show that the burial customs included slightly burning of the dead bodies before wrapping or covering them with mat, a tradition that continued in the succeeding period. The difference between the IXth and VIIIth millennium practices seems to lie in the use of personal belongings. In Level 4, the only burial ornament found was a worked antler beneath the body of a 25-year old woman. By contrast, burial gifts or personal ornaments, such as necklaces, single beads or bracelets appear often in the VIIIth millennium burials.

Changes during the VIIIth millennium

  • 12 Personal communication from H. Buitenhuis, 2012 Aşıklı.
  • 13 Mentzer 2012.
  • 14 Obsidian industry and its levels of production are under study. Four levels of production (prelimin (...)

14Settlement life continued throughout the VIIIth millennium BC without a break in occupation. Changes occurred, but slowly and gradually. There was a marked increase in population towards the beginning of the millennium when the settlement pattern also changed (fig. 10). All the buildings now became rectangular in plan, with one or two rooms, and densely grouped in clusters. All of the residential buildings were similar in plan and size and had common internal architectural features (fig. 11). There were no obvious differences between the buildings and nor did the material culture indicate any significant social differentiation. The only open spaces were the very narrow passages between the building groups and the large middens that were used collectively. Outdoor activities were transferred from the ground surface to the flat roofs of the buildings and/or inside them. These structures did not have any doorways; entrances were most probably through an opening at roof level. Subsistence focused ever more strongly on ovicaprids. The earlier diversity in hunting ceased to exist and hare was the only species of small animal now hunted to any significant degree. Fishing and bird catching were no longer important12. The management of sheep and goats became a central objective for the community, and these animals were probably kept within the settlement based on the presence of dung traces13. Obsidian knapping was done on site in what had become essentially a domestic production14.

Fig. 10: VIIIth millennium BC settlement pattern

Fig. 10: VIIIth millennium BC settlement pattern

Aşıklı Project Archive

Fig. 11: General layout of VIIIth millennium settlement

Fig. 11: General layout of VIIIth millennium settlement
  • 15 Esin/Harmankaya 1999, 124; Özbaşaran 2012, 143.
  • 16 Özbaşaran 2012, 144.

15The general picture of the way of life during the VIIIth millennium gives the impression of a community that was very much focused on the site itself as it learnt to manage the new circumstances brought on by the sedentary way of living. The appearance of the settlement from the outside – with its clustered layout and buildings without ground-level entrances built so closely to each other – also suggests an enclosed and introverted settlement (fig. 12). This image suggests a community turning inwards on itself, perhaps in an effort to overcome the increasing social tensions brought on by the new ways of living. If that is the case, then the special-purpose public buildings (fig. 13), distinguishable by their larger dimensions, may very well have represented the tangible means of releasing such tensions15, a means of holding together this community. These special buildings were used for social events like feasting, as is indicated by the evidence for the communal consumption of cattle16. Such collective ceremonies could have reinforced the collaborative way of living by easing some of the many stresses that inevitably came with a sedentary lifestyle.

Fig. 12: The outer appearance of the VIIIth millennium BC settlement, experimentally reconstructed kerpiç houses of the VIIIth millennium settlement

Fig. 12: The outer appearance of the VIIIth millennium BC settlement, experimentally reconstructed kerpiç houses of the VIIIth millennium settlement

Güneş Duru

Aşıklı Project Archive

16The picture drawn here is inevitably only an overview and it is the first interpretation of the work that has taken place since 2010. The continuing fieldwork and analyses of the archaeological material may lead us towards different interpretations in the future.

Bibliographie

Astruc, L. / Grenet, M., Aşıklı Höyük 2012, Lithic Investigations-Level 4, Unpublished report submitted September 2012.

Baird, D., “The Late Epipaleolithic, Neolithic, and Chalcolithic of the Anatolian Plateau, 13,000-4000 BC”, in D.T. Potts (éd.), A Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Malden/Oxford, 2012, 431-465. Ergun et al. 2012

Höyük 2012 Arkeobotanik Raporu, Unpublished report submitted September 2012.

Esin, U. / Harmankaya, S., “Aşıklı”, in M. Özdoğan / N. Başgelen (éds.), Neolithic in Turkey, The Cradle of Civilisation, Istanbul, 1999, 115-132.

Esin, U. / Harmankaya, S. 2007, “Aşıklı Höyük”, in M. Özdoğan / N. Başgelen (éds.), Türkiye’de Neolitik Dönem, Istanbul, 2007, 255-272.

Mentzer, S., Report on Floor Plastering Sequences, Residential Buildings, 2008-2010 Field Seasons, Unpublished report submitted August 2012.

