TRACKING HOUSE-RELATED PRACTICES FROM THE NORTHERN LEVANT TO THE AEGEAN BASIN


Building complexes 6 and 12 at Çukuriçi Höyük
Distribution of the mentioned sites in Anatolia and the Aegean Basin

Excavations at Çukuriçi Höyük near Ephesus have shed new light on the spread of domestic architecture from the Northern Levant to the Aegean Basin. The secular repetition of construction and land-use activities in Trench N6, marked out by the deliberate insertion of a building (complex 6) within the standing walls of an older building, after it fell into disuse (complex 12), has attracted comparison with the late aceramic practice of vertically superimposing houses on the Central Anatolian Plateau and in the Northern Levant. In the most remarkable cases, at Aşıklı and Çatalhöyük East for instance, up to seven generations of mud-built houses were constructed one upon another, thus preserving a standard orientation and layout over hundreds of years. Although this pattern of construction is known from, e.g. Ilıpınar in the Eastern Marmara region, it has never been formally identified in Southwest Anatolia, wherein sites like Hacılar and Ulucak appear to have been characterised by more horizontalisation and imbrication of successive building strata. This observation is at odds with contemporary trends in construction practices in mainland Greece and Crete (e.g. Sesklo, Knossos), which show a marked preference for locational stability and re-use of the same parcels of land over prolonged periods of time. Discrepancy between Neolithic communities on both sides of the Aegean Sea has traditionally attracted speculation that the first European farmers had arrived by sea from the Levant and bypassed much of continental Anatolia.

This project will provide a context in terms of where new results at Çukuriçi Höyük sit relative to the wider picture, through detailed description of one sequence of vertically superimposed houses (complexes 6 and 12) and systematic cross-comparison with similar stratigraphic profiles in the Northern Levant, Central and Western Anatolia, and Greece. 

The questions to be addressed are set to include:

  • How did Neolithic communities in Aegean Anatolia situate their houses in relation to pre-existing houses?
  • What inspired the choice to build upon an existing house? Was reconstruction constrained by the proximity of other buildings in the settlement plan?
  • Did the sequence of building replacement at Çukuriçi Höyük follow the standard of construction and ‘closure’ evidenced at Çatal Höyük and other late aceramic sites in Central Anatolia?
  • What are implications for current reconstructions of the spread of the Neolithic pattern of existence into the Aegean Basin? Did house-related practices diffuse across the Anatolian Plateau or via a hypothetical sea-route from the Levant, as currently projected in the literature?