Paleolithic Caves in the Antalya Region

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Antalya Region is an important district situated on the southwest of Taurus Mountains which has abundant past with its prehistorical sites. Examining Paleolithic eras in Antalya Region has present rich information resources for interpretations towards lifestyles of Paleolithic people. Development in lithic industries of Paleolithic human communities has given data to understand their daily life, knowledge of diffusion of the cultures and interactions between the communities. This paper will mainly focus on the development of Paleolithic technologies in the light of the provided information from Karain, Beldibi and Öküzini. Also, Anatolia as a significant migration way in the midst of Levantine corridor, Africa and Europe will be investigated.

Karain is the most comprehensively studied Paleolithic cave in Anatolia. It is located in north of the modern city Antalya and situated on the south-facing flanks of Taurus range. Excavations in this multi-chambered cave were started by Kılıç Kökten in 1946 (Kuhn 201). Karain E has the main deposits that contain the remains from Lower Paleolithic and Middle Paleolithic (Otte et al. 73). Chamber E has been divided into ten units. The deeper four units (A-E) have remains from Lower Paleolithic era. Characteristics of the lithic production from Unit A is mainly composed of very basic core reductions, and small notched and denticulated flake tools, somewith steep, invasive retouch. Some assemblages are seemed to be likened to the ones from Yarımburgaz Cave which has rich variety of the early deposits of different Paleolithic periods. Units B-E have assemblages of further periods (350.000-300.000 B.C.). In lithic industry, a shift towards thinner blanks, more controlled retouch, and a wider range of tool forms can be observed for these years. The assemblages appeared similar to the central and southern Levantine lithic culture. Besides, the faunal remains of those units are mainly consists wild sheep or goat, and a variety of carnivores (Kuhn 201-202). Between the chambers E and F a major change occurs in lithic technologies and the first evidences of Levallois technique were found. With Middle Paleolithic, lithic technologies mainly changed in terms of knapping techniques and material preferences. People started to use extra-local resources such as quartzite cherts and brown or beige radiolarities (Otte et al. 75).

Karain Cave, as a huge habitat, was also used by various species of animals. The progress of faunal remains does not picture a similar change through time within the chamber. In spite of limited archaeozoological study, over 3000 pieces have been identified. The character of the faunal assemblages was mixed: the primary group includes animals which were hunted and transported to the cave by humans such as sheep and goats, secondly remains of animals which have no nutritional value and used as raw material source, the third group studied consists of animals which were used the cave for hibernation and habitation (goats, wild cats, foxes etc.) and, the last group includes the remains of animals which hunted and transported by the other hunter residents of the cave (Otte et al. 428).

Local lithic techniques of Karain display a distinction: Western and central regions of Turkey mostly have influences of southeastern Europe and, the eastern parts and northern Mesopotamia regions seemed to be belong to Levantine region. Absence of Acheaulean axes in Karain and abundance in Levantine, the results of examination of the human remains which show the linkage with Europe, and the absence of laminar technique which has seen in Syria generally give ideas about the distinction (Otte et al. 430). Distribution of Acheaulean bifaces has been interpreted as an African diffusion; because spread of the axes from Arabian Peninsula to the Caucasus and West India, despite its absence in central and eastern Europe through central Anatolia (Otte et al. 79).

Öküzini Cave is also important cave located near Karain. A rock engraving which represents a wild cattle was found on the interior wall of the cave. Also, a large deposit has been removed from the cave interior belonging to numerous occupations (Otte et al. 79). Roughly, as radiocarbon examinations showed, the deposits in Öküzini span a time period from 17.800 to 6.500 B.C (Kuhn 206). All the lithic assemblages were made of various radiolarities both derived from the cave or from the near resources (Otte et al. 82).

According to researchers, the lithic phases of Öküzini can be divided into four parts. Bottom to top, first three phases have an important deposit of Paleolithic Öküzini periods. In the first phase, the main characteristics of stone tool production are elongated blades with retouched bases. These blades were manufactured from both imported and local radiolarities. For the second phase which has lithic remains between 14.000 and 13.000 B.C, it can be said that the main lithic technology remained undeveloped, despite the presence of trapezes and lunates. In terms of fauna of these two earlier phases, the organic remains mostly (%80) composed of sheep and wild goats. With the coming of 14th century B.C, geometric lithic assemblages started to appear. Also, a preference towards the microburin technology can be seen commonly. There found bone artefacts and decorative pieces which include awls, needles, spatulas, rocky pearls and fossil marine shells (Otte et al. 82).

Consequently, the lithic industries in Öküzini reflect a shift from microlithic, non-geometric assemblages manufactured from both imported and local radiolarities, to geometric microliths made of local radiolarities. This shift in lithic technology is also common in Antalya Region caves, such as Karain and Belbaşı. Apart from the contemporary Levant occupations, Öküzini was a camp of foragers who hunted wild goat and sheep (Otte et al. 84).

Beldibi is situated near Kemer, about 30 miles west of Antalya. It is mainly consist of a rock shelter, a cave above the shelter and a roughly semi-circular shaped terrace which is covered by pine trees now. Beldibi was mainly used as a place for hunters to live or hide. Remains which are belonging to Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic eras were revealed during the excavations. The site has been divided into seven phases. First two phases have materials from post-agricultural civilizations. In Phase C, microliths, various animal bones and sea shells from Epipaleolithic and Mesolithic periods were found. Earlier phases have lithic assemblages and the other remains from Upper Paleolithic. These phases have a greater proportion of larger tools, thick and large blades and some skull pieces of skulls of Homo sapiens. To the bottom layers, a decrease in the number of assemblages can be seen (Bostancı 141-155). Some pieces found in Phase F, firstly it thought to have some characteristics of Middle Paleolithic, but; Enver Bostancı did not mention it on his last publications. Additionally, Beldibi has a rich past of rock paintings which were made by pigmented pebbles, mainly emerged from Mesolithic eras (Bostancı 138).

The Beldibi cultures have developed in a geographically restricted land. Because of this, these cultures have distinctive features among the other sites of Paleolithic Antalya Region. However, Beldibi has traces of of a variety of different cultures, such as Aterian, Capsian, and Natufian (Bostancı 157-158).

As a result, Paleolithic sites in Antalya Region provide many data about human migration and their lifestyles, despite inadequate research and partly ruined sites. Few sites were well-studied for Paleolithic period in Turkey. But, as seen in Karain E, Öküzini and some other Paleolithic caves from the other regions of Turkey, such as Yarımburgaz and Dursunlu; non-biface industries were common like European and Balkan sites. And decline in numbers of bifaces east to west. Also, the existence of Acheaulean axes, except open-air sites, gives same opportuinity to interpret lithic technologies. In addition, because of the karstic structure of geography of the Antalya Region, the lithic technology was mainly depended on local radiolarities of the district. People has hunted mostly ovicaprines (wild goats and sheep) and transported them to the caves. Most of Paleolithic sites in Antalya Region are caves. Kuhn underlines that the difference between various types of assemblages was determined by the types of accommodation fields (207). Therefore, it might be said that the main geographical and geological structure of the region has determined the occupation preferences, and these preferences has created the circumstances for the development of lithic industries as well.


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