Category Archives: Turkey

Constructors invade major archaeological site in Istanbul with heavy machinery

Archaeologists working in one of the most important archaeological sites of Europe, Yenikapı
(Istanbul, Turkey), an emergency dig that has been extended for years
as it became obvious that it is a treasure of archaeological evidence
spanning many ages, saw their work interrupted and damaged by an
impromptu invasion of heavy machinery. The site is meant to be one of
the major nodes in the ambitious Marmaray subway project but is under
archaeological research since 2004. 

Archaeologists working at the site have
released a written statement to attract public attention to the
incident. “An excavation has been carried out in Yenikapı as part of the
Marmaray Subway Project for eight years as ordered by the Fourth
Regional Board of Protection of Cultural and Natural Assets. The
importance of the contributions that this excavation has made to the
cultural life of İstanbul is already well known by the public. This
excavation has been defined by world authorities as one of the most
important excavations made during the century. The ongoing excavation
activities do not block the construction of the Marmaray project because
the work is being conducting at a place that is planned to be a parking
lot. This excavation is the site of the Port of Theodosius, which dates
back to the fourth century. The site is also in a residential area
dating back to the Neolithic Age. On May 11, 2013, bulldozers went onto
the site and started to destroy these historically important remnants.
This is a crime under the current Constitution’s Article 63 concerning
the conservation of historical, cultural and natural wealth, and this is
against international agreements signed by Turkey,” they said.

Source: Today’s Zaman.

Alert: 12,000 years old major site in Kurdistan threatened by mega-dam

Only one is needed, and the 12,000 years-old village Hasakyef fulfills nine of the ten possible reasons to be declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Yet the Turkish colonial authorities are not interested in seeing this village recognized in any way and therefore the site remains mostly forgotten
Ankara wants to build there one of the most important reservoirs of the Turkish state and another interested party is the Austrian company VA TECH, subsidiary of the German multinational Siemens AG, which would get the bulk of the construction deal. 
It is not just a problem of resettlement, of opposition by the locals, who actually don’t even feel represented by the Turkish state at all (they are all Kurds and feel oppressed in a colonial way in fact), it is not just a problem of water robbery to other states like Iraq, it is a problem of a major heritage site of Humankind, dating to the Neolithic (Kurdistan was probably the major boiling cauldron of innovation in the early Neolithic, even more important than the Levant surely) and transiting through all ages until present day, being destroyed by the imposition of a colonial government and the lack of interest of the World. 

While the dam has been planned for decades, this time it seems very serious. Conservation laws have been sidelined and 3000 people are already working in the preliminary part of this destructive work.
Source: Paleorama[es].

Posted by on February 3, 2013 in archaeology, Kurdistan, Neolithic, Turkey, West Asia


Early Neolithic burials found near Istanbul

Pendik, a suburb of Istanbul on the Asian coast of the Bosporus, has produced a Neolithic settlement dating to c. 8500 years ago, including houses, burials and various tools (spoons, needles, axes). 

One of the Pendik burials

Source: Press TV.

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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in archaeology, Neolithic, Turkey, West Asia


Bronze Age settlement under the streets of Ankara

While it is well known that Ankara was once the Easternmost Celtic capital (Ancyra, capital of Galatia) not much is known of the previous period, specially not before the Iron Age, when it became an important Phrygian town founded by the mythical King Midas.

While some layers of the Bronze Age (Hittite influence) were dug in the mid 20th century, no such research has taken place since 1960. The new research at Çayyolu mound has found a diverse array of objects from this era (between 5000 and 3000 years ago) like pottery, hair ties, animal figurines and beads, that will in due time serve to better understand the proto-history of the area. 
The researchers hope to reach to Chalcolithic layers, never before researched in the Turkish capital. 

Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Ancient Mediterranean, archaeology, Bronze Age, Turkey


From the Net: ‘Evidence of Massacre in Bronze Age Turkey’ (Past Horizons)

Determining social relationships between populations in the past can be difficult. Trade can be inferred from evidence such as pottery with foreign designs, or non-local foods. Warfare can be determined from the presence of mass graves or cemeteries of adult males displaying trauma, or weaponry showing signs of frequent use. However, trauma is not always a sign of conflict with external populations. It can also reflect the normal struggles of daily life or even interpersonal violence within the community.
Skeletal collections with trauma found from the Neolithic period in Anatolia suggest that injury was caused by daily activities and lifestyle, rather than systematic violence. However, shortly after this period there is an increase in trauma associated with violence that may suggest an increase in stress within and between populations in this area. In order to examine this conclusion, a new article by Erdal (2012) looked at the skeletal remains of a potential massacre site from the Early Bronze Age in Turkey.

… full story at Past Horizons.


Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Bronze Age, death, Turkey, West Asia


Çatalhöyük: people buried together probably not related

As you probably know, Çatalhöyük (near Konya, Turkey) is one of the most emblematic sties of Middle Neolithic. 
As genetic research was fruitless (bone contamination, degradation), a study of dental morphology was done in order to estimate if people buried together were related, because close relatives should have close dental morphology. The result was negative for all but (maybe) one tomb, strongly suggesting that the Çatalhöyük community did not give any importance to relatedness at least for funerary rituals and related beliefs. 

Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Anthropometry, death, Neolithic, religion, Turkey


Origin of Neolithic crops

There is a new and quite interesting paper the reviews the domestication of the key Neolithic crops:
Worth a good read but I’ll mention here the most relevant conclusions:



Wheat close-up
Einkorn wheat (Triticum monococcum) is native as wild from Anatolia or the Zagros area, most probably it was domesticated in modern Kurdistan (aka SE Turkey), in Çayönü or Cafer Höyük. Frome there it spread, along with PPNB to Syria and Palestine.
Emmer and Durum wheat (Triticum turgidum) is native from the Levant and the Zagros but not Anatolia peninsula. It was also domesticated (most probably) in the early PPNB of Kurdistan (Çayönü), spreading soon after the Damascus basin of Syria, where the Emmer variant may have been selected for (Tell Aswad). Cypriot evidence is declared unconvincing by the authors but not totally rejected.
Barley (Hordeum vulgare) is a sturdier cereal even if also less valued than wheat. In its wild form it has a similar principal distribution as T. turgidum (Levant and Zagros but not Anatolia), although it also scatters through the Iranian plateau. The earliest clear domesticated variants are from Syria (Tell Aswad) and Cyprus, but soon also expanded to Southern Kurdistan (Jarmo), Iraq (Ali Kosh) and Palestine (Jericho).
Bitter vecht (Vicia ervilia): it is not really studied in this paper. It has an ample wild origin area and was maybe domesticated in Anatolia or Levant.
Lentil (Lens culinaris): the wild variant is scattered through much of West Asia but it is relatively rare with preference for stony and disturbed soils. It appears along with early cereals in wild form but the first clearly domesticated case is from Yiftah’el, North Palestine (aka Israel), within a middle PPNB context.
Pea (Pisum sativum): there are two wild forms, one scattered through the Mediterranean and the other more specific of West Asia. This one (P. humile) is the one proposed here to be the main ancestor of cultivated peas (but with weak support). The earliest finds are from Syria, Kurdistan and Palestine but the first large amounts are from Southern Anatolia: Çatalhöyük and Erbaba. The discerning of wild and domesticated type is no easy in this case but the available evidence seems to support Çatalhöyük or nearby areas for the domestication of this pulse in the middle or late PPNB.

Potaje de garbanzos y collejas5
Chickpea soup Castilian style
Chickpea (Cicer arietinum): ever wanted to know what Cicero means? It mens chickpea indeed. Anecdotes apart, the wild chickpea is almost exclusive of the Northern Kurdistan (SE Turkey). Naturally the first consumption findings are also from that area (Çayönü, Tell Abu Hureyra, Aşıklı Höyük – all from early PPNB). It is however impossible to tell from sure if theyw were already domesticated of wild. Contemporary remains from Jerciho however must be domesticated (as the wild form is not found in the region).

Other early crops:

Flax flowers
Flax flowers
Flax (Linum usitatissimum): flax can be used for fibers (surely at the origin of textile crafts) and for oil. Wild flax is widespread across the Mediterranean basin and even as far North as South England or Crimea.
Genetic data indicates that the first agricultural use of flax was not fiber but oil, even if flax fibers were already used before Neolithic (30 Ka. ago in Georgia). The earliest finds come from Çanönü and Tell Aswad. However the earliest reasonably safe case of a domesticated variant is from Jericho, just a few centuries later. Some time later (9th millennium BP) the first known fiber clothes are known (Nahal Hemar cave, Palestine), however this kind of evidence is highly subject to climatic conditions (extreme dryness here).

Discussion notes:

PPNA people did not make pottery but stone vessels (source)
It is interesting that no evidence of early domestication is found for PPNA. Does this suggest that this culture of Palestine and Syria was maybe not Neolithic after all? The main attribute of this culture of the Levant is their granaries but what did they store in them if all the crops were domesticated further North or in a later date? Only barley and maybe peas are from the Levant first according to this paper but from PPNB dates anyhow. So, are we missing something or were PPNA “farmers” actually mere large-scale semisedentary gatherers, i.e. Mesolithic instead of truly Neolithic? Your call.
On the other hand it is also interesting that nearly all early domesticates seem to be from the area of Kurdistan, which in my understanding, illuminates the mystery of Göbekli Tepe, which looks like the spiritual center of early Neolithic or at least the consolidated Neolithic of PPNB (notice that while the early village is from PPNA, the enclosure is from PPNB dates).

Göbekli Tepe – I always see a plow here – call me crazy if you wish

Provenzal genetic data… and weird speculations

The following paper offers some information on the genetics of Provenzals and some specific populations of Turkey (Foça, Izmir) which is compared with older studies (on Turkey and Greece) to reach quite unfathomable conclusions:
I’m split on this paper: on one side it does provide some interesting data and makes some common sense claims (like Provence having been little affected by Neolithic expansion direct colonization) but then you stumble upon absurd ideas, such as Cardium Pottery stemming somehow from “Anatolia”:

Using putative Neolithic Anatolian lineages: J2a-dys445=6, G2a-M406 and J2a1b1-M92 the data predict a 0% Neolithic contribution to Provence from Anatolia.

