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Chroniques des travaux archéologiques en Turquie 2020

The Preliminary Report on the 2019-2020 Seasons of the Central Taurus Prehistoric Research Project (OTTA)

Çiler Altınbilek-Algül, Orkun Kayci, Semra Balcı, Hale Tümer, Yaşar Ünlü, Burhan Ulaş, Fatma Şahin et Ozan Özbudak
p. 129-148

Résumés

Des travaux de terrain ont été menés en 2019 et 2020, par le Central Taurus Prehistoric Research Project, dans les districts d’Erdemli, de Tarsus et de Çamlıyayla à Mersin. Le projet s’est fixé deux buts principaux : mieux connaître la chronologie régionale qui présente encore des lacunes importantes et comprendre le rôle tenu par le centre du Taurus et la Cilicie dans les relations culturelles interrégionales. Des campements éphémères, des grottes avec des niveaux d'occupation et des ateliers de taille de silex ont été découverts en nombre lors de ces deux premières saisons. Ces recherches ont permis de comprendre que la région était pour les communautés préhistoriques une zone d’occupation majeure depuis le Paléolithique. Dans cet article, nous décrivons les sites archéologiques identifiés et nous publions des données ethnobotaniques et une étude des chemins employés à travers les montagnes de Bolkar afin de mieux percevoir les zones de passage interrégionales au cours de la Préhistoire.

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Notes de l’auteur

OTTA is the abbreviation of “Orta Toroslar Tarihöncesi Araştırmaları” (Central Taurus Prehistoric Research)

Texte intégral

The research in Mersin province and its districts was conducted with the permission of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the support of Suna & İnan Kıraç Research Center for Mediterranean Civilizations (Project No. KU AKMED 2019/P.1025), Mersin Metropolitan Municipality, Tarsus and Erdemli Municipalities and the Turkish Historical Society. Therefore, we would like to express our gratitude to these institutions. We would like to thank the members of Tarsus Museum and Mersin Archaeology Museum for their close attention and support. We also sincerely thank Bogdana Milic, Elizabeth Healey, Aslı Polat Ulaş, Selin Önder, Éric Jean and Laurence Astruc for their valuable contributions to this paper.

  • 1 This project was supported by Suna & İnan Kıraç Research Center for Mediterrranean Civilizations (P (...)

1The Central Taurus Prehistoric Research Project1, which was initiated in 2019, has been carried out in the province of Mersin and its districts and the first two seasons of the project focused on the Tarsus, Erdemli and Çamlıyayla districts. The data obtained from fieldwork demonstrated that the region has been densely inhabited since the Paleolithic period. The present article focuses on outlining the archaeological background of the region, as well as the aims and objectives of the project and the most significant results to date.

  • 2 Despite the fact that highlands were also emphasized as important for the Neolithic period (Özdoğan (...)

2The Central Taurus is highly important geographically, consisting of two large upland masses - Aladağlar and Bolkarlar, which connect Central Anatolia and Cilicia through natural passes. These passes, suggest that the Central Taurus had a role in connecting the Near East and Anatolia already from the early stages of the prehistoric periods (Bar-Yosef, 1994, Fig. 1; Bar-Yosef & Belfer-Cohen, 2001, pp. 23-25), but due to the lack of research in the region, the details have not been well understood. Nevertheless, this region should not be considered only as a zone of passage in past. The milder climate of the Mediterranean area even in the coldest periods (Dinçer, 2016; Kuhn, Dinçer, Balkan-Atlı, & Erturaç, 2015; Özçelik, 2015), meant that environmental conditions were suitable for living throughout prehistory but despite this, there is a large chronological gap in the region because most of the previous research conducted in the south of the Central Taurus has dealt with the Neolithic and subsequent periods. The majority of the studies were focused on investigations of the plains2 and the chronology of the region pertaining to these periods is based on only two sites - Yumuktepe and Gözlükule (Novak et al., 2017; Caneva & Jean, 2016). However, the most recent studies (Kayci, 2019) have revealed the importance of the southern slopes of the Central Taurus Mountains in the earlier prehistory. Therefore, the aim of the Central Taurus Prehistoric Research Project is to unveil the chronology of the region in more detail.

3Concrete evidence for the role of the Central Taurus in interregional interactions can be documented from the end of the Paleolithic period. The examples of the earliest presence of Cappadocian obsidian in the Near East date back to the Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic, albeit they are recorded in small numbers (Cauvin & Chataigner, 1998; Frahm & Hauck, 2017; Frahm & Tryon, 2019) although major movement of obsidian cannot be documented until the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (Balkan-Atlı, 2003; Balkan-Atlı & Binder, 2012). In this period, the presence of Central Anatolian obsidian in the Eastern Mediterranean coastal region, Northern Syria and Cyprus (Balkan-Atlı & Binder, 2012; Cauvin & Chataigner, 1998; Chataigner, 1998; Kayacan, 2019, p. 252; Moutsiou, 2019), and the presence of certain marine shells peculiar to the Mediterranean in the Central Anatolian sites (Baysal, 2013a, 2013b; Yelözer, 2018, p. 392; Yelözer & Cristidou, 2020, p. 207) can be considered as indications of these mutual relations.

