Tag Archives: Archaeology

Leiterband ceramics and other stray bits of info

More archaeological work in Lower Wadi Howar

A field report I found while looking for info on Leiterband pottery. Most usable quotes for me..

Leiterbandmotifs are the predominant decorative pattern of the earliest pastoral phase of Middle Wadi Howar, but also occur further west in the Chad,

 Leiterbandmotifs, which suggest a date in the fourth or third millennium BC

From a second pdf studying the same area (more interesting than the one above):

On the basis of 15 radiocarbon samples, the Leiterband complex dates chiefly between 5200 and 4000 14C yr

And the sequence goes in Wadi Howar… dotted wavy line (Holocene hunter gatherers) Laqiya (later hunter gatherers), then Leiterband (pastoralist). The oldest Leiterband marked is just a bit younger than 6,000 BP.

The only thing that troubles me mildly is that there is no mention of ovicaprines at the Leiterband sites. Lots of cattle though, and microliths that were probably used to bleed them. However a little digging tells me that ovicaprines were present in 5,500 BP at Al Kadada (which was founded about 6,000 BP), so the animals would have been known to the Leiterband people, just not herded by them. Possibly the lack of ovicaprines was due to the lusher conditions in the Wadi at the time that favoured cattle.

 And another pdf, Aridity, Change and Conflict in Africa, has more information: it seems that small livestock were a slightly later addition (behind by a few hundred years into Northern Sudan).

A look at the geology of the area explains why the Westward migration – Wadi Howar provides a route from the Nile to the West that would still have had water in the Leiterband era.

The development of the pottery design styles in the Wadi Howar region which dates the Leiterband transition to 6,000 BP. This one has the best info on the ceramics and their manufacture .

Well, we have an earliest date of 6,000 BP for the expansion of proto Chadic speakers West along Wadi Howar. So a Neolithic culture is strongly associated with Chadic speakers, which IMO adds more weight to a neolithic date for the expansion of v88 into Africa and it’s ‘marriage’ to L3f3.


The Women of Brassempouy: A Century of Research and Interpretation

The Women of Brassempouy: A Century of Research and Interpretation

The discovery of female figurines at Brassempouy in the 1890’s would launch more than a century of debate and interpretation concerning Paleolithic representations of women. The figurines emerged from the ground into a colonial intellectual and socio-political context nearly obsessed with matters of race. This early racial interpretive frame would only be replaced in the mid 20th century, when prehistorians turned to questions such as fertility and womanhood.

The first figurines were discovered in 1892 under rather tortured circumstances in which their very ownership was the subject of a heated dispute between Edouard Piette and Emile Cartailhac. Their toxic relationship would lead Piette, in his subsequent excavations, to be extremely precise about issues of stratigraphic and spatial provenience. Piette’s publications and archives enabled Henri Delporte to confirm the Gravettian attribution of the figurines and have allowed the present author to create a map of their spatial distribution within the site.

Technological and microscopic analysis of the Brassempouy figurines resolves some lingering questions about the sex of certain of the figurines and suggests an original context of figurine fabrication and the abandonment of unsuccessful sculpting attempts.

Just a pdf I found while surfing, with some interesting info on some of the statuettes.

Some Observations on Christian Burial Practices at Kellis

Some Observations on Christian Burial Practices at Kellis

Gillian E. Bowen

In 1997 I was invited by Anthony Mills to publish the archaeology of the Kellis 2 cemetery as an adjunct to my work on early Christianity in Egypt. Since that time further Christian burials have been discovered at Kellis other than in this cemetery. The primary aim of this paper is to publish preliminary observations on the burial practices adopted by the Christian community at Kellis in light of what is known of such practices in Egypt. The graves in Kellis 2 are being excavated by archaeologists under the direction of Eldon Molto, who co-ordinates the work of the physical anthropologists. Molto and his team are conducting a range of analyses on the skeletal remains that have added a new dimension to our knowledge of the community. Molto’s analyses include radiocarbon tests of twelve samples in an effort to determine the date of the interments. The interpretation of the results of those analyses presents a broad time-frame that is seemingly at variance with the data from the settlement. This paper, therefore, presents an ideal opportunity to consider this dichotomy and how it might be addressed by  archaeologists and physical anthropologists alike.


A paper on Roman era burials of Egyptians that converted to Christianity, NOT Roman Christians.

