Sunday, March 12, 2017


Yarımburgaz, Başakşehir - Istanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°04'32.4"N 28°44'28.8"E / 41.075667, 28.741333

 photo yarimburgaz_cave101.jpg


Two parts cave, which is in 1.5 km south of Lake Küçükçekmece, one conjoined inside. Yarımburgaz Cave is a very important place in terms of it being the oldest settlement in Turkey to be observed as layered. The height of the ceiling is more than 10 m and the upper cave measuring 15 x 52 m. In the cave below the layers dating from 600 - 400 thousand years BC can be seen. As a consequence of investigation, Yarımburgaz Cave is understood to have been inhabited and settled in the Lower Paleolithic Age, Chalcolithic Age and Early Byzantine Age.

The lower cave, where the studies especially regarding the Paleolithic Age were performed, has to passages. In the Paleolithic period, people used the caves temporarily in the summer months when bears wake up from their winter hibernation. Afterwards the cave was abandoned for a long time. The first hunter and collector communities lived here and in between 7300 and 5800 BC agriculture communities settled in the cave for a short period. In the early Byzantine period, some part of the upper cave is considered to have been used as a church. It is certain that this church is related with the monastery building outside the cave.

Yarimburgaz Cave is a cave of significant archaeological and paleontological importance, located within Istanbul Province. Yarımburgaz Cave is approximately 20 km (12 mi) west of the city of Istanbul, and about 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) north of Lake Küçükçekmece and south of Sazlıdere Dam. It is situated in a locality known today as Altınşehir, within the neighborhood of Güvercintepe in Başakşehir district. The cave was formed as a result of a subterranean river eroding an ancient limestone formation.

It has two entrances, one above the other. The lower entrance is at an altitude of 11.5 m (38 ft) AMSL, which the upper entrance is situated 7 m (23 ft) above. The cave is on the eastern bank of the Sazlıdere Creek, which empties into Lake Küçükçekmece. The entrances face southwards overlooking Sazlıdere Valley. Wheras the lower cave has a length of 500 m (1,600 ft), the upper is only 52 m (171 ft) long. After about 25 m (82 ft) inside, a short, slopy passage connects both caves. The lower cave is in the form of a meandering tunnel, forking into two at a distance of 240 m (790 ft) from the mouth. The upper cave's chamber is 15 m (49 ft) wide and 10 m (33 ft) in height.

The cave is an important fossil site which has been researched by archeologists, paleontologists, geoarchaeologists and biospeleologists. Scientