A Convergence of Cultures at the East’s Gateway to the West: New Insight into the Prehistory of Northeast Anatolia in Light of the Excavation at Çiğdemtepe MoundUmut Parıltı, Erman Akyüz
The Kura-Araxes culture, one of the significant cultural phenomena of the Eastern Anatolian prehistory, originated in the second half of the 4th millennium BC with a sphere of influence that was pervasive in Transcaucasia and Northeast Anatolia including Çiğdemtepe until the end of the 3rd millennium BC. Çiğdemtepe Mound is situated within the borders of the province of Bayburt in Northeastern Anatolia among the Kura-Araxes culture, an area of research with few publications. Although the existence of Kura-Araxes culture in the Bayburt region was determined during surveys conducted in the 1940s, only the settlement records of the Büyüktepe Mound excavations carried out by Sagona in the 1990s are available. However, the excavations in this regard are not sufficient to illuminate the economic and cultural characteristics of the culture. Therefore, determining the material culture of Kura-Araxes through their dominant local features at Çiğdemtepe Mound is of great importance. The most significant artifact obtained from the Çiğdemtepe Mound excavations is the black-topped ceramic assemblage, the first of its kind to be documented in Northeast Anatolia. This type of ceramic group is known from Central Anatolia to be contemporary with the Kura-Araxes culture, and discovering this alongside the other finds at the mound is striking. KuraAraxes ceramics are handcrafted and burnished with red inner and black outer surfaces, which has been attested across Transcaucasia. The black-topped ceramics from Central Anatolia have a black interior and a red-to-brown outer surface. Apart from the combination of these two cultural variations, which have exhibited dominant local characteristics extending to the East and West, the magnificent monumental architecture, other portable small finds, and stratigraphic details also stand out, revealing the transition of the area from the Late Chalcolithic Age to the Early Bronze Age and unveiling the cultural interactions, transformations, and developments that had occurred in the Early Bronze Age. Related archeological records consist of movable and immovable cultural assets, age analyses of charred wood samples, and literature reviews.
Doğunun Batıya Açılan Kapısında, Kültürlerin Kaynaşma Noktası: Çiğdemtepe Höyük Kazısı Işığında Kuzeydoğu Anadolu Prehistoryasına Yeni Bir BakışUmut Parıltı, Erman Akyüz
Doğu Anadolu prehistoryasının az bilinen çok araştırılan kültürel fenomeni olan KuraAras kültürü, MÖ IV. Binyılın ikinci yarısında ortaya çıkmış olup MÖ III. Binyıl sonuna kadar Transkafkasya, Levant coğrafyası dışında Çiğdemtepe’nin de içinde bulunduğu Kuzeydoğu Anadolu’ya kadar yayılmıştır. Söz konusu coğrafyalar içerisinde KuraAras kültürüne dair araştırma ve yayınların neredeyse hiç yapılmadığı coğrafya maalesef Kuzeydoğu Anadolu içerisinde yer alan Bayburt ilidir. Çünkü 1940’lı yıllarda gerçekleştirilen yüzey araştırmalarında Bayburt coğrafyasında bu kültürün varlığı belirlenmiş olsa da günümüze kadar sadece 1990’lı yıllarda Sagona’nın gerçekleştirdiği Büyüktepe Höyük kazılarıyla yerleşik kayıtları elde edilebilmiştir. Ancak söz konusu kazılar da kültürün ekonomik, kültürel özelliklerini aydınlatmaya yetmemiştir. Bu açıdan bölgenin anahtar yerleşimlerinden birisi olan Çiğdemtepe Höyüğünde, Kura-Aras kültürel fenomenine ait birçok unsurun baskın lokal özellikleriyle bünyesinde barındığının tespit edilmesi oldukça önemlidir. Çiğdemtepe Höyüğünde gerçekleştirdiğimiz kazı çalışmaları sonucunda elde edilen en önemli unsur Kuzeydoğu Anadolu genelinde ilk kez belirlenen, Kura-Aras kültürü ile çağdaş, Orta Anadolu’dan bildiğimiz Black-Topped türü seramiklerin ele