An excavation in the Dargeçit district of the southeastern region of Turkey, which will soon be left under the reservoir waters of the Ilısu Dam, has revealed crucial information about the North Mesopotamian people’s social life 10 millennia ago, particularly about burial rituals and the ancient belief in life after death.
Bodies buried in the fetal position, with their knees pulled up to their stomach, were found in the basements of houses in the site, symbolizing the position of a baby in the womb, according to information provided by Nihat Erdoğan, the manager of the Mardin Museum who conducts the excavation of the site.
The findings point at belief in rebirth after death, Erdoğan told the Doğan News Agency.
The decades-old Ilısu Dam project, which was first planned under Southeastern Anatolia Project’s investments in the 1960s, was first tendered in 1997. The potential damage caused by the dam’s construction, which is planned to be finalized this year, has been discussed for a quarter of a century.
Archaeologists have been carrying out intense work since 2008 in the large area, which includes the site known as “Boncuklu Tarla,” literally meaning “beady field” in English.
Houses with quarry stone walls and stiffened clay floors from the Aceramic Neolithic Age, which date back to 10,000 B.C. and 7,000 B.C., were found during the excavations at the site in Dargeçit.
“Since those times, people have used totems or amulets for thousands of years for abundance or spells, as part of their beliefs or as ornaments. Ornaments were made of colorful stones and natural materials such as animal teeth, horn, bone and nails or sea shells that were rubbed, scratched, drilled and stringed together,” said Erdoğan.
“The specific triangular pendants that were found at Boncuklu Tarla shows that the form of amulets, which have been believed to protect people from bad things and illnesses or to bring good luck, have not changed for 10,000 years,” he said.
Along with thousands of beads used in ornaments, obsidian or flint blades, waste from ornament making and stone chipping tools were found at the site.
The tools include blades, gimlets, arrowheads and microliths, said Erdoğan.
Traces of the Neolithic age have been found in several spots in Anatolia, where food production and settled societies had begun, he noted.
The foundations of today’s civilization were laid during the Neolithic Age, when the socio-economic structures and social classes were formed, triggering rooted changes in human life, he said.
The Boncuklu Tarla site was discovered in 2008, during a field survey. Its first excavations started in 2012. This year’s excavation, which began last week, will last until the end of October and the uncovered artifacts will be exhibited at the Mardin Museum.