The number of Christian burials at Kellis and the lack of identified pagan burials from the end of the third century attest the rapid conversion of the community.

 DNA from modern Egypt suggests that any Roman input was a fraction of one percent, and so it would seem unlikely that a place so far off the beaten track in the South Western Desert would have any large amount of non Egyptian ancestry in it. Dr Molto’s DNA breakdown of the population was that it had mainly northern (Eurasian) maternal haplotypes.

Both populations, ancient and contemporary, fit the north-south clinal distribution of “southern” and “northern” mtDNA types (Graver et al. 2001). However, significant differences were found between these populations. Based on an increased frequency of HpaI 3592 (+) haplotypes in the contemporary Dakhlehian population, the authors suggested that, since Roman times, gene flow from the Sub-Saharan region has affected gene frequencies of individuals from the oasis.

I’ve got the abstract here.

There’s a lot of information on the burial customs, both pagan and Christian in the era.

35,000 year old figurine from Germany


From Hohle Fels in south west Germany and I just love it. Okay, so she looks a bit like a spatchcocked chicken with knockers and stretch marks, but it’s still brilliant. Link

One Hundred Years of Archaeology in Niger (pdf)

One Hundred Years of Archaeology in Niger

This paper considers, under rough chronological headings, work undertaken in Niger in the past century. Sites relevant to the Pleistocene occupation of the Sahara, to the adoption of elements of a “Neolithic package,” to the (perhaps misleadingly late) occupation of the Sahel, to alleged metalworking 3000 years ago, and to social complexity, are described and discussed. These data carry a relevance far beyond their immediate area, and the most fruitful application of the archaeology of Niger is to be found in theoretical rethinking.

Fig. 5. Archaeological sites of Niger. Key to sites (in alphabetical order): 24. Aderantarat; 6. Adrar Bous; 39. Afnuk; 45. Afunfun; 36. Aghroum Balkorene; 18. Amakon; 26. Anisaman; 32. Areschima; 26. Asaqaru; 28. Assode; 15. Awalawalt; 26. Azelik; 5. Azrou; 55. Bani Bangou; 33. Bilma; 50. Birnin Garafa; 58. Bura; 25. Chin Tafidet; 26. ChinWasadan; 43. ChinWasararan; 34. Dogonboulo; 43. EfeyWaschran; 43. Ekne wan Ataram; 29. Ekouloulef; 1. Emi Lulu; 34. Fachi; 26. Fagochia; 52. Gabu; 63. Gorou Banda; 8. Greboun; 26. Guelele; 18. Ibine; 56. Ikarafane; 17. Ikawaten; 19. In Aridal; 53. In Tachoulen; 39. In Taylalen; 24. In Teduq; 21. In Tekebrin; 25. In Tuduf; 38. InWaggeur; 11. Iwelen; 14. Izouzadene; 47. Janjari; 48. ?Jola; 51. ?Karagu Gamdwa; 61. Kareygoru; 53. Kareygusu; 55. Kase Gorou; 63. Kirkissoy; 59. Kolo; 49. Kufan Kanawa; 50. Likaderi; 16. Madaou´ ela; 13. Mammanet; 40. Marandet; 23. Mentes; 10. Merguigara; 44. Mio; 27. Orofan; 40. Orub; 3. Rocher Toubeau; 62. Rosi; 63. Saguia; 9. Seguedine; 39. Shimumenin; 55. Soumatt; 35. Tadeliza; 38. Taferjit; 31. Tagalagal; 20. Takene Bawat; 22. Tamaya Mellet; 60. Tapague; 46. Tarada; 30. Tasagouacheret; 12. Tassos; 42. Tegef n’Agar; 8. Temet; 37. Termit Egaro; 36. Tezamak; 15. Tibarakatine; 56. Tiguezefen; 54. Tiloa Nord; 53. Tin Farad; 15. Tinguermawen; 4. TinKeradet; 7. Tin Ouaffadene; 59. Tondikwarey; 2. Toummo; 54. Tuizegoru; 27. Tuluk; 41. Tyeral; 56. Wedi Bangou; 57. Yatakala; 52. Yasaan.

Reading through the paper, it suggests that the North African Aterian people penetrated as far south as Niger:

Niger sites such as Seguedine and Adrar Bous represented both the southernmost and the latest expansion of Aterian toolmakers from the Mediterranean shores, stopped by large marshy expanses in the Lake Chad area perhaps as late as 8000 years ago (see also D´eb´enath, 1992). Tillet (1989) attributed an age of some 20,000 to 30,000 years to the Aterian of Niger, as did Clark (1973a) at the time of the original excavations of Adrar Bous.