4The adjacent regions to the area in focus provide the evidence for human inhabitation since the Lower and Middle Paleolithic periods: the Nahr el Kebir and Orontes Valleys in the northwest of Syria (Muheisen, 2002) and Hatay Samandağ (Baykara et al., 2015; Özçelik, 2003; Şenyürek, 1958; Şenyürek & Bostancı, 1958; Taşkıran, 2018) in the southeast of the Central Taurus Mountains, the surroundings of Antalya in the Western Taurus in the west of the region (for Karain Cave see Otte et al., 1998; Taşkıran et al., 2018; Yalçınkaya et al., 2009), and Central Anatolia in the north of the region, (for Kaletepe Deresi III see Kuhn, Balkan-Atlı, & Dinçer, 2009; Slimak et al., 2008; for the surface materials see Kuhn, Dinçer, Balkan-Atlı, & Erturaç, 2015). On the other hand, the evidence for the Upper Paleolithic period in Anatolia is still very scarce. This is considered to be mainly due to adverse climatic conditions but the pattern is different in the Mediterranean region, which has more favourable conditions (Özçelik, 2015). The presence of sites belonging to both Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic around Antalya and Fethiye in the west of the Central Taurus, and in Hatay and Maraş in the east could explain this situation (Demirel, Kartal, Aydın, Erbil, & Kartal, 2019; Erdoğu et al., 2021; Erek, 2012; Kuhn et al., 2009; Otte et al., 1995; Taşkıran et al., 2018). However, since the first studies carried out around the Central Taurus, the existence of the Upper Paleolithic in the area is known from Taşucu - Sırtlanini Cave (Kökten, 1958) but this is the only example. Despite this distribution of early occupations in the aforementioned areas, the only reason why the Central Taurus area, which is located in the same Mediterranean climate zone and at the intersection point of these regions, appears to be uninhabited in the early prehistory is due to the lack of research in the region. New studies in the Central Taurus (Kayci, 2019; Altınbilek-Algül et al., 2019) supported this observation, and are now revealing finds attesting to the presence of the Lower and Middle Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic in the region. This paper gives an overview of the newly discovered datasets within the context of discussed cultural and research background.

Aims and Methods

  • 3 Turkish nomads in Anatolia

5The studies in Mersin province and its districts which fall within the scope of the Central Taurus Prehistoric Research Project were initiated to address the problems mentioned above. The project aims to fill the chronological gaps regarding the occupation in the prehistoric periods of the Central Taurus and Cilicia regions, and to reveal the role of the Central Taurus in the interregional cultural connections. Furthermore, the project’s goal is also to address a myriad of questions, such as identifying the routes through these cultural relations that might have developed, and whether the Central Taurus and Cilicia regions each had their own characteristics in this interaction sphere, and as well as the nature of the paleogeographic environment in the prehistoric periods. Since it is not possible to clarify these issues through archaeology alone, the project is interdisciplinary in nature, involving botanists (for identification of vegetation and endemic plants) and ethnobotanists (for documenting the use of wild plants by local people); geologists (for documenting raw material resources); anthropologists (for investigating the yörük3 routes connecting with Central Anatolia connection paths); speleologists (for exploration of caves and rock shelters); conservator-restorers (for conservation, protection and documentation of the rock art in the region); and specialists in 3D imaging. 3D maps of the studied areas have been drawn by the topographical engineer team members.

6Prior to conducting the field work, a preliminary assessment was carried out using maps in order to identify the areas to be surveyed. The areas that might have been preferred by prehistoric communities, such as flint sources, caves and rock shelters, were prioritized in the initial research. The territory consists of different areas such as valleys and open areas, so, the method of field work was determined according to the type of areas surveyed. While an extensive pedestrian method was used in open areas such as plains, uvalas and flint sources, a different method had to be developed for the inner valleys where harsher conditions prevail. Most of the caves and rock shelters in these areas are above the current levels of the valley and are often located in hard-to-reach zones, since the front parts of some of them had collapsed. Thus, local guides were also employed when surveying in these areas. Furthermore, potential areas involving archaeological deposits or rock art examples were determined by using a drone in the inner valleys, and if deemed necessary, team members experienced in harsh field conditions tried to reach these areas.

