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Antiquity Vol 83 Issue 320 June 2009

Körtik Tepe, a new Pre-Pottery Neolithic A site in south-eastern Anatolia

Vecihi Özkaya & Aytaç Coşkun


Figure 1
Figure 1. Location map of the site Körtik Tepe, south-eastern Anatolia.
Click to enlarge.

The Upper Tigris Valley, in the Anatolian part of the Fertile Crescent, has indisputable significance for the early Neolithic in terms of the opportunities it provided for the permanent settlement of human communities (Hauptmann 2002; Aurenche 2007). One of these settlements is Körtik Tepe, located in the province of Diyarbakir, near Pinarbasi, at the hamlet of the village called Agil, close to where the Batman Creek joins the Tigris (Figure 1).

Archaeological excavations at Körtik Tepe

Archaeological excavations in the mound commenced in 2000 and are still ongoing (Özkaya & San 2002; Özkaya et al. 2002; Özkaya 2004) (Figure 2). Each excavated area has revealed that the mound is rich in stratified material and has great significance in terms of cultural history (Figure 3). The data demonstrate that the Upper Tigris Valley was one of the primary regions of the Near East for the establishment of the earliest permanent settlements. In contrast to the communities leading a nomadic lifestyle, in Körtik Tepe food production technologies were developed and fishing was a common activity (Arbuckle & Özkaya 2006; Özkaya & San 2007). There is also evidence for weaving and architectural units were clearly built for the purpose of storing food (Özkaya & Coskun 2008).

Figure 2
Figure 2. Topographical plan of site.
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This image is available full-size in .pdf format
Figure 3
Figure 3. PPNA general view of Körtik Tepe finds in 2008.
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Figure 4
Figure 4. a-c) PPNA circular structures and intramural tombs; d) storage units.
Click to enlarge.

Two main cultural phases have been ascertained. The upper phase is medieval, aspects of which are evident in the present day. The lower phase has been identified as Pre-Pottery Neolithic, represented through the body of the mound by structures, tombs and grave goods. The date is confirmed by burial rites, the style of stone and bone objects and 14C analyses which indicate that the mound was first settled in the tenth millennium BC (Özkaya & Coskun 2007; Özkaya & San 2007).

At least six distinct architectural phases can be determined in a continuous sequence (Özkaya & Coskun 2008). Each phase includes common features in terms of house plans, and reflects differences, particularly in burial rites and grave goods. The houses have earth floors encircled by thin stone walls (Figure 4a-c). Their diameters vary between 2.50-3.50m and may be located in open space or adjacent to each other. Similar structures are known from Hallan Çemi (Rosenberg & Davis 1992; Rosenberg 1994, 1999, 2007a), Demirköy (Rosenberg & Peasnall 1998; Rosenberg 2007b) and the earliest layers of Çayönü (Özdogan & Özdogan 1989; Özdogan 1999, 2007). Other structures, smaller in size, have pebbled floors and are thought to have been used for storage (Özkaya & San 2007; Özkaya & Coskun 2008) (Figure 3d).

The circular structures are located together, implying a permanently settled centre rather than a temporary camp for hunter-gatherers. The finds, notably from the tombs buried under the floors of the structures (Figure 5), suggest social differences in a socially advanced community. The differences in the quantity and quality of grave goods - such as stone vessels, thousands of stone beads, stone axes, and other tools - show variants of belief and social status among the earliest permanent community (Figure 6).

Figure 5
Figure 5. PPNA tombs.
Click to enlarge.
Figure 6
Figure 6. PPNA tomb contexts.
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Figure 7
Figure 7. PPNA stone vessels.
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Figure 8
Figure 8. PPNA stone ritual objects having figures.
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Relations with known centres in the region, such as Hallan Çemi, Demirköy and Çayönü, are noted in ground and chipped stone artefacts, obsidian and decorated and undecorated stone vessels (Figure 7). Some special finds feature images of animate figures in low relief (Figure 8) or incised (Figure 9).