Which might explain the R1 and trace U6 in West Africa. Although it’s hard to tell just who the Aterian really relates to. The backmigration from Asia seems to have a date of about 35k or older in North Africa now, but in places the Aterian overlaps it and seems to go before it- although the ancient North African population prior to the backmigration doesn’t seem to have left any traceable DNA anywhere. This second quote also seems to suggest a second later population moving from North Africa southwards: I’ve seen similarities between the Holocene Libyan Sahara and Niger noted in more than publication. Ounan points are typically Mahgrebian, and are seen in the desert as far West as Egypt, and into Mali (the Mechtoid populations range) and it vanishes about 7,000 BP, with the arrival of the Capsian neolithic tradition.

It is not clear, either, whether the Aterian toolmakers were the last Paleolithic occupants of Niger.  Examining two surface exposures at Adrar Bous and a deflating terrace feature at Greboun, Clark (1976) identified an Epipaleolithic industry characterized by specialized forms of retouched blades and bladelets (including the [often asymmetrically] tanged Ounan point) and by the absence of microlithic pieces. Clark (1973a, 1976) proposes, principally on the basis of the occurrence of Ounan points, that the Adrar Bous and Greboun assemblages represent the tail end of a general phenomenon of diffusion of northern blade industries throughout the Sahara, beginning some time after 12,000 years ago; the (undated) Adrar Bous and Greboun evidence is thought to be some 8000 years old.

Which would probably be the ‘mechtoid’ populations of the Sahara. This paper also has some details on the appearance of domesticated cattle and metallurgy in Niger.

Prehistoric contacts over the Straits of Gibraltar indicated by genetic analysis of Iberian Bronze Age cattle

Prehistoric contacts over the Straits of Gibraltar indicated by genetic analysis of Iberian Bronze Age cattle
Cecilia Anderung*, Abigail Bouwman†, Per Persson‡, José Miguel Carretero§, Ana Isabel Ortega§, Rengert Elburg¶, Colin Smith∥, Juan Luis Arsuaga**, Hans Ellegren*, and Anders Götherström*,††
+Author Affiliations
The geographic situation of the Iberian Peninsula makes it a natural link between Europe and North Africa. However, it is a matter of debate to what extent African influences via the Straits Gibraltar have affected Iberia’s prehistoric development. Because early African pastoralist communities were dedicated to cattle breeding, a possible means to detect prehistoric African–Iberian contacts might be to analyze the origin of cattle breeds on the Iberian Peninsula. Some contemporary Iberian cattle breeds show a mtDNA haplotype, T1, that is characteristic to African breeds, generally explained as being the result of the Muslim expansion of the 8th century A.D., and of modern imports. To test a possible earlier African influence, we analyzed mtDNA of Bronze Age cattle from the Portalón cave at the Atapuerca site in northern Spain. Although the majority of samples showed the haplotype T3 that dominates among European breeds of today, the T1 haplotype was found in one specimen radiocarbon dated 1800 calibrated years B.C. Accepting T1 as being of African origin, this result indicates prehistoric African–Iberian contacts and lends support to archaeological finds linking early African and Iberian cultures. We also found a wild ox haplotype in the Iberian Bronze Age sample, reflecting local hybridization or backcrossing or that aurochs were hunted by these farming cultures.

It seems they were moving cattle across the straits about 4,000 years ago.

The faces of North Africa; from rock art to the age of the Moors

Not including dynastic Egyptians, which I have on a separate page, here.

Saharan rock art.

Two pictures from Tassili, then a few from Uan Fathi, hair-washing scene from Uan Amil and finally the Tassili ladies. At least two of the images seem to depict blondes and red heads, hair colours uncommon but not unknown in North Africa. The black ladies are examples of Roundhead art from the central Sahara about 9,000 BP-possibly a Nilo Saharan speaking people ethnically quite different to the coastal Capsian culture who were Eurasian in ancestry. The rest are examples of Neolithic art from the Pastoral era.