geçmiş olmasıdır. Transkafkasya’ya kadar uzanan el yapımı, içi kırmızı, dışı siyah, parlak KuraAras seramikleri ile Orta Anadolu’ya kadar uzanan el yapımı, içi siyah, dışı kırmızıdan kahverengiye kadar değişen parlak Black-Topped seramiklerin Çiğdemtepe Höyük’te bir arada ele geçmiş olması bir ilktir. Yerel özellikleri baskın olan, doğuya ve batıya uzanan bu iki kültürel kontrastın bir arada ele geçmiş olması dışında açığa çıkartılan görkemli/anıtsal mimari, diğer taşınabilir küçük buluntular ve stratigrafik detaylar coğrafyanın Geç Kalkolitik Çağ’dan Erken Tunç Çağı'na geçiş ve Erken Tunç Çağı başlarında yaşanan kültürel etkileşimi, dönüşümü ve gelişimi gözler önüne sermesi açısından oldukça önemlidir. Söz konusu arkeolojik kayıtlar Çiğdemtepe Höyüğü’nde 2020 yılında gerçekleştirdiğimiz kazıda ele geçen taşınır, taşınmaz kültür varlıklarına, beraber ele geçen kömürleşmiş ahşap örneklerin yaş analizlerine ve literatür çalışmalarına dayanmaktadır.
Çiğdemtepe Mound is located approximately 15 km northwest of Bayburt within the boundaries of Çiğdemtepe Village in the central district (Figures 1&2). The mound is positioned at the western end of the plateau and extends in an east-west direction, at the eastern end of the village from which it got its name. The mound lies to the south of Mam Su. Access to the mound is provided by the stabilized road going east through the village.
The locality of Çiğdemtepe Mound has prevented the mound from being adversely affected by agricultural activities. However, due to its remote and off-the-road location, it has been exposed to extensive illegal excavations. On the northwest, northeast, and south slopes of the mound, treasure hunter pits had been spotted prior to the excavations (Sagona, 2004, p. 121). Furthermore, illicit digging pits have been found in the form of rings formed at regular intervals from the top to the fringes of the mound (Figures 2&3). Sagona carried out important studies that revealed the archaeological potential of the Bayburt region and identified Çiğdemtepe Mound in 1990 (Sagona, 1992, p. 398; 2004, p. 121, Figs. 13/1, 14/1, p. 321). Based on the section in the treasure hunter pits on the northeastern slope of the mound, he mentioned an Early Bronze Age settlement, mainly pertaining to the Iron Age. In addition, starting from the church located approximately 300 meters south of the mound, he claims medieval deposits to also be present in the mound (Sagona, 2004, p. 121). Rescue excavations were carried out for a short time in 2018 under the presidency of the Bayburt Museum Directorate and conducted in the vaulted tunnel remnant located on the northeast slope of the mound. In these superficial and more protective surveys, mostly Middle and Early Bronze Age ceramic fragments were unearthed in the interior of the vaulted architectural remains. On the other hand, a few Iron Age pottery pieces were found, in addition to many amorphous and profiled ceramic pieces being spotted at different points of the mound.
The Çiğdemtepe Mound excavations of 2019 occurred in the northern half of the mound (Figure 4). During the excavations, a three-phase cultural layer belonging to the Middle Ages was found. The first sub-phase was identified at an elevation of 1,615.69 meters above sea level and consists of Floor 1 artifacts covering a narrow area. The floor remnant that appears in the southern section of the grid square comprises a blocking pavement made up of smallsized rubble stones and compacted soil. The other lower phase of the Middle Ages was found at an elevation of 1,615.01 meters above sea level. Floor 2, covering a large area, and Wall 1, which consists of a single row of stones, are clues to the existence of a top sheltering material of a possible structure whose timber posthole is connected to Floor 2 (Figures 5&6).
