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ANMED Issue: 2008-6
 
Excavations at the Karain Cave in 2007
Metin KARTAL
 

The 2007 campaign at the Karain Cave was conducted in Chambers B and E under the direction of Prof. Dr. I. Yalçınkaya.

Excavations at Chamber E
The 2007 excavations at Chamber E were carried out in seven grid-squares within four different geological levels (Fig. 1). Unit V.1 contained cream-coloured sediments and usually displays a hardened structure. In addition this unit also contains softer sediments. The same unit also contains local calcite belts, cracks and fissures. Geological unit V.2 has a black coloured structure of concretion and contains very hard sediment that is difficult to excavate. Geological unit V.3 has a fine sandy, soft and brown-cream coloured sediment and is easy to excavate; however, cracks and fissures were observed at places in the grid-squares. Unit V.4 is represented by a sediment structure in dark brown and harder than that of V.3. This unit also contained local concretions and radiolarite pebbles.

Archaeological finds from Chamber E mainly include chipped stone elements. These were made from radiolarite, flint, silicious limestone and limestone. Among the abovementioned four geological units, V.2 contained the largest number of finds. Very few flakes and cores were found in the V.1 geological level. The geological unit of V.2 presented many more finds compared with V.1, which lies above. This level is represented by flakes, cores and core fragments and some retouched pieces and scrapers resembling, with regard to technology, those from V.1 in the excavated areas. However, the new finds from geological unit V.2, which make it unique, herald important results to come. Perhaps the most important find of the 2007 campaign was a bifacial tool (hand axe) uncovered broken into three fragments in the 79th archaeological layer of grid-square K 19 (Fig. 2). This find displays features of the middle or late Acheulean type and it is the most important Paleolithic find from a stratigraphic context in Anatolia. On the other hand, a core from the 75th archaeological layer of the grid-square K 19 is the largest known example from Karain. The bifacial tool from this year’s campaign should be dated to somewhat earlier than 400,000 BP based on the stratigraphic context of the find because our datings for the layers above had indicated a date of ca. 400,000 BP. This biface uncovered in a stratigraphic context is important as it provides clear evidence for the oldest Homo genus of Anatolia. In other words, it proves the existence of Homo erectus in the Mediterranean region of Anatolia. The geological units of V.3 and V.4 contained very few examples of flakes and some other debris with regard to the areas exposed this year.

Excavations in 2007 proved the presence of the Acheulean tradition in addition to the Clactonian and Tayacian industry previously identified in the geological unit V. Therefore, Chamber E of Karain Cave presented evidence for the bifacial tool tradition, in addition to the technological presence indicated by chipping industry more toward the bottom.

Excavations at Chamber B
Excavations at Chamber B were carried out in 33 archaeological layers in four grid-squares, namely E 11, G10, G 11 and H 10. This year we first worked on the Holocene and then the Pleistocene levels. The uppermost level termed “0” (zero) contains a mixture of Late Roman, Early Byzantine and medieval finds together with soil. The sedimentation at this level is very dusty and grey in colour, just as in the uppermost layers of mounds. Yet, this sequence from H.I through to H.IV (Fig. 3) usually contains large limestone blocks fallen due to earthquakes and limestone debris, the overall characteristics of this Holocene stratigraphy.

The second step of our excavations at Chamber B covered the Pleistocene levels. In 2005, we had excavated the last, the 35th archaeological layer in grid-square E 11; however, the actual depth of Chamber B was not known. This year we started with the 36th archaeological layer in the same grid-square and reached the bedrock at the end of the 40th  layer. The bedrock is inclined in a southeast-northwest direction; therefore, we are able to say that, for the time being, the sequence of Chamber B, in the area where we are excavating, starts from the Middle Paleolithic. Here, in addition to the geological units P.IX and P.X identified in grid-square E 11, a new geological unit containing very dark brown sediment and directly resting upon the bedrock has been identified. This new sediment which we termed P.XI is very soft and damp. With the naked eye, it looks black inside the cave but according to the soil colour chart, it is dark brown sediment. It contains very few stones and is quite poor in terms of cultural finds. The geological unit P.XI is seen as of the 38th archaeological layer; however, as it continues with a sharp angle, it is not a thick deposit.

In terms of archaeology, the geological unit H.I contains mixed finds predominantly from the Late Roman, as well as from other periods. Therefore, it contains both handmade and wheel-made pottery. The chipped stone finds usually comprise flakes and blades whereas there are very few pieces of ground stone. The bones are very fragmentary. One human upper jaw bone and a series of isolated human teeth have been found; however, no evidence indicating any organised burial here has been discovered.

The geological unit H.II contains a lot of pottery, almost of which is hand-made and monochrome and there is very little polychrome pottery here. The chipped stone assemblage contains mainly flakes and blades predominantly of radiolarite. Though very little in quantity, obsidian does exist. The assemblage also includes beads, stone hammers, spindle whorls and various ground stone elements.

The geological level H.III contained mainly Late Chalcolithic finds, as before. The assemblage mainly contained buff coloured, brown and black slipped potsherds. Though very few, polychrome painted and incised potsherds have also been discovered. The chipped stone industry elements are represented by blades and flake fragments in equal proportions with regard to blanks. Obsidian’s presence is also attested at this level.

Perforated marine shells and stone beads were often found. Amongst important ground stone pieces were grinding stones and sling pellets. Awls constitute the most common type among bone objects. Baked clay spindle whorls have also been uncovered here. The geological unit H.IV is a typical Chalcolithic period layer. This unit contains polychrome painted potsherds as well as numerous monochrome potsherds, all of which are hand-made. The geological unit H.IV is easily distinguished from others due to its large numbers of mollusc remains. The chipped stone finds increase in quantity when compared to the upper geological units. Amongst the ground stone assemblage there were fragments of various small grinding stones and a large sandstone grinding stone is noteworthy as although it is broken and incomplete, its upper surface is concave. Amongst the ground stone assemblage the polished stone axes constitute an important group. Among the important bone finds were various awls and awl fragments, one very fine bone point and a bone spoon are noteworthy. Beads and fragments were also found in these layers as in others.

Our work in the Pleistocene layers of Chamber B did not reveal numerous finds in the geological units P.IX, P.X and P.XI as in previous years. Yet the geological unit P.IX usually contained chipped stone industry and side scrapers of various types and pieces produced in the levallois technique were uncovered. One rare find from Karain’s Middle Paleolithic period was a human finger bone. The geological unit P.X, on the other hand, contained tools such as side scrapers and points as well as levallois core samples. The geological unit P.XI contained only few mousterian points and few flakes. Taken overall, P.X and P.XI are the poorest layers containing finds. This year, excavating the geological unit P.XI, we reached the bedrock (Fig. 4). Our work from now on will focus on complementing the necessary links of all the characteristics of the known geological units of Chamber B through
comparisons with Chamber E. Excavations in Chamber C is projected in the excavation plans.

Laboratory and Archaeometric Work
Archaeometric work, constituting an important part of  the Karain excavations continued in 2007. Finds uncovered were cleaned, restored, conserved, categorised and drawings of finds were prepared. Following the excavations, the profile drawings and stratigraphic problems were examined. In addition to the stratigraphic and sedimentology work for Chamber E, stratigraphic and sedimentology work that had been initiated for Chamber B continued in 2007.

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