Egyptian depictions of North Africans

From various sources. The last image is an illustration copied from a now badly damaged wall painting in the Tomb of Ramses depicting the races as the Egyptians knew them. I have an image of the damaged frieze stored, and it’s a faithful reproduction. The pasty face third in is a Libyan’s head from the crook of  Tutankhamen. The two in the same picture are Libyan ambassadors.


Roman era mosaics from North Africa

The first two are ‘the goddess Africa’.These are crops from many mosaics, mainly from North African museums like El Djem. Some of these are deities, but since they don’t appear to be depicted any differently to the general population I’ve included many of them here, although I’ve omitted the mermaids and centaurs. The slaves, nobles, dancers, gladiators and gods are all depicted similarly, so I’m assuming this is pretty close to the norm for North Africans of the era.


Coinage portraits

Mostly from Carthage


Byzantine images from North Africa

This is the post-Roman Christian era, for about 200 years prior to the arrival of Islam.


Moorish Era  depictions of the Moors

These are taken from the tale of Bayad and Riyad, a book written in a North African dialect. It’s unclear whether it is North African or Spanish in origin.


These are from ‘the Book of Games’, commissioned by King Alfonso X. In this book Moors are also referred to as Arabs on occasion. A look at one of the lady’s hands shows the use of henna, and c couple of the white beards look suspiciously red tinted too; dyeing beards with henna happens too.


From Cantigas de Santa Maria, 13th century, reign of King Alfonso X


From the 12th century  Skylitzes Chronicle


Other Moorish portraits.


This is meant to be a contemporary image of the Moorish leader Tariq Ibn Ziyad, after whom the rock of Gibraltar is named. I’ve been told that others exist, but I’m having a hard time locating them!

Oldest Egyptian farming site found in Lower Egypt.

Egypt’s Earliest Farming Village Found

 Steven Stanek in Cairo for National Geographic Magazine

The 7,000-year-old farming-village site includes evidence of domesticated animals and crops—providing a major breakthrough in understanding the enigmatic people of the Neolithic, or late Stone Age, period and their lives long before the appearance of the Egyptian pharaohs.

 The discoveries were made as a team of Dutch and U.S. archaeologists dug deeper into a previously excavated mound of sand concealing the ancient village in the Faiyum depression, a fertile oasis region about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Cairo.

Just centimeters beneath the modern plowed surface, in an area that had been used until recently to grow grapes, the researchers discovered evidence of structures, such as clay floors, and hearths containing homegrown wheat grain and barley. Also unearthed were the remains of sheep, goats, and pigs—which, along with the grains, were imported from the Middle East.

These finds could add a new chapter to the history of Egypt’s contact with foreign cultures in pre-pharaonic times.

Radiocarbon dating places the occupation of the site to around 5200 B.C. But details about the lifestyle of the farmers who used those granaries and tools remained a mystery until now.

The Faiyum “is important because it provides the first evidence of farming that we have in Egypt,” said the excavation’s co-director Willeke Wendrich, an associate professor of Egyptian archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“For the first time, we have domesticated wheat and barley in a domestic context.”

This would place the entry of agriculture into Northern Egypt at something like 8,000 years or less, a little later than areas like Serbia and Bulgaria. This would seem to support a more Northerly origin for agriculture than the Levant, as you’ll often see in print. Turkey is now considered to be more likely to be the birthplace of Western farming, as the DNA studies of domesticates generally lead back to there.

BTW, there is a good link to a named map of Egyptian sites if you click on the map.

Inhabited for 17,000 years. Franchthi cave, Greece.

A cut-and-paste for-the-record, frankenblog entry.

Franchthi Cave is on the very Southern part of Greece, easily accessible from Anatolia (sea levels were a lot lower about 11,000 years ago). From another source, I’ve found out the lentil seeds found at Franchthi are slightly larger than the wild kind, indicating an early stage of domestication. One of the Y chromosome studies I have on file suggests that an early population movement from Turkey to Greece, and I think that this place is a good possible site for their arrival. The caves suddenly gain four of the Neolithic founder crops simultaneously, and I think this is a giveaway for some kind of major cultural change.

Franchthi Cave is located in south eastern Argolid, across a small bay from the modern Greek village of Koilada. It is by far the longest recorded continuous occupational sequence from any one site in Greece. It is unique for having unbroken series of deposits spanning the period from ca. 20,000 B.C. down to ca. 3000 B.C. Excavation at the site began in 1967 and ended in 1976. The dates for the various phases of occupation in the cave are from radiocarbon analysis of a total of over fifty samples, the largest number of radiocarbon samples from any prehistoric site in Greece. The earliest radiocarbon date is ca. 20,000 B.C. for the Upper Paleolithic, the latest near 3000 B.C. for the Final Neolithic.

