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Some Observation About The seals of The Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic Periods in the Burdur – Antalya Regions

A process that began in the Burdur-Antalya region 22 years ago with the 1957-60 excavations at Hacilar has continued to the present day with the excavations at Kuruçay, Höyücek and Bademagaci. The stamp-seals, which are the subject of this study, are from the following settlements; in chronological order, Bademagaci EN 3, EN 1 (Early Neolithic Period), Höyücek, The Shrine Phase, The Sanctuaries Phase and Hacilar IIB.

The seals of the Neolithic and early Chalcolithic Periods were made of stone and clay. It is apparent that non-valuable stones that were not too dense and suitable for engraving were used in seal production. It is thought that the seal, consisting of a handle and a stamp surface underneath, was initially roughly formed then carefully retouched and engraved. The cutting of the seal’s stamp surface in these periods was probably done with fine point or a chisel. The instruments of a seal cutter are thought to have been made of bone, antler, flint or obsidian; those made of stone would have been used with a handle of wood or bone.

The production of clay seals was probably comparatively easier. After forming the shape of the seal, the stamp surface would have been engraved with a point, perhaps made of bone, with not too sharp a tip, and then fired in an oven.

It is not possible to obtain detailed accurate information about the use of stamp-seals in the pre-literary periods. Most of the views of researchers are no more than theories, as the available archaeological evidence is not adequate to support such suggestions. There are no examples of stamp impressions on pottery or other items to supplement the stamp-seals described above. In view of this, it can be assumed that seals were used to stamp other perishable or edible items. No trace of paint or dye was found on the seals; we suggest that they were not used for stamping flat surfaces with a particular design, as the engraved negative design (intaglio) of our examples, with the exception of Type 2a (pintadera), is not suitable for this kind of usage. Several suggestions could be made on this subject e.g. it is possible that in the periods in question the village or neighborhood bread or pastries were made communally and that each family stamped the ones belonging to them. Another suggestion is that, in the communal storage rooms of the settlements, families may have stamped their own grain produce after placing it in a section of the storage room and covering it with a cover of woven straw or layer of clay; unbaked clay, or clay not hardened by accidental fire, would not have endured. Seals of not too large a size, with a pierced handle, may have been carried as amulets. The seals may have had different functions according to their shape, the style of their handle and the engraving on the stamp surface.

The nearest parallels in Anatolia to the stamp-seals described above are from Çatal Höyük. Apart from stamp-seals, archaeological evidence for relations between the Burdur-Antalya Region and Çatal Höyük is provided by basket-handled pots, a box-shaped vessel and an obsidian point made by the pressure technique. We think that the period covered by the Bademagaci EN 3 and Höyücek Shrine Phase settlement is contemporary to Çatal Höyük Level VII and part of Level VI. There is as yet no evidence to suggest that the area of mutual influence in stamp-seal production extended further east than Çatal Höyük.

The earliest examples of seal production in the Burdur-Antalya regions are from the EN 3 period at Bademagaci; on the basis of current evidence, this date corresponds with the beginning of seal production in Anatolia. This means that the stamp-seals of Bademagaci and Çatal Höyük are chronologically ahead of their parallels in Greece and the Balkans, and therefore it can be said that the direction of influence in this field spread from Anatolia westwards.

The fact that close parallels to the stamp-seals of the Burdur-Antalya regions are seen in Greece and the Balkans is very significant. If the factor causing the spread of stamp-seal styles from the Burdur-Antalya regions to Greece and the Balkans had been an important people movement such as migration, the results of this would be expected to be reflected in other archaeological evidence in each of the two regions. Stamp-seals are lightweight objects, more easily carried than such things as un-worked stone or pottery. These were probably carried easily by small groups of people who traveled from one place to another for the purpose of trade, and were accepted and imitated by the peoples to which they were taken. It should not be thought that in these periods the seals were direct export items, but that they were an aspect of the strong traditional culture that gradually developed over the 7th and 6th millenniums, and directly or indirectly influenced other groups of people. It is clear, especially from the long time span of the Type 2a and 2b group, with a rectangular-shaped stamp surface, that the approach to seal production did not change very much over this long period of time and paralleled the development of pottery production at Bademagaci, Höyücek, Kuruçay and Hacilar. This style of stamp-seal production disappeared with the end of the Early Chalcolithic culture in this region and did not reemerge in subsequent periods.

*Doç. Dr. Gülsün Umurtak. İstanbul Üniversitesi, Edebiyat Fakültesi, Protohistorya ve Önasya Arkeolojisi Ana Bilim Dalı, İstanbul.

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