25 February 2009

The Paleolithic of Turkish Thrace: PART 1- Introduction

This is a part from "The Paleolithic of Turkish Thrace: Synthesis and Recent Results".

Thrace lies at the interface between Asia and Europe, as well as between the basins of the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. As a consequence of its position Thrace has great importance to understanding cultural histories and relations among these regions, and there should be many important settlements in Thrace dating to all periods of human history (M. ÖZDOĞAN 1982). Many scientists consider Thrace the most likely route for the human species to have reached the Balkans and Europe (K. D. SCHICK-N. TOTH 1994, A. DARLAS 1995), and nearly all maps showing early human migrations out of Africa have routes to Europe via Thrace (eg., O. BAR-YOSEF-A. BELFER-COHEN 2001). However, because its archaeological cultures differed substantially from those of Anatolia and the Near East, archaeologists have had difficulties integrating Thrace into regional research programs. For that reason, Thrace probably is one of the least researched regions of Turkey, archaeologically speaking (M. ÖZDOĞAN 1999, B. DİNÇER 2000). Given the lack of research it is not surprising that the region has not been considered important for human evolutionary studies (see M. ÖZDOĞAN 1983).

Until some decades ago large parts of Thrace were closed to archaeological research due to military restrictions. But surveys begun by M. Özdoğan, in the 1980s have proven the archaeological importance of this region. In these surveys some Paleolithic artifacts were found on both sides of the Bosphorus, but until the year 2000, no Paleolithic artifacts were found west of Terkos-Selimpaşa “boundary” (M. ÖZDOĞAN 1996 and C. RUNNELS-M. ÖZDOĞAN 2001). It had been assumed that the Bosphorus region and western Turkish Thrace did not present the same geological structure and all the Paleolithic sites had been destroyed by recent hydrological and geological activities caused by the changes in the sea-level during the Quaternary (M. ÖZDOĞAN 1989). In our point of view, the absence of Paleolithic sites was mainly the result of the lack of research in Turkish Thrace. Our discoveries in the province of Tekirdağ show that Paleolithic sites are still preserved and accessible in the region.

Turkey had probably been populated since the earliest Paleolithic (G. ARSEBÜK 1999). The site of Dmanisi in Georgia, dating to nearly 1.8 million years ago (V. P. LJUBIN-G. BOSINSKI 1995), shows that hominids must at least have passed through Anatolia as they dispersed from Africa to southern Georgia (B. DİNÇER 2001a and S. KUHN 2002). However, the few Paleolithic sites yet known in Turkey do not as yet provide evidence for a hominid presence at such an early date. Concentrations of Paleolithic sites in Turkey (see: S. HARMANKAYA-O. TANINDI 1997) reflect areas of intensive archaeological research, not the actual concentrations of Paleolithic populations (G. ARSEBÜK 1993). Most of Turkey has not yet been subject to modern and systematic research for Paleolithic sites (G. ARSEBÜK 1995 and 1998a) and Turkish Thrace is the least researched region of Turkey.

In order to understand the Paleolithic prehistory of Turkish Thrace, it is crucial to understand the tectonic evolution of the region. The Anatolian peninsula and Thrace uplifted in the Pleistocene as a result of global tectonic movements (U. ESİN 1994). As results of sea-level changes during the glacial and interglacial periods, the Marmara, the Aegean and the Black seas were connected or isolated from each other at different times. The sea-level changes had a very important role in the cultural history of Turkish Thrace (M. ÖZDOĞAN 1982). Recent researches in the strait of Dardanelles showed that prior to oxygen isotope stage 8, the Marmara Sea had never been isolated from the Aegean Sea because the sea floor of the strait was too deep (C. YALTIRAK et al. 2002). After the Marmara Sea was disconnected from the Aegean however the land area of Thrace was greatly enlarged, particularly in the south (M. ÖZDOĞAN 1983).

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