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Chapter 5: Neolithic 3 Mersin (Pages 315-320)

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:

Mersin was never excavated to the natural subsoil since the earliest deposit lay below the present water table. The lowest levels reached, XXXIII to XXVII, were designated Lower Neolithic by Garstang (See Page 13 in *1 Below). A date of 6000 +/- 250 B.C. W-617 was obtained from a charcoal sample taken from one of these levels in 1955 (See 183:2:1960 in *2 Below). This date should be of the right order of magnitude for such a deposit even though the determination was made so long ago. Above these levels were the Upper Neolithic levels XXVI and XXV (See Page 27 in *1 Below). The settlements of these levels were occupied during approximately the same period as the Neolithic 3 North Syrian sites. It is possible that the Proto-Chalcolithic level XXIV and the Early Chalcolithic levels XXIII to XX were also contemporaneous with the latter part of Neolithic 3.

Remains of straight walls built of stones from the river which flows beside the site were found in the Lower Neolithic levels but no complete structures could be made out (See Page 14 ibid). The rectilinear buildings with stone walls and cell-like rooms were excavated in Level XXVI (See Figure 12 ibid) but there function was uncertain.

The chipped stone industry at Mersin was quite homogeneous throughout the earlier levels. Most of the tools were made of obsidian and only a few from flint. The use of large quantities of obsidian is one important difference between Mersin and the North Syrian sites. Mersin is quite close to the obsidian sources around Aksaray so the inhabitants could easily obtain it. The considerable quantity of obsidian found at Mersin indicates that the inhabitants were in frequent contact with the plateau by way of the Cilician Gates.

Most of the tools were made on blades struck from pyramidal cores. The arrowheads which were particularly numerous were usually long and extensively retouched by pressure-flaking (See Page 15 ibid). These arrowheads often had tangs with slight shoulders but on a few the tang was not seperated from the blade, a type similar to Amuq 1 points. Some arrowheads were leaf-shaped and much shorter. The other common obsidian tools were borers on blades, backed blades and flake scrapers. Sickle blades were made on flint obtained locally. One or both edges of these were lightly retouched but usually they were not backed.

The chipped stone industry of Levels XXIV to XX was of the same character though the proportions of arrowheads, awls and scrapers diminished markedly (See Page 50 ibid). The assemblade from these levels was composed principally of plain and retouched blades. Flint sickle blades were also used in greater numbers.

The chipped stone industry of the lower levels at Mersin bears a general resemblance to the Neolithic 3 industry from Tell Judaidah. The core technique and use of pressure-flaking are similar while Amuq 1 arrowheads are common to both assemblages. In other aspects there are important differences in detail betwen the two. The usual form of Mersin tanged arrowheads is rarely found at Tell Judaidah. The Mersin sickle blades are normally complete blades while those at Tell Judaidah are segmented. Burins are found in some numbers at the latter but are virtually absent at Mersin.

Most of the important features of the Mersin industry can be seen in the assemblage from Catal Huyuk East although here again there are certain tools common at the latter which are not present at Mersin. Both industries are based on the production of blades from pyramidal obsidian cores. All the Mersin types of arrowhead, awls and scrapers are found in abundance at Catal Huyuk (See Page 69ff in *3 Below) though not the sickle blades. Very few sickle blades could be distinguished at Catal Huyuk, perhaps because they were made of obsidian. The Mersin flint sickle blades appear to be a specific Cilician type in this period.

If we consider the pottery from Mersin we find that, like the flints, there are certain general similarities between it and the Amuq material but that the closest parallel is the pottery from the plateau sites. There were two classes of pottery in the lowest levels at Mersin, a fine burnished ware and a coarse ware (See Page 18 and 19 in *1 Below). The fine ware was quite hard fired and usually had a brown or black surface although some vessels were buff or red. The coarse ware was more plentiful; this had a softer buff or brown fabric with straw and grit filler. Its surface was usually brown or grey in colour and smoothed not burnished. Hole-mouth pots, bowls and dishes were made in both wares and a few carinated vessels in the fine burnished ware. The vessels had both flat and rounded bases. Some pots were decorated with incised patterns.

In levels XXVI and XXV larger globular jars with collared rims were made (See Page 35ff ibid). Some vessels were burnished to a high gloss and a few pots were painted for the first time. Their surfaces were covered with designs in red paint which was sometimes applied over a slip. In levels XXIV to XX the burnished and coarse wares continued to be made but the red painted vessels were decorated with more elaborate designs (See Page 58ff and 78ff).

