02 December 2008

Pleistocene Archaeology in Turkey

Berkay Dinçer
In Turkey, Paleolithic man has settled since the oldest stages of Paleolithic Age. Anatolia and Thrace is very rich for Paleolithic sites. However Turkish archaeologists are not very interested in the Pleistocene archaeology. As a result of this, intensity of known Paleolithic sites are not equally dispersed. We have a huge amount of Paleolithic sites in regions like Euphrates basin, Ankara, Istanbul and Antalya environs. But also in this regions, we have not got a clear view of the Paleolithic. Other places in Turkey are not very well investigated. Also some of known sites have yielded only a few artifacts. With this uninvestigated status, we only have a very little information of Pleistocene fauna and more less information of the flora.

The first artifact of the Paleolithic of Turkey was published in 1894 by J.E. Gautier. That was a biface found in Birecik/Urfa. But the oldest samples yet known according to typology, are coming from Eskini/Sefini and Aktas. They were pebble tolls. But we have no archaeometric date of these finds. With the foundation of Turkish Republic, archaeology investigations became more important. The age between the years 1930- 1960, was the "golden age" for the investigations and foundation time of Pleistocene archaeology in Turkey. S. A. Kansu, K. Kokten, M. Senyurek, E. Bostanci was the founders and we can not evaluate the status of Pleistocene archaeology in Turkey without giving due credit to them.

Lower Paleolithic is well presented both in Anatolia and Thrace. Acheul industries are widespread in Anatolia but we have very less bifaces in north-western Anatolia and Thrace. But the first biface of Turkish Thrace was found in a very new discovered Lower Paleolithic site (Yatak). As a result of the excavations which had been done in the oldest stratified site of Turkey, Yarimburgaz Cave, in Thrace we have Clactonian flakes and chopper, chopping tolls industries. Middle Paleolithic artifacts are usually named Moustier in whole Turkey. Points, scrapers and flakes -some produced using the Levallois technique- are very common. Most of the Middle Paleolithic artifacts were collected from surface and only a few sites excavated -especially Karain Cave and some caves in Hatay. Upper Paleolithic is very well presented in south-eastern Anatolia, Marmara region and Mediterreinan coast. We can define Upper Paleolithic artifacts as Aurignac. End and side scrapers, points, burins, perforators and blades and blade cores are present like in Europe, but we have no Upper Paleolithic knives in Turkey.

In spite of Paleolithic of Turkey is not very well investigated, we have well stratified Paleolithic caves of Yarimburgaz and Karain. In Karain Cave the only fossil man remain of Turkey (a Neanderthal) was found. All Paleolithic layers (Lower, Middle and Upper) are present in Karain Cave. Yarimburgaz Cave is the best investigated Paleolithic site in Turkey. The oldest layer of human artifacts are dated Middle of Middle Pleistocene (ca. 400.000 years ago). Number of human artifacts is over 1600 and there is no Acheul style biface. So we have a lot to be hopeful for Turkish Pleistocene archaeology.

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