Aşıklı Höyük

Aşıklı Höyük (Asikli Hoyuk) is a settlement mound occupied between 10,700 and 9,300 years ago. It is a located about one one kilometer south of Kızılkaya village on the bank of the Melendiz brook, and 25 kilometers southeast of Aksaray, Turkey. There, archaeologists found one very large building surrounded by small modest buildings. An archaeologist that worked there told U.S. News and World Report, “Much more time and effort went into the big building, and this may be the earliest physical evidence of social divisions on the way to princes and peasants." Aşıklı Höyük is located in an area covered by the volcanic tuff of central Cappadocia,

At the nearby 9000-year-old site of Nevali Cori, a site on the Euphrates in southeaster Turkey, the buildings are rectangular and have spaces between them, which archaeologists speculate may an attempt to create some privacy. There are also buildings with specialized functions. One was used from cooking. Another was a workshop to make flint tools. Another was filled with human figurines. Nevali Cori has yielded evidence of ritual buildings and 40 houses that have been dated to 10,800 and 9,600 years ago. Einkorn wheat, two-grained wheat, peas and lentils were cultivated here. Human and animal figurines were found in the dwellings.

Good Websites Archaeology News Report ; : ; Archaeology in Europe ; Archaeology magazine ; HeritageDaily; Live Science

Development of Agriculture in Anatolia, 10,000 Years Ago

Archaeological evidence from the 10,000-year-old site of Boncuklu in Turkey indicates that Neolithic people there developed farming on their own, not from migrants, and communities nearby in Pinarbasi preferred to stick with hunting and gathering according to a paper published in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in March 2018. [Source: Ruth Schuster,, March 21, 2018]

Ruth Schuster wrote in, Until now farming had been assumed to have spread through migration, explains the paper But evidently there were villages that rejected the newfangled sow-and-grow techniques. Villagers in Boncuklu and similar communities in central Anatolia began farming some 10,000 years ago by adopting crops from areas to their south and east, Prof. Douglas Baird of the University of Liverpool said.

At Boncuklu, the researchers found stone tools different from the Levantine style. They also found burned seeds and remains of wheat chaff – and they found weeds known to have plagued early farming sites. The abundance of the opportunistic pests suggests they flourished as the ancients cultivated their crops. Similar evidence of proto-weeds was used in Israel to demonstrate early cultivation as much as 23,000 years ago near the Kinneret – the Sea of Galilee.

The Anatolian plateau folk seem also to have begun adopting the sheep and more commonly, the goat, the archaeologists deduced from analysis of bones. This seems to be closer to when livestock were domesticated – though each species was evidently domesticated at somewhat different times in different places. The evidence that farming wasn’t brought to central Anatolia by migrants but developed among the indigenous population relies on analysis of stone tools and DNA, Baird explains. Boncuklu is just one of several central Anatolian sites that have undergone archaeological exploration and analysis. All had the same indigenous material culture, especially stone tools, and were clearly part of a local tradition extending back 5,000 years earlier, Baird says.


Çatalhöyük (48 kilometers, 30 miles southeast of Konya in Turkey) is widely accepted as being the world's oldest village or town. Discovered in the 1950s and founded around 7100 B.C., it covered 32 acres at is peak and was home to between 3000 to 8000 people. Because of the way of the houses are packed so closely together it is hard to dispute it as being anything other than a village, town or city. [Sources: Ian Hodder, Natural History magazine, June 2006; Michael Batler, Smithsonian magazine, May 2005; Orrin Shane and Mine Kucuk, Archaeology magazine, March/April 1998]

Catalhoyuk was occupied for about 1,400 years, between 9,100 and 7,700 years ago, which is fairly long when you consider that New York City was founded not much more than 300 years ago. The people that lived in Catalhoyuk at a given time were hunters, gatherers, farmers and herders of cattle. They venerated bulls and worshiped a mother goddess; they produced paintings of hunting scenes and shaped object from obsidian quarried hundred of miles to the north, indicating long distance trade. Catal Huyuk, produced many kinds of local goods (suggesting division of labor) and goods from elsewhere (suggesting trade). There is also evidence of an irrigation system previously thought to have originated in Mesopotamia over a thousand years later.

