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New excavations at Hasankeyf Höyük: A tenth millennium cal. BC site on the Upper Tigris, southeast Anatolia

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Introduction
The 2011 excavation at Hasankeyf Höyük has provided
new evidence of a sedentary settlement dated to the 10th
millennium cal. BC (or the PPNA in Levantine terms)
in the upper Tigris valley.
The site is located on the left bank of the Tigris,
about 2 km east of the well-known medieval site of Ha-
sankeyf, in Batman province, Turkey (Fig. 1). The ex-
cavations of this site, which will be submerged by the
construction of the Ilısu Dam, were carried out within
the framework of the Hasankeyf rescue projects under
the auspices of Prof. Dr. Abdüsselam Uluçam, Batman
University. It was rst excavated by a Turkish team in
2009 and, since 2011, its investigation has been taken
over by a Japanese team from University of Tsukuba.
We are very grateful to Prof. Uluçam for providing us
with the opportunity to work at such a signicant pre-
historic site.
The site forms a roughly circular mound about
150 min diameter and 8 m high above the surrounding
plain. In 2011 ve 10 x10 m squares were excavated at
the centre of the mound. Except for ephemeral occup-
ational evidence from the Iron Age and the Hellenistic
periods in the form of pits dug into the prehistoric layers,
all the archaeological deposits are from the 10th millen-
nium cal. BC. To date only the top layers of the mound
have been excavated and the 15 radiocarbon dates all
fall in this time range, with most of them concentrating
in the second half of the 10th millennium (Fig. 2). These
dates suggest that the prehistoric occupation of Hasan-
keyf Höyük is mostly contemporary with that of Hallan
Çemi, Demirköy Höyük, Körtik Tepe and Gusir Höyük
in the upper Tigris valley (Rosenberg and Davis 1992;
Rosenberg 1994a; Rosenberg et al. 1995; Higham et al.
2007; Benz et al. 2011; Karul 2011).
Structures
Structures recovered at the highest level of the mound
(Squares G12 and H12) are stone walls from a subter-
ranean building (Str. 3), which probably has a semi-
rectangular plan (Fig. 3). Several pits which had been
dug into the ll of Str. 3 were excavated as well. Stra-
tigraphically, these structures belong to the latest phase
of the prehistoric occupation of this site. Some of these
pits contained large stone blocks including ground
stone and large stone slabs, one of which has an eye-
shaped-like relief decoration (Fig. 4).
Within and around Str. 3, 12 human burials were
discovered. Particularly of note is a multiple burial of
three individuals near the east wall of Str. 3. One of
them, buried in a tightly exed position, shows clear
signs of black-coloured lines on its limb bones (Fig.
5). Interestingly, the whole skeleton is in a correct ana-
tomical position, suggesting that it is a primary burial.
How these lines were painted (or left) on the surface
New Excavations at Hasankeyf Höyük:
A 10th millennium cal. BC site on the Upper Tigris, Southeast Anatolia
Yutaka Miyake, Osamu Maeda, Kenichi Tanno, Hitomi Hongo and Can Y. Gündem
Fig.  1  Location of Hasankeyf Höyük.
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2
Fig.  2  Radiocarbon dates.
Fig.  3  Plan of structures.
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of the bones is not clear, but similar examples are also
known from Körtik Tepe and Demirköy Höyük (Öz-
kaya et al. 2010; Rosenberg 2011).
In Squares G12, G13 and H13, a series of distinc-
tive, subterranean round buildings was recovered, at a
level lower than the structures and burials in Square
H12 (Fig. 4). Although the uppermost part of these
buildings has in most cases been eroded, some of them
still stand more than 1 m high (Fig. 6). The construc-
tion technique of each is basically the same. First, a
round dwelling pit was dug, then its inner wall was re-
inforced with courses of stones up to the mouth of the
pit. Usually, larger stones are used for the foundation,
on which several courses of smaller stones are placed
using yellow-brownish clay mortar, and the upper part
of the wall is often built of at river cobbles. Finally,
the stone wall is mud-plastered using the same clay as
the one used for the mortar. No distinctive oors were
identied except for one in Str. 7, where the oor is
paved with stones about 20 cm. The diameter of these
buildings is usually 3.5 m to 4.5m but the largest one
is about 6 m. Although it is likely that not all of these
buildings were in use at the same time because their
base levels vary to a large extent, they are densely
laid out and often adjacent to each other, sometimes
superimposing on earlier structures. A large number
of animal bones, chipped stones and unworked stones
was recovered from the ll of these buildings, except
for Str. 7, which was probably deliberately inlled and
includes virtually no objects.
Fig.  4  Stone slab with reief decoration.
Fig.  5  Human burial with black lines on the limb bone.
Fig.  6  Inner wall of subterranean round building (Str. 2).
Fig.  7  Lithics from various layers (1, 2, 3, 5, 7-9: int; 3,  
  6: obsidian
Fig.  8  Single platform conical core (int, Str. 1).
