The excavations at the Hasankeyf Mound was initiated under the scientific supervision of Prof. Dr. Gülriz KOZBE in 2009, and are now conducted by a Japanese team from the University of Tsukuba under the scientific supervision of Prof. Dr. Yutaka MIYAKE.
The excavations performed between 2009 and 2013 yielded finds from the Aceramic Neolithic, Iron, and Hellenistic Periods at the Hasankeyf Mound. The remains from the Post-Neolithic Period can be traced in the pits or graves where the excavations were intensified on the tophill. Due to absence of any late period layers on the mound, it was possible to have direct access to the Neolithic Period layers.
During the 2013 campaign, excavations were resumed in the trenches from the 2012 campaign. In addition, new trenches were opened on the western slope in order to have an idea about other sections of the mound (Trenches G7 and G8). Furthermore, geomagnetic surveys were conducted to have an idea about overall distribution of the architectural remains.
Trenches F11 and F12
The 2012 campaign yielded presence of finds including pottery in the northern section of these trenches. A pit from the Hellenistic Period was identified in this section in 2013 (Pit No. 222). The remains identified in 2013 except the pit are all from the Aceramic Neolithic Period.
Although building no. 85 identified in trenches F11 and F12 has been partially damaged by late period pits, it was possible to trace the main circular plan of the building in most parts in 2012. Located only in the trench F12, the building is discontinued on the southeastern section
The building no. 200 which was found beneath the building no. 85 with almost the same plan was 60 cm deeper than the ground level of the building no. 85. On the floor of this building, there was a contracted burial of an adult lied on its right side in the grave no. 201, and thus it can be considered as an underfloor burial. Traces of paint in the form of thin black lines were observed on the left humerus of the burial.
The building no. 93 on the southern section of trench F12 has a circular plan which was built by digging the ground. Although it partly extends up to trench G12, a major part of the building remains under trench F12. Three layers belonging to this building were identified at different levels. The uppermost layer was completely unearthed during the 2012 campaign. Four burials that can be considered as underfloor burials were found when the first layer was removed to have access to the next layer during the 2013 campaign (Burials 147, 151, 161 and 167).
On the western section of this building there are stones that were probably fallen from the wall. It is likely that the burial no. 147 was placed in a pit that was dug into this deposition of stones. It was buried in a hocker position lying on its right side. Right below this burial is the burial no. 167, which has been heavily damaged while the remains from the burial no. 151 that was uncovered in the eastern section of the building include only one part of the skull and a few ribs. Although the burial no. 161 which was identified partly penetrating into the southern section of the trench has not been well preserved, it is likely that it was buried lying on its left side.
A total of 3 floors were identified for building no. 93. Underfloor burials were also found under the 2nd floor. The burial no. 178 on the northwestern part of the building was buried in a hocker position lying on its left side . Black and red paints can be clearly traced on the skull and other parts of the skeleton.
The building no. 118 identified in the eastern of the trench and building no. 94 identified on the southeastern corner of the trench can be also considered to have a circular plan as built by digging the ground. It appears that trenches F11 and F12 also include intense number of buildings that were built in a circular plan similar to other trenches on the moundtop. Furthermore, absence of any obliterating intersection although these buildings in circular plan have various renewal phases suggests that they should have been used almost at the same time period.
In other parts falling outside this circular building, there are remains of various buildings, again in a circular plan, but smaller in size. The building no. 105 at the center of trench F12 has a wall surrounded by small stones. Its interior was filled with a yellow hard soil, and absence of any finds in this earthfill material gives the impression that the building was deliberately filled in. The building no. 202 lying immediately beneath this building was enclosed by a clay wall including small stones like the building no. 105, and filled up with a yellow clay (Image 11). However, the building no. 202 was deeper than the building no. 105, and its floor was paved with various sizes of stones. Although the groove section from the Hellenistic Period in building no. 119 on the northern part of the trench has been partly damaged, it is evident that the building had a semicircular plan (Image 10). Presence of grooves on the clay walls at certain distances indicate that it had a wattle and daub wall. These remains were also full of yellow soil, having a stone pavement on the floor. These remains of small buildings in a circular plan have similar characteristics, suggesting that they might have been used for storing, most probably, food.
The northwestern section was widened by 4.50 x 4.50 m for tracing structural continuity of building no. 140, which was identified in trench G11 of which half of the eastern section was already excavated in 2012.