Çatalhöyük (pronounced Chah-tel-hew-yook) means “fork mound” in Turkish, a reference to a fork in the footpath before the main mound at the site. Clustered in a honeycomb-like maze, it consists of two mounds on either side of an ancient channel of the Carsamba River on the fertile Konya Plain. The largest mound, 33.5-acre Çatalhöyük East, was occupied between 7400 and 5000 B.C. but there are older undated levels below it. The smaller mound, Çatalhöyük West, was occupied between 5000 and 4,700 B.C. In addition to being very old Catalhoyuk is remarkably well-preserved. Around it today are melon fields and wheat fields. In 7500 B.C. there were marshes nearby that may have been flooded for two or three months a year. At that time agricultural fields were some distance from the town.

Gobekli Tepe

Gobekli Tepe — 10 kilometers from Urfa, an ancient city in southeastern Turkey — is the home of what some have described as the world’s oldest temple, one that perhaps predates villages. Dated to 11,000 years ago, 6,000 years older than Stonehenge and and 5,000 years older than the first Egyptian pyramids, it sits on the summit of a hill and consists of megaliths carved with images. It was built by a mysterious group of hunter-gatherers millennia before metal tools or even pottery were invented. [Source: Andrew Curry, Smithsonian magazine, November 2008]

Gobekli Tepe (pronounced Guh-behk-LEE TEH-peh) sits in the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent. Describing the main excavation site Andrew Curry wrote in Smithsonian magazine, “In the pits, standing stones, or pillars, are arranged in circles. Beyond, on the hillside , are four other rings of partially excavated pillars. Each ring has a roughly similar lay out: in the center are two large stone T-shaped pillars encircled by slightly smaller stones facing inward. The tallest pillars towers 16 feet and...weighs between seven and ten tons. As we walk among them, I see that some are blank, while others are elaborately carved: foxes, lions, scorpions and vultures abound, twisting and crawling on the pillar’s broad side.”

The one acre excavation covers less than 5 percent of the site. Thus far penetrating radar and geomagnetic surveys have revealed 16 other megaliths rings buried over 22 acres. In addition to the megaliths archaeologists have found elaborate terrazzo floors, ceremonial buildings, stone buildings with hearths. What is unusual about the megaliths is that they were raised and buried. The images in the megaliths are difficult to interpret as they were made 6,000 years before the invention of writing, which is more time than has elapsed since the invention of writing and today.

Aerial view of the main excavation area, showing circular enclosures A, B, C and D and a number of rectangular structures


Hacilar is an early human settlement in southwestern Turkey, 23 kilometers south of present-day Burdur, that was discovered by Mellaart before he found Çatalhöyük. It has been dated back 7040 B.C. at its earliest stage of development. It was initially dated to 7,500 B.C.. Archaeological remains indicate that the site was abandoned and reoccupied on more than one occasion in its history. Ceramics from Hacilar show similarities with those of the Halaf culture from about the same period. There are also similarities in their figurines.[Source: Wikipedia]

What remained of Hacilar became a mound on the plain and remained that way until 1956 when a local teacher showed it Mellaart. In 1957 he began an excavation there, which continued continued until 1960. The artifacts recovered during this excavation are currently on display at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.

Up to 11 stratigraphic levels have been identified. The oldest strata are dated to the 8th millennium B.C.. To the 6th millennium BC, nine levels are assigned, the oldest with ceramics, that were almost entirely undecorated. Level VI dates to 5600 B.C.. There were many activities at this time. Nine buildings were found, grouped around a square. The people that appear to be farmers, who grew spelt, wheat, barley, peas and vetch were cultivated. Villagers also tended animals; bones of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and dogs were found. The pottery is simple, although some specimens represent animals. Numerous nude female figures, made of clay, are quite remarkable, and possibly represent some divinity.

At level II (c. 5300 BC), the village was fortified and had a small temple. The settlement of level I, dating after 5000 BC, differs significantly from the previous layers, so it is believed that there were newcomers who settled here. The site is now heavily fortified. The pottery is of high quality and is generally painted in red on a cream background.

Housing in Hacilar consisted of grouped units surrounding an inner courtyard. Each dwelling was built on a foundation of stone to protect against water damage. Walls were made of wood and daub or mud-brick that was mortared with lime. Wooden poles were located within each unit to support a flat roof. It is generally believed that these houses had an upper story made of wood.

Figuirines from Hacilar

The interiors were finished smooth with plaster and were rarely painted. Over time changes were made to the housing units; Querns, braziers and mortars appeared in the floors. Recesses in walls were also put to good use as cupboards. The kitchen was separated from the living rooms and the upper levels were used for granaries and/or workshops.

