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 Location: Between Levant and Zagross, Turkey.  Grid Reference: 38.217° N.  39.717° E


      Çayönü: (Cult Buildings).

Çayönü was excavated by Robert Braidwood in the 1960s, as a joint project between the universities of Chicago and Istanbul. It dates back to at least 7,200 BC (1)

The site provided the archaeological world with several 'first's' including animal husbandry, woven cloth, smelted copper Terrazzo (stone pieces pressed into a cement base) floors and several female figurines among the finds representing some of the earliest traces of the Mother Goddess cult in the region.

(Map of site - How to get there)




   Çayönü: (Çayönü Tepesi - Pron. 'chi-O-noo')

Çayönü is located forty kilometres north-west of Diyarbakır, at the foot of the Taurus mountains. It lies near the Bogazcay, a tributary of the upper Tigris River and the Bestakot, an intermittent stream.

At 7,000 BC and earlier, Çayönü presents certain discoveries that have forced us to rethink our prehistoric past. The site contains a large number of rectangular stone buildings, laid out in a grid-plan formation, as at  Nevali Cori. Many of the buildings show evidence of having had special functions, for example, the 'Flagstone' building has a floor made entirely from large flagstones into which were set megalithic stones (further standing stones were also set in rows nearby), giving it the appearance of the Valley temple, Giza. (1)

The area of the settlement consists of an occupation mound 200 meters in diameter. There are five to six occupation levels that have been discovered over the 600 years of occupation with the earliest even pre-farming. The earliest levels do not include buildings, only cooking pits. The second layer has a grill like foundation with pebble pavement, parallel walls which probably supported wooden beams and plaster-like floors. The third level had 9 x 10 meter buildings that had terrazzo floors and homes constructed of white limestone cobbles and crushed rock. This level also had a number of decorative ornamentations included in the design. The fourth occupation level had stone foundations and formed cell-like units with walls built of mud. The final levels consisted of residential buildings arranged in a rectangular fashion with a number of the buildings housing larger rooms possibly used for public functions. It is believed that the total population was between 100 and 200 people and the community consisted of twenty-five to fifty buildings. The overall layout of the village’s design showed a square in the center of the town with rectangular shaped buildings and housing surrounding it. The majority of the houses have the upper level built with mud bricks and the lower level made out of stones. Some floors were made of plastered clay while others were terrazzo floors. In addition to the buildings, there are also indications that Cayonu had a number of storage facilities probably used for grains. A deep cylindrical hole with remains of clay and a domed structure was also discovered at this site and was more than likely used for storage of various products. (2)

Mehmet Özdogan: 'In Çayönü from the earliest monumental buildings, or special buildings it is clear that they were doing something with some kind of liquid. As for the earliest one, the Flagstone Building, it is certain that the floor was polished and even in order to get some kind of flooding, and also in the Sandstone Building there was a water channel going through it, and the Terrazzo Building also had a kind of channel drainage. So was it blood, or water or wine? It is difficult to say, but considering the presence of the Skull Building it seems more the nastier end of the story than the nicer end. Also in Çayönü, we had in one building these parts of a burial – not a complete skeleton – intentionally put in a clay coffin above the ground, with some tools associated. It was the strangest grave we got and it must have had something to do with the function of that building'. (3)


The 'Skull' building - This structure was 7m x 7.9m in size and has a round asp at one end. In two small ante-chambers, archaeologists unearthed roughly 70 skulls, a figure which was brought up to 295 eventually. A large chamber was also discovered that contained a one-ton cut and polished stone block, which, along with the discovery of a large flint knife makes it almost certain that the stone acted as an 'offering table'.

'Microscopic analysis of the alter stone's smooth surface revealed a high residue of blood that was found to come from Aurochs, Sheep and Human beings. There can be little doubt what this implies. The Skull building was not only used for strange ancestral rites but also human sacrifice' (1)


Article: Anthropologists have extracted the blood of humans, sheep and an extinct form of cattle from the surface of a stone slab at an approximately 10,000-year-old agricultural village in Turkey. Analysis of haemoglobin in the samples leaves them with intriguing clues and questions about the ritual activities of early farmers. The polished slab lies among the remains of a structure known as the “skull building,” which contains more than 90 human skulls and several complete and partial human skeletons.

“We don’t know exactly what was going on in the skull building, but human and animal blood was abundant on the slab,” says Andree R. Wood of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. “It reinforces an argument for at least its occasional use for the cutting up of humans as well as of animals.”Human sacrifice is one possibility, or human bodies may have been carted to the building after death and placed on the slab for some type of pre-burial ritual. The skulls show no evidence of decapitation.