The burnished ware at Mersin is quite like the dark-faced burnished ware at Tell Judaidah and the highly burnished vessels also resemble the North Syrian dark polished wares. Pattern burnish, that distinctive decoration on some North Syrian pottery, is not found at Mersin, however. The coarse ware at Mersin again is somewhat like the Judaidah coarse simple ware though not so heavy but the Judaidah washed impressed ware is not found at Mersin. Another important difference between the pottery from the two sites is that nothing like the Mersin painted ware of level XXV and later is found at Judaidah. The patterns of the Mersin ware are much bolder than the Judaidah painted pottery while the use of a cream slip as background is unknoun in the Amuq.

Plain burnished pottery and some lighter buff wares very similar in shape and finish to those found at Mersin were made at Catal Huyuk East, Catal Huyak West and Can Hasan (See Page 136 in *4 and Pages 216 and 217 in *5 and Pages 118 and 120 in *6 Below); the only difference was that incised decoration was hardly ever used on the plateau sites. The Mersin coarse ware is not found on the plateau and since it is a little different to the Tell Judaidah coarse simple ware it seems that this pottery is specifically Cilician. The Mersin painted pottery of level XXV and later can be closely paralleled across the Taurus since vessels of similar shape and decoration were made at Catal Huyuk West, particularly the Catal Huyuk West ware and Can Hasan in levels 3 and 2B (See Page 135ff in *4 and Pages 118 and 120 in *6).

The pottery at both sites was painted red both on a plain background and a cream or white slip as at Mersin. The main difference in the painted pottery of the two areas is that the designs on the Catal Huyuk West and Can Hasan pots were often more elaborate than at Mersin, particularly in the later levels at both sites.

Insufficient is known about the buildings and other artifacts from Mersin for these to be usefully compared with the sites in neighbouring regions but the flint tools and pottery are varied enough for us to deduce their cultural relationships. While some of this material is quite like flints and pots made in the Amuq and on other sites in the North Syrian group it resembles much more closely the artifacts used on contemporary sites on the southern Anatolian plateau. Certain artifacts which do not match either the plateau or Amuq material are of local Cilician inspiration. When thought of in human terms these cultural comparisons suggest that the inhabitants of Mersin had a local tradition of making objects of everyday use. They also maintained close contact with the inhabitants of the southern Anatolian plateau from where they obtained their obsidian. Some more general relationships existed between them and their contemporaries to the east of the Amanus.

The same observations may be made about the site of Tarsus situated about 26 kilometres north-east of Mersin. The Neolithic and Chalcolithic levels here were sounded in a small trench from which relatively little material was recovered; the bottom of the site was not reached because, as at Mersin, it lay beneath the present water table (See Page 3 in *7 Below). The pottery from Tarsus matched that from Mersin very closely throughout the lower levels, as might be expected since the sites are so close together. The dark burnished wares at Tarsus were rather finer than in the Amuq, a trait which the Mersin pottery shares. At least one pattern burnished sherd was found here, now in the Peabody Museum.

Tarsus and Mersin are the only two Neolithic sites excavated on the Cilician plain. Their material remains suggest that both enjoyed a flourishing local culture that also closely reflected the Anatolian sequence. The Cilician sites in Neolithic 3, though sharing certain features with the North Syrian settlements, formed a distinct group on their own. Material comparable to that from Ras Shamra and Tell Judaidah in Neolithic 3 has been found at several sites north and east of the Amuq. I will now review the evidence from these sites to see whether or not they belong within the North Syrian group in Neolithic 3 ...


*1 PreHistoric Mersin: J. Garstang (1953)
Library of Congress # DS 51 M4 G3

*2 Radiocarbon: American Journal of Science Supplement
Library of Congress # QC 798 D3 A48

*3 The Chipped Stone Industry of Catal Huyuk
P. Bialor (1962) Volume 12 [Pages 67 - 110]
in Anatolian Studies: DS 56 A66

*4 Catal Huyuk West (1965)
J. Mellaart [Pages 135 - 156] Volume 15
Anatolian Studies: DS 56 A66

*5 Catal Huyuk (J Mellaart) [1967]
Library of Congress # DS 49.3 M4

*6 Excavations at Can Hasan (1966)
D. French in Volume 16 [Pages 113 - 123]
Anatolian Studies: DS 56 A66

*7 Excavations at Gozlu Kule - Tarsus II
H Goldman (1956) 913.3935 G619e

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