As Mellaart describes: 'The walls and floors were carefully plastered, laid on a pebble base. The plaster was frequently stained red and burnished or decorated with elementary geometric designs in red on cream.' In Hacilar houses no doorways were found. It seems possible that the entry was from the roof only.

Boncuklu Höyük, Older Than Çatalhöyük: Where Hunting and Gathering Ended?

Boncuklu Höyük, not far from Çatalhöyük, in central Turkey is one of world’s oldest villages. A team of Australian archaeologists headed by Dr Andrew Fairbairn from the University of Queensland think it may hold vital clues to a key transformation in human history: the end of the nomadic lifestyle. Daniel Miller wrote in “Boncuklu Höyük, is one of the earliest village sites found from the period when hunter-gatherer societies began to leave their nomadic lifestyle and take up farming. Villagers lived in oval-shaped, mud brick houses and hunted, farmed and traded with other local communities on an area of wetlands which is now a dusty plain near the city of Konya. “It’s come to be one of the key transformations in human history because, basically, the development of our civilisations is routed in a lot of these social and economic transformations that happened around about this time,” Dr Fairbairn told ABC News Online. [Source: Daniel Miller,, July 18,2012]

“He says the site is one of the earliest found just outside the key Fertile Crescent area of eastern Turkey, Syria and Jordan where it is thought farming first originated. The site is expected to help archaeologists understand how humans adapted to a sedentary lifestyle and how it spread across Europe. “This farming lifestyle then spreads around the world – it goes across Europe and it goes across Asia,” Dr Fairbairn said. “And so where Boncuklu is is that sort of first area where you have this spread of this new lifestyle. “We’ve been very interested to find out whether it was, as it’s always been suspected, due to farming people moving from this area of origin, the Fertile Crescent … or whether it was due to the people who already lived there, lay hunter-gatherer societies, actually starting to develop and take up new crops and new ways of life. “So Boncuklu is one of those very rare sites that allows us to investigate that time period.”

Boncuklu Höyük site

Boncuklu Höyük, which means “beady mound”, was discovered about a decade ago by the head of the British excavation team, Dr Douglas Baird, who had worked on the nearby, famous village site of Çatalhöyük. Dr Fairbairn says Dr Baird was trying to place the excavation of Çatalhöyük in its regional context and, in typical archaeological fashion, found Boncuklu, which is 1,000 years older, on the last day of a field survey.

Named after the high number of stone and clay notched beads found in the mound, Boncuklu first underwent excavation in 2006. Dr Fairbairn says Boncuklu has some things in common with Çatalhöyük, but in other ways it is more “alien”. “It’s an interesting story because Çatalhöyük in a lot of ways is sort of bizarre,” he said. “It’s different, but there’s something tangible and you can kind of understand it because of these rectangular houses and rooms and you can see fireplaces and things.Boncuklu is just a little bit more way out. It’s these funny little huts. For me it’s just something slightly more distant and a little bit more alien. It feels quite different. A little bit like you’re on a slightly different world.”

Dr Fairbairn says a ring of huts on the mound are in the process of being unearthed, and archaeologists have found ash and bones in the centre of the huts, potentially signalling either a rubbish dump or meeting area. Over the past year the team has discovered the skulls of wild cattle embedded into the wall plaster of huts, a tradition also carried out at Çatalhöyük. The remains of plants foreign to the area that were used as crops have also been found on land near the site, Dr Fairbairn says. “There’s some kind of use of crops but it seems to be quite small – it seems to be almost quite marginal in a lot of ways,” he said. “What we have is, basically, a hunter-gatherer society there that is settling down, using some crops – importing them or trading them with other settlements.”

Dr Fairbairn says work done on human remains from the site has helped add to the understanding of how the village functioned and how it fit into its region.“We have a sense now from some of the stable isotope work on the bones that this is a small community that lives in contact with other people and there seems to be some kind of movement,” he said. “You can look at what people eat and use that to hypothesise where they’re coming from. What we tend to find is, in a lot of ancient communities, people have the same type of diet in one community, and what that leaves is a similar carbon and nitrogen isotope signal in their bones. You can look at the mix you actually have on your site and sort of see whether everyone is the same or whether you’ve got one person who is different. And what you tend to find in Boncuklu is a picture that we’re finding all the way across Europe now for this period, which is that all the men are the same and all the women are actually different.” Dr Fairbairn says it appears men may have inherited land or were fixed in one place while women moved to different settlements.

