03 December 2008

Yatak (A Lower Paleolithic Site in Turkish Thrace)

Berkay Dinçer
B. Dincer found Yatak in the year 2000. The site is situated in the village called Karansilli (nearly 30 kilometres on the west of the modern city of Tekirdag; nearly 100 kilometres west of Istanbul) and about 230 m above the sea level. According to find concentration, its dimension is about 60x75 meters. The geographical distribution of stones such as quartz, quartzite, flint and chert is very common in the province of Tekirdag. Artefacts that we found in Yatak, are generally made of these types of stones.

The reason for us to discover Yatak was a stone cluster including Paleolithic artefacts that collected by the owner of the field (find spot is in a field). We did only surface collection four times in the year 2000. We could not visit Yatak in the year 2001, but in 2002 we went there, collected nothing because of the stone cluster was destructed by villagers and the field was full of crops. No excavation is done at the site. According to our point of view, no excavation is needed because of the findings are not in situ, artefacts are in a secondary position; they are carried from somewhere else. As a result of this, there is no stratigraphy. This position explains why we have found a biface among chopper/chopping tools.

As a result of our "non-systematic" collections based mostly collecting from the stone cluster, we can say that chopper/chopping tools dominate the "known" lithic assemblage of Yatak. G. Arsebuk, of Istanbul University, says that Yatak chopper/ chopping tools seem like older than ones found in Yarimburgaz excavations (a cave site in Istanbul, dated to the middle of the Middle Pleistocene ca. >300.000 -nearly 400.000 years BP).

The most important find of Yatak is a bifacial hand axe that is the first and only biface of Turkish Thrace yet known. There is no biface in the Yarimburgaz assemblage. The "hand axe" found in Davutpasa (Istanbul) by one of the grounders of the Turkish Pleistocene archaeology, S. Aziz Kansu, is a very suggestive artefact and the surveys conducted in the year 1980 showed that found tools couldn't be connected to any known Paleolithic tool producing tradition. This obtains us to suppose that the biface of Yatak is the first and the only bifacial artefact. While bifaces were very widespread in Near East and Anatolia, we do not know what was happening in Thrace. It is very interesting that until the discover of Yatak, there was no biface known in Thrace anyway we know some from Istanbul and Kefken, just nearly 100 kilometres away.

When we found the biface in the stone cluster, we thought a communication between a "biface using" community from the east of the Bosphorus and a "chopper/chopping tool using" local community. Because we found only a biface, not two or more. But that was totally wrong. Because as M. Ozdogan of Istanbul University, says that this two very different types of artefacts cannot be belonging to the same cultural era.

In Pleistocene archaeology, mostly in the Lower Paleolithic, typological evidence is not enough to date artefacts. Chopper/chopping tools were being used nearly two million years without any change in their typology. Yatak finds are totally from the Lower Paleolithic era and Lower Paleolithic begins ca. 2 million years BP and ends nearly 220 thousand years BP. We suggest that the oldest artefact type of Yatak (chopper/ chopping tools) can be dated to Gunz-Mindel (Cromer) interglacial (beginning of the Middle Pleistocene). This suggestion suits to the dates of other Lower Paleolithic find spots in the Balkans and the thought of G. Arsebuk that Yatak finds are older than the ones found in Yarimburgaz. Dating of the biface is more doubtful because of the known bifaces in the Balkans and in Istanbul is not very well dated. Our suggestion is Mindel-Riss (Holstein) or Riss-Wurm (Eem) interglacial stages. Because bifaces found in Turkey had been used in interglacial stages, that people can live in open-air sites.

Until the discovery of Yatak, there was no Paleolithic find spot known in inner Thrace. All known Paleolithic evidence of Thrace was from Istanbul, therefore the thought for the Paleolithic of Thrace was that all Paleolithic evidences were destroyed by geological reasons. The discovery of Yatak points the lack of surveys and investigations in Thrace and also that some Paleolithic evidence can be still available. Our point of view is that at least in the province of Tekirdag, Paleolithic was very magnificent and some Paleolithic evidence is still available if any Paleolithic research will be done. Researches should be done very quickly because intensive agricultural activities and urbanisation are destructing the cultural heritage in Thrace. In the village of Karansilli, researches should find out the exact limits of the Paleolithic find spot/ spots (?) and the position of bifacial artefacts.

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