Turkey’s Neolithic Structures

By Patrick Ekendiz Posted on Science


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The Neolithic Period was an era of major changes in human life. They had such an effect on people’s lifestyle that the period is often referred to as the Neolithic Revolution. The greatest advancement, the invention of agriculture, enabled people to settle in one place rather than rove as hunter-gatherers. By cultivating the land, people were able to live in the same location year-round, which led to establishment of the first planned and organized settlements. Since they needed to remain near their fields in order to produce food, people abandoned caves and other natural shelters and began living in dwellings they had constructed themselves.

Asiatic Turkey was the locale for many significant developments in human life. Many Neolithic cultures flourished there and left behind them sites that give rich clues to their lifestyles and beliefs. Most of them are found in the Central and Southeast regions of Anatolia.

Catalhoyuk, near the modern city of Konya. is the first planned urban development in the world dating back to 7,000 B.C. and covering an area of 32 acres. Each house shared common walls with its neighbors and its entrance was on the roof. The walls, made out of mud-brick and presenting a solid, windowless aspect wherever they faced the city’s outside, formed an effective, continuous defensive rampart. Inside, the house walls were covered with paintings that depicted rich scenes of nature and wildlife. Painted relief sculptures, especially in the form of the Mother Goddess, were popular. Her popularity pointed to a possibly matriarchal society. (Good examples of these sculptures can be seen at the Ankara Anatolian Ancient Civilizations Museum.)

Hacilar is another important center in Central Anatolia, near the modern city of Burdur. There is evidence there of agriculture dating back 9,000 years. Archaeologists have found considerable amounts of wheat, barley and lentils in the houses at Hacilar, giving clues to people’s diet and the history of domesticated foods.

Catalhoyuk and Hacilar are also considered two of the earliest clay pottery centers. The existence of pottery is one very important indirect benefits of the sedentary lifestyle created by the ability to produce food year-round and even amass surpluses. Assured of their ability to eat, and able to feed more than just the people who produced food, these stone-age city dwellers had the opportunity and time invent and create.

Recent excavations near the modern city of Urfa revealed very important facts about the advancements of the Neolithic Period. The first settled life for humans in terms of advanced agricultural knowledge and animal feeding was originally dated at 9,500 B.C. by archaeologists in the “Levant area” of present-day Israel and Lebanon. However, researchers are suggesting that the date should be moved backwards since ancient urban centers around Urfa in upper Mesopotamia now qualify as Neolithic.

The first human settlements there probably took place around the Southeastern Anatolian cities of Urfa and Diyarbakir. Excavations at one of these sites, Nevali Cori, revealed clues that the Neolithic Age had started between 12,000 and 10,000 B.C. in this area, at least 500 years earlier than at Catalhoyuk and Hacilar.. The temple architecture found there gives important clues about the beliefs of the people in that era, as well as their architectural ability. Their use of T-shaped pillars showed an advanced knowledge of how to build strong, load-bearing structures.

The other important site, Gobekli Tepe, shows similarities with Nevali Cori and provides support that earlier advancements in human life had taken place in this region. Rooms excavated at this site have revealed stone pillars decorated with floral and faunal reliefs.

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