Thursday, October 4, 2007


26 September 2007


Time frame:

hominid existence on planet ca. 2.5 million years (Africa)

humans leave Africa ca. 1 million years ago and begin to populate Europe and Asia

earliest (ca. 400 000 BP) hominid (homo erectus) traces in Anatolia for example in Yarimburgaz Cave near Lake Küçükçekmece, ho

Traditional terminology for periods of human existence based on developments in tool technology

Palaeolithic(Neograecizing term= invented Greek term=Old stone age), Neolithic (New Stone Age), Chalcolithic (Copper/Stone Age), Bronze Age, Iron Age etc.

Problems of this traditional terminology: change in tool technology not necessarily indicative of social/cultural/organizational changes; temporal definition of Bronze Age will differ regionally, European Bronze Age lasts longer than the Anatolian

Alternative terminology based on World Wide Climate Change:

Quaternary Period (4th Period in the history of the planet)

Pleistocene (1.6 million – 10.000 BP)

Holocene (10.000 BP- present)

Often both terms are used juxtapposed.

Importance of the Ancient Near East:

Provides evidence for the earliest development of pristine civilization

‘Current archaeological evidence indicates that there is no region where either agriculture or urbanism developed earlier than in the Near East.’

[Redman, C. L. The Rise of Civilization (1978) 6]

Two developments in history of human record that proved irreversible:

agriculture and urbanism

How can we define these developments:

Permanent settlement precedes reliance on agriculture. Transition to sedentary lifestyle leads to the development of architecture and to permanent settlements. Earliest villages of the Neolithic period rely on hunting and gathering and experiment with agriculture on a small scale. Agricultural transformation and complete reliance on agriculture develops slowly in the course of the Neolithic period, between 10 000 - 6000 B.C.

Agriculture refers to the domestication of selected plant and animal species in answe to human needs.

Specialists who analyse prehistoric data pertaining to this period, develop theories and frame new questions are:

Paleogeographers, Archaeologists, Anthropologists, Palaeobotanists, Palaeozoologists,

Biochemists (DNA studies)

Examples for permanent settlements with remains of gathered species of grain and hunted bones of animals in conjunction to slowly developing agriculture in Turkey:

Çayönü (Diyarbakir): first multi-disciplinary joint project in Turkey to investigate the origin of the development of agriculture and early village life in the Fertile Crescent, the Hilly Flanks of the Taurus and Zagros Mountain. The site consists of consecutive levels of Neolithic period habitation allowing to trace gradual change in the reliance on agriculture and the development of architecture [Project of the Prehistory Department of Istanbul University and the Oriental Institute of Chicago University, co-directed by Profs. Halet Çambel and Robert Braidwood]

Nevali Çori (Urfa): village of Pre-pottery Neolithic community consisting of several free-standing, rectangular buildings with communal sacred building [Project of the German Archaeological Institute, directed by Prof. Harald Hauptmann]

Göbeklitepe (Urfa): sacred site for hunters and gatherers perhaps of regional scale, most recent site to be investigated [Project of the German Archaeological Institute, directed by Dr. Klaus Schmidt]

28 September 2007


Earliest villages are to be found in a topographically circumscribed area: the Fertile Crescent= the hilly flanks and intermontane valleys of the great mountain chains in the Near East, especially the Taurus and the Zagros ranges.

In contrast to popular belief the Mesopotamian landscape was not able to support earliest villages because it remains outside of the minimum required rainfall zone; permanent settlements in Mesopotamia only start after irrigation allows agriculture. Anatolia, on the other hand, is host to a number of earliest villages in the world, see Lecture 1.

How do we differentiate between a village and an urban site?

We have to identify criteria for urbanism which can be recognized in the preserved remains of an ancient site in the Near East. Eminent British scholar Gordon Childe formulated in the mid 20th c. a list of criteria to serve this purpose. Many later approaches have found his work to be useful as a starting point. These are some selected criteria derived from his primary and secondary characteristics to delineate and recognize early forms of urbanism:

Size of settlements: the great enlargement of an organized population will lead to new ways of social integration. Large numbers of people living in close proximity need mechanisms to regulate social stress: urban civilization is the answer to cope with that stress. This involves the regulation of cultural norms and behaviour beyond the context of gender, age and merit.

Full-time specialization of labor: specialized production and a demand for such products indicate an urban scale of operation

Economic surplus: presence of sufficient amounts of agricultural (also artisanal) surplus, as well as the means to collect, store and redistribute this surplus

Monumental public works: need for monumental public space signals urban size. It also requires organized labor force and the means to coerce laborers to participate in large-scale projects.

Long-distance trade: institutional organization of trade, large-scale transactions and an increase in the variety of traded goods

Institutionalization of religion and the emergence of writing as a system of recording are also symptomatic of an urban level of society. The combined occurrence of all the above will indicate that a level of urban complexity has developed.