This pit probably served as a posthole for the timber that carried the ceiling of the structure. Another cultural layer was found at an elevation of 1614.52 meters above sea level. The Layer IC architecture, consisting of a wide and long mudbrick wall base and stone foundation, has been heavily disturbed (Figure 7). In addition, burnt wooden beams crossing each other perpendicularly were found on the Floor 3 structure, which consists of mudbrick blocks. Considering their fallen positions reveals these wooden pieces to be the likely roof elements of the architectural structure of Layer IC. The other grid squares excavated in the northern half of the mound are D-6 and D-5. As a result of the studies carried out in grid square D-6, a staircase structure made of large limestones was identified (Figures 8&9). Mortar mixed with lime was determined to have been used as the binding material on the stair steps and at the points where they overlapped. The staircase structure, which was built based on Wall 3 and a remnant of layer IC, is bounded by two wing walls from the east and west directions. Both wall structures have a small amount of mortar mixed with lime, with largely mud mortar having been used as the binding material.
The remains of Floor 4, covering an area of approximately 2-meter square, were unearthed at the end of Wall 3 (Figure 9). Floor 4 was heavily destroyed and must have been connected to the apsidal structure. A circular wall at an elevation of 1,613.62 meters connected with Wall 5 and an apsidal structure bounded by Wall 6 have also been identified (Figure 10). The inner surface of the semi-circular western wall of the site with an apsidal plan is observed to have had large, small, and partially rubble masonry stones of non-standard sizes with mud mortar used as the binding material. In addition to the mud mortar, mortar mixed with lime was observed at some points of the walls of the structure. A layer consisting of mud mortar lumps was added to the outer surface of the bottom of the wall in a technique similar to the pisé technique. A 1.20-meter-wide door opening is found in the middle of Wall 5, which is the western wing wall of the eastern wall of the apsidal and staircase structure. To the south and north of the doorway are two limestone blocks that had been used for jamb purposes, extending vertically toward the deep elevation. The door opening is observed to have been covered with a large stone block. Obstruction of this original door opening that had provided the entrance to the apsidal building structure is located at the same elevation as the Floor 4 structure of Floor 5, which this study has identified as a late period floor, indicating it to have been used there in later periods.
Architectural elements dating to the Middle Ages, floors (Figure 11) unearthed, and numerous fragments of ceramics with underglaze paint decorations have been found during the excavations carried out at Çiğdemtepe Mound, as well as pieces of glass bracelets. The glass bracelets and pottery fragments that have been uncovered point to a period between the 10th and 13th centuries AD. Apart from this, early period ceramic pieces, andiron pieces, obsidian fragments, and stone objects designed for grinding purposes make up the finds from the surface layer. From this point of view, a strong medieval structure is understood to have existed in the northern half of Çiğdemtepe Mound, with the early deposits having been heavily destroyed while this deposit was being created. Meanwhile, Layer IC is assumed from the architectural remains to have been destroyed as a result of a fire. According to the artifacts and findings obtained during the studies, at least three lower phases of the Middle Ages are present in the northern half of the mound.
Excavations in the southern half of the mound were carried out in 2020 and mainly implemented in the form of sectional arrangements and stratigraphy determination studies on the Great Trench (Büyük Yarma; Figure 11). During the studies, monumental architectural remains and floors associated with these remains were unearthed (Figures 12-14). On Floor No. 1 (Figure 15) found in this section, Kura-Araxes ceramics and black-topped ceramics were found together. Pieces of burnt wood were observed on this floor. Analysis of a sample taken from these fragments indicates a date between 3096-2913 BC. On Floor No. 2 (Figure 16), Kura-Araxes ceramics and black-topped ceramic pieces were found intertwined. The analysis result of the carbonized wood residue taken from Floor No. 2 gives a date range between 3132-3009 BC. However, the results from a sample taken from the monumental architecture and the weak architectural remains unearthed to the east of the floors yielded a date around the 14th century AD. Radiocarbon readings have demonstrated the presence of a two-phase Early Bronze Age layer and a Medieval layer in the southern half of the mound. In addition, ceramic fragments from the floors support and confirm the radiocarbon readings.
Aside from the Kura-Araxes ceramics from the Early Bronze Age I deposits, many amorphous and profiled sherds of EBA II-III and pieces with Iron Age features have been unveiled in the northern half and surface layer of the mound. These ceramics were not included in this study as they are not contextual finds. However, the relative chronology has been accepted as a criterion in our proposal.