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Aşıklı Höyük

Bird view of Aşıklı HöyükLocation: This site is approximately 25 km southeast of the city of Aksaray, in the district of the Gülagaç Municipality within the village of Kızılkaya in the Aksaray Province. It lies approximately 1.5 km south of the village.

Geography and Environment: The site of Aşıklı lies in the Cappadocia Region, in the low volcanic area surrounded by the Mount Hasan and the Melendiz Mountain Chains, in the northern extensions of the Ihlara Valley and along Melendiz Stream. The mound measures 230 m east-west and 150 m north-south and is 15.35 m high in the northwest. The south of the mound is 13.16 m high and 8.22 m above the level of the road. The highest point of the mound is at an altitude of 1,119 m. The western part of the mound has been eroded by the Melendiz Stream.

Research and Excavation: Aşıklı Höyük was discovered by E. Gordon in 1963 and was surveyed by I. Todd in 1964. Because the mound risked being partly damaged by the rising water levels as a result of the Mamasun Dam built on the Melendiz Stream, salvage excavations were begun in 1989 under the leadership of U. Esin of the University of Istanbul, Faculty of Letters, Prehistory Section. Excavations are currently continuing.

Stratigraphy: Excavations which began at Aşıklı Höyük in 1989 have revealed that there is one cultural material period at this mound which dates to the Aceramic Neolithic Period. Excavations so far have identified three phases. The first phase, immediately beneath the soil, is a layer with deteriorated surfaces, many pits and trenches. The main phase of settlement, Phase 2 on the other hand, is comprised of 10 occupational sub-phases. The third phase, which was uncovered in a stepped trench in the northern side of the mound, is also dated to the Aceramic Neolithic. Some finds found in the 1.5 m thick alluvial deposit south of the mound, appear to be the oldest finds from the site of Aşıklı yet found.

Small Finds:

ExcavationArchitecture: According to the 1996 site report for the currently continuing Aşıklı Höyük excavations, there are two layers constituting the Aceramic Neolithic occupation. The architecture consists of residential mudbrick houses without stone foundations, other structures with specialized functions and neighboring abodes. The eastern part of the settlement is marked by an enclosing wall. The houses built against this wall are mudbrick with stone foundations and are characteristically different than the other structures. Their functions have not been determined as their excavation is not complete. The structures at Aşıklı underwent little change in terms of location: after a mudbrick house is abandoned, for example, the collapsed mudbricks are used to make an even surface while the old walls are used as a foundation for the new ones. Residential houses which are clustered on either side (north and southeast) of the main 2 m wide road (labeled GA), are separated by narrow alleyways. The alleys lead to central courtyards used as workshops or garbage areas. The residential houses, which are rectangular structures comprised of one to three rooms, are made solely of mudbrick without stone foundations. Some examples of houses with a rectangular and a rounded sides also exist. These structures lack external doors/entrances although the multi-room houses do have intramural doors between the different rooms. It is thus concluded that the entrances to these houses were through the roof. The floors and walls of the houses are plastered. Hearths, which are the most common element within these structures, especially one-roomed houses, are usually placed in the corner of the rooms. They are mostly rectangular in shape, outlined by vertical stone slabs around the outer edges and filled with small pebbles. Although rare, terraces, work-areas marked by thin, low mudbrick walls, round partitions separated by Modellmudbrick walls and post holes are among some of the interior building elements. In the section south of the residential houses where structures with specialized functions are located, stone foundations are common. These structures appear to be clustered around two central courtyard areas. The northern building complex HV lies adjacent to the 2 m wide pebbled road. The wall of this complex facing the road is a thick mudbrick wall made of six rows of mudbrick. Behind this wall are four small rooms. The walls and floor have been plastered several times with care. Further south, among the buildings in area T, which faces open country, is a square structure with a red painted floor in the western part of the area. With the exception of the collapsed eastern enclosing wall, area T with its red and yellow painted floors, has been well preserved. There are some pits, which may have been used as sacrificial areas, and hearths within these structures. West of the area is a monumental kiln while there are one or two roomed structures with carefully plastered walls and floors to the southwest. As excavations continue, the purpose of the enclosing walls southwest of the structures with special functions might be understood and much about this Aceramic Neolithic settlement will be clarified. The settlement south of the mound, partially exposed by Melendiz Stream, is not very different in terms of structural building elements and finds from Phase 2 of Aşıklı Höyük. The settlement appears to have been destroyed by a flood.

Clay Finds: Examples of baked-clay and half baked clay figurines and cones comprise the clay artifacts from Aşıklı.

Chipped Stone: All of the chipped stone finds are made of obsidian. Aşıklı has a large selection of a variety of types of chipped stone artifacts. Raw material was brought in large blocks/chunks and worked at the site. The fact that local chipped stone workshops were at the site is important because all the various stages of tool production are thus represented. The obsidian technology at Aşıklı is a blade industry. The number of blade and blade cores greatly exceed the number of flake and flake cores; cores have opposed striking platforms; retouched pieces are mostly scrapers; other tool types include retouched blades, retouched flakes, pointed blades, points, microliths, borers and perforators.

Ground Stone: In addition to celts, sling stones, whetstones and various stone beads, many mortars and pestles, upper and lower grinding stones and a few cooking braziers were found.

Bone/Antler: Aşıklı inhabitants, who obtained much of their food through hunting, also made use of animal bones in many ways. Many bone awls, spatulas, fish-hook-like bone tools, clips, buckles, beads from animal (deer) teeth and antlers were found.

Metal Finds: Analysis of some copper beads from a burial showed that annealing was applied in addition to cold hammering. This sheds light on the early use of copper and malachite and indicates that the inhabitants of Aşıklı used "pyro-technology".

Human Remains: The burial of the dead at Aşıklı is intramural. They have been placed into pits in the floors of the houses mostly in flexed position although there are examples of burials with the legs extended back. Floors have been replastered after the burial activities. Some of the better preserved skeletons appear to have been burned while others have been covered in straw matting. While most of the burials of men, women, children, babies and fetuses are single burials, double burials occasionally appear. Of the analyzed skeletons, it has been determined that two of the males are of Mediterranean race. There is evidence of brain surgery (trephination) conducted on one female while another appears to have undergone autopsy. The average life-span for the inhabitants of Aşıklı is 34.4 years: males' life-spans vary between 18-19, 35-39 or 55-57, and females' are between 20-25.

Fauna: All the faunal remains recovered from Aşıklı are from wild animals. Animal bones are mostly concentrated between the houses in the narrow alley-ways, which were used as trash dumps. The fact that heads and hooves of animals are less frequently found indicates that the initial butchering was conducted at the hunting site. Sheep and goat remains are abundant, but cattle, wild-pig and hare remains are also present. Horse was among the faunal assemblage indicating that horses were living in the Aşıklı vicinity around 9,000 B.P.

Flora: The fact that there are faunal remains of domesticated species indicates that in addition to hunting, the Aşıklı inhabitants supplied part of their subsistence by cultivating plants. These species include Einkorn (Triticum monococcum), Emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccum), durum wheat (Triticum durum), barley (Hordeum distichum), vetch (Vicia ervilia), lentils (Lens culinaris), peas (Pisum satuvim). Almond, pistachio nuts, berry of terebinth, and various grasses were also widely abundant.

Interpretation and Dating: Both Carbon 14 dates and Todd and Esin's research confirm that Aşıklı Höyük is a large Aceramic Neolithic central Anatolian settlement dating to 10,000/9,000 B.P. Agriculture, hunting, leather working, obsidian knapping, bone and antler working and most probably trade was practiced by the inhabitants of Aşıklı.

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