Taş Tepeler (Stone Mounds) of southeastern Turkey

The Taş Tepeler site of Gobeklitepe

The Taş Tepeler, or Stone Mounds, of southeastern Turkey’s Şanlıurfa Province date to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period, more than 10,000 years ago and arc roughly 200 kilometers (125 miles) along the foothills of the Taurus Mountains, overlooking the Harran Plain and the Balikh River, a tributary of the Euphrates. Tolga Ildun wrote in Archaeology magazine: The region features plateaus amid modest mountains. Scorching summers and mild winters with little rain barely sustain wild lentils, wheat, barley, and chickpeas, alongside other plant species adapted to the semiarid steppe environment. Farmers cultivate crops of pistachios, which are known locally as “green gold.” The plain’s few native animals, including several species of gazelle. [Source: Tolga Ildun, Archaeology magazine, March/April 2024]

More than 11,000 years ago, during the early Neolithic period, this was a lush expanse of mighty forests teeming with wild animals including cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys, gazelles, boars, leopards, and snakes and other reptiles. Its rivers and lakes were home to numerous species of fish and birds. This fertile environment drew groups of mobile hunter-gatherers who, freed from the need to move seasonally in search of food, built semipermanent and permanent dwellings on the plain and in the hills. “This part of Anatolia had a significantly richer and more productive natural environment than arid regions to the south,” says archaeologist Mehmet Özdoğan of Istanbul University. “This encouraged people to establish permanent settlements and liberated them from mere dietary concerns. Their newfound freedom allowed them to focus on endeavors beyond sustenance and shelter and on what we might define as true artistic pursuits.”

Archaeologists working across the region over the last several decades have uncovered more than 20 sites dating to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period (ca. 12,000 to 10,200 years ago). These sites share characteristics such as monumental architecture, often in the form of T-shaped or rounded pillars and large decorated stone benches. They also feature stone carvings of humans with skeletal features, as well as of human heads, masks, phalluses, and predatory mammals, including raptors and snakes. Between 1983 and 1991, at the site of Nevalı Çori, which is now covered by the waters of the Atatürk Reservoir, researchers discovered a series of large T-shaped standing stones that are acknowledged to be the first known examples of monumental architecture in the region. Inspired by those finds, later in the 1990s, archaeologists returned to the site of Göbeklitepe, some 35 miles away, which had been discovered in 1963. There they unearthed structures similar to those at Nevalı Çori. (See "Last Stand of the Hunter-Gatherers?") While digging at Sayburç, another of the Taş Tepeler sites, in 2021, archaeologist Eylem Özdoğan of Istanbul University unearthed a stone bench with a carved relief showing two humans, two leopards, and a bull — a scene, she says, that represents the most detailed depiction of a Neolithic story found to date.

10,000-Year-Old Carving with a Man Grabbing His Crotch — Oldest Narrative Art?

In report published the December 8, 2022 issue of Antiquity, archaeologist announced the discovery of a 10,000-year-old slab wall with the earliest known set of narrative carvings in the Turkish village of Sayburç. The wall, known as the Sayburç relief, depicts five side-by-side figures, two males and three animals, with the figures engaged in two separate but related “narrative ‘scenes.’ [Source: Moira Ritter, Miami Herald, December 9, 2022]

Moira Ritter wrote in the Miami Herald: The wall was found under two modern homes and is part of a larger Neolithic mound rife with prehistoric relics, researchers said. Excavation of the site began in 2021 and unearthed two pre-pottery Neolithic finds: a set of communal buildings and a set of residential buildings about 230 feet apart. The relief was found in a communal building, according to researchers.

man holding his penis in the Sayburç relief

Of the five figures, only one male is raised from the wall and facing the interior of the room. This figure is holding his penis in his right hand and is flanked by two leopards, researchers said. Round protrusions are thought to represent his knees, indicating that he is in a sitting and leaning forward The figure’s head is damaged, but researchers said “a round face, large ears, bulging eyes and thick lips” and a necklace are evident.

Next to this image is a second, similar scene. In this carving, a male is depicted with a bull. Both figures are side-on, researchers said. The man, whose back is to the other scene, is in a squatted position and has a penis-shaped protrusion from his abdomen. The figure’s left hand has six fingers while its right hand is holding what appears to be a snake or rattle. The bull, like the leopards, is carved with exaggerated horns and was carved with similar techniques seen at other prehistoric sites, researchers said.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, except Boncuklu Höyük, Archaeology News

Text Sources: National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Nature, Scientific American. Live Science, Discover magazine, Discovery News, Ancient Foods ; Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books); “History of Art” by H.W. Janson (Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated June 2024

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