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A Comparative Study of the Sixth Millennium B.C. Marble Bracelets from Ulucak and Uğurlu

Burçin Erdoğu et Özlem Çevik
p. 29-32

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Aksel was an exceptional friend and colleague who will be deeply missed by all who knew him. His sudden loss made us all very sad. Aksel was loved so much that it is hard to believe that he is no longer with us. He will always remain within our hearts.

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The Ulucak and Uğurlu projects are both supported by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Turkish Science Foundation (TUBİTAK project no: 114K271). We wish to thank Dr. Murat Dirican for the stable isotope analysis of the marble bracelets from Ulucak and Uğurlu.


1Marble is probably a symbolically important stone for prehistoric people because of its brightness, patterns, colour, homogeneity and durability. It is likely that the symbolic value of marble objects such as bracelets would have become more diverse in prehistoric life ways, leading to its increased symbolic as well as practical importance. In western Anatolia, marble bracelets appear for the first time around 5600/5500 cal BC. This period of western Anatolia shows significant changes both in the material aspects of the cultural life and in the society itself (Çevik and Erdoğu 2019). This paper aims to introduce marble bracelets from Ulucak and Uğurlu, and to evaluate the results of their stable isotope analysis. The objective is to understand the exchange systems of the 6th millennium western Anatolian communities in the light of Ulucak and Uğurlu marble bracelets.

1. Ulucak

2Ulucak Höyük lies 25 km east of Izmir in west-central Turkey (Fig. 1). The site was continuously occupied from 6850 cal. BC to 5760 cal. BC. Material evidence from the early levels, which is represented by levels VI-IV, suggests a strong continuity, although an abrupt cultural change occurred at around 5650/5600 cal. BC in Ulucak III, following a short hiatus between levels IV and III (Çevik 2018). Marble bracelets are one of the new elements first introduced in this period, dating to 5650/5600 and 5300 cal. BC. The contextual evidence for marble bracelets from Ulucak is rather poor as the architectural remains of Level III, which were explored in two ten by ten trenches, are flimsy. This period is represented by a hut-like building, a stone-paved platform and plastered surfaces.

Fig. 1 Map showing the sites mentioned in the text

Fig. 1 Map showing the sites mentioned in the text

3A total of 88 marble bracelets were found in Ulucak III. No complete sample was found and they are all in fragments (Fig. 2a). They have circular or sub-circular profile while their sections are various consisting of rounded, oval, lenticular, deltoid or semi-circular (Fig. 3). The width of the bracelets is generally smaller than 1 cm, although a few of them have 1.5 and 1.8 cm width. However, the latter are decorated with grooves. Their inner diameters, which display great variety ranging from 3 cm to 8 cm, suggest that they may well have been worn by adult members of the community in both sexes and by children as well. Nevertheless, those with smaller diameters may also have been used as pendants. No evidence has yet been found to suggest that the bracelets were produced at the site.

Fig. 2a-b Marble bracelets from Ulucak and Uğurlu

Fig. 2a-b Marble bracelets from Ulucak and Uğurlu

Fig. 3 Drawings and profiles of marble bracelets from Ulucak

Fig. 3 Drawings and profiles of marble bracelets from Ulucak

2. Uğurlu

4The site of Uğurlu is located in the western part of the island of Gökçeada (Imbros), which is about 17 km from the Gelibolu Peninsula in the northeast Aegean (Fig. 1). Stratigraphic excavations at Uğurlu have clarified the spatial extent of the settlement from the initial Neolithic occupation onwards (6800 cal. BC), and brought to light evidence for the 5500 cal. BC transition (Erdoğu 2018). Seven marble bracelets with rounded, oval and deltoid sections, which comprise an inner diameter between 85 and 90 mm, have been found at Uğurlu (Fig. 2b). Five of them were found in the western part of the settlement where 30 pits surrounding a communal building were located. The communal building is rectangular in plan, measures ca. 7 x 6 m, and is constructed with stone walls. A large bull horn was found in the centrally placed entrance in the long southern wall of the building. The floor of the building was plastered with burnt lime mixed with soil and sediment. Traces of red paint remain on parts of the floor surface, including the area near the entrance. Around the communal building, 30 pits were excavated. The inner walls and bottoms of the pits were plastered with a yellow-coloured clay. The pits were circular in shape, some as deep and wide as 1 m. Bracelets made from Spondylus gaederopys, pendants made from Cerastoderma, bone and flint tools, stone axes, clay and marble figurines and decorated pottery were found in the pits (Karamurat 2018). Marble bracelets were found around the communal building outside the pits together with Spondylus bracelets. The communal building and the 30 pits are dated to ca. 5500-4900 cal. BC. Another 2 marble bracelet fragments from unknown contexts were found in the eastern part of the settlement. There is no marble source in the island and the bracelets have probably been brought from elsewhere as finished products.

