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Questions Arising from a Bulla Found in the EBA II Settlement at Bademağacı
Between the years 1993-2009 a total of 102 stamp seals and (in the most recent excavation seasons) numerical tablets and also a bulla were uncovered in the Early Bronze Age settlements at the Bademağacı Excavations. These finds would suggest that the development of ownership and documentation of property in this period at Bademağacı, and therefore in the western regions of Anatolia, took place a little earlier and was more comprehensive than previously thought.
Various theories have been put forward concerning the usage of seals during the preliterate period in the Near East. In relation to this, it has also been suggested that seals could have been used on perishable materials that did not survive to the present day. On the other hand, considerable care is required not to miss the bullae and clay objects with marks on them when excavating settlements dating to prehistoric periods, where there is no expectation of finding anything with specific marks or writing on it. During the most recent excavation seasons at Bademağacı the discovery of a bulla bearing a seal impression in one of the rooms in the eastern section of the Multi-Roomed Building no. 2 (MRB 2) at the southern end of the EBA II settlement has enriched the above collection and helped to fill an information gap on this subject and also opened up the way for new questions to be asked. MRB 2, the building where the bulla was found, is in an area of about 40x25 m. in dimension opened up during the 2008 excavation season. The most interesting factor of the settlement at the höyük is the presence of freestanding megaron plan buildings that surround the settlement in a radial formation. In this section, in place of the megarons there is a sequence of rooms like those of MRB 1. It was also observed that this row of rooms did not form the outermost circle of the settlement. Apart from this row of rooms, the southern walls of the settlement and also the fact that the glacis is narrower than it is in the other sections are noteworthy. The rooms of MRB 2, including the one where the bulla was found, were almost totally empty when they were uncovered. A large amount of pottery and bronze pins were found in one room only, as it had been partially damaged by a serious fire.
Although the clay paste of the reddish beige bulla was tempered with small stones, it is compact and probably had been well fired during the fire that had taken place in MRB 2. There is an impression of a quadrangular seal on the front surface of the bulla. The impression consists of five parallel lines inside a frame. The concave impression on the back seems to be the right size for an index finger and when this hollow was examined with a magnifying glass, some fine parallel lines were noticeable. The absence of any string marks on the bulla can be explained by the fact that both ends of our example are broken off.
Among the seals so far uncovered at Bademağacı, there is a similar example to the seal impression on the bulla; this seal has a quadrangular stamp face with two vertical and two horizontal parallel lines placed perpendicular to each other inside a double frame.
This seal is the closest parallel to the seal impression on the bulla stamp face from the point of view of its quadrangular stamp face and use of a frame, as well as its composition design consisting of parallel lines.
In order to accurately evaluate the Bademağacı bulla, it is important to examine the question of what kind of material it was applied to or, in other words, what object produced the fine parallel lines seen in the hollow on the back of the bulla. The fact that the indented section is almost the thickness of a finger would prompt us to ask the question of whether or not these lines could be a fingerprint. Another suggestion is that they could belong to a piece of textile. It is possible that the bulla could have been applied to a piece of cloth used to cover the mouth of a pithos or a large storage jar; in this case the hollow about the thickness of a finger could be considered to belong to the rim of the jar. The last possibility to be suggested here is that the fine lines on the back of the bulla could belong to a well cut piece of wood with a smooth edge, in other words a wooden tablet that did not survive until the present day. The fine lines on the back of the bulla become even finer towards the corners; as both ends of the bulla have broken off, as mentioned above it is not possible to see the negative imprints of the string that is thought to have been attached to the tablet. It has been emphasised many times before that as some administrative records of the Hittite Period were written on wooden tablets, they did not survive to the present day. More concrete evidence regarding the use of wooden tablets is found in documents from Boğazköy and Maşat Höyük. This suggests the possibility that wooden tablets could have been used in earlier periods; they may have been used alongside the seals, numerical tablets and bulla at Bademağacı to keep accounts and other records. It would not have been difficult for the symbolic marks seen on some seals and numerical tablets to have been engraved on wooden tablets.
Questions come to mind that relate their origin: Was the bulla stamped here at Bademağacı or did it come to the settlement from another place? The answer to this is related to the “object” or “possession” that it is applied to. If, as discussed above, the bulla was attached to a piece of cloth that covered the mouth of a jar or pithos and then stamped with a seal, then it is likely that it was brought to Bademağacı from elsewhere. If, on the other hand, it was attached to a wooden tablet and stamped, it should be assumed that the process took place at Bademağacı. As it came from a room in MRB 2 where a large number of pots and storage jars were found it is very likely that it was used for recording the incoming and outgoing wares. Therefore, rather than having come from another place, the bulla must have been stamped in MRB 2 during the process of record keeping.
The fact that around 100 seals were uncovered at an Early Bronze Age settlement in Western Anatolia is significant in itself. This would cause us to think that the number of seals used at the settlement must have been much greater than the number found at the excavations. It has already been emphasised that the markings seen on the stamp faces of some of the examples among the Bademağacı seals may not be just ordinary decorative motifs but could actually be symbols. In the past 17 years at Bademağacı, an EBA II town with a predetermined settlement plan has been brought to light that consists of a partially preserved outer wall, a glacis (stone paving) that surrounded the whole settlement and fifty megarons in the outer sections along with an eighteen roomed central complex MRB 1, that is the building with a special function (“palace”) and MRB 2, located in the southern section. Along with the pottery, clay idols, precious objects made of gold and silver, bronze items and weapons30, the large number of seals and also numerical tablets uncovered at Bademağacı, as well as the bulla found more recently, indicates that - due to the existence of a vast number of material possessions within this well -developed structure- a social, economic, official and administrative system had been established at the settlement. It is possible to suggest that, in the context of this organisational structure, the use of seals, numerical tablets and bulla developed together with a pre-literate system of markings.

* Prof. Dr. Gülsün Umurtak
İstanbul Üniversitesi, Edebiyat Fakültesi, Protohistorya ve Önasya Arkeolojisi Anabilim Dalı, Ordu Cad. No:196. 34134 Laleli-İstanbul
E-mail: gulsunumurtak@gmail.com

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