Situated in the Keban region of eastern Turkey, approximately 26 kilometers from Elazig, lies the historic site of Norsuntepe. The site is perched atop a mound spanning an area of roughly 500 meters by 300 meters and has revealed significant evidence of ancient settlements through archaeological excavations.
Between 1968 and 1974, the German Archaeological Institute, under the guidance of Harald Hauptmann, a professor of Prehistory and Early History at Heidelberg, conducted excavations at Norsuntepe. However, due to the construction of the Keban Dam and the consequent rising water levels, the fieldwork had to be concluded by 1974.
The extensive stratigraphy revealed by the excavations unveiled about 40 layers of settlements ranging from the late Chalcolithic period (approximately 5000 years BC) through all phases of the Bronze Age to an Uartan settlement from the Iron Age (approximately 2000 BC).
The Chalcolithic period, also known as the Copper Age, is a prehistoric period between the Neolithic (New Stone Age) and the Bronze Age. Copper smelting began in southern Anatolia (present-day Turkey) in the 6th millennium BC, while the same Neolithic tools were still in use. The first evidence of copper smelting comes from Çatalhöyük.
The Upper Euphrates region of Norsuntepe (Keban) has yielded a wealth of archaeological treasures, including a significant number of smelting objects that offer insights into the extractive metallurgy of copper, arsenic, and antimony. Late Chalcolithic items uncovered in Anatolia were primarily composed of unalloyed copper, while others were made from arsenical coppers with low arsenic concentrations.
In addition to these smelting objects, the excavations uncovered a variety of artifacts, including finished metal products, fragments of clay crucibles and molds, slag, and copper ore. These discoveries were made in and around a group of buildings that likely constituted a quarter of the settlement inhabited by metalworkers. Other artifacts found at Norsuntepe include stone, bone, and antler tools, as well as several glass items such as seals and cylinders, spanning multiple historical periods.
Norsuntepe, situated in the Keban region of present-day eastern Turkey, is believed to have been a fortified settlement with mudbrick houses, some of which had wall paintings. Archaeological excavations carried out by the German Archaeological Institute, under the guidance of Professor Harald Hauptmann from Heidelberg University, have uncovered around 40 habitation levels from various historical periods, including the late Chalcolithic period (4,000-3,000 BC), all phases of the Bronze Age, and an Urartian village from the Iron Age (approx. 2000 BC). As a result, Norsuntepe was unquestionably one of the most significant sites of this era, now submerged under the waters of the Keban dam.
The Chalcolithic period was a significant time in human history as it marked the widespread use of copper, which was a game-changer in primitive weapon-making. Prior to this, humans only used natural stones to make their weapons. The people of this era built settlements on the lakeshores or in the fertile valleys, and they worshipped the great mother goddess of Asia Minor. Figurines of this goddess were produced and used in religious rituals.
During the preceding Neolithic period, burials took place inside homes. However, in the Chalcolithic era, they began to take place outside of settlements. The Iron Age that followed provided richly ornamented tombs, but eventually, the settlement was abandoned and destroyed by fire.
Norsuntepe, where remains from several historical periods have been found, including the late Chalcolithic period, was most likely a fortified site. The settlement had mudbrick dwellings, some of which were plastered with wall paintings. The mound’s excavation revealed around 40 habitation levels from different periods, including the Urartian village in the Iron Age. Despite the Keban dam’s inundation, Norsuntepe remains one of the most important sites of this period.
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