• Ozge Yılmaz

The first traces of settled life in Boncuklu Höyük, which is an older settlement than Çatalhöyük

Located 9 kilometers from Çatalhöyük, which has a history of 9 thousand years, Boncuklu Höyük bears the first traces of agriculture and animal husbandry in Anatolia.

It was named Boncuklu Höyük because of the large number of beads found during the surveys that can still be seen on it. Located in the Konya Plain of Turkey, the settlement bears the traces of the transition to settled life and being the first agricultural community.

An image from the Boncuklu Höyük excavation, Photograph: The Boncuklu Höyük excavation archive

The head of the archeology studies at Boncuklu Höyük was Prof. Dr. Douglas Baird (Lecturer in the Department of Archeology, University of Liverpool) and its vice president, Assoc. Dr. Gökhan Mustafaoğlu (Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University Archeology Department Lecturer).

(Check out our other article)

In an interview given by Mustafaoğlu to the Anadolu Agency correspondent, it was stated that "The mound was noticed during the surface studies carried out in 2002 in the Hayıroğlu District of Konya's central Karatay district. It was thought to belong to the Prehistoric period after a large amount of obsidian stone tools and beads were found on the surface found in the area.”

Excavations at Boncuklu Höyük began in 2006 with the completion of the surface works. Mustafaoğlu stated that, “We have completed the 14th season of their work in Boncuklu Höyük. The region was quite different in the past from what it is now. It is known that this place was surrounded by swamps and wetlands in the Neolithic period. There were hunter-gatherers living in the region as nomadic. Boncuklu Höyük became a region where nomadic people gradually settled down. In addition, practices for agriculture and husbandry have started to be made here, at a very low level.”

An image from the Boncuklu Höyük excavation, Photograph: The Boncuklu Höyük excavation archive

According to the data obtained, Boncuklu Höyük has traces of the first wheat, pea and lentil cultivation in the Konya Plain. Mustafaoğlu stated that “The traces of the fixed, small-scale food production practices of Boncuklu Höyük are clearly visible.”

According to the carbon and nitrogen isotope analyzes, it was observed that sheep and goats were bred in Boncuklu Höyük. Herbivorous animal excrement seen in the settlement supports the use.

Prof. Dr. Baird said, "The reason for choosing Boncuklu Höyük is that it has very suitable areas for hunting and gathering activities."

An experimental house built on the basis of the houses found in Boncuklu Höyük. C: The Boncuklu Höyük excavation archive

Fish bones, waterfowl, wild boars and cattle remains found in Boncuklu Höyük show that the region had a very favorable structure. Baird said, “Boncuklu Höyük is an important place for us to see the first traces of settled life, agriculture and animal husbandry, at a low level. The oldest people of Konya started agriculture here.”

Baird stated that there are traces of settled life in many areas in Boncuklu Höyük. For example, “The same house was used for 120-130 years. There is a life cycle of approximately 1600 – 1800 years in the region. According to ancient DNA results, mother, child and sibling burials were found in the same house. In the region, it has been observed that kinship relations are strong as well as cultural continuity. The people living in the region have made great progress in transferring them to the culture or agriculture they find around them. Another finding in the area is the repetitive floor plaster applications on the floors of the houses. This shows that the people living in Boncuklu Höyük formed deep bonds with their homes.”

There is substantial evidence that Boncuklu Höyük is the ancestor of Çatalhöyük. Beads were found in the graves of men and women, in the spaces between houses, and inside the houses in Boncuklu Höyük. Baird stated that “Beads are not only used for ornamental purposes, but also carry symbolic meanings”.

The history of Boncuklu Höyük dates back to 9200 BC and 11,200 years ago from today. Baird stated, “Boncuklu Höyük is approximately 2,000 years older than Çatalhöyük. It is the direct ancestor of Çatalhöyük.”

An image from the Boncuklu Höyük excavation, Photograph: The Boncuklu Höyük excavation archive

“Recent studies have shown that a large proportion of the community in Boncuklu Höyük and Çatalhöyük share a common genetic heritage. In addition, the population of Boncuklu has a great importance in the development of Çatalhöyük society. There are practices that preform those at Çatalhöyük and are not seen in other early Neolithic settlements in Central Anatolia. It consists of the symbolic detailing of clean areas by dividing the floor area into clean and dirty – kitchen area, and the use of ritual practices such as placing human burials, animal heads such as aurochs on the walls, painting floors and walls, reliefs made of clay. The world of abstract meanings created through the continuous reconstruction of the house and the rituals that determine the death and rebirth of the house is also a common feature observed between the two communities.”

Baird said that Boncuklu Höyük was abandoned around 7600 BC, a few centuries before Çatalhöyük was founded.