In the Paleolithic Period (ca. 20,000 � 8300 B.C.) inhabitants of the cave were probably seasonal hunter-gatherers. There is no definite evidence of plant gathering before ca. 11,000 B.C., although large numbers of seeds of the Boraginaceae family were found which may have come from plants gathered to furnish soft “bedding” or for dye, which their roots may have supplied. First appearing at ca. 11,000 B.C. are lentils, vetch, pistachios and almonds. Then ca. 10,500 B.C. and still well within the Upper Paleolithic Period appear a few very rare seeds of wild oats and wild barley. Neither becomes common until ca. 7000 B.C.At this time there is no evidence for habitation of the cave during the winter. The typical tool of this time is the backed bladelet, a tiny multi-purpose-cutting tool, but small end-scrapers (for removing the flesh from hides) are also common. There is no pottery or architecture at this time and also no burials have been found.

In the Mesolithic Period: (ca. 8300 � 6000 B.C.) the plant remains are much the same as in the preceding Paleolithic Period, with the exceptions that wild pears and a few peas begin to appear ca. 7300 B.C. and that wild oats and barley become common after 7000 B.C. The disappearance of the equid and caprine bones from the faunal assemblage, as well as an increase in the number of pistachios, all taking place ca. 8000 B.C. suggest a change of environment to open forests. There is also the possibility, however, that the change in the animal bones represents a change in the hunting preferences or practices of the cave�s inhabitants.

The second phase of the Mesolithic is characterized by the appearance of large quantities of large fish bones and the appearance of substantially larger quantities of obsidian from Melos as a material in the local chipped stone industry. These two developments imply that deep-sea fishing may have been done for the first time. Small, geometrically shaped tools (microliths) now characterize the chipped stone industry. There is still no pottery or architecture.

The earliest burial found at Franchthi is of a Lower Mesolithic date: a 25-year-old male was buried in a contracted position in a shallow pit near the mouth of the cave. The pit was covered with fist-sized stones but there were no burial goods. Further examination in 1989 of the human bone found throughout the cave resulted in the realization that there were five other burials throughout the cave. The bones were of different age groups, which leads to the conclusion that the inhabitants of the cave lived there on a permanent basis.

The beginning of the Neolithic Period (6000 � 5000 B.C.) at Franchthi Cave is characterized by the appearance of domesticated forms of sheep and goat, and the appearance of domesticated forms of wheat, barley and lentil. Also there was the appearance of polished stone tools and a significant increase in the number of grinding stones (for grinding grain) and sickle elements along with other edges used for cutting plants. Pottery had finally appeared in this era. The pottery of this time was dark and monochrome and mostly consisted of hole-mouthed jars and deep bowls. Judging by the size and shape of the pottery it was not used for cooking or storage but rather for display.

During this time, occupation began outside of the cave which brought the first signs of architecture, a sort of retaining wall. Blades seem to be more popular and fishhooks appear for the first time. An infant was also found buried with a clay vase, which may signify some sort of status system.

The wild oats, barley, lentils, pears and peas disappear; emmer wheat and cultivated or domesticated forms of barley and lentil occur for the first time. It is unknown whether the new plant forms were brought from elsewhere or developed locally from wild forms.

The Middle Neolithic (ca. 5000 � 4500 B.C.) is distinguished from the proceeding period by minor changes in the pottery. Potters had learned to purify their clay more thoroughly and to fire their products at higher temperatures and in larger batches, which required the stacking of vessels during the firing process with more carefully controlled conditions. There was also the use of a finer more lustrous, reddish slip or wash on the pottery. Patterns also became more linear although, 50% to 65% of the total pottery of this time still remained solid colored. For the first time, truly coarse clay pastes were used to produce pots fired at lower temperatures than the finer wares and having less carefully finished surfaces. These “course wares” seemed to function as cookware.

The Late Neolithic Period (4500 � 400 B.C.) is also distinguished by its changes in pottery. The pottery of this period is dull when compared to the lustrous paint of the previous period. The dullness is from the manganese-based paint, which has no luster and also does not vary in color when fired whereas the iron-based paints used in the previous period did. A new class of pottery appears referred to as Fine Black-burnished Ware, which was often decorated with fugitive white paint which usually survives only as a “ghost” or “negative” on the black-burnished surface.

