7,000-year-old Fortress Found Under the Yumuktepe Mound
Archaeologists in Turkey have uncovered a section of a prehistoric fortress wall. It was found at the Yumuktepe mound, which dates back to the Neolithic period, some 9,000 years ago. This fortress is adding to our knowledge of the history associated with the mound, which in turn will shed light on the prehistoric past in Anatolia.
The Yumuktepe mound is a tell that was made by many generations of people building in the same area. It is located in the city of Mersin in southern Turkey. The wall reveals the existence of an ancient fortress much older than was expected to be found at the site. "We didn't know that there was such a technology in that period in technical terms. Now we see it and it's a special structure,” said leader of the current excavation project, Isabella Caneva – a professor of archaeology at the University of Salento in Lecce, Italy.
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The Yumuktepe Mound is Part of the Oldest Settlement in Anatolia
Once the site was likely a coastal settlement but because tidal movement and the silt brought by a nearby river, it is now 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) from the sea. It was first excavated by British archaeologists in the 1930s and there have been many digs at the site since.
What makes this mound so important for archaeologists is that it appears to have been continuously inhabited for millennia. According to the Daily Sabah, “the mound is regarded as one of the oldest settlements in entire Anatolia”. A Neolithic village has been found at the site and so too have remains from the Copper Age up to the Classical period.
Yumuktepe was once part of the Hittite Empire and evidence suggests it was destroyed by mysterious invaders in the Bronze Age. It was successively part of the Assyrian, Persian, Macedonian, Roman, and the Byzantine Empires. During the Byzantine Empire, the settlement was gradually abandoned as the nearby city of Soli flourished.
Map of the Hittite Empire at its greatest extent, Mersin and the Yumuktepe mound are located on the southern coast. (Javierfv1212 / Public Domain)
They have been led by “renowned archaeologist professor Isabella Caneva from Italy's Lecce University” ’reports the Daily Sabah. This year’s digs have been among the most successful. Recently, “an ancient seal dating back to around 9,000 years ago was unearthed” at the site according to the Hurriyet Daily News.
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Similar seal as to what was discovered at the Yumuktepe mound. (Zde / CC BY-SA 4.0)
7,000 year-old Stronghold Discovered at the Yumuktepe Mound
The most important find made in recent years was the unearthing of a stone wall that was part of a stronghold. A “fortress wall dating 7,000 years back to the Chalcolithic Age has been unearthed” this summer according to the Daily Sabah. The wall is made of cut stone and it is roughly 20 feet (21 meters) high.
The Daily Sabah reports that the fortress wall is made of approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of stones and 9 feet (3 meters) of baked brick. It was buttressed by a 4.5 foot (1.5 meter) long support wall, constructed from limestone.
A previous excavation had found evidence of a fortress from 5,000 years ago. However, during this season’s dig, the team led by Caneva found the more ancient wall.
The fact that the settlement was so well-protected would indicate that the site was wealthy and important. It seems that it was a metal-working center.
The Yumuktepe Mound Was the Site of a Copper-Producing Center
Caneva is quoted by the Daily Sabah as saying that “there was certainly a special product being made there because a normal village would not require such a thick and solid wall”. Previously an early copper blast furnace was discovered at the mound. It appears that the settlement at Yumuktepe is one of the oldest sites of copper production yet found.
Caneva is also reported as saying that copper “was an important technology and a valuable substance” by the Daily Sabah. This would have attracted the attention of raiders, which may have prompted the construction of the very sophisticated fortress wall.
The Daily Sabah reports that there are plans for an “open-air museum project for the area”. This would allow the ancient wall to be visited by visitors. There are expected to be many more finds made at the mound in the coming years.
Top image: Yumuktepe mound in Mersin, Turkey Source: Essizmercin.com
By Ed Whelan