The Epi-Palaeolithic of Okuzini Cave (SW Anatolia) and Its Mobiliary Art

By Otte, Marcel; Yalcinkaya, Isin et al. | Antiquity, December 1995 | Go to article overview

The Epi-Palaeolithic of Okuzini Cave (SW Anatolia) and Its Mobiliary Art


Otte, Marcel, Yalcinkaya, Isin, Leotard, Jean-Marc, Kartal, Metin, Bar-Yosef, Ofer, Kozlowski, Janusz, Bayon, Ignacio Lopez, Marshack, Alexander, Antiquity


Late and Epi-Paleolithic sequence are well known from field work and publications in southeast Europe and the Levant. Current research in Anatolia promises to shed new light on the vast region that connects these two areas. At Okuzini cave a detailed sequence of Terminal Pleistocene and Early Holocene assemblages contributes greatly to our understanding.

Okuzini cave was found add first excavated during the 1950s by K. Kokten (1963). On the cave's interior, Kokten discovered a rock engraving which seemed to represent wild cattle, which gave the cave its name (Okuz means ox in Turkish). During these excavations, Kokten removed a large portion of the deposits from inside the cave which contained the remains of numerous occupations.

More recently, a small test excavation was carried out, limited to straightening a 1-m section by removing about 10-20 cm of the deposits from the face of the section, and carried out by a team from the University of Tubingen in co-operation with one of the authors (lY) from the University of Ankara (Albrecht et al. 1992). Since 1989, fieldwork has continued through a joint project conducted by the University of Liege and the University of Ankara.

Okuzini cave is situated only a few metres above the level of the alluvial plain in the foothills of the Taurus mountains (Figure 1). M. Pawlikowski's study (Yalcinkaya et al. in press) indicates that the cave was first opened during the Upper Pleistocene after a small river deviated from its main karstic channel, which now appears as a karstic spring. Following the drying of the cave, a major rockfall of large limestone blocks in the cave particularly affected the entrance and the terrace. The collapsed blocks and sloping walls limited the space available for human use and promoted certain spatial subdivisions which the current excavations hope to expose (Figure 2).

Stratigraphy

From the exposed stratigraphy, it seems that the accumulation inside the cave began on a level of collapsed rocks and was rather rapid (in Table 1 numerous [C.sup.14] dates provide the age of the deposits as recorded in the sections in Figures 3 & 5). The sediments were introduced mainly as detritus from the plateau and the slopes above the cave through a natural chimney at the back of the cave's roughly rectangular chamber, and through the numerous cracks in the bedrock. Human occupations, which seem to have been nearly continuous, contributed greatly to the rapid accumulation of sediment by the introduction of large quantities of organic matters such as firewood, as well as activities like knapping and dumping of animal bones. Numerous fire-places dot the stratigraphy from the lower levels to the top (Figures 3-4).

Schematically, the deposits represent three major ensembles. These probably mark changes in the rate of accumulation as well as shifts in human behaviour. Post-depositional effects include the climatic fluctuations which marked the late Pleistocene and early Holocene. In particular, one should note the increasing wetness at the top of the sequence.

* The lower ensemble seems to have accumulated in a relatively humid and cold environment. The sediment, mainly red in colour, due to the large amount of clay, contains some small angular limestone fragments. Hearths are not always well preserved; many seem to have undergone post-depositional processes and now appear as black and white striations encapsulated within the clayey deposits. * The middle ensemble is a major concentration and accumulation of angular rock fragments mixed with the remains of human activities including bones, lithics, mobiliary art, charcoal and land-snail shells. The heterogeneity in the size of the limestone blocks seems to indicate that, at least in part, they were transported to the site by humans. The large quantities of kitchen debris, containing numerous remains of Helix sp., resembles in a very general way shell middens of the latest European hunter-gatherers.

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