©The Archaeological Settlements of Turkey - TAY Project

Hallan Çemi Tepesi

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Hallan Çemi Tepesi
670 m
Southeastern Anatolia
Investigation Method:


Location: This site lies in Kaletepe Village of Kozluk District 50 km north of Batman.
Geography and Environment: The site is on a Late Pleistocene terrace in the narrow Sason Stream Valley; on the western bank of this stream. The Sason Stream; which springs from the Taurus mountain chain; is a tributary of the Tigris. Hallan Çemi is a gently rising 4.3 m high mound which covers an area of 7 hectares.
Research and Excavation: The mound was discovered in 1990 by M. Rosenberg and H. Togul who were surveying the area expected to be flooded by the Batman Dam Lake [Rosenberg-Togul 1991:244]. Excavations at Hallan Çemi; where a large chipped stone assemblage and decorated stone bowls were found during the survey; were conducted from 1990-1994 under the direction of M. Rosenberg and the support of University of Delaware; ODTÜ TEKDAM; and the Diyarbakir Museum. The excavations were conducted in a small area on the upper southern part of the mound. Virgin soil was reached in the deep sounding dug to determine the stratigraphy of the mound. It takes place in the registered archaeological sites list prepared by Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Stratigraphy: It was determined that the mound is composed of three layers or occupational phases dating to the Aceramic Neolithic Period. Surprisingly; some pottery fragments were found in the sounding dug on the southern part of the mound. The excavation director believes this is due to the fact that the mound is comprised of two separate but partially overlying mounds.
Small Finds: Architecture: Open areas: A large; approximately 1 meter deep depression with a 15 m diameter was exposed in the excavated area on the highest part of the mound. This depression appears to have been used mainly as an open-area or courtyard [Rosenberg 1995a:86]. The method of formation of this depression has not been determined. The initial inhabitants of Halan Çemi must have arrived at a hill with a natural depression at its top. This area was used as an open-courtyard area and from time to time as a trash dump. The first architectural structures were built along the outer edges of this depression. Rosenberg and Davis believe that the burnt wood and charcoal fragments in the depression suggest that there was a wooden hut-like structure constructed within. The fact that three sheep skulls were found; complete with horns; in this area suggests that the depression functioned as a multi purpose area [Rosenberg-Davis 1992:fig.2]. It continued to be used in each of the three occupational phases. The architectural features in each phase differ slightly. Architecture of Occupational Phase I: The earliest occupational phase yielded two large circular structures constructed with soft sandstone blocks. These round structures have a 5 m diameter and have been constructed with an additional wall along the entrance; forming a crescent-shaped doorway space. This space is approximately 1 m wide. The round houses were built partially sunken beneath surface level. The upper part of these structures above the stone walls; which were probably about 1 m in height; were wattle and daub. This conclusion was made after fragments of clay plaster with twig impressions were found. Holes to support the roof posts were found every 10 cm along the stone wall. U shaped hearths made by placing three sandstone blocks in a "U"; were in the center of these structures [Rosenberg 1995a:87]. The many floors in each round building indicate that these structures were reused and renovated many times over a long time period. "U" shaped elements; whose functions are not clear were also found within the rooms. These elements were constructed in the same manner as the "U" shaped hearths. Architecture of Occupational Phase II: In this phase; small pebbles collected from nearby Sason Stream were used in wall construction with clay mortar. House plans were still round although they are smaller in size. There are also no crescent-shaped halls by the entrances in this phase. The roofs were probably constructed in the same manner as in Phase I. The floors of these structures were paved with carefully lined sandstone blocks. "U" shaped intramural elements; whose functions are not clear; continue to be found. They are constructed in the same manner. One of these elements was found in the northern part of the courtyard. Architecture of Occupational Phase III: This phase architecturally resembles Phase II. Although few examples were found; pebbles were again used in wall construction together with clay mortar. "U" shaped elements continue in this phase; as well. No information has been provided on the architectural features of this phase in the trenches in the southern part of the mound. Ceramics: Although no sherds were found during the surface survey; the 40 square meter deep-sounding on the southern part of the mound (where 3.5 m of cultural material deposit was excavated down to virgin soil) yielded a few ceramic fragments. Rosenberg does not assign these sherds to a period [Rosenberg et al. 1995:3]. At this stage it is difficult to say whether the Aceramic Neolithic settlement is small and whether the Ceramic Neolithic settlement is limited to the southern side of the mound. No information has been provided on the ceramic ware. Chipped Stone: 60% of the chipped stone tools found at the site are made of obsidian. The closest obsidian source is 100 km and a three day walk from Hallan Çemi at Mount Nemrut Dag. The chipped stone tools include blades; bladelets; 4 cm long small triangular points; butt-ended bladelets and other microlith tools. Ground Stone: The hunter gatherer inhabitants of Hallan Çemi made beautifully decorated stone bowls. The quantity and workmanship of these stone bowls; especially when compared to the size of the mound; were among the reasons to select this site for excavation. The bowls have been carved from the local sandstone which is soft and workable. The vessels are comprised of flat bottomed and thin walled; high forms and deep bowls. Some have piercing near their mouths for hanging. The decoration on most of the vessels (geometric designs and other depictions of nature) has been made by carving. Geometric designs include zigzag motifs; crisscrossing and meandering lines. Rows of three dogs/wolves in a line have also been schematically depicted. In addition to stone bowls; the Hallan Çemi ground stone finds include celts and other simple pick-like tools with thick backs. Goat and pig headed pestles; mortars and burnished mace heads were also found. The inhabitants of Hallan Çemi used limestone and other metamorphic stones as raw material for their ground stone tools. In addition to a large cubical bead; smaller stone beads are also common. Bone/Antler: The most common tool types are middle sized bone awls. Fish hooks and needles are rare. The function of oval-shaped 7-12 cm long tools pierced in two nearby spots could not be determined [Rosenberg 1993:121; fig.14/2-3]. A bone tool fragment with snake decoration suggests that these bone tools were incised with a geometric decoration similar to that on the stone bowls. Fauna: The analysis of two tons of faunal remains collected after four seasons of excavation determined that a large portion of the bones belonged to mammals. The analysis further showed that 43% of the mammal bones are goat/sheep; 27% of the mammal bones are deer; 12% of these bones are pig; 13% are dog/jackal; and that 3% are bear bones. The only animal that appears to have been domesticated is pig. Flora: Although analysis of these finds are not complete; peas; lentils; pistachios and other plant remains were detected in preliminary studies of the flora. Many grasses also appear to have been harvested. No domesticated wheat or barley was found.
Interpretation and Dating: There are many puzzles about the socio-economic life-styles of the inhabitants of Hallan Çemi. These peoples appear not to know domestication and instead subsided on hunting and gathering. They used their round houses; which were built partially sunken beneath ground level and had wattle and daub roofs; as workshops. Although very little of the site was excavated; it is possible to say; due to the limited architecture; that the settlement population density was relatively low. Rosenberg notes that the settlement is not only seasonal and that it was used all year round. 14C dates from the site range between 8.600 and 8.000 BC. Rosenberg and Davis; who studied the typological characteristics of the chipped stone tools; believe they closely resemble finds from Kermez Dere (Qermez Dere) and Nemrik 9 in Northern Iraq [Rosenberg-Davis 1992:8]. Hallan Çemi is one of the oldest sites in Turkey; both in terms of 14C dates and in other characteristics.

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