The Field Work of the 2019-2020 Seasons

7The field work in 2019 and 2020, focused on the Tarsus, Çamlıyayla and Erdemli districts of Mersin province. As a result of the studies carried out for a period of one month in both seasons, a total of 69 new findspots were identified and 11 findspots were revisited and re-assessed. Among these, there were 13 caves with archaeological deposits, 55 open air camp-sites and/or flint workshops, and 12 areas with rock art (Map 1). In addition, in the 2020 season, the location of yörük graves in the Bolkar Mountains was documented with the anthropological team members in order to identify the natural paths between Central Anatolia and Cilicia. In this paper, however, only the main areas and sites identified in the two-year study can be considered (Map 2).

Map. 1 Distribution of the findspots identified during the survey

Map. 1 Distribution of the findspots identified during the survey

Map. 2 Distribution of the sites mentioned in the text

Map. 2 Distribution of the sites mentioned in the text

Tarsus and Çamlıyayla Districts

8The areas studied in Tarsus and Çamlıyayla have similar geographical features. As a result of the studies, many findspots from the prehistoric period were documented indicating that these two districts have been densely inhabited since the Paleolithic period. The quality of the flint sources, as well as areas with caves and rock shelters around the sources, especially in the Tarsus district, must have been important for the prehistoric communities favouring this region. The following sub-sections of the text will describe the results from the İriceağaç area, the flint workshop of Beylice site and Sarıgöl area (Beylice village/Tarsus), the Kızılalan area (Topaklı village/Tarsus) and the Kızılalan area in Sarıkavak village, located within the borders of Tarsus and Çamlıyayla districts.

9Beylice Village İriceağaç Area (Tarsus). The area lies 3 km north of the Beylice village as the crow flies, and 1.7 km east of the Çakmak area. It includes the richest flint source around Beylice (Fig. 1). It was first identified in 2015 during Kayci’s doctoral research (Kayci, 2019), and was revisited in the 2020 season, and systematic collection was made on-spot.

Fig. 1 İriceağaç area, general view

Fig. 1 İriceağaç area, general view
  • 4 The Paleolithic assemblage of this area was studied together with Prof. Dr. K. Özçelik. The study o (...)

10The area is located on a hillside sloping from northwest to southeast, which divides into two in the south. Approaching the spot where the hillside split into two, and concentrated on the eastern part, quite a large number of chipped stone artefacts were found mostly dating to the Paleolithic period. Among the finds, in addition to chopping tools, many Levallois cores and a large number of flake tools belonging to the Lower/Middle Paleolithic periods were identified (Figs. 2-3). The presence of tools together with knapping debris suggests that İriceağaç could have been used a camp site as well as a workshop4. To date, this is the earliest findspot identified within the borders of the Mersin province, and it suggests that the region was densely inhabited by prehistoric communities during the Lower/Middle Paleolithic periods.

Fig. 2 Chopping tool, İriceağaç area

Fig. 2 Chopping tool, İriceağaç area

Fig. 3 Levallois core, İriceağaç area

Fig. 3 Levallois core, İriceağaç area
  • 5 During Kayci’s studies, pXRF provenance analysis conducted on 3 pieces reported Göllüdağ, Central A (...)

11Flint blade cores and a small number of obsidian blades and flakes from a yet undetermined period were also documented in İriceağaç. The comparative study is ongoing, aiming to define whether the blade cores belong to the Upper Paleolithic. However, it is possible that the obsidian finds are associated with the Neolithic period. A large number of obsidian finds from this context were also documented in sinkholes on a hillside located approximately 500 m west of the area. It is possible that the obsidian finds of these two areas are related. Based on the macroscopic colour and texture of the obsidians, it seems to be of Central Anatolian origin5.

12 Beylice Village Sarıgöl Area (Tarsus). The area is located 1.7 km northeast of the Beylice village centre as the crow flies. Kirişkoyağı Hillside is to the north of it (Fig. 4). The area is named after a natural rock cavity with water in the base of a valley between İnönü Tepe and Bozese Tepe. The valley extends to the southeast and joins Kadıncık Valley at Su Uçtuğu area in the north of Kayabaşı Hill. As to the natural habitat, it has a vegetation cover with dense wild plants and trees. Endemic plant species, such as Michauxia campanuloides L’Her. Ex Aiton, were also identified during the ethnobotanical studies of the area.

Fig. 4 Sarıgöl area, Beylice village, general view

Fig. 4 Sarıgöl area, Beylice village, general view

13The Sarıgöl area is situated very close to the flint workshops in the region. However, flint is also found in situ in the valley, and flint nodules were documented in the inner walls of one of the caves as well. In the area, there are many caves and rock shelters that are difficult to identify due to the fact that the front parts are covered with grass and the inner parts filled by natural deposits.

  • 6 The core was identified by K. Özçelik.

14In this area, many flint cores, tools and knapping debris belonging to the prehistoric periods were documented especially on the road to Sarıgöl and the pathways to the caves. Although the detailed analysis of the assemblage has not been completed, the presence of a small-sized Levallois core suggests that the earliest find in the area belongs to the Middle Paleolithic 6.

