Hollanda Araştırma Enstitüsü  -  Nederlands Instituut in Turkije

Turning Tides: Climate shifts, environmental changes, and human subsistence strategies in Neolithic Yenikapı (Istanbul, Turkey) around the 8.2ka event

Thom Brongers (Groningen University)

At the end of January, I started working on my master's thesis regarding Neolithic animal bone remains uncovered at Yenikapı (Istanbul). What better place to begin this thesis than in Istanbul itself! Thanks to the fellowship offered by NIT I stayed in Istanbul for a month which – besides studying – also was a great opportunity to get to know this amazing city.

The aim of my thesis is to explore the relationship between environmental changes and Neolithic peoples from Yenikapı around 6500-5800 BCE (before the common era). This period is fascinating due to the global climate changes – rising sea levels and dropping temperatures – which impacted the peoples living near the Sea of Marmara. Consequently, it is hypothesized that people needed to adapt to the changing environmental circumstances, possibly leading to shifts in human and animal diets (and human animal-management strategies). I approach this via carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes from animal bone remains. Carbon and nitrogen elements are stored in collagen (part of the bone). Extracting the collagen and measuring the ratio of heavier versus lighter carbon (13 & 12) and nitrogen (15 & 13) isotopes provides clues about the environment in which animals live(d). 

My stay at NIT allowed me to explore the literature regarding Neolithic sites (Yenikapı and others) around the Marmara Sea. Furthermore, I gathered carbon and nitrogen stable isotope data from publications regarding these Neolithic sites (Barcın Höyük, Aktopraklık, and Fikirtepe among others). Stable isotope data from these sites are compared to stable isotope data from Yenikapı to observe a possible regional variation. Differences in stable isotope results of various sites could be the result of different environments (near sea vs. inland sites), and thereby reflect the scale of contemporaneous sea-level rise and decreasing temperatures in this region. Additionally, distinctive animal management practices (and changes therein) in the aforementioned Neolithic sites could also reflect the impact of environmental changes. Shifts from husbandry to hunting, or a combination of both.

The library is a great place to study/work on my thesis. Besides being open 24/7, there is a kitchen for a nice cup of tea/coffee when you stared too long at a laptop or book. NIT director Dr. Fokke Gerritsen and Aysel Arslan were happy to help me with any problems I encountered (in my thesis, but also practical issues) and always open for an informal chat. I am very grateful to them for the great working- and social environment they provide at NIT. I also want to express my gratitude to Associate Professor Rana Özbal for her feedback on my work, and for the tour she gave me around Koç University campus.

All in all, a great experience!