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Çayönü Excavation Site

Çayönü is a mountain threshold and is located in Ergani Valley, which is the settlement that was excavated in the junctions of Çayönü, Anatolia, Mesopotamia and Zagros regions with 6,000 mof excavation area, and is the widest excavated settlement of Pre-Pottery Neolithic Period. It is located on the north part of Boğazçay that flows from Hilar Village located on natural and archaeological site Hilar rocks, located 7 km southeast of Ergani district.

The excavations in Çayönü, which were the first scientific excavations in Southeast Anatolia Region, were initiated in 1962 by Halet Çambel (1916-2014) and Robert J. Braidwood (1907-2003). Within the scope of İstanbul and Chicago Universities Southeast Anatolia Prehistory Researches Combined Project, having international and interdisciplinary quality, the excavations were maintained with the participation of several experts between 1964 and 1991. A part of the excavation site was arranged in the shape of Outdoor Museum in the years 1990 and 1991. With the excavations’ initiation again in 2015, the Outdoor Museum was enlarged and equipped with modern promotion opportunities with the purpose of understanding the relationship between the settlement and Hilar Rocks, and to set light to the life style of the Neolithic society that used pottery for the first time in the history.

The most important aspect of Çayönü is the fact that during the 3,000 years between 9,300 and 6,300 B.C. that is known to be Esas Çayönü Evresi (Pivotal Çayönü Stage), the transition from hunters & gatherers to permanent settlement and to agriculture and animal husbandry that are the first steps of development, and turning back to ovine breeding and semi-nomadic life, all have been revealed with all the details. It was a long term settlement in compliance with environment but utilized from all kinds of opportunities provided by the environment and found solutions against destructions of the environment with the myths they developed themselves.

The important thing about the architectural history of Çayönü is the fact that all the problems were solved such as the single-floor square structures having stone basements, circular pothole shelters that were built by wattles and reeds, and the foundations of traditional Anatolian village architecture were laid. Terrazzo, the oldest mosaic tile style of the world is the only one in the world and it is made in lime kilns. Kafataslı Yapı (Skull Building) that is an important element of the immaterial life, representative of "ancestor/death cult", including more than 400 people buried in, and which reflects the traditions of chamber tombs, and Saltaşı Döşemeli Yapı (Flagstone Building) the ground of which was built elaborately, and Plaza with the size of 60 x 20 m with steles, are some of the exclusive architectural examples of the region.

The elements of workmanship of jewellery and adornment are very important occupations for Çayönü that may be enough to form a small "industrial estate". The workshops have different functions such as producing beads, various ornamental items, bone tools -especially needles- flint stone drillers (fortsner bit), stone biz and "screwdrivers". Beads, circles and shoves at different sizes such as multiple-hole, double-hole, equilateral, quadrangle, which were produced from the products such as various stones, bones, teeth, and shells were found scarcely in grave gifts and this fact arouses the idea that people rather preferred exchange or "custom-made" methods instead of preferring in-settlement production. Jewelleries that were made by Çayönü residents by hammering the copper sometimes cold sometimes hot in the shape of plaque, laid the first foundation of mining. It is also thought that copper beads are also important elements in exchanging.

Cultivating and weaving linens, adzes at different sizes in addition to leather workmanship, cutters and axes demonstrate that wood working was an important occupation at that time. Needles and biz sets that are rich in bone, also point out an intensive sewing activity.

Obsidian tools that are known to be Çayönü tools the functions of which could not be identified, is also peculiar to this region. Various kinds of excavators such as stalked excavator, knives, pencils, various drillers and ends, were used in flint stones and obsidian materials in the settlement.

Horn hooks, milling stones, grinding stones, beetles point out the importance of cereals and pulses in vegetable production. Stone diggings at the latest stages show that agricultural activities partially replaced gathering. There are several stone tools such as stone cannons, channel stones and flat-hole stones.

Hilar Caves located just near Çayönü Excavation Site, were used as necropolis (graveyard) between 100 and 400 A.D. The grave chambers in the necropolis on the way to the caravan were enlarged between 14th and 15th centuries, and a part of such chambers was used as a sleeping place whereas a part of them was used as a prayer room.

Rock graves in Hilar Caves were planned in rectangular shape. Klines (cedars) in the form of half-moon are available in the chambers of the graves. There are embossments and scriptures in Syriac language exist on some of the graves. Furthermore, hollows are also available nearby, which were used for wine production.