15One of the caves with the infill found in the Sarıgöl area has two cavity which were named as Sarıgöl Caves I and II. They are located approximately 300 m south of Sarıgöl, on the eastern side of the Sarıgöl inter valley. Both cavities are almost filled up to the ceiling, and flint blocks are found in situ in the interior cave walls (Fig. 5). The flint assemblage inside the cave consists of flakes, and no chronologically diagnostic features could be identified.

Fig. 5 Sarıgöl Cave I, Beylice village

Fig. 5 Sarıgöl Cave I, Beylice village

16However, in front of the northern cavity named as Cave I, there is a section indicating a cultural fill of more than 5 meters in depth. Numerous chipped stone artefacts belonging to the prehistoric periods were documented in this area as in other cases across the region. It is very difficult to obtain a clear idea about the date of the deposits as the interior of the cave was filled by natural factors. This issue can only be clarified by sondage excavations.

17The information gained through the interviews with the local people indicated that there are other caves in this area along the valley but they are covered with vegetation, no research has yet been conducted there. Further surveys in this area are planned in the following years with the assistance of the speleological team members and local guides. Sondages will be of great importance for completing the prehistoric chronological gap in Tarsus and Cilicia.

18 Beylice Site Flint Workshop (Tarsus). Beylice site is at the entrance of Beylice village and it is known due to the present architectural remains spreading over the area dating to the Classical periods. However, a flint source and workshop were also recorded during the doctoral research of the team member Orkun Kayci, and a systematic collection was carried out during the 2019 season of the project. The site was explored more extensively towards the west and south, and it was observed that the amount of chipped stone finds increased in these areas (Fig. 6).

Fig. 6 Beylice flint source and workshop area (Beylice village, Tarsus)

Fig. 6 Beylice flint source and workshop area (Beylice village, Tarsus)
  • 7 Identification of the finds belonging to Paleolithic period of the workshop was conducted with Prof (...)

19The study of the assemblage suggested that the area was extensively used in the Neolithic period but the presence of some Levallois flakes and tools that might belong to the Middle Paleolithic period and suggest that the earliest flint workshop dates back to the Paleolithic period7. Unipolar flint cores (Fig. 7) and pressure blades made of obsidian (Fig. 8) documented in the area demonstrate exactly similar characteristics with those from the Early Neolithic layers of Yumuktepe (Altınbilek-Algül, 2011; Altınbilek-Algül, Kayci, Balcı, Tümer, & Ünlü, 2019). In contrast to flint artefacts, there were very few samples of obsidian in the workshop. Based on macroscopic observations, the obsidian finds are likely to be of the Central Anatolian origin. Source attributions will be determined following pXRF analysis.

Fig. 7 Unipolar flint core, Beylice

Fig. 7 Unipolar flint core, Beylice

Fig. 8 Obsidian pressure blades, Beylice

Fig. 8 Obsidian pressure blades, Beylice

20 Sarıkavak Village – Kızılalan Area (Tarsus – Çamlıyayla). The area lies 2.5 km southeast of the Sarıkavak village as the crow flies, and is currently situated within the borders of both districts and Tarsus - Çamlıyayla road passes. The Kızılalan area, which was geomorphologically formed in an early fault, consists of a plain or uvala (Fig. 9), and is located on the northern border of a large flint source within the borders of Tarsus Beylice village. The eastern part of the area, which is approximately 4.2 km long as the crow flies in the northeast and southwest direction, finds its place within the borders of Tarsus Beylice village.

Fig. 9 Sarıkavak village-Kızılalan area, general view

Fig. 9 Sarıkavak village-Kızılalan area, general view

21During the survey of this area, numerous chipped stone finds were collected, mostly belonging to the Middle Paleolithic period (Fig. 10), but some are thought to belong to the Epipaleolithic and Neolithic periods. In addition, the presence of one bifacial tool among the finds which can belong to the Lower/Middle Paleolithic period (Fig. 11), as it makes Kızılalan one of the earliest findspots of Mersin after İriceağaç.

Fig. 10 Flint bifacial tool Sarıkavak Vil. Kızılalan area

Fig. 10 Flint bifacial tool Sarıkavak Vil. Kızılalan area

Fig. 11 Levallois core, Sarıkavak Kızılalan area

Fig. 11 Levallois core, Sarıkavak Kızılalan area

22Along with the flint knapping products, obsidian finds, albeit in small numbers, were also documented. Based on macroscopic observations, the obsidian seems to be of Central Anatolian origin.

23 Topaklı Village – Kızılalan Area (Tarsus). The area is located approximately 900 m south of Topaklı Village. As in the Sarıkavak-Kızılalan area, it is an inner uvala plain formed within a fault. The width of the area, which stretches for approximately 1.3 km in the northeast-southwest direction, reaches an average of 150 meters (Fig. 12). Kızılalan continues with a decreased altitude at the borders of Beylice in the east. In fact, this is the continuation of the aforementioned fault. Only the part of the area to the west of Çamlıyayla road, within the boundary of Topaklı Village, was investigated. As a result of the research, flint assemblages, mostly belonging to the Paleolithic periods were documented, similar to those in the Sarıkavak-Kızılalan area. A small number of flint and obsidian finds were obtained, which might belong to the Neolithic/Chalcolithic periods.

Fig. 12 Topaklı Kızılalan Area, general view

Fig. 12 Topaklı Kızılalan Area, general view

24Routes in Bolkar Mountains (Çamlıyayla-Tarsus). One of the main issues of the research project is determining the routes used between Central Anatolia and Cilicia in the prehistoric periods. The yörüks in the region currently confirm the existence of transit routes over Bolkar Mountains to Central Anatolia. Today, with the use of motorized transportation vehicles, there have been changes in these nomadic routes. However, yörük graves are an important indicator for determining the old yörük routes. For this reason, the research was carried out in Bolkar Mountains with the anthropologists. Within the scope of the route in the mentioned research, the team members drove up Bolkar Mountains from the west of Kadıncık Valley and they descended to Tarsus from the east of the valley. On this route, interviews with local people were conducted by the anthropologists, and important preliminary results were obtained. Seven yörük graves were documented alongside the route.

Erdemli District

25The studies carried out in Erdemli District so far have focused especially on Doğu Sandal, Eşek Deresi and Alata Valleys, and in addition, some flint sources and caves in the north of Erdemli were investigated. In these valleys, there are also examples of rock art that might belong to the prehistoric periods. Therefore, the studies in this region deal with the identification, conservation and dating of the rock art in the valleys as well as the investigation of the habitats of the prehistoric communities. In the following, we describe the areas with the rock art and then some cave and rock shelters with archaeological deposits.

26Rock Art of Eşek Deresi, Doğu Sandal and Alata Valleys. Eşek Deresi and Doğu Sandal Valleys are located within the borders of Doğu Sandal and Karayakup villages of the Erdemli district and Tolköy village of the Mezitli district. In fact, the Eşek Deresi Valley is the continuation of the Doğu Sandal Valley to the north, and it should be considered as one entity. There are deep canyons with many caves and rock shelters in this region and in both valleys, some rock art examples and caves with archaeological deposits were found.

27Some of the rock art in Alata and the Doğu Sandal Valleys were identified and published by the team members in 2015 and 2016 (Kayci, Ünlü, & Ateş, 2018; Kayci, Tümer, & Ünlü, 2020). However, the mentioned rock art is being reassessed for the purposes of conservation and dating as part of the project. Furthermore, during the 2019 and 2020 surveys, new examples were found in both Doğu Sandal and Eşek Deresi Valleys.

28The rock art of the area is documented approximately on 50 m above the current valley floor. The front parts of the areas where rock art has been identified has probably collapsed, so its current appearance is related to the parts defined as rock cavities (Figs. 13-14). The absence of any archaeological fill in these areas makes it difficult to date them, but it is planned to conduct absolute dating on samples coming from the rock art itself.

Fig. 13 Doğu Sandal Valley, general view

Fig. 13 Doğu Sandal Valley, general view

Fig. 14 Doğu Sandal Rock Shelters I-II

Fig. 14 Doğu Sandal Rock Shelters I-II
  • 8 The studies are conducted by Instr. F. Şenol and Prof. Dr. A. A. Akyol.

29Among the depictions found in Doğu Sandal, hand prints and hand stencils made by painting and spraying techniques are the most striking (Figs. 15-16) and comparable examples are coming from the well-known Upper Paleolithic cave art in France and Spain (e.g. Pettitt et al., 2015). Hand prints are also used in the later periods, for example at Çatalhöyük and Latmos in Anatolia. However, hand stencils made using a spraying technique that were documented in the course of the survey have not been found anywhere else in Anatolia or in the Near East. Hence, the dating of those in Doğu Sandal is extremely important for understanding the cultural history of the wider region. Among other depictions, there are schematic human figures, a small number of animal figures and geometric-shaped motifs in different phases have been identified for the paintings. In general, the red colour was dominant in the paintings, while black was used less frequently, and is known only from a couple of recorded examples. Although the hand stencils and hand prints are thought to belong to the Upper Paleolithic at the earliest, the fact that no other archaeological artefacts from this period have been found so far in direct relation to rock art raises a question. At the moment it can be suggested that human and animal depictions and geometric-shaped motifs might belong to the Neolithic or later periods, but definitive results regarding these suggestions can be provided only after dating analyses. Some chipped stone finds that might be linked with the Epipaleolithic and Neolithic/Chalcolithic periods were documented in the valleys in the vicinity of the rock art locations. As part of the project, the initiatives relating to conservation of the rock art have been launched8.

