12,400 – 11,700 Years Ago – Kortik Tepe (Turkey) found mound structures, tombs and grave goods as well as ritual art, demonstrating examples of the symbolic bee carved stone ritual objects possibly represents a mythic creature(s). Ritualistic behavior is also found on the bones of ten individuals who exhibit cut marks that seem to indicate deflating along with application of plaster and paint as part of the burial customs has been interpreted by some as corpse purification possibly to help the desist pass to the afterlife. Back to animal veneration, the specific bee idol motif appears early at Hallan Cemi, in southeastern Turkey. Each phase at Kortik Tepe which is also in southeastern Turkey, includes common religio-cultural features particularly true with the burial rites and grave goods. Similar structures are known at Hallan Çemi, Demirköy in northwest Turkey and the earliest layers of Çayonu in southeastern Turkey. Kortik Tepe is similar to Demirköy and other sites along the Batman River, which is a major tributary of the Tigris River, in southeast Turkey.  Kortik Tepe demonstrated changing mortuary practices as time progressed, going from barring people outside the village to inside the village or structures, showing difference but still holding a shared cultural transfer. Even more interesting is how Hallan Cemi, burials of the dead are not found in the site at all, so perhaps a they used a cemetery nearby, which is what happened with Zawi Chemi in northern Iraq, who used a cemetery nearby with 28 burials, 26 of which were associated with a stone platform and existed contemporary Levantine Natufian sites. The Zawi Chemi site had evidence of far reaching trade connections exhibited in obsidian that was found there but comes from the Lake Van region of southeastern Turkey. Similarly, the flint and obsidian tools found at Kortik Tepe connecting its culture to contemporary settlements such as Hallan Çemi, Demirköy and Çayönü in the region and in some ways, its seeming religious themes with contemporaries among other Near East cultures and is one of the earliest manifestations of settled life but had obsidian likely from eastern Turkey, already points to the presence of trade in the region. Demirkoy which had way less obsidian that at Hallan Cemi and held less ritualistic significance in general having only two small canid burials and while the human burials maybe found in the Demirkoy site, it held only an occasional artifact and no grave goods. As the Kortik Tepe site progressed the new onsite primary burial continues but started to contain valuable grave goods, often including numerous elaborately decorated stone bowls and multiple strands of stone beads all of which were buried with the dead. (26)  Ritual may take many forms such as intoxication which does produce an altered state. Along this line of thinking there is the two stone vessels at Kortik Tepe seems to demonstrate alcohol production similar the finding of six large trough-shaped stone vessels hint at fermenting of grain from Gobekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey. Turkey interestingly enough is home to both wild wheat and the first cultivated wheat 11,000 years ago originating from the Karacadag mountains in southeast Turkey, not too far from several archeological sites in Turkey with wheat, Cafer Hoyuk around 9600 to 8,200 years ago, Cayonu around 9,500 to 8,700 years ago, and Nevali Cori around 9,200 years ago. The Karacadag mountains with the earliest domestication of grain is near to Göbekli Tepe, possibly linking alcohol fermentation, religion and wheat domestication as use and consumption may have been involved in cultic/shamanistic feast celebrations. It seems wild wheat was still gathered but not yet cultivated at Hallan Cemi and Demirkoy and Gobekli Tepe. Wheat, which we may currently take for granted was once highly sacralized even somewhat supernaturally deified. Though odd to present thinkers such cultic/shamanistic connection to wheat seems to have held some kind of sacred or ritualistic significance or was used (possibly fermented) practices in how deities related to fertility usually involve wheat like Tammuz, Kybele, Kubaba, Ceres, and Demeter. Tammuz (Turkish “Temmuz”) a Babylonian deity derived from Dumuzid (Sumerian: Zi(d), “faithful, true”) is similar to central Turkey’s people the Hittites whose word for wheat was “Ziz” with cultural connections to a current local Turkish name of wheat, siyez first utilized around 10,000 years ago. Moreover, from Catal Hoyuk and Cayonu in Turkey we can also trace the early stages of farming and female representations like that at Hacilar may possibly connect to some of the earliest traces of a goddess fertility cult. Catal Hoyuk seems to demonstrate the connected worship of a sacred females maybe a kind of spirit or cultic ancestor or goddess, maybe a mother or fertility figure along with possible sacred bulls. It is thought that possibly the Goddess Kybele originates around the 9000 years ago, which is around the time of the settlement at Hacilar in in southwestern Turkey, where ritual animal shaped vessels can be found dating to at least around 8,600 years ago and almost every house held what seemingly could be goddess figurines. One such figure reclines dating to as old as 8,000 years ago holds a child and has traces of black paint on her hair and eyes. An innovation around 7,500 years ago seems to have occurred at Hacilar involving the use of obsidian inlay for eyes and in one case for the navel. Similarly, animal vessels (possibly of a deity) continue to be made but start to have images of a seated and dressed female which could reference a goddess and at the same time figurines of animals appear when before they were rare. Further linking goddesses to grain is where some were found which was buried in grain bins such as wheat in Catal Hoyuk.

By Damien Marie AtHope

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Arrows indicate potential routes for the spread of domestic animals outside of the Fertile Crescent. Dates indicate an approximation of the first appearance of domesticated sheep/goat (O/C), cattle (Bos), and pigs (Sus) in six regions of Turkey. Dotted lines indicate boundaries where the listed domestic animals were not part of initial Neolithic economies. Southeast Region (purple) = 1. Hasankeyf, 2. Körtik Tepe, 3. Hallan Çemi, 4. Çayönü Tepesi, 5. Cafer Höyük, 6. Nevalı Çori, 7. Göbekli Tepe, 8. Yeni Mahalle, 9. Mureybet; South Region (blue) = 10. Üçağızlı, 11.Domuztepe, 12.Direkli Cave, 13.Yumuktepe; Central Region (red) = 14. Köşk Höyük, 15. Aşıklı Höyük, 16. Musular, 17. Güvercinkayası, 18. Pınarbaşı, 19. Çatalhöyük, 20. Boncuklu; Lakes Region (orange) =  21. Suberde, 22. Erbaba, 23. Höyücek, 24. Bademağacı; West/Coast Region (yellow) =  25. Karain B, 26. Öküzini, 27. Çukuriçi, 28. Ulucak; Northwest Region (green) =  29. Orman Fidanlığı, 30. Barcın, 31. Menteşe, 32. Ilıpınar, 33. Pendik, 34. Fikirtepe, 35. Yenikapı, 36. Hoca Çesme. Ref