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1650 m
Eastern Anatolia
Investigation Method:
Early Middle


Location: The site lies 7 km southwest of Van; 4 km south of Van Castle; on Samramalti Plain partially used as an airport in the present; approximately 1 km from Van Lake; inside the borders of Van Airport.
Geography and Environment: The 6-7 m high mound; measuring 55 m in diameter; is reported to be damaged by the earlier buildings of the airport. It is small; ovoid; and 9-10 m high above the level of the lake. The first settlers are thought to have inhabited the area just near the lake. A closely fresh water spring was most probably used as the water source. However; there no springs or creeks around the site.
Research and Excavation: Tilkitepe is one of the first excavated mounds in Turkey. The site was excavated in three campaigns. The 6-10x25 m trench; in North-South direction; was dug during the excavations conducted by W. Belck in 1899 in relation with the expedition of Lehmann-Haupt. Belck thought that he was excavating a tumulus due to the recovery of many human skeletons. The second campaign of excavations were conducted by E.B. Reilly in 1937. The stratigraphy of the site was acquired in the trench near the center of the mound. Two years later; the 1939 excavation was conducted by C. Kinay under the leadership of K. Lake and S. Lake. 4 levels were revealed. The site; excavated a few times; aroused interest of many researchers; and espicially of A. Erzen; who studied Urartu Period around the region. Sherds in Halafian new painted ware were collected by Erzen [Erzen 1960:20]. Altough very little of the excavations was reported; M. Korfmann gathered many data about these researches and observed the finds again; thus enlightening the finds and the stand of the site for Anatolian prehistory [Korfmann 1982].
Stratigraphy: Three levels were found at the excavations of Reilly [Reilly 1940:145-178]. According to Korfmann; there is one more level; which he labels "0". Four levels were found at the third campaign of excavations: Stratigraphy of Reilly Stratigraphy of K. and S. Lake Level I: EBA (0-1.5 m) Level I: EBA (0-2 m) Level II: Chalcolithic Age (1.5-6 m) Level II: Copper Age (?) (2-4 m) Level III: Chalcolithic Age (6-8 m) Level III: Chalcolithic Age (4-6 m) Virgin soil Level IV: Chalcolithic Age (6-7.5 m) According to Korfmann; Level III dates to Halaf Period; Level II dates to Late Ubaid Period; Level I belongs to the end of the 4th Millennium BC and the beginning of the 3rd Millennium BC; and Level 0 dates to the 2nd and 1st Millennium BC [Korfmann 1982:220]. Virgin soil; consisting of sand; was reached at 8.5 m of depth. It is agreed that there is a hiatus between Level I and Level II.
Small Finds: Architecture: Although architectural remains could not be exactly revealed due to the undeveloped excavation techniques of the time and careless observations; round structures were observed in Level I. Mud-brick was used as the construction material. There are no stone wall basements or foundations. Pottery: Halafian painted and plain wares were found in Level III. The ware; also existent in Arax Valley in the same region; marks the northeasternmost point of the dispersion of Halaf culture in Turkey. Painted sherds were found at a depth of 6-7.5 m and resemble the painted Halafian sherds of Banhilk settlement. Forms are bowls; globular jars with everted rims; necked jars; and sharp carinated jars. There are decorations such as bull heads; chevrons; bands; wavy lines; and intersecting lines (net pattern) [Korfmann 1982:43 - 44]. In Level II; sherds in hand-made; sand-tempered; underfired ware are abundant. The color of the paste ranges from buff to brown and the surface colors range from buff to gray. Incised decoration is observed on the mouth of a sherd. Thick wavy band decorated; chaff-tempered ware is dominant in Level I. This ware was named as "Tilkitepe ware" because it is peculiar to the site. Black burnished ware; namely Transcaucasian Ware or Karaz Ware; appears either contemporary with Tilkitepe ware or a little later. This level is; therefore; displays a Transition Period from the Late Chalcolithic Age to the Early Bronze Age. Clay: Loom weights made of sherds were found in Level II. Chipped Stone: Obsidian is observed to be the dominant raw material since the lowest levels. The region is rich in obsidian sources. There are obsidian seams in large sizes in Nemrut and Süphan Mountains. Blade industry is dominant. Blades with single striking platforms are recovered. Ground Stone: Excised decorated stone finds; belonging to Level III; are the most interesting finds of Tilkitepe. Small; burnished flat axes were recovered. Bone / Antler: Bone hammers; peculiar to the EBA settlements in Eastern Anatolia; were found in Level III [Korfmann 1982:lev.16]. In addition; there are bone objects in shape of a spoon; which were probably used for scraping. The number of bone awls increase in the lower levels. Human Remains: Burials; all being inhumations; were quite abundant; mostly recovered from Level II. Abundance of the dead is thought to be the result of a natural disaster such as a disease; earthquake or a fire. Moreover; there are intramural single graves with grave goods; in which; red ochre was sprinkled over the dead. Two infants are recovered; buried in a small pithos in Level II. All were buried in hocker position [Özgüç 1948b:5]. Human skeletons of Tilkitepe were first observed and published by S.A. Kansu and M. Ünsal; and then by T. Özgüç. Of 12 skeletons that date to the Chalcolithic Age; two of the women are mezosefal; while the men are dolikosefal [Kansu-Ünsal 1952:394]. These 40-50 years old inhabitants had thick arm and leg bones and were of the Mediteranean Race. It is not clear whether the graves contained grave goods or not. Some of them had vessels while some had bracelet pieces. The analysis of the skeletons by M. Özbek are reported by an appendix in the Tilkitepe publications of Korfmann.
Interpretation and Dating: Tilkitepe; containing the Early Chalcolithic Age finds of Eastern Anatolia; is one of the important sites for providing specific information about the region. It is interpretated to be a trade colony north of the Halafian sites; at least in this period. Lacking 14C dates; Level II of Tilkitepe is dated to the 4th Millennium BC. The dating of Level I is debatable. Some archaeologists like Yakar claim that it belongs to the EBA I due to the existence of round structures [Yakar 1985:301]. Further excavations at Tilkitepe will enlighten the Transition Period from the Late Chalcolithic Age to the Early Bronze Age and the emergence of Karaz Culture. Finds from the excavations and surface collections are being preserved at Prehistory Labaratory of the University of Istanbul; British Museum; Van Museum; Ankara Anatolian Civilizations Museum; and Peabody Museum.

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