Tools of flint and obsidian connect the culture at Körtik Tepe with contemporaries among other Near East cultures, and show that it is one of the earliest manifestations of settled life. At the same time the use of obsidian, most likely supplied from eastern Anatolia, points already to the presence of trade in the region.

The project at Körtik Tepe continues. The indications so far are that it is one of the earliest sites in western Asia to develop a permanent settlement, complete with trade, art, food production, religious ritual and social complexity.

Figure 9
Figure 9. PPNA decorated bone finds.
Click to enlarge.


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  • ÖZDOĞAN, A. 2007. Çayönü, in M. Özdoğan & N. Başgelen (ed.) Anadolu'da Uygarligin Dogusu ve Avrupa'ya Yayilimi: Türkiye'de Neolitik Dönem, Yeni Kazilar, Yeni Bulgular: 57-97. Istanbul: Arkeoloji ve Sanat Yayinlari.
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  • ÖZKAYA, V. & A. COŞKUN. 2007. Körtik Tepe Kazilari: Erken Neolitik Dönemde Bölgesel Kültürel Ilişkiler Üzerine Bazi Gözlemler, in B. Can & M. Işikli (eds.) Doğudan Yükselen Işik. Arkeoloji Yazilari, Atatürk Üniversitesi 50. Kuruluş Yildönümü Arkeoloji Bölümü Armağani 2008: 85-98. Istanbul: Graphis Matbaa.
    - 2008. Anadolu'nun Erken Kültür Tarihinde Körtik Tepe'nin Yeri ve Önemi. Arkeoloji ve Sanat 129: 1-18.
  • ÖZKAYA, V. & O. SAN. 2002. Körtik Tepe Arkeolojik Kazilari. Kazi Sonuçlari Toplantisi 23.2: 423-34.
    - 2007. Körtik Tepe: Bulgular Işiğinda Kültürel Doku Üzerine Ilk Gözlemler, in M. Özdoğan & N. Başgelen (ed.) Anadolu'da Uygarliğin Doğuşu ve Avrupa'ya Yayilimi: Türkiye'de Neolitik Dönem, Yeni Kazilar, Yeni Bulgular: 21-36. Istanbul: Arkeoloji ve Sanat Yayinlari.
  • ÖZKAYA, V., O. SAN & H. YILDIZHAN. 2002. Excavations at Körtik Tepe: 2000, in N. Tuna & J. Velibeyoğlu (ed.) Salvage project of the archaeological heritage of the Ilisu and Carchemish Dam reservoirs: activities in 2000: 739-58. Ankara: Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi.
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    - 2007a. Hallan Çemi, in M. Özdogan & N. Başgelen (ed.) Anadolu'da Uygarliğin Doğuşu ve Avrupa'ya Yayilimi: Türkiye'de Neolitik Dönem, Yeni Kazilar, Yeni Bulgular: 1-11. Istanbul: Arkeoloji ve Sanat Yayinlari.
    - 2007b. Demirköy in M. Özdogan & N. Başgelen (ed.) Anadolu'da Uygarligin Doğuşu ve Avrupa'ya Yayilimi: Türkiye'de Neolitik Dönem, Yeni Kazilar, Yeni Bulgular: 13-19. Istanbul: Arkeoloji ve Sanat Yayinlari.
  • ROSENBERG, M. & M.K. DAVIS. 1992. Hallan Çemi Tepesi, an Early Pre-pottery Neolithic site in eastern Anatolia: some preliminary observations concerning material culture. Anatolica 18: 1-18.
  • ROSENBERG, M. & B. PEASNALL. 1998. A report on sounding at Demirköy Höyük. Anatolica 24: 195-207.


(*Author for correspondence)

  • Vecihi Özkaya*
    Department of Archaeology, Dicle University, Diyarbakir, Turkey (Email: vozkaya@hotmail.com)
  • Aytaç Coşkun
    Department of Archaeology, Dicle University, Diyarbakir, Turkey (Email: aytaccoskun@hotmail.com)

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