It was found that the building no.140 that partially continues in trench F11 has a rectangular plan with slightly rounded corners. Many human skeletons uncovered are believed to have been related to the building (graves 160, 169, 171, 174, 176, 182, 183, 187, 188, and 189). Since they were very close to the surface, most of the skeletons could not remain intact and they have been scattered around.
The fact that this building was built by partially damaging the adjacent circular buildings no. 2 and 233 supports that it might have belonged to a later phase within the Aceramic Neolithic Age. If this assumption is true, then with the rectangular building no. 3 uncovered in trench H12, it will be possible to claim that there was a transition from round to rectangular buildings during the last phase of the Neolithic Age at the Hasankeyf Mound.
Trenches G12 and H12
It was already known that the building no. 3 uncovered in these trenches and excavated since 2011 had a rectangular plan with slightly rounded corners, and also had 3 layers at different levels.
In addition, many burials which are believed to have been related with the building were identified. Three more burials were found in the second layer of the building during the 2013 campaign (Burials 123b, 219 and 237) so that the total number of burials that belong to this building has reached to 30. A plate made of bone with incised decorations was found in situ on the right arm of the skeleton in burial 219 .
The floor of the lowest layer, the third layer, was reached during the excavations in 2013. One of the major finds is an obelisk belonging to the third floor level on the northwestern section of the building . Although the upper part was broken, its recovery in situ as erected on the floor further increases the likelihood that it was a specific building. It is also supported by numerous number of burials and uncertain remains of a water canal and embankments.
Some round buildings that were built by digging the ground were found on the southern section of the trenches other than the building no. 3 (buildings 207, 217, 226 and 227). Among them, buildings 207 and 217 were completely dug to the ground level. Two burials were found under the floor in building 207 (burials 213 and 236). Building 217 was built immediately behind building 207, and it was partially intersected by building 207. Its wall was also intersected by burials 219, and 237, presumably belonging to building 3.
The floor level was reached in the round building no. 127 which is located on the northeastern corner of the trench. Interestingly there were many grinding stones on the floor. The floor was removed to uncover any underfloor burials. And, five burials were uncovered under the floor; burials 159, 162, 172, 179 and 196. Burial no. 196 belongs to a child, with remarkable traces of paint on its skull and extremities. Removal of the wall of building no. 127, which had very little support yielded another round building, which was coded as building no. 238.
The floor of building no.10 that was excavated in 2012, was removed to continue further down with excavations. Four more burials, burials no. 148, 153, 170 and 173, were uncovered under the floor. When the wall of building no.10 was removed, two adjacent round buildings were revealed immediately behind it, which were coded as buildings 108 and 115. Two burials were found under the floor of the building 115 (Burials 180 and 211). Of these burials, burial no. 211 had traces of paint on the skull and extremities.
Subsequent recoveries of a few round buildings in trench G13 suggest that the same building might have undergone renewals. It appears that the outer largest building was the main structure, and presumably was modified due to deterioration, and then another, but smaller round building was built inside it.
On the western section of the trench out of these round buildings, small pit-like round remains were observed similar to those in trench F11. Buildings 168 and 181 were filled with very hard yellow clay, and contain stone pavements on their floor. However, building 158 displays different features compared to other remains. Four different superimposed layers were found in this oval building. The floors consist of hard clay, and although yet to be ascertained, some floors give the impression that they were highly exposed to fires. Imprint marks, possibly belonging to a black and red cloth was identified on the fourth layer.
Buildings 11 and 17 uncovered in 2011 are also round structures built by digging the ground, as observed in other trenches. The 2013 excavations revealed that building 11 had 3 floors at different levels. The floor of building 17 on the western part of the trench was reached, and then it was removed yielding another round building (building 220) immediately under it. Two floors were identified at different levels in building 220.
Many remains with stone pavement were found in the area beyond these round buildings. These architectural remains can be classified in two groups; buildings in a rectangular plan ( buildings 19, 20 and 224), and in circular plan (buildings 24, 232 and 247). It was found that the rectangular building no. 20 was surrounded by clay walls rarely mixed with stones, and 5 superimposing floors were uncovered at different levels. There is a thick layer of clay plaster on the stone pavement of these floors. Since the excavation has not been completed in this building, the total number of floors is uncertain. The round buildings with stone pavements were built in a similar way to rectangular buildings .