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4
Lithics
Chipped stone artefacts, generally characterised by
microliths, including scalene triangles and of foliate
shaped ones (Fig. 7), demonstrate in typological terms
close similarity to the four other contemporary sites
mentioned above.
Flint is the main raw material with obsidian accoun-
ting for only a few percent of all the chipped stone.
Almost all of the obsidian has a greenish tinge. Both
int blades and akes were produced on site by direct
percussion sometimes using single-platform conical
cores (Fig. 8). The general character of the core reduc-
tion processes is similar throughout the assemblage so
far recovered. However, of note is that there are chro-
nological changes in the typological features and the
relative frequencies of each type of tool between the as-
semblage from Str. 1/Str. 8 and that from Square H12.
The assemblage from Square H12 includes Nemrik
points (Fig. 7: 7-9) and end- and round scrapers made
on large int blades that often show signs of heat treat-
ment. Geometric microliths, particularly scalene trian-
gles, are very rare. On the other hand, the assemblage
from Str. 1/Str. 8, which is dated slightly earlier than
that of Square H12, has no Nemrik points but more
geometric microliths, made of both int and obsidian
(Fig. 7: 1-3). The size of int blades and scrapers made
on int blades is smaller than that in Square H12.
Ground stone artefacts are also common. A lot of
fragments and some complete pieces of querns and
pestles/handstones have been recovered, often from
pits lled with large stone blocks. The extensive use
of these grinding tools at this site, where evidence for
cereal exploitation is scarce, is intriguing.
Plant and animal remains
A preliminary analysis of the botanical remains de-
monstrates rare use of cereals at this site. Virtually no
wheat or barley has been identied in the water-ota-
tion samples so far analysed. The scarcity of cereals is
also known from Hallan Çemi, Demirköy Höyük and
Körtik Tepe (Savard et al. 2006; Riehl et al. 2012).
The species so far found at Hasankeyf Höyük include
almonds, pistachio, hackberry, lentil and indeterminate
nut species (these need to be conrmed by further
study).
A large number of animal bones was recovered,
mostly from the ll of subterranean round buildings.
Among the medium-sized mammals, sheep is do-
minant, comprising about 50% of the identied spe-
cimens. Wild goats, wild boar and red deer are also
common. Gazelles are also included but wild cattle
have not been found in the assemblage. Dogs are the
only domestic animal at the site; there is no evident
sign of domestication among the ungulates. Foxes and
hares are common among small-sized animals as well
as tortoises.
The large quantity of sh and bird bones recovered
by 4 mm-mesh screening is also noteworthy (Fig. 9).
At Körtik Tepe several shing hooks have been found
and a high frequency of auditory exostosis has been
observed among the skeletons recovered (Coşkun et al.
2010). These may suggest that shing or exploitation
of aquatic resources played an important role in the
subsistence of these early sedentary villages along the
upper Tigris valley.
Concluding remarks
Hasankeyf Höyük, dated to the 10thmillennium cal. BC,
is one of the earliest sedentary settlements in southeast
Anatolia. It is interesting that there is little evidence for
use of cereals, whether wild or domestic, when conti-
nuous construction of a series of solid round buildings
suggests the establishment of sustainable sedentary life
at this site. This picture is very different from that in
the Middle Euphrates, where large seeded grasses were
extensively exploited as early as in the PPNA so that
“pre-domestication cultivation” has been discussed (cf.
Willcox et al. 2008). Together with the evidence from
other contemporary sites in the upper Tigris valley,
further investigation of Hasankeyf Höyük would con-
tribute to our understanding of the origin of sedentism
in this area, for which a quite different scenario from
the Levant can be drawn.
Interestingly, ve aceramic sites so far discovered
in the upper Tigris region are all dated to almost the
same period: the second half of the 10th millennium
cal. BC, or the beginning of the Holocene. On the
other hand, no later aceramic settlement (equivalent
to the PPNB in the Levant) has yet been found in this
region, despite intensive surface surveys carried out in
the future Ilısu Dam reservoir area. Based on currently
available evidence it seems likely that the upper Tigris
region was abandoned or at least less populated after
the 10th millennium cal. BC and re-occupied with the
onset of the Pottery Neolithic, when the full repertoire
of domestic plants and animals was introduced, as in-
dicated by the evidence from Salat Cami Yanı (Miyake
2011).
Fig.  9  Fish bones.
