2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
Scientists spoke about the results of a preliminary study of bone plates covered with symbolic images from the burials of the early Neolithic settlement of Kertik-Tepe in southeastern Turkey. It turned out that in the nature of the images and in morphology, they differ from similar finds from other archaeological sites of the same era in Asia Minor. This allowed the researchers to suggest that at the beginning of the Neolithic, Kurtik-Tepe was a large and distinctive center for the development of spiritual culture. At the same time, its inhabitants maintained contacts with neighboring settlements, thus participating in the formation of similarities in the appearance of Neolithic cultures, according to an article in the publication Archaeological Research in Asia.
The foundation of modern ideas about the Middle Eastern cultures of the Early Neolithic was laid by research in Jericho (Palestine). In the middle of the 20th century, the remains of a proto-urban settlement built in the 9th millennium BC were excavated here. Apparently, it was a regional center that united local communities, which carried out in the 9th-9th millennia BC the transition from hunting and gathering to early forms of a productive economy and a sedentary lifestyle. Findings of the remains of houses, granaries, stone inserts for sickles, grain graters and other items related to primitive agricultural life speak about him. However, these people have not yet mastered the manufacture of ceramics, so the earliest period of the formation of agriculture and cattle breeding in the Middle East was called the pre-ceramic Neolithic.
Burials under the floor of dwellings were a characteristic feature of the funeral ritual among the inhabitants of ancient Jericho. Archaeologists also encountered this feature during excavations of other settlements of the same period in different regions of the Levant, Southeastern Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamia. Such monuments of the transitional era and the pre-ceramic Neolithic, such as Tel-Mureybet, Göbekli-tepe, Hallan-Chemi and others, brought a lot of data (1, 2, 3) not only about the economic life, but also about the spiritual culture of the first farmers. In addition to burials, the remains of religious buildings, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines, as well as bone plates covered with images of animals and geometric ornaments were found in them. Comparative studies of all these finds show that at the turn of the Pleistocene and Holocene, the earliest sedentary groups in Western Asia contacted, exchanging ideas and beliefs, and often used similar symbolism. And the pictorial traditions that arose at the dawn of the Neolithic show similarities with later artifacts found in such large settlements as Chaionu and Catal-Huyuk (Catal-Hyoyuk).
Pre-Pottery Neolithic Monuments in the Middle East. The location of Kurtik-Tepe is marked with a large red circle.
One of the monuments of the pre-ceramic Neolithic and the era immediately preceding it was discovered on the hill of Kertik-tepe in southeastern Turkey, in the silt (province) of Diyarbakir. It is located near the confluence of the Batman River with the Tigris. Archaeologists excavated the hill from 2000 to 2018 as part of the work leading up to the construction of the dam. After its construction, the rise of water led to the flooding of the archaeological site. From the middle of the 11th to the end of the 10th millennium BC, a large settlement existed here: scientists found the remains of more than 450 round houses on the hill.
Finds in Kurtik-Tepe. Left - burial inside the house and related artifacts; on the right - items of burial implements (in the bottom row - ornamented bone plates)
The inhabitants of Kurtik-Tepe were engaged in the systematic collection of wild-growing earthen wheat, rye, barley, legumes and, perhaps, have already gradually switched to their purposeful cultivation; they collected both small-seeded wild grains and nuts. Apparently, they have already tamed sheep and goats. True, a significant part of the remains of animals is represented by the bones of a red deer, and this suggests that hunting continued to play a significant role in the economy of the local community. More than 2000 home burials were found in the settlement with a large amount of burial items unusual for this period. Stone vessels, beads and more than 125 ornamented bone plates were found in the graves of Kertik-Tepe.
Fragment of a painted bone plate. On the front side (left) - images of wild goats, applied with bitumen; on the reverse side (right) - an ornament made with bitumen and red ocher
Plate with images of wild goats
Turkish researchers led by Abu B. Siddiq from Artuklu University in Mardin published the first results of studying graphics on plates from the Kurtik Tepe burials. Most of them are covered with engraved ornaments and sometimes have holes, probably for hanging. The smallest part of the finds - only 11 - is represented by painted plates. Geometric motives and images of animals are applied to them with bitumen; the reverse side is painted with bitumen and red ocher. Scientists have noted another feature of these rare items for the pre-ceramic Neolithic era - large sizes: from 109 to 241 millimeters in length and from 22 to 62 millimeters in width. Animalistic motifs on the painted tablets include images of wild goats, snakes (judging by the pattern on the back and the characteristic protrusions on the head - presumably horned vipers) and scorpions.
Fragmented plate with a mirror image of two scorpions. In the center - an unidentified image
Plates with geometric patterns
Finds of engraved bone tablets are very common for sites of the Proto-Neolithic and Early Neolithic: they are found in Syria, and in Southeastern Anatolia, and in northern Iraq. But products, similar in technique to the painted plates from Kurtik-Tepe, are known to archaeologists only from the excavations of the settlements of Hasankeyf-Khoyuk and Gusir-Khoyuk, located several tens of kilometers downstream of the Tigris. And only here did archaeologists come across symbols associated with the images of scorpions and wild goats. Probably, it originates in the purely local traditions of Paleolithic shamanism and later did not find wide distribution in the developed cultures of the Neolithic. In Kirtik-Tepe, stylized snakes and goats were depicted not only on bone tablets, but also on stone vessels that were placed in graves.
Plate depicting three snakes (presumably horned vipers)
Plaque with the image of a writhing snake
As for snakes, the pictorial tradition associated with them is present in both protoneolithic and later monuments throughout Upper Mesopotamia. Apparently, in burial rituals, the image of the snake as a creature in close connection with the underworld played an extremely important role and turned out to be very stable. Siddiq and his colleagues believe that the prevalence of "serpentine" symbolism is due not only to the peculiarities of perception, common to people of any culture. To a large extent, it can be explained by stable contacts between early agricultural communities. At the same time, spiritual exchange affected not only the elements of ritual practice, but also the most common visual techniques. This is indirectly confirmed by the frequent and widespread discovery of engraved bone tablets.
Images on painted bone plates from the Hasankeyf-Khoyuk settlement, similar to those found in Kertik-tepe: a - mythological creatures with goat horns; b - scorpion
An engraved chlorite jar found in one of the Kertik-Tepe burials, with a geometric pattern and images of snakes and wild goats
The use of plates richly ornamented with bitumen pigment and ocher could be limited in Kertik-tepe by the special circumstances of the burial or the status of the deceased. Their presence in several graves, according to the authors of the study, emphasizes the originality of the local protoneolithic culture. And the entire set of figurative monuments found here indicates one of the paths followed by the development of features that brought together the cultures of the developed Neolithic of the Middle East.
Earlier, archaeologists excavated in the vicinity of Jerusalem the remains of a large settlement of the pre-ceramic era, dating back about 10, 5 thousand years, and geneticists have established how the composition of home burials in the settlements of Neolithic Anatolia changed in terms of genetic relationship.