Güvercinkaya tumulus sheds light on Anatolian life

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The latest excavation at the 7,000 year old Güvercinkaya tumulus in Aksaray Province has discovered the fossilized remains of such animals as lions and panthers.

 

Güvercinkaya tumulus was discovered near the planned site of the Mamasun Dam when surface research for the dam was underway in 1993. The latest excavations at the tumulus have unearthed the remains of animals [Credit: AA]

An excavation at the 7,000 year old Güvercinkaya tumulus in Aksaray Province has discovered the fossilized remains of such animals as lions, panthers and two species of horses, indicating that these species once lived in Cappadocia. 

Güvercinkaya tumulus was discovered near the planned site of the Mamasun Dam when surface research for the dam was underway in 1993, said Dr. Sevil Gülçur, who heads the Güvercinkaya excavation and is the head of the archaeology department at Istanbul University. Because the tumulus was located near the dam, the excavation was begun urgently. “In order to save the area, we started excavation work in 1996 and excavated the damaged areas firstly,” Gülçur said. 

“We worked on an area 3,000 meters square, found some very significant structures at the peak of the tumulus. The use of the tumulus dates back approximately 5,220 to 4,750 B.C. We came across the gate of a castle, which is probably it is the oldest example of its kind in Anatolia,” Gülçur said, “The tumulus is divided into two fragments, an upper settlement and a lower settlement. The whole architecture was developed by design. It is not a random settlement; they designed the settlement to comply with the natural structure of the rocks. The one-roomed houses have storage and furnaces.
Their means of livelihood was based on agriculture and livestock.” 

Food remains at the site have revealed a great deal of information about ancient Cappadocia, including the fact that two species of horses once existed there. 

“Two [species of] horse existed; one of them is bigger than the other. When the Persians invaded Anatolia, they saw the great number of horses and called the land ‘Cappadocia’ which means ‘land of beautiful horses,’ and the Romans continued to use the name. In addition to horses, there were a lot of deer in the region. We also detected the presence of some predators, including lions and panthers. The Cappadocia region had the raw material prehistoric humans needed to survive. For example, we found a leg bone and claw that belonged to a lioness. It is hard to say whether people in those times ate lion meat, but they did benefit from lions’ bones and skins.” 

Excavation site threatened by dam 

The excavation work continues to try to save the area from possible damage created by the dam, Gülçur said. “A very frightening thing happened in Güvercinkaya when the level of the water in the dam rose and covered the whole area in 2011. The dam damaged the areas we had excavated, and now we are working to reach the old layer and clean the excavation site. This year we are determined to find older layers and document the layers and structures we have already excavated with photos, in order not lose the information if the water rises again,” she said.  

Source: Hurriyet Daily News [August 13, 2012]

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