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Prehistoric Island and Lake-Shore Settlements in the Lake District of Southwest Anatolia
The Lake District of southwest Anatolia has been well researched archaeologically, especially sites from pre- and protohistoric times. A vast number of settlement mounds were documented by James Mellaart who conducted archaeological field surveys in this area. Besides, the results of archaeological excavations at Hacilar, Suberde, Erbaba, Kuruçay, Höyücek and Bademağacı have presented the cultural development of the region from the Neolithic through the Bronze Ages with their rich architecture and material culture.

The most common prehistoric settlement form is the mound (höyük). Most of the settlement mounds are already known today because they are easy to spot on the edge of the plains. Settlement mounds can also be located on higher terraces, often on the spurs of natural hills. The flat settlements, another type of settlement, can be located either in the plains or on the flanks of hills. These were usually inhabited for a shorter time period; therefore their habitation deposits are only of minimal height. Island and lake-shore settlements, which are found in the region, have not been studied thoroughly yet. Island and lake-shore sites can be regarded as a characteristic settlement form of the Lake District. A total of 37 sites of this type could be identified alone in the Lake District. The majority of them are located on the lake shore, either on flat ground or on low natural hills which sometimes protrude as peninsulas into the lake. Many lakes today have a lowered water level caused by modern irrigation and regulation as at Burdur Lake; some like Lake Kestel were only recently drained dry for agricultural purposes. In some lakes a rise in the water level is observed as at Lake Beyşehir. Palaeogeographical research on several lakes in the Lake District has revealed a continous decline of the water levels since the last Ice Age. Intermediate periods of rising water levels have also been detected. These are usually connected with climatic changes, i.e. the phase of the post-glacial climatic optimum (from ca. 6000 and 2000 B.C.). Generally island and lake-shore sites seem not to be affected by rising water levels including seasonal fluctuations. Nonetheless, more geomorphological, palaeobotanical, palynological and archaeological investigations are necessary in order to correlate more precisely water level fluctuations in the lakes with climatic and environmental changes and their effect on the development and history of the surrounding settlements.

Altogether nine sites were identified on islands. Some of these island sites are connected to the main land via small natural or artificial causeways.

The chronological dating of the lake-shore and island sites in the Lake District relies on ceramic finds collected during surface surveying. The datings proposed by the conductors of these surveys in their preliminary reports seem reliable since the diagnostic surface ceramic finds were compared with material from sites excavated stratigraphically in the Lake District and neighbouring regions. The earliest known lake-shore site in this region is Suberde/Görüklük Tepe at Lake Suğla, with its oldest settlement phases belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period. Three sites of the Late Neolithic period are located only in the eastern part of the Lake District, i.e. around Lake Suğla and Lake Beyşehir. From the Early Chalcolithic period onwards lake-shore sites appear in the western part as well. Five sites are known from the Late Chalcolithic period in all parts of the Lake District. The number of island and lake-shore settlements increases to 33 as of the Early Bronze Age. Five of these date to the EBA 1; 22 to EBA 2 and 12 to EBA 3. In the second millennium BC the number falls down to ten. Nine of these ten sites have materials from the MBA while only one has from LBA.

When the chronological distribution of the island and lake-shore sites in the Lake District is compared with distribution of other settlement types it is seen that the changes in numbers are parallel especially in the Bronze Age. Sudden changes in the number observed during EBA can be linked with climatic changes in the region. The drastic falls in the second millennium BC are common across entire western Anatolia and can be explained through peoples’ movements, changing settlement policies and unstable political-military conditions of the period as well as the population moving into bigger centres.

In the prehistoric period a defensive purpose was not a major factor for the people to build their settlements on islands and lake shores. Unlike hill-top settlements with their obvious defensive character and which increase in number during the 2nd millennium B.C. in Western Anatolia, the number of island and lake-shore sites strongly decreases during this time. Economic factors and exploitation of natural resources like fish, molluscs, birds, reed and salt seem to have been of more importance in the lakes geography. With an increasing and decreasing population number, the demand for special products from lakes grows and declines as well. Variations in size and quantities of settlements can be correlated with the connection between these two phenomena.

Yrd. Doç. Dr. Ralf Becks,
Mehmet Akif Ersoy Üniversitesi,
Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi, Arkeoloji Bölümü
15030 Burdur.
E-mail: ralfbecks@mehmetakif.edu.tr

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