There is absolutely no reason to be looking at Anatolia: the Neolithic wave that arrived to Provence did not originate in Anatolia but in the Western Balcans. It is very possible that Anatolia was the ultimate origin of Greek Neolithic and this was in turn at the origin of Cardium Pottery Neolithic somehow, but the real origin of the Neolithic wave that arrived to Provence must not be looked for in any case in Western Anatolia – that is a total nonsense.
We know way too little as of yet to explain the exact process of cultural transference from West Asia (Anatolia specially) to the Balcans (Thessaly in particular) and from Thessaly to the Adriatic, where the cultural elements are so distinct anyhow. There is no particular reason to expect any arrival directly from Anatolia into Italy or SW Europe in the Neolithic. Any such migration would have been dampened in two filters: one in Greece and another one in the Adriatic Balcans.
From my ongoing (and slow) work of summarizing  European Neolithic in maps:

Here you can see in brown the first area of Cardium Pottery Neolithic: Dalmatia, Montenegro, Coastal Albania, most of Bosnia, Italy (in a second moment)… It has a precedent in Otzaki (Thessaly) and a derived influence in Biblos (Lebanon) but by no means can it be linked to “West Anatolia” of all possible places.
Universities and grants should require that any geneticist doing historical population genetics hire a prehistorian for assessment, sincerely.
Still there is a very interesting amount of data that is of interest, summarized (as I said before) in figure 2 specially. This is an extensive table that I cannot reproduce here with enough resolution without some previous work. So for reason of its relevance and novelty I’ll focus on the Y-DNA data of Provence (n=51, only attested lineages shown):
  • E1b1b1b1a2 (V13): 4%
  • E1b1b1b1c (M123): 2%
  • G(xG2a3a) (M201): 8%
  • I1 (M253): 2%
  • I2(xI2a2,I2b) (M438): 4%
  • J1 (M497): 2%
  • J2a4h1a (DYS445=6): 8%
  • J2a4b(J2a4b1) (M67): 2%
  • R1a1a (M198): 10%
  • R1b1b2 (M269): 59%
Up 26 to 30% (depending on how you evaluate I2*) of the genetic pool is “Eastern Mediterranean” in Provence. E1b1b1b1a2 (V13) is probably from Albania or other Adriatic areas (see Battaglia 2009). That can also be argued to be the case for all the other “transmediterranean” lineages, which agrees well with a Neolithic origin of all them. However it is not impossible that these Neolithic arrived in batches and with intermediate stops in Italy for example or, why not, in Phocaea in some cases. 
But the research falls very short from demonstrating what they claim to demonstrate. If they have demonstrated something at all they have failed to explain it properly. So the only interest of this paper is the raw data, which adds to other such data to be integrated into a careful and comprehensive exploration of all (and not just some) data with proper prehistoric assessment. 
It is in any case important to understand that under the Neolithic colonization hypothesis, E1b1b1a2 should not be expected to originate neither in Anatolia nor in Greece but in Albania, Montenegro and Dalmatia. And, if anything, in Greece rather than Anatolia. Attributing European Neolithic directly to Anatolia or West Asia in general is not an acceptable assumption but a wacko fetish that should be discarded altogether.

More violent deaths at Turkish Neolithic necropolis

I mentioned in October the finding of what seems to be a whole family murdered at the Neolithic necropolis of Aktopraklık, near Bursa, Turkey. They are not the only ones at that burial site whith violent deaths.
The skeleton of a man in his 30s with an arrowhead in its lower spine has been found in the intriguing Neolithic cemetery, dated to c. 8500 years ago, at the beginning of Neolithic in the Balkans and when most of Europe was still a continent of hunter-gatherers.

He was buried in fetal position

Source: Sunday’s Zaman (via Stone Pages News)


Posted by on December 12, 2010 in archaeology, Neolithic, Turkey


Likely murdered family 8500 years ago in NW Turkey

An intriguing and disturbing finding has been reported in Turkey: five people (two adults and three young children) were found in a shared grave with their hands tied on their backs.
The macabre burial is thought to date to some 8500 years ago (Neolithic/Chalcolithic) and is located in the burial mound of Akçalar, in the province of Bursa, south of the Marmara Sea. The children are thought to be some 3-5 years old in preliminary examination, two of them were found between the adults legs and the third one was hogtied (ankles also tied).
It is natural to think on first sight that we are before the murder of a whole family but researchers warn that it is too early to confirm this. They also doubt between using the terms murder or human sacrifice.
They also make brief mention of the context of the site (town?) of Aktopraklık, which also dates to 8500 years ago, though some nearby settlements are older. 

Posted by on October 2, 2010 in archaeology, Chalcolithic, Neolithic, Turkey