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Yutaka Miyake
Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences,
University of Tsukuba, Japan
miyake.yutaka.gb@u.tsukuba.ac.jp
Osamu Maeda
Environmental Comprehensive Science Program,
Tokyo Gakugei University, Japan
osmaeda@yahoo.co.jp
Kenichi Tanno
Faculty of Agriculture,
Yamaguchi University, Japan
tanno@yamaguchi-u.ac.jp
Hitomi Hongo
School of Advanced Sciences,
Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Japan
hongouhm@soken.ac.jp
Can Yümni Gündem
School of Advanced Sciences,
Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Japan
canyumni@hotmail.com
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The PPNA site of Körtiktepe in the Upper Tigris Basin yielded one of the richest Pre-Pottery Neolithic assemblages in Western Asia. The site also stands among a few key Epipalaeolithic–Neolithic transitional centers that played vital roles in the origin and evolution of Neolithic symbolism in Upper Mesopotamia. The site was occupied from the second half of the 11th millennium BCE, and throughout much of the 10th millennium BCE the sedentary hunter-gatherers at Körtiktepe engaged in a socio-symbolic organization with elaborate funerary practice and extensive manufacture of symbolic artifacts, including figurative plaquettes, engraved stone vessels, incised shaft straighteners with elaborate designs, scepters, and large assemblages of beads, mostly unearthed from c2000 intra-site burials. No other PPN site has yielded such an extensive number of burial remains and grave goods. Here, we present a group of painted bone plaquettes displaying morphological features and some imagery so far not seen at any other Pre-Pottery Neolithic site in West Asia. Assessing the specimens in light of the wider symbolic practices among the first Neolithic societies, we argue that Körtiktepe was an important center of symbolic trend at the dawn of the Neolithic in the Upper Tigris Basin.
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The beginnings of agriculture throughout the Fertile Crescent are still not completely understood, par-ticularly at the eastern end of the Fertile Crescent in the area of modern Iran. Archaeobotanical samples from Epi-palaeolithic/PPNA Körtik Tepe in southeastern Turkey and from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic sites of Chogha Golan and East Chia Sabz in south western Iran were studied in order to define the status of cultivation at these sites. Preliminary results show the presence of abundant wild progenitor species of crops at the Iranian sites before 10600 cal. B.P., and very few wild progenitor species at Körtik Tepe dated to 11700–11250 cal. B.P. The Iranian sites also indicate size increase of wild barley grain across a sequence of 400 years through either cultivation or changing moisture conditions.
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In 1991 a salvage excavation was begun at Hallan Cemi Tepesi, a largely aceramic site in the Taurus foothills of eastern Turkey.' The results of the 199 1 through 1993 field seasons permitted some preliminary observations concerning the material culture of the site's early Neolithic inhabitants. Of particular note was the relatively high degree of cultural complexity implied by that material culture (see Rosenberg and Davis 1992; Rosenberg 1994). Also of note was the evidence suggesting that, at its earliest stages, the Neolithic tradition in eastern Anatolia evolved with only minimal influence from the contemporaneous Levantine complex. Excavations at Hallan Cemi are ongoing and the results of the 1994 field season make it necessary to once a ~ a i n modifv some of the tentative conclusions concerning the site's stratigraphy. More importantly, the ongoing analyses of the botanical and fauna1 remains, as well as of relevant aspects of the artifact assemblage, now make it possible to begin making some preliminary obsenations about the subsistence behaviors of the site's inhabitants. The picture that is emerging From these ongoing analyses is often at odds with prior expectations. For example, though sedentism is indicated, it was apparently not based on the exploitation of cereals. The site's inhabitants also appear to have been experimenting with animal domestication. In all. the Hallan Cemi data promise to significantly alter our understanding of the origins of food production and animal husbandry in southwestern Asia.
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Sedentism is usually regarded as a pre-condition for the development of crop husbandry in Southwest Asia and, consequently, sedentary pre-agrarian sites are an important focus of research on the origins of agriculture. It is often assumed that wild grasses were as important for hunter-gatherers as domesticated cereals were for early farmers, and that wild grass exploitation may therefore have had a critical role in enabling sedentism. Results from the analysis of archaeobotanical assemblages from Hallan Çemi, Demirköy, Qermez Dere and M'lefaat, and comparison with those of other sedentary pre-agrarian sites in Southwest Asia, challenge the role often attributed to the exploitation of grasses at this time. Archaeobotanical and ethnographical evidence instead suggests that hunter-gatherers took an opportunistic approach to the resources available and their subsistence strategies were not necessarily centred on grasses and ‘wild cereals’.
A Pottery Neolithic Site in the Tigris Valley
  • Yanı Salat Cami
Salat Cami Yanı. A Pottery Neolithic Site in the Tigris Valley. In M. Özdoğan, N. Başgelen and P. Kuniholm (eds), The Neolithic in Turkey. New Excavations & New Research. The Tigris Basin: 129-149. Istanbul: Archaeology & Art Publications.
The Neolithic in Turkey. New Excavations & New Research. The Tigris Basin
  • Körtik Tepe
Körtik Tepe. In M. Özdoğan, N. Başgelen and P. Kuniholm (eds), The Neolithic in Turkey. New Excavations & New Research. The Tigris Basin: 89- 127. Istanbul: Archaeology & Art Publications.
The Neolithic in Turkey The Tigris Basin
  • Gusir Höyuk
Gusir Höyuk. In M. Özdoğan, N. Başgelen and P. Kuniholm (eds), The Neolithic in Turkey. New Excavations & New Research. The Tigris Basin: 1-17.