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Archaeological Importance & History of Pinarbasi - Konya

Background History on Pinarbaşi

Dr David French first drew attention to the sites at Pınarbaşı while he was working at Can Hasan in the 1970’s. At that time, French noted small amounts of chipped stone scatters during a preliminary survey of the area (Watkins 1996). In 1993, Prof. Trevor Watkins and Dr Douglas Baird visited the site as part of the Konya Plain Survey. A preliminary inspection of the site noted a series of small-scale occupations, constructions and tombs dating from the Late Chalcolithic/Early Bronze Age to the Byzantine. However, recent damage to the site by looters had unearthed evidence of small-scale obsidian bladelets and flakes. The material was found in several rock shelters and in an open site located at the edge of a small spring-fed lake just to the north of the rock shelters. The spoil-heap at this site also contained genuine microliths along with two pieces of decorated stone. Indications were that there were possibly numerous Epipaleolithic settlement sites at Pınarbaşı.

Archaeological Importance of Pinarbaşi

The excavations at Pınarbaşı have resulted in substantial knowledge pertaining to the settlement and development of agricultural communities within Central Anatolia during the early Neolithic. The Pınarbaşı Project is a joint project between the University of Liverpool and the Karaman museum.

A study of the origins of the earliest agricultural communities of SW Asia, requires an understanding of processes involving human communities distributed over a wide area in the Near East. The Anatolian plateau has environmental characteristics that contrast significantly with most other areas of the Near East that hosted wild ancestors of the earliest domesticates. Indeed our knowledge of the extent to which such wild ancestors were present in the late Pleistocene, before 10000 BP, on the plateau is itself restricted. Did people start to cultivate local plants and herd local animals independently in this very different environmental setting? If not how did agriculture appear in this region? If not the result of local developments this could represent one of the earliest introductions of agriculture to new environmental conditions and its first step on a westward spread that would leave Europe populated almost completely by agricultural communities within 3000 years. Current evidence indicates that plants were cultivated by sedentary village communities with distinct local characteristics on the central Anatolian plateau c. 8000 BC calibrated (at Aşıklı). The 9th millennium BC calibrated therefore remains the period vital to an understanding of the beginning of sedentism, cultivation and quite possibly animal herding on the central Anatolian plateau.

Pınarbaşı was first recognized as an archaeological site in the early 20th century because of the presence of a Byzantine inscription. David French visited the site in the 1970’s and suspected the presence of an early prehistoric site based on artifacts he observed (French pers. comm.). The author and Prof. Watkins (Edinburgh University) visited the site as part of reconnaissance for the Konya Plain Survey in 1983. Looters’ pits had cast up significant quantities of deposit containing microlithic tools which we recognized as indicative of a late Pleistocene/early Holocene occupation, therefore of considerable significance. As a result Prof Watkins initiated excavations at the site in 1994 followed by a short season in 1995. This work indicated 2 principal components to the site. There was a rock shelter, in which a trench Area B was excavated, and a small mound in which a trench, Area A was placed. The mound had traces of a Roman-Byzantine settlement, largely eroded, an Early Bronze Age settlement and associated cemetery, overlying in places 9th millennium material. In the trench in the mound (A) only a small sounding 3 x 1m was excavated into the 9th millennium site. These excavations yielded C14 dates of 8500-8000 BC along with an assemblage of artifacts including microliths. Such artifacts do not typify 8th millennium BC Neolithic villages but rather late (Epi)Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer communities. This site must represent the final hunter-gatherer and/or earliest cultivator and/herding communities of this area and is thus ideal in helping us to understand the issues raised above. The rock shelter, Area B, revealed probable camp-sites of mobile herding and hunting groups contemporary with and slightly later than the Late Neolithic site at Çatalhöyük, located c. 32 kms to the North-West.

Early Bronze Age.

It is now clear the Early Bronze Age settlement was one of the most extensive at the site running from close to the rock shelter area across the small mound to the west. Excavations revealed structures including a multi-roomed rectilinear structure in Area A. A stone wall foundation ran north-south across the western edge of that trench. Plaster surfaces were associated with this wall to its west and east. The eastern room was sub-divided by a mud brick partition wall after a significant period of occupation. Associated with the construction of this building was a cist grave containing two young children and associated pottery. The pithos burial excavated in 1994 post-dated the plaster floor of the eastern room, but seemed to respect the north-south wall foundation so may well have been buried when the building was still standing.

In Area D pits including a bell shaped storage pit belonged to early phases of the Early Bronze Age occupation. In addition there were several surfaces overlain by a considerably buildup of mud brick debris.

Ceramics suggest that we are dealing with a single phase of the Early Bronze Age (probably an early phase) which will help elucidate the Early Bronze Age sequence in the area.

Fourth century AD and post-7th century AD activity

Overlying Early Bronze levels in Areas A and C were disturbed traces of rectilinear buildings probably belonging to the Roman- Byzantine phase of occupation. A high proportion of the coins from this phase date to the 4th century AD (French pers. comm..). In particular in Area C a single stone wide foundation wall ran north-west south-east across the trench and probably belonged to this period, although little artifactual material remained associated with occupation deposits of this phase. In what was probably the corner of this building a stone lined bin had been constructed.

Priorities & questions for future work

It is clear that much of importance remains to be learned about the 9th millennium occupation. In particular it will be important to establish the nature and degree of diversity of the 9th millennium structures that we have revealed. Were substantial mud pillars a feature of such structures? Did the buildings regularly have wattle and daub superstructures and plaster lined sub-structures? What was the nature of the uses of such structures? Fortunately having exposed the elements of such structures the necessary information seems relatively accessible. There also seem good prospects of finding further 9th millennium burials, important for establishing the nature of the very distinctive mortuary practices and health and diet. The 2 burials revealed to date have been very informative in this regard. Larger samples of fauna, flora and artifacts are also required.

In Area B in the rock shelter we can elucidate more of the 7th millennium BC occupation, whether there is evidence of earlier Neolithic occupation and particularly interesting we need more extensive excavation to establish the nature and date of the occupation stratified under 1.2 m of rock fall underlying the 7th millennium occupation. This occupation may be significantly earlier.

References: Background history & Archaeological Importance of Pinarbaşi, Site Index, Project Report [doc & HTML View], Liverpool University, School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology SACE.

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