Fig. 15 Hand Prints (Rock Shelters I-IV)

Fig. 15 Hand Prints (Rock Shelters I-IV)

Fig. 16 Hand Stencils (Rock Shelter I-IV)

Fig. 16 Hand Stencils (Rock Shelter I-IV)

30A significant area where the rock art was identified in 2019 is the Eşek Deresi Valley in the Kandilin Çatak Area, and the style here is different and has not been encountered in the region until now. The rock shelter where the rock art was identified is located on a terrace that is hard to reach (Fig. 17). Thus, this area was accessed with the help of a local guide. The most important feature of the rock art in this area is the presence of engraved figures alongside the painted samples known from Doğu Sandal Valley. Similarly, most of the paintings are red in colour. These involve human figures lined up one after another (Fig. 18) and hand prints. In the rock art made by engraving, standing human figures with triangular bodies are attention-grabbing (Fig. 19). In addition, a type of large-sized cattle with horns as well as figures that could be wild goats were depicted. As was the case with the other findspots, no archaeological deposit was attested to in the area where the rock art is present. It is possible that the samples made with the painting technique belong to the Neolithic period, but no definite suggestion can be made for the engraved examples due to their different style.

Fig. 17 Eşek Deresi Rock Shelter, general view

Fig. 17 Eşek Deresi Rock Shelter, general view

Fig. 18 Painted human figures

Fig. 18 Painted human figures

Fig. 19 Human figures made by engraving

Fig. 19 Human figures made by engraving

31The rock art made with the painting technique documented in the Arslanlı rock shelter in Alata Valley differs in style from the samples of the Doğu Sandal and Eşek Deresi Valleys. The samples here are thought to be of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic dates (Kayci et al., 2020).

32Rock Art of Topalan Cave in Akpınar Village. The cave is located within the borders of Akpınar Village of Erdemli district. It is on the lower terrace of the Bolkar Mountains at the altitude of about 1960 meters in a karst landscape, and on the western slope of a rocky hill. It was observed that the cave narrows towards the inside; and it is only possible to stand upright in the entrance where the rock art is located. However, the inner parts of the cave were also examined to determine whether there was rock art there, but no traces have been found.

33The rock art made with red paint is located on the right wall of the cave entrance. Among the depictions there are human figures with open arms and wild goats. A human figure, represented with a bow and about to shoot an arrow is particularly important. A few chipped stone finds were identified around the area where the cave is located. This high plateau is thought to be one of the routes through the Taurus Mountains.

Caves and Rock Shelters with Archaeological Deposits in the Eşek Deresi Valley

Eşek Deresi Cave

34Located in the Eşek Deresi Valley, the cave is very close to the area where the Eşek Deresi and Doğu Sandal rock art were documented (approximately 1.3 km as the crow flies). It was first found in 2018 by the team member O. Kayci, and it was revisited in 2019 during the survey. The cave, which is about 30 m above the valley floor, is very difficult to reach, since it is located in the forest land.

  • 9 Excavations at the Eşek Deresi Cave started in 2021.

35Although the entrance of the cave was closed due to the collapse of blocks of rock from above, the section of its lower terrace testifies about the preservation of archaeological deposits belonging to the prehistoric periods (Fig. 20). In this area, abundant chipped stones artefacts (lunates, micro end scrapers, micro cores for bladelet production) and the ground stone assemblages, unprecedented in the region and belonging to the Epipaleolithic period, were found (Figs. 21-22). Relative dating of the finds was confirmed by a radiocarbon date of an animal bone obtained from the cave terrace being 10771-10631 cal. BC (2 sigma; 95% possibility, TÜBİTAK MAM). This date is currently the earliest C14 date in the Cilicia region.9

Fig. 20 Eşek Deresi Cave, general view (closed cave entrance)

Fig. 20 Eşek Deresi Cave, general view (closed cave entrance)

Fig. 21 Eşek Deresi Cave flint lunates

Fig. 21 Eşek Deresi Cave flint lunates

Fig. 22 Eşek Deresi Cave, groundstone tools

Fig. 22 Eşek Deresi Cave, groundstone tools

Eşek Deresi Valley - Cave II

36The Cave II is located approximately 750 m south of the Eşek Deresi Cave as the crow flies, being closer to the area with the rock art, and it can be dated to the Epipaleolithic. Although it is situated on the east side of the valley like the other one, is the cave lies on the upper terrace of the valley floor. It is noteworthy to mentioned that in the filling located in front of the cave the flint tools that might belong to the Epipaleolithic or Neolithic period were found together with possible Byzantine and Early Iron Age pottery fragments.

Eşek Deresi Valley – Kemikli Cave

37Kemikli Cave is located 175 m south of Cave II as the crow flies, on the east side of the valley. It is located on the terrace just above the valley floor. The cave is named "Kemikli Mağara" (cave with bones) by the villagers due to the presence of the large number of bones in it. The ceiling had collapsed as in the other caves, and large blocks of debris covered the archaeological deposit in front of the cave. The main entrance which is closed is in the northern part and some animal bones and chipped stone tools were obtained from the treasure hunters' pits. Although the cave is likely dating to the Epipaleolithic or the Neolithic, this assumption will be revisited in the next season in order to obtain precise results.

Ethnobotanical Studies

38The aim of the ongoing ethnobotanical research within the Central Taurus Prehistoric Research Project is to contribute to the discussions relating to the dietary models of the hunter-gatherer communities mentioned above. More specifically, this study aimed to address the following questions:

  • the importance of plant gathering in the subsistence economy of hunter-gatherer communities;

  • the main elements of the dietary patterns of hunter-gatherers in the Central Taurus region, which had ecological characteristics different from those of the hunter-gatherer communities of the Near East and other regions of Anatolia;

  • the use of wild plants by hunter-gatherer communities through the documentation of the use of wild plants by local people today.

39Ethnobotanical studies carried out so far have concentrated on the villages in the Doğu Sandal, Sarıkoyak (Çamlıyayla), Beylik-Sarıgöl (Tarsus) and Kadıncık Valleys. Firstly, a study was conducted to identify the flora of the region. In this respect, 90 different plant species belonging to 34 different plant families were identified. The endemic plant species Michauxia campanuloides L’Her. Ex Aiton, was also documented during these studies conducted in the Sarıgöl Area (Tarsus). At the following stage, interviews with 60 villagers were conducted, and information about the use of wild plants by local people in the region was obtained. The preliminary botanical and ethnobotanical data showed that the plants in the region have a wide range of uses, extending from nutrition to medicine, from ritual and agricultural equipment to the use in the housing construction. Furthermore, local people in the region use all parts of these wild plants extensively, from their leaves to their fruits. The data obtained revealed that the region presents a unique geography in terms of plant resources for human societies probably from the prehistoric periods to the present. The combination of the results from the current ethnobotanical studies with future analyses on archaeobotanical data deriving from Eşek Deresi Cave, is expected to provide clearer information about the use of plant resources by the hunter-gatherer communities in the wider region.

The Social Responsibility Project

40As part of the main project, a social responsibility project was also initiated. In cooperation with the Erdemli District Directorate of National Education and Erdemli Municipality Culture Directorate, the primary and secondary schools in Arslanlı and Karayakup villages were selected as pilot schools in the 2019 season, and seminars were given to students on archaeology, concepts of cultural heritage, combating historical artefacts smuggling, and museology. A project is also being prepared in order to extend these seminars to other schools in the Mersin province and its districts in the future.

Conclusions

41The aim of the research conducted in the region over two years was to contribute to understanding the chronological gaps related to the prehistoric periods of Central Taurus and Cilicia, and determining the role of the region in wider cultural connections. As the goal is to address the region in a multifaceted way, apart from the group of archaeologists, specialists in other fields, such as geology, ethnobotany, restoration-conservation, archaeobotany, anthropology, speleology and topographical engineering are also included in the survey team.

42Two findspots studied as part of the research - İriceağaç/Beylice village and Kızılalan/Sarıkavak village - have indicated that the cultural history of Central Taurus and Cilicia dates back already to the Lower/Middle Paleolithic period. In the Middle Paleolithic, there was quite a dense distribution of findspots in the region, especially around Tarsus and Çamlıyayla. Some finds that might belong to the Upper Paleolithic were also found in Tarsus district during the field work; however, due to the problems related to the identification of this period, there is a need for more sites in the region with a clear stratification, like those in the Karain and Üçağızlı Caves. Nevertheless, comparative studies of the assemblages continue.

43The sites thought to belong to the Epipaleolithic period are predominantly located in the Eşek Deresi Valley in Erdemli district. Since C14 date of one of the sites speaks in favour for the occupation in the 11th mill. BC (10771-10631 cal. BC, 2 sigma, TÜBİTAK MAM), it is expected that significant data can be obtained through future excavations in the area. This date is currently the earliest radiocarbon date in the Cilicia region.

44Apart from these, the findspots that might belong to the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods mostly point to the existence of workshop areas near the flint deposits or small temporary camps were also found in the region.

45The Eşek Deresi and Doğu Sandal Valleys are the areas with the richest rock art in the region. This area is extremely important for the cultural history of the region, since the caves with archaeological deposits inhabited in the prehistoric period were also identified in the Eşek Deresi Valley. It is of high importance for the project to analyse the paleogeography of the region and to date the sites with identified rock art. For this reason, it is planned the continue the research with the participation of geomorphologists and rock art dating specialists in the following season.