In 2012, excavations were intensified on buildings 142 and 143 on the western part of the trench. Building 143 is a round structure built by digging the ground. It has been well preserved at an approximate depth of 2.00 m. Two rectangular structures were unearthed in this building, which were presumably built afterwards (buildings 143 and 190). The floor of building 190 was apparently made by plastering clay on stone pavement. Building 242 identified on the eastern part of the trench, is circular in plan, and has superimposed floors paved with stones.
Another round building built by digging the ground was found in this trench located on the eastern slope of the mountain. The floor level of building 205 is approximately 5.00 m below the peak of the mound.
Some 2.00 m wide deep soundings were performed to the east of trench G15 in order to understand depth of the cultural deposit. Building 139 identified on the eastern section of trench G15 during the 2012 excavations was entirely uncovered. Removal of this building for further excavations showed that the cultural deposits were deeper. At approximately 7.50 m down from the mound peak, architectural remains with uncertain plans were found. Probably they also have a round plan, which were built by digging the ground. At least a 1.50 m thick earth fill was found in building 230. Thus, the total height reached down from the mound peak was 9.00 m. However, being unable to reach to the virgin soil indicates that the cultural deposit is thicker than 9.00 m.
Thick layers of ashes were found immediately below the surface soil. Inside these deposits, there are some pits from the Iron Age (pits 191, 194, 197 and 206). A human skeleton was recovered from one of these pits (no. 191).
Similar to trench G7, thick layers of ashes were found particularly in the western section of the trench. Inside these layers, there were pits dug during the Iron and Hellenistic Periods (pits 239, 245, and 246).
The Neolithic Period layers of the Hasankeyf Mound are dated to the second half of the 10th Millenium BC based on carbon-14 dating. The dates indicate that the settlement is almost contemporary of the other Aceramic Neolithic Period settlements in the Upper Tigris catchment basin such as Hallan Çemi, Demirköy Höyük, Körtik Tepe and Gusir Höyük. As a matter of fact, it is already known that common cultural elements from architecture to burial customs, from stone tools to small finds were exchanged among these settlements. Based on available data, it appears that the Upper Tigris catchment area had been more densely inhabited at the beginning of the Neolithic Age while the number of settlements decreased to a great extent in the following periods.
These settlements that had been inhabited approximately 12 thousand years ago at the beginning of the Holocene Epoch in a setting with favourable climatic conditions can be considered as the earliest villages established in the Upper Tigris Catchment Area. Presence of stone structures on the Hasankeyf Mound that can be considered as actual dwellings, discovery of plenty of burials, a considerably thick cultural layer and abundant number of large and heavy tools such as grinding stones that are hard to carry support the idea that the society that used to live here abandoned their previous nomadic lifestyle to start a permanent settlement.
Although it was identified as dating to the Neolithic Age based on the traditional nomenclature, available data indicate that there were no cultivated plant nor domesticated animals on the Hasankeyf Mound, and the subsistence was still based on hunting and gathering. More interestingly, no trace of any plants to have been cultivated in later periods such as wheat, barley, and garbanzos was found except for lentil. It reflects an important difference compared to the contemporary settlements located in the Middle Euphrates Basin, where crops such as wheat and barley were abundant. It can be assumed that the Hasankeyf Mound will contribute to the understanding of this important transition period by demonstrating that even a location such as the Upper Tigris Basin that was the core region of a new lifestyle during the Neolithisation process extending from hunting and gathering to farming and domestication of animals did not undergo the same stages, and each one of them had their own ways of experimenting.
Among the remains representing a later period of the Neolithic Age is a building with a quadrilateral plan having slightly rounded corners. Approximately 9,00 m long edges, discovery of 30 burials under the floor, and an in-situ head stone with a broken top found above the floor support the idea that the structure is not a common dwelling, but a special building used commonly by the inhabitants.
On the other hand, earlier period yielded remains of many buildings with rounded off corners. These buildings which were built by digging the ground and therefore are half buried usually have a depth of 1.00 to 1.50 m. Burials in hocker position were uncovered under the floor in some buildings. Although they should be treated as primary burials, some of the skeletons have remarkable traces of paint on them. They usually have a large band of red and black paint around their skulls while thin lines of black paint on other bones. The number of painted skeletons identified to date is 22. Additionally, geomagnetic surveys were performed in order to understand overall distribution of architectural remains. The excavations yielded abundant numbers of small finds.