Özbaşaran, M., “Aşıklı 2010”, Anatolia Antiqua XIX, 2011, 27-37.

Özbaşaran, M., “Aşıklı”, in M. Özdoğan / N. Başgelen / P. Kuniholm (éds.), The Neolithic in Turkey, New Excavations & New Research 3. Central Turkey, Istanbul, 2012, 135-158.

Slimak, L. / Dinçer, B., “Kaletepe Deresi 3. Orta Anadolu’da tabakalanma veren bir İlk Paleolitik Çağ Yerleşmesi”, TÜBA-AR 10, 2007, 33-47.

Stiner, M. / Munro, N., 2012 Aşıklı Höyük Report on Fauna From Trenches 4GH and 2J, Unpublished report submitted September 2012.

Notes

1 Slimak/Dinçer 2007.

2 As evidence from Pınarbaşı shows, Baird 2012.

3 The VIIIth mill. settlement, represented by Levels 1 and 2, was extensively excavated during the first phase of the research at Aşıklı which was led by U. Esin (Esin/Harmankaya 2007). For a list of publications, please see Özbaşaran 2011.

4 The population of the early community has not yet been estimated. However, the settlement pattern suggests a significant difference in population between the early and late levels, i.e. it probably took place at the beginning of the VIIIth millennium BC.

5 During the recent field season, we started excavating a structure that is the lowest one stratigraphically. It is a round structure, a simple pit about 4.0 m in diameter, dug into the ground and lined with bunches of reeds. Wood was used in its construction but it is unclear how the materials were woven together. After its abandonment, the inner space of the structure was used as a midden area; it was then cut by the late sub-oval kerpiç building B.3. This ‘reed and wood structure’ is the earliest example of such a building so far excavated. Below this level there is about a meter of archaeological deposit that has already been documented during the first two excavation seasons but not excavated.

6 Astruc/Grenet 2012.

7 Ergun et al. 2012.

8 The nutritional value of Vicia and wild almonds is high. Both, however, are toxic. To avoid the toxins and the bitterness they need to be treated, either by being soaked in water and/or by being roasted. This process may have been one of the activities carried out by the inhabitants.

9 Ethnographic studies show that the way to obtain oil from hackberry includes crushing, roasting and then pressing.

10 Stiner/Munro 2012.

11 Stiner and Munro (2012) state that there is a possibility that small bones were left around fire installations whereas the large ones were taken away and thrown into the midden or outside the settlement.

12 Personal communication from H. Buitenhuis, 2012 Aşıklı.

13 Mentzer 2012.

14 Obsidian industry and its levels of production are under study. Four levels of production (preliminary results by J. Pelegrin and N. Kayacan) have been identified. However, the spatial distribution analysis has not yet been completed. At present the high level of production is associated with the special-purpose buildings area.

15 Esin/Harmankaya 1999, 124; Özbaşaran 2012, 143.

16 Özbaşaran 2012, 144.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1: Aşıklı Höyük and river Melendiz, from W to E
Crédits Aşıklı Project Archive
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3237/img-1.png
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Titre Fig. 2: The IXth millennium settlement with sub-oval semi-subterranean buildings and the open space
Crédits Özgür Toprak
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3237/img-2.png
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Titre Fig. 3: The floor level of B.18 (Level 3)
Crédits Özgür Toprak
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3237/img-3.png
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Titre Fig. 4: The reconstruction of B.18
Crédits Canay Tuncer and Güneş Duru
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3237/img-4.png
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Titre Fig. 5: The floor level of B.1
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Titre Fig. 7.1: In situ material on the multi-function activity area
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Titre Fig. 7.2: One of the earlier floors of the activity area with post- holes
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Titre Fig. 8: Hackberry seeds indicating two different ways of consumption
Crédits Aşıklı Project Archive
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3237/img-10.png
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Titre Fig. 9: Burial pit of a child, IXth mill BC
Crédits Mihriban Özbaşaran
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3237/img-11.png
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Titre Fig. 10: VIIIth millennium BC settlement pattern
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URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3237/img-12.png
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Titre Fig. 11: General layout of VIIIth millennium settlement
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3237/img-13.png
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Titre Fig. 12: The outer appearance of the VIIIth millennium BC settlement, experimentally reconstructed kerpiç houses of the VIIIth millennium settlement
Crédits Güneş Duru
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3237/img-14.png
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Auteurs

Istanbul University – Department of Prehistory
ozbasaranmihriban@gmail.com

Istanbul University – Department of Prehistory
durugunes@gmail.com

© Institut français d’études anatoliennes, 2012

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