Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Thank you for the bacon, Prehistoric Turkey, Part III, the Neolithic

Stone Age Turkey really starts to heat up in the Neolithic. Cultures and sites like the Nevalı Çori, Göbekli Tepe, Mersin, Çatalhöyük and the Çayönü shape up Turkey's Stone Age history.

The Nevalı Çori was an early Neolithic settlement in Eastern Turkey along the Euphrates river. It's known for a number of things, including its early association with temple building. The village at Nevalı Çori consisted of some long houses and a central site for worship. The temple was built into the hillside at the site and contained a number of figurines, indicating an early religious cult. The votive offerings that these figurines probably represent show an advanced technology. Basically the people of Nevalı Çori had figured out how to fire pottery without actually making pottery.

Göbekli Tepe is oldest known religious structure in the world. It is a megalithic structure that was built around 12,000 years ago by some hunter-gatherers. The construction is incredible. It contains giant limestone structures that have carved images of lions, bulls, boars, foxes, gazelles, donkeys, snakes and various reptiles. The site actually predates Neolithic economies, no domestication of plants or animals or pottery is associated with the site. It could be termed a Mesolithic site, but since the megalithic culture of Europe is associated with the Neolithic period, we'll include it here. Only a small portion of the site has been excavated, so more will come out of it as the site is fully discovered. However the immense size of the structure has really shaken up anthropological and archeological theories, pushing dates much further into antiquity than previously imagined.

Mersin is a South-central port city in modern day Turkey that show signs of inhabitation dating back to 6300 BC. The Yumuktepe hill is a a tumulus that has produced both stone and ceramic tools that date back to the earliest period. This Neolithic site would go on to be an important settlement for the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and Selucid Empire that covered most of the Classical History of the region.

The Çatalhöyük site flourished from around 7500 BC - 5700 BC in southern Turkey. One of the distinctive features of this site is its mother goddess figurines. The area has produced an immense number of artifacts, cementing its place as an important spot for the evolution of religion. It is among the best preserved and largest Neolithic settlements in all of Europe.

Çayönü is located in Southeastern Turkey. It flourished from around 7200 BC - 6600 BC and was related to the Çatalhöyük site as a possible influence. Unlike the Mersin site that flourished along the Euphrates, the Çayönü was located at the base of mountains near the mouth of the Tigris. It is notable because it might have been the place where pigs were first domesticated. Bacon enthusiasts everywhere  are indebted to the Çayönü. Beyond that the Çayönü domesticated a number of cereals that have continued down to the present day.

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