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Nevali Çori

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Nevali Çori
490 m
Southeastern Anatolia
Investigation Method:


Location: This site lies north of the city of Sanliurfa; west of the town of Hilvan; approximately 750 m northwest of the village of Gülusagi; between Kantara and the Süleymanbey neighborhood.
Geography and Environment: The name of the site has appeared differently in a number of publications including Nevalla Çori; Nevali Çori and Novalo Çori. The site lies in two places in the area where Kantara Stream meanders west and then north; one is on the western bank of Kantara Stream; close to the dam lake and the other is on the eastern bank of this stream; at the foot of Mount Yangintepe limestone outcrop in a 90x40 m area between two dried stream beds. While looking at the old Euphrates River from the village of Kantara; the site on the east was Nevali Çori I while the site on the west was Nevali Çori II. Excavation down to virgin soil has determined that the cultural material deposition at Nevali Çori I is 2 m thick. This site was settled in many periods after the Aceramic Neolithic. This is probably due to the fact that the Kantara Valley; literally the "Valley of Illnesses"; is rich in springs. The site has been partially flooded by the dam lake; which is now receding into the Kantara Stream Valley.
Research and Excavation: The site was discovered in 1980 during the surface survey led by H.G. Gebel. Excavations were conducted between 1983-1991 under the direction of H. Hauptmann and the support of the Heidelberg and Urfa Museums. The first excavated part of the site was Nevali Çori I; east of Kantara Stream. Excavations on Nevali Çori II followed [Harmankaya et al. 1997:Nevali Çori]. It is inundated since 1992. It takes place in the registered archaeological sites list prepared by Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Stratigraphy: From top to bottom; the layers at the site of Nevali Çori include Roman; Early Bronze Age; Chalcolithic (Halaf) and Aceramic Neolithic Periods. The Aceramic Neolithic level in Nevali Çori I had five occupational phases while the Aceramic Neolithic at Nevali Çori II had two.
Small Finds: Architecture: The most common construction material at the site of Nevali Çori is limestone with mud-mortar. The houses are grill-planned and rectangular and have clear intramural divisions. These building types can be seen in all five (I-V) Aceramic Neolithic occupational phases. The house plans resemble the Çayönü Intermediate Phase plans. A very well preserved occupational phase II grill-planned house is described as follows: The houses sit on platform foundations which are built with large rectangular block-like stones; lined in grill-type rows. The spaces between the grills have then been closed off at the top with large stone slabs. The outer walls and rooms have been built on the foundation. The floor has been lined first with a small pebble layer and then has been plastered together with the walls. The spaces between the grilled foundation have not been plastered; probably because they were built to function as a circulation mechanism. The outer part of the structures have been circumscribed with a bench into which one piece stone columns with "T" shaped capitals to support the roof were placed. The earliest phase of Nevali Çori; occupational phase I; on the other hand; yielded a house with thicker grills and several roasting or fire pits nearby. Only the wall remains have been found of the religious structure. Excavations in the second occupational phase; yielded a minimum of six structures. Three of these structures (12; 21B; 26) are located very close to each other while three other structures (16; 22; 25); which include a religious building; are separated from the former three by a ditch. Fragments of an enclosure-wall around the village have been found. The largest structure (26) is 19x6.5 m in size. It is comprised of eight small rooms; arranged in two rows of four. The outer walls of the structure are 0.50 m thick while the thickness of the intramural walls is 0.40 m. The walls of the structure; preserved to the height of 2.8 m; are stone and have been plastered with mud. There is an interior stone bench along three of the walls with 11 holes for stone columns with T-shaped capitals. The entrance wall is on the southwest while there is a niche; which has been made for a cult statue; in the southeastern wall. The floor of the building is terrazzo. Bird and animal/human mixed figures have been found in the structure. Excavations in the third occupational phase yielded four parallel structures. Two of these (2 and 7) were made using the same construction technique as the grill-planned houses of phase II. The buildings on the west are separated from the other buildings by a large open area. The houses have been subdivided in to eight or nine different compartments and are thought to have been used as storage spaces; although one of the wide rooms of one of the western structures (6) has functioned either as a house or as a workshop/atelier for chipped stone tools. The cult building of this phase lies in the same area that the cult structure in occupational phase II lies in. With the exception of the entrance wall; there are stone benches with holes for roof columns along the other walls in the interior of the structure. In addition to the ten stone roof support columns; two have been placed by the entrance. The wall opposite the entrance has a niche which has been carved for a cult statue. Occupational phase IV yielded a number of rectangular structures lined in the same orientation while only one structure was found in phase V. This structure is not grilled like the houses in the previous phases. This suggests that there was a hiatus in the occupational sequence. The structure has been divided into four rooms and is similar in plan to the Çayönü cell-planned houses. Clay Finds: Human and animal figurines made from sunbaked and baked clay have been found. The lightly baked figurines show close affinity with the figurines from Çayönü. Chipped Stone: A great majority of the chipped stone tools at Nevali Çori are flint. The flint comes from nearby sources and is good quality. It is olive green and dark brown in color. The inhabitants developed a double knapping technique and used it while making points and agricultural tools. The hunter gatherer Nevali Çori society must have used Byblos points; blades with silica sheen; sickle blades; scrapers; burins; and other chipped stone tools in hunting and food production. Ground Stone: In addition to small celts; limestone bowls; mortars; quartz hammering stones and other coarse stone tools; beads and bracelets used for decorative purposes were found. The rubble of the temple yielded a limestone panther; bear; wild boar; horse; bird; vulture as well as natural and stylized human portrait figurines [Hauptmann 1991-1992:fig.27]. Metal: Annealed and shaped copper beads were found. Human Remains: Information on human remains at Nevali Çori comes from the graves found beneath the floors of the houses. Because the skeletons of males; females and children were found mixed together; it is assumed that some graves were used as second burial spots. Fauna: The wild hunt animals include gazelle; several deer types and wild pig; while the domesticated animals include sheep and goat. Flora: Domesticated flora include Einkorn and Emmer wheat (Triticum boeticum and monococcum; Triticum dicoccoides and dioccum); barley (Hordeum spontaneum); lentils and some pea types (Lens culinaris; Pisum sativum). Pistachio; almonds; grapes and various grasses are among the wild flora found. Other: The man-size limestone stele found in the cult structures provide important information on Early religions/beliefs. A snake-like human head portrayed bold on top and braided hair at the bottom; a headless human figure; a human head with a bird body; two kneeling woman figurines back to back; flying bird figurines; a stone bowl with two human figures and a turtle; a limestone stele with a hunt scene; are all examples of the importance of worship in the Early Neolithic. These figures and figurines provide information on these early beliefs and emphasize the importance of the site of Nevali Çori in the Early Neolithic Period.
Interpretation and Dating: The site of Nevali Çori was assigned to the Early Neolithic and dated to the ninth millennium BC. In addition to hunting and gathering; the inhabitants of the site had begun to domesticate animals and to cultivate grains. The many small figurines and large monumental stele show that this site; lying on the terraces of the Kantara Stream Valley before it empties into the Euphrates; is an important Neolithic religious center. Calibrated 14C dates for the site are 8.400-8.100 BC.

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