Blood from the slab, dated with an advanced technique called accelerator mass spectroscopy radiocarbon dating (SN: 12/16/89, p. 388), is about 9,000 years old, say Wood and Thomas H. Loy of the Australian National University in Canberra.

Initial work at the slab identified human and sheep blood, as well as the blood of an unknown, nonhuman species. The team later obtained blood from bone fragments of an extinct cattle species unearthed at the site and found that its haemoglobin crystals matched those of the unknown species taken from the slab. This is the first identification of the blood of an extinct species, they say.

After analyzing the blood, the researchers excavated from the building a number of skulls and horns belonging to the extinct cattle. They also uncovered a large flint knife whose blade held traces of cattle and human blood. Wood says it may have been used in human sacrifices or mortuary rituals, but she notes that toolmakers’ blood often ends up on sharp tools as a result of accidental cuts.

Ritual activity at Cayonu remains largely a mystery, says Robert J. Braidwood of the Oriental Institute. Nonetheless, he says, the cultural complexity hinted at by the skull building and other structures at the site strengthens his “gut feeling” that humans crossed the threshold to a village-farming life more than 10,000 years ago'.

Ref: (http://mathildasanthropologyblog.wordpress.com)


The discovery of woven cloth - Çayönü was also the site of the earliest known of piece of cloth, 'which was found still wrapped around an antler...it is 9,000 years old and it thought to be a linen fabric, woven from locally grown flax. (1)

'Archaeologists excavating [the site] in 1988 found a puzzling, calcium-encrusted piece of material clinging to what was probably the handle of a bone tool. Microscopic analysis of the find, which measures about 3 inches by 1.5 inches, now identifies it as the earliest known fragment of cloth, scientists announced last week'.

'Several radiocarbon dates obtained from artifacts found near the cloth place it at around 9,000 years old. Previously, the oldest examples of prehistoric cloth -- ranging from 8,000 to 8,500 years old -- came from another Turkish site and an Israeli cave'.

"The uses of textiles are innumerable, and it's hard to say how the Cayonu people employed cloth," says Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood of the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, the Netherlands. Vogelsang-Eastwood, one of the few archaeologists who specialize in the study of ancient textiles, identified the Cayonu find as cloth.She suspects the fabric served as a grip for the bone handle, which was fashioned out of an antler.

Ref: (http://findarticles.com)

'It was not clear whether flax was domesticated originally for its oil-bearing seeds, the source of linseed oil, or for its fibrous stem, or if people had both uses in mind from the start.

To recover linen fibers from the stem of the flax the people at Cayonu would have had to soak it in a river or pond. This leaves the flax supple and golden blond, which Dr. Barber points out is the origin of the poetic image of "flaxen hair." In this state, the fibers can be separated and twisted into a kind of rough thread.

As far as archeologists can tell, the people at Cayonu were already using cloth for clothing, for bags to carry food and perhaps for covering the dead. Dr. Vogelsang-Eastwood speculated that the excavated piece might have been used as a rag to get a better grip on the antler handle. Dr. Hole, though, said it was more likely that it was the preserved piece of the cloth bag that had held the antler.

Pottery and figurines have been the best sources of knowledge about early clothing. The oldest known figurines, about 20,000 years old and found in Eastern Europe and Russia, showed early human hunters dressed in hooded garments made of animal skins. The so-called Venus statuettes of that period show women in skimpy skirts of twisted cords, which they might have slipped into to welcome their men home from the hunt.

About 7,500 years ago, images on pottery show people wearing more substantial cloth skirts, but with nothing above the waist. There is no firm evidence of people wearing fitted clothes until the Iron Age, in the first millennium BC'.

Ref: (http://query.nytimes.com)


Metallurgy - Çayönü is believed to have been the main bead producing centre during the early-Neolithic period. Archaeologists discovered four early copper items at Çayönü, dated at 7,200 BC - two pins, one bent fish-hook and a reamer or awl - showing that its inhabitants were already proficient at this time. Çayönü is the location of the earliest known hammered copper objects, (craftsmen produced oval-shaped copper beads) and smelted copper and bronze objects for at least 7,000 years.

A number of artifacts of great value have been unearthed at Cayonu including stone tools of flint and obsidian along with copper pins which indicate evidence of the earliest know use of metal tools. Also, hammered native copper has also been discovered in conjunction with other artifacts. Clay pottery has been found including stone vessels and two small clay models of houses. Impressed or incised bone pieces have also been found which may be indications of art, numerical counters or an early experiment in writing. (2)


(Other Prehistoric Turkish sites)




1). A. Collins. Gods of Eden. 1998. Headline book Publ.
2). http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/archaeology/sites/middle_east/cayonu.html
3). http://www.canew.org/debhauptmannbox.html


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