46Furthermore, through the ethnobotanical studies conducted so far, significant information has been obtained on the use of wild plant resources by local people in the region. The integration of the obtained ethnobotanical data with the archaeobotanical data from the Eşek Deresi Cave has the potential for making substantial contributions to the role of plants in the dietary models of hunter-gatherer communities.

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Notes

1 This project was supported by Suna & İnan Kıraç Research Center for Mediterrranean Civilizations (Project No. KU AKMED 2019/P.1025).

2 Despite the fact that highlands were also emphasized as important for the Neolithic period (Özdoğan, 2004), the role of these areas for the prehistoric communities has been ignored.

3 Turkish nomads in Anatolia

4 The Paleolithic assemblage of this area was studied together with Prof. Dr. K. Özçelik. The study on the finds is currently being prepared for the publication.

5 During Kayci’s studies, pXRF provenance analysis conducted on 3 pieces reported Göllüdağ, Central Anatolian obsidian origin of finds (Kayci, 2019: 132). pXRF analysis of obsidians were conducted by D. Mouralis.

6 The core was identified by K. Özçelik.

7 Identification of the finds belonging to Paleolithic period of the workshop was conducted with Prof. Dr. Harun Taşkıran and Prof. Dr. Kadriye Özçelik.

8 The studies are conducted by Instr. F. Şenol and Prof. Dr. A. A. Akyol.

9 Excavations at the Eşek Deresi Cave started in 2021.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Map. 1 Distribution of the findspots identified during the survey
URL http://journals.openedition.org/anatoliaantiqua/docannexe/image/1933/img-1.jpg
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Titre Map. 2 Distribution of the sites mentioned in the text
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Titre Fig. 1 İriceağaç area, general view
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Titre Fig. 2 Chopping tool, İriceağaç area
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Titre Fig. 3 Levallois core, İriceağaç area
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Titre Fig. 4 Sarıgöl area, Beylice village, general view
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Titre Fig. 5 Sarıgöl Cave I, Beylice village
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Titre Fig. 6 Beylice flint source and workshop area (Beylice village, Tarsus)
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Titre Fig. 7 Unipolar flint core, Beylice
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Titre Fig. 8 Obsidian pressure blades, Beylice
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Titre Fig. 9 Sarıkavak village-Kızılalan area, general view
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Titre Fig. 10 Flint bifacial tool Sarıkavak Vil. Kızılalan area
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Titre Fig. 11 Levallois core, Sarıkavak Kızılalan area
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Titre Fig. 12 Topaklı Kızılalan Area, general view
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Titre Fig. 13 Doğu Sandal Valley, general view
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Titre Fig. 14 Doğu Sandal Rock Shelters I-II
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Titre Fig. 15 Hand Prints (Rock Shelters I-IV)
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Titre Fig. 16 Hand Stencils (Rock Shelter I-IV)
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Titre Fig. 17 Eşek Deresi Rock Shelter, general view
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Titre Fig. 18 Painted human figures
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Titre Fig. 19 Human figures made by engraving
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Titre Fig. 20 Eşek Deresi Cave, general view (closed cave entrance)
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Titre Fig. 21 Eşek Deresi Cave flint lunates
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Titre Fig. 22 Eşek Deresi Cave, groundstone tools
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Référence papier

Çiler Altınbilek-Algül, Orkun Kayci, Semra Balcı, Hale Tümer, Yaşar Ünlü, Burhan Ulaş, Fatma Şahin et Ozan Özbudak, « The Preliminary Report on the 2019-2020 Seasons of the Central Taurus Prehistoric Research Project (OTTA) »Anatolia Antiqua, XXIX | 2021, 129-148.

Référence électronique

Çiler Altınbilek-Algül, Orkun Kayci, Semra Balcı, Hale Tümer, Yaşar Ünlü, Burhan Ulaş, Fatma Şahin et Ozan Özbudak, « The Preliminary Report on the 2019-2020 Seasons of the Central Taurus Prehistoric Research Project (OTTA) »Anatolia Antiqua [En ligne], XXIX | 2021, mis en ligne le 15 mars 2022, consulté le 12 juin 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/anatoliaantiqua/1933 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/anatoliaantiqua.1933

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Auteurs

Çiler Altınbilek-Algül

Istanbul University, Archeology Department, Prehistory Section

Orkun Kayci

Kütahya Dumlupınar University, Archeology Department, Prehistory Section

Semra Balcı

Istanbul University, Archeology Department, Prehistory Section

Hale Tümer

Istanbul University, Department of History, Ancient History Section

Yaşar Ünlü

Retired museum expert, independent archaeologist

Burhan Ulaş

Malatya İnönü University, Archaeology Department

Fatma Şahin

Çukurova University, Archeology Department, Protohistory Section

Ozan Özbudak

Çorum Hittite University, Archeology Department

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