In the chipped stone, barbed or barbed-and-tanged arrowheads appear, but are also seen as late as the beginning of the Early Bronze Age.

The last period at Franchthi Cave is the Final Neolithic (ca. 4000 � 3000 B.C.) and is viewed by many scholars as no more than a later stage of the Late Neolithic. The pottery of this period is a variety of odd handle types and a preference for plastic, as opposed to painted, decoration. Small amounts of odd wares for example, red-on-white painted, crusted, dark slipped-and-burnished and pattern-burnished also occur during this period.

In chipped stone, large triangular arrowheads of flint, bifacially flaked, are characteristic. Obsidian now accounts for 95% of the chipped stone at Franchthi. For the first time at Franchthi, the buried population of this time consists both of adults and children and both female and male. In the earlier periods the adult burials appeared to be secondary while the child burials were primary.

A few odd bits of Bronze Age material suggest that the cave had been visited sporadically over the next two millennia. Finds of specialized votive material at the back of the cave show that it served some sort of cult purpose in Classical times, but never was of residence to anyone after that. Franchthi Cave was abandoned around 3000 B.C. because of the steady rise in sea level. The broad terrace below the cave on which both the settlement and the harvest fields of the Neolithic inhabitants existed are now buried.

There are some terracotta figurines found in Franchthi cave, some dating back to the early Neolithic. For a good page with lots of artifacts from Franchthi including stone tools, go to this page, I have shamelssly stolen photos from it.

Burials at Franchthi

Burials of a unknown individual. Burial of an infant, buried with half a clay vase and a marble dish.

 Burials of a middle aged woman and a 25 year old male.

Ancient Cayonu Tepesi, the likely domestication site of emmer wheat.

Cayonu Tepesi

The site of Cayonu Tepesi is located in Eastern Anatolia, which is present day Turkey. The exact location is near the northern arc of the Fertile Crescent in the Taurus Mountains foothills intermediate between Levant and Zagros on the Ergani Plain. This is the earliest Neolithic settlement discovered to date in Turkey and is believed to have been occupied from approximately 7,250 BCE to 6,750 BCE. At the time of habitation, this location was surrounded by steppe forests of oak and pistachio trees. This was a sedentary farming village which showed the earliest remains of copper metalworking. The Cayonu settlement is located not far from the city of Diyarbakir and was excavated between 1964 and 1991 by expedition teams under the leadership of Cambel, Braidwood, Mehmet Ozdogan and Wulf Schirmen. The anthropologist who receives the most credit for the excavation of Cayonu is Robert Braidwood, who also excavated other sites in the Middle East. This site is important because of it’s Neolithic age and the fact that it spanned a time when humans moved from hunting and gathering to more domestication of animals and plants.

Beads from Cayonu Tepesi, and bone implements, 7000 BC.









Photos of the site. The top picture shows the ‘grill’ pattern of the foundations.

The area of the settlement consists of an occupation mound 200 meters in diameter. There are five to six occupation levels that have been discovered over the 600 years of occupation with the earliest even pre-farming. The earliest levels do not include buildings, only cooking pits. The second layer has a grill like foundation with pebble pavement, parallel walls which probably supported wooden beams and plaster-like floors. The third level had 9 x 10 meter buildings that had terrazzo floors and homes constructed of white limestone cobbles and crushed rock. This level also had a number of decorative ornamentations included in the design. The fourth occupation level had stone foundations and formed cell-like units with walls built of mud. The final levels consisted of residential buildings arranged in a rectangular fashion with a number of the buildings housing larger rooms possibly used for public functions. It is believed that the total population was between 100 and 200 people and the community consisted of twenty-five to fifty buildings. The overall layout of the village’s design showed a square in the center of the town with rectangular shaped buildings and housing surrounding it. The majority of the houses have the upper level built with mud bricks and the lower level made out of stones. Some floors were made of plastered clay while others were terrazzo floors. In addition to the buildings, there are also indications that Cayonu had a number of storage facilities probably used for grains. A deep cylindrical hole with remains of clay and a domed structure was also discovered at this site and was more than likely used for storage of various products.

