In the so-called “Volcanic Cappadocia” area of the Central Anatolian Plateau, on the way from Aksaray to the east towards Gülağaç district, you will notice the signs of “Aşıklı Mound” before coming to Kızılkaya village. When you take the main road and follow a short tree-lined road, you will find Aşıklı Höyük. Although most of it has been eroded by the Melendiz River, which flows right next to it, four hectares of the mound have survived to the present day.
The first excavation and research studies in Aşıklı Höyük, which was discovered in the 1960s, lasted for 13 years, were started in 1989 by Prof. Dr. Ufuk Esin, head of the Department of Prehistoric Archaeology at Istanbul University. Excavations have been carried out by an international team headed by Prof. Dr. Mihriban Özbasaran from the same department since 2006.
A KEY SITE
For thousands of years, small groups of hunter-gatherer people who adopted the nomadic lifestyle in pursuit of natural resources changed their way of life and settled down about 12,000 years ago, with the formation of habitable climatic conditions after the last Ice Age. After a while, they domesticated the animals and started mowing the plants, that is, farming. They have experienced significant changes in social, cultural and technological fields and laid the foundations of today’s consumer society. The time period during which this new way of life takes place is called the Neolithic Period. Aşıklı Höyük is a key settlement that explains how this process took place in Central Anatolia. Because founded 10,400 years ago and abandoned 9,300 years ago, Aşıklı was the scene of the birth of many innovations in the Neolithic Period for a thousand years.
FROM THE PIT TO MULTI-ROOM HOUSES
First came to Aşıklı were groups of mobile hunter-gatherers who roamed the region. These groups, who probably took advantage of seasonal opportunities such as fishing, began to stay here in the 8400s BC, building simple pit shelters. In the following hundreds of years, they built half-buried, oval-shaped structures in the ground, where they built their walls with mud bricks. Over time, they moved to multi-room dwellings with adjacent quadrilateral plan. But they entered their houses from the roof, not from a door at floor level. They carried out their daily work sometimes on roofs and sometimes in open spaces between houses. In these areas, which they benefited from as partners, they did such things as butchery, leather processing, stone and bone tool making, basket knitting, food cooking, and they also used these areas as garbage dumps. In addition to the houses, they came together and built special structures where they carried out communal activities such as feasts and meetings. The open spaces they share, and these special structures show that the Aşıklı peoples are a community that embraces collective life.
THEY’VE DOMESTICATED ANIMALS
They hunted large animals such as wild sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, red and deer, as well as small animals such as rabbits, beavers, various birds, and fish in the early days. Over time, they tended to consume predominantly sheep, goats and cattle. After a while, they managed to tame the sheep and goats that they kept and fed near their homes in the settlement. Similarly, they learned to farm over time while consuming various wild legumes, cereals, nuts and fruits. But instead of domesticating and farming, they continued to hunt and collect wild resources.
FIRST CRANIAL OPERATION
The residents of Aşıklı probably buried their dead somewhere outside the village. But some of them, buried in a fetal position in the pit they dug at the base of the house and plastered on it and lives continued inside. A 20-25-year-old woman’s skeleton was discovered in one of the houses, and a trace of brain surgery (trepanation) using obsidian (volcanic glass) instruments was detected in the skull, and a masterful operation mark was detected on another skull. These practices, which were made 10,000 years ago, are among the first in the history of medicine. It is thought that the people of Aşıklı, who lived here for 25-30 generations, engaged in technological experiences such as copper workmanship and lime burning in their last decades, increased trading with neighboring settlements. At the end of settlement, they decided to migrate to more suitable lands in 7300 BC to adapt for their new needs.
“Yeni Bir Yaşamın Öncüsü” article published on Milliyet Arkeoloji -August 2021