3. Stable isotope Analysis

5Stable isotope analysis for carbon (δ13C‰) and oxygen (δ18O) have been applied on marbles since 1970s (Craig & Craig 1972; Manfra et al. 1975; Herz (1985; 1986; Moens et al. 1992; Gorgoni et al. 2002; Zöldföldi and Satir 2003). To understand the provenance of the marble samples, stable isotope analysis was applied on 17 marble bracelets from Ulucak and 4 marble bracelets from Uğurlu. In addition, 6 marble samples from the only prehistoric marble workshop at Kulaksızlar, Manisa were also analysed for comparison (Takaoğlu 2005).

6Results show that marble finds may have come from 3 different sources (Fig. 4). On the other hand, the examples from the Kulaksızlar Marble Workshop have pointed out 2 different sources. 3 samples from the Kulaksızlar Workshop are directly compatible with 2 of the Ulucak samples. 14 samples from both Ulucak and Uğurlu are partially compatible with the other 3 samples from the Kulaksızlar Workshop. A single sample from Ulucak indicates a completely different source.

Discussion and concluding Remarks

7Marble bracelets were first introduced to western Anatolia sometime around 5600-5500 cal. BC, although the production of marble bracelets, or stone bracelets in general, goes back to as early as PPNB in the Near East (e.g. Cafer Höyük: Cauvin et al. 2011, Fig. 34-37). Besides Ulucak and Uğurlu, similar bracelets were also found in Orman Fidanlığı (Ay-Efe 2001) and Kanlıtaş (Baysal et al. 2015) in Eskişehir, Çine Tepecik in Aydın, Emporio and Agio Gala in Chios (Hood 1981) and Aktopraklık in Bursa (Karul and Avcı 2013). Their distribution in a wider region may indicate that their symbolic meaning was shared by the sixth millennium communities in western Anatolia, and possibly beyond. Some sites appear to have played an important role in their distribution in western Anatolia as has shown the manufacturing remains of marble bracelets from Kanlıtaş and Orman Fidanlığı in the Eskişehir region.

8Stable isotope analysis of the marble bracelets from Ulucak and Uğurlu however, shows some relations to the marble samples taken from Kulaksızlar. On the other hand, no analysis was performed on the marble bracelets from the sites in the Eskişehir region. The Kulaksızlar Marble Workshop is the only known workshop in western Anatolia dated to the 5th millennium BC, where marble vessels as well as various types of figurines including Kilia figurines were produced. Parallel to our recent results of isotope analysis from Kulaksızlar, Takaoğlu (2005) has already suggested that marbles were supplied to the workshop from multiple sources by collecting strategies around the site rather than extracting them directly from the sources. Although the Kulaksızlar workshop dates much later than the marble bracelets from Ulucak and Uğurlu, the Manisa-Akhisar region with its rich marble sources may still have been the origin for the marble bracelets. Nonetheless, stable isotope analysis alone cannot provide us reliable results for the identification of the provenance of marble objects. For more precise results, analyses such as the mineralogical composition analysis of electron microprobe (EMPA) and X-ray diffraction (XRD), and chemical investigations such as atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS) and inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (ICP-MS) are needed. Thus, the possibility of other marble sources or production centres such as those in the Eskişehir region cannot be excluded for the origin of our marble bracelets.

9Marble bracelets might be introduced into the regional exchange system not as commodity, but as a prestige good used for signalling social identity, position or relationships. The production and distribution of marble bracelets in the mid-sixth millennium BC in a wider region of western Anatolia appear to have been a precursor of the common symbolic value attributed to the marble, and the fifth millennium BC exchange systems of marble objects such as conical rhyta and Kilia type figurines.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 Map showing the sites mentioned in the text
Fichier image/jpeg, 184k
Titre Fig. 2a-b Marble bracelets from Ulucak and Uğurlu
Fichier image/jpeg, 140k
Titre Fig. 3 Drawings and profiles of marble bracelets from Ulucak
Fichier image/jpeg, 237k
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Burçin Erdoğu et Özlem Çevik, « A Comparative Study of the Sixth Millennium B.C. Marble Bracelets from Ulucak and Uğurlu »Anatolia Antiqua, XXVII | 2019, 29-32.

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Burçin Erdoğu et Özlem Çevik, « A Comparative Study of the Sixth Millennium B.C. Marble Bracelets from Ulucak and Uğurlu »Anatolia Antiqua [En ligne], XXVII | 2019, mis en ligne le 31 janvier 2022, consulté le 22 mai 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Burçin Erdoğu

Akdeniz University, Department of Archaeology, Antalya

Özlem Çevik

Trakya University, Department of Archaeology, Edirne

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