The people of Cayonu are believed to be tribal and were the first farmers of Anatolia. The figurine of a female deity was found on this site and provides sound evidence that religion was an important aspect of everyday life. This female deity is one of the earliest traces of a cult that has come to be known as the Mother Goddess of Anatolia and the female deity has been worshiped for millenniums by the name of “Cybele.” The burial practices of the settlement also indicate different burial practices including interment under the house floors with special orientation differences between male and female members. Jewelry such as bone belt buckles and necklaces of stone or shell beads have been found with some of the burials. The village was dependent on wild and domesticated plants, especially wheat and barley and some hunting of large numbers of deer and aurochs. Cayonu was one of the first areas where domestication of goats and sheep occurred although a number of anthropologists believe that sheep were consistently more common than goats. It is also believed that the dog was the very first domesticated animal in the village followed by pigs, then goats and sheep.

A number of artifacts of great value have been unearthed at Cayonu including stone tools of flint and obsidian along with copper pins which indicate evidence of the earliest know use of metal tools. Also, hammered native copper has also been discovered in conjunction with other artifacts. Clay pottery has been found including stone vessels and two small clay models of houses. Impressed or incised bone pieces have also been found which may be indications of art, numerical counters or an early experiment in writing. Cayonu was a very import discovery for the archeology community and disclosed many clues into the life of early humans in Turkey and the Middle East. The discoveries made at this site have shown early use of tools, domestication of animals and plants, religious beliefs and the earliest Neolithic settlement yet discovered in Turkey.

Beginnings of Village-Farming Communities in Southeastern Turkey-1972

Ritual clues flow from prehistoric blood

Never mind conventional wisdom; you can get blood from a stone. Anthropologists have extracted the blood of humans, sheep and an extinct form of cattle from the surface of a stone slab at an approximately 10,000-year-old agricultural village in Turkey. Analysis of hemoglobin in the samples leaves them with intriguing clues and questions about the ritual activities of early farmers.

The polished slab lies among the remains of a structure known as the “skull building,” which contains more than 90 human skulls and several complete and partial human skeletons.

“We don’t know exactly what was going on in the skull building, but human and animal blood was abundant on the slab,” says Andree R. Wood of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. “It reinforces an argument for at least its occasional use for the cutting up of humans as well as of animals.”

Human sacrifice is one grisly possibility, Wood notes, or human bodies may have been carted to the building after death and placed on the slab for some type of preburial ritual. The skulls show no evidence of decapitation.

Whatever took place in the building, it now appears that one of the world’s earliest known farming villages had developed surprisingly complex traditions by that time, she contends. Previous estimates place the emergence of such villages no farther back than 10,000 years.

Blood from the slab, dated with an advanced technique called accelerator mass spectroscopy radiocarbon dating (SN: 12/16/89, p. 388), is about 9,000 years old, say Wood and Thomas H. Loy of the Australian National University in Canberra.

Their method for removing blood from stone was described by Loy in 1983 and has since been used in the laboratory with artifacts dating from as early as 100,000 years ago. But the new study, conducted at the village of Cayonu Tepesi, marks the first time researchers have removed, stored and undertaken preliminary analysis of blood in the field. This capability offers a great advantage when labs are far away and artifacts cannot be taken out of their country of origin, Wood and Loy maintain.

Loy’s technique involves locating suspected blood residue with a low-power microscope, then analyzing it with a coated paper strip sensitive to hemoglobin. Confirmed blood deposits are scraped off and crystallized. The size and shape of hemoglobin crystals differ among animal species, allowing researchers to match a sample with a particular species.

Initial work at the slab identified human and sheep blood, as well as the blood of an unknown, nonhuman species. The team later obtained blood from bone fragments of an extinct cattle species unearthed at the site and found that its hemoglobin crystals matched those of the unknown species taken from the slab. This is the first identification of the blood of an extinct species, they say.

After analyzing the blood, the researchers excavated from the building a number of skulls and horns belonging to the extinct cattle. They also uncovered a large flint knife whose blade held traces of cattle and human blood. Wood says it may have been used in human sacrifices or mortuary rituals, but she notes that toolmakers’ blood often ends up on sharp tools as a result of accidental cuts.

Ritual activity at Cayonu remains largely a mystery, says Robert J. Braidwood of the Oriental Institute. Nonetheless, he says, the cultural complexity hinted at by the skull building and other structures at the site strengthens his “gut feeling” that humans crossed the threshold to a village-farming life more than 10,000 years ago.