The Barcın Höyük Excavations Project investigates the settlement remains of an early farming community of the seventh millennium BC. The archaeological site of Barcın Höyük is located in the Yenişehir Valley in Bursa in northwest Anatolia. The excavations have been ongoing since 2005.
How did the first farming communities develop in northwest Anatolia, more than 8000 years ago? How did these people make a living, in what kinds of settlements did they live, how did they treat their dead, and with which communities nearby and far away did they interact? And, at a broader temporal and regional scale, what was the role of northwest Anatolia in the spread of farming from the Near East to Europe in the Neolithic Age?
These are some of the central questions of the long-term research project Early Farming Communities in the Eastern Marmara Region launched by the Netherlands Institute for the Near East (NINO) and the Netherlands Institute in Turkey (NIT) some 25 years ago. The Barcın Höyük Excavations Project is the latest of a series of excavations in the region conducted as part of the Early Farming Communities research project.
The site is located 5 km west of the town of Yenişehir along the main road to Bursa. Barcın Höyük first entered the literature through the work of James Mellaart and David French. The site was included in the surveys of Mehmet Özdoğan in the 1980s. No further study was undertaken until 2005, when excavations were begun by NIT/NINO under the direction of Jacob Roodenberg and (in 2005 and 2006) under the auspices of the İznik Museum. The site, hitherto known as “Yenişehir II” was renamed “Barcın Höyük” after the village in the vicinity. Excavations continued annually since then, since 2007 under the direction of Fokke Gerritsen of the NIT. Excavations to date have demonstrated occupation in Byzantine, Hellenistic/Roman, Early Bronze Age, Late Chalcolithic, and Late Neolithic periods.
For preliminary reports on the excavations seasons from 2007 onwards, please follow the links in the Publications section below.
The Barcın Höyük Excavations are carried out with permission from the Culture and Tourism Ministry of the Republic of Turkey.
Institutional support is provided by the Netherlands Institute in Turkey (Istanbul), the Netherlands Institute for the Near East (NINO), Koç University (Istanbul), Research Institute CLUE+ (VU University Amsterdam), Boğaziçi University (Istanbul), Ege University (Izmir).
The Barcın Höyük Excavations gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Netherlands Institute for the Near East (NINO).
Elisha van den Bos (VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Humanities)
The introduction of agriculture and animal husbandry constitutes a major breakthrough in human history. The first agricultural settlements are found in the Near East and date to the Neolithic period (before c. 8000 BC). In the following millennia, the so-called ‘Neolithic way of life’ spread to Anatolia and Europe. Understanding this process of ‘Neolithization’ has been a key issue in archaeological research for several decades.
Even though more sites and regions are being investigated, the social mechanisms through which agriculture spread are still poorly understood. There are roughly two ways of approaching Neolithization: one is to map the origin and expanding distributions of Neolithic material characteristics such as pottery or domesticated plants and animals. Criticizing this for ignoring the human aspect of these transformations, a contrasting approach has embraced social theory, and has stressed the importance of understanding the development of Neolithic life styles in a local context. These social approaches to Neolithic communities have so far failed to place their local findings in a more general framework, thus not directly aiding to understanding of Neolithization as a larger phenomenon.
At the heart of this study lies the goal of coming to grips with local variability in a supra-regional framework. The different ways in which Neolithic farmers ‘settled down’ in four regions in Anatolia and Southeast Europe in the transformative 7th and 6th millennia BC will be studied from the bottom up by analyzing houses and house life cycles in their settlement context. The ‘micro histories’ of these settlements will provide insights into the habitation strategies of Neolithic communities. By comparing these strategies in multiple regions, we can begin to understand the variety of mechanisms through which new ways of life spread, and present a new interpretation of Neolithization across space and time.
Supervisor: Fokke Gerritsen
Beatrijs de Groot (Institute of Archaeology, University College London)
Ceramic assemblages are key to understanding social interaction in Anatolia and the Balkans during the period of large scale social, biological and technological changes known as Neolithisation. One of the major questions of the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition considers the routes along which people and/or ideas associated with a settled farming lifestyle spread from Anatolia to the Balkans. In order to answer this question, my research statistically analyses ceramic attributes from across this region in order to reveal areas of high similarity, stasis or change in ceramic assemblages. By means of establishing a measure of ‘cultural’ similarity in these assemblages, my aim is to delineate potential routes that facilitated the transmission of ceramic styles and technology and thus may have facilitated the Neolithization process. This similarity measure is used to map networks and long distance relationships between early Neolithic sites and to investigate the mechanisms of the spread of farming through the area.
Within this interregional framework, the Marmara region is an interesting case study. Although its location suggests easy access to the Balkans from Anatolia, Neolithic archaeological assemblages on either side of the Marmara region do not demonstrate the expected similarity that can result from intensive social interactions. In order to understand the technological uniformity within the Marmara region, and its relationship to technological traditions beyond this area, petrographic analysis is being conducted on Neolithic ceramics from Barcın Höyük and Aktopraklık. The results will be compared to published petrographic results throughout the research area and compared to the similarity patterns produced by the interregional attribute-based statistical analysis. The patterns produced can inform us about the transmission of technology and style between Neolithic potters, and therefore provide us with new insights into the process of Neolithisation in Anatolia and the Balkans.
This research is part of the BEAN (Bridging the European and Anatolian Neolithic) project (www.beanproject.eu), and supervised by Prof. Stephen Shennan, Dr. Ulrike Sommer, Dr. Tim Kerig, and Dr. Michela Spataro.
Netherlands Institute in Turkey
Austrian Academy of Sciences
New Bulgarian University
Field Museum Chicago
VU University Amsterdam
Trakya University, Edirne
Trakya University, Edirne
John Jay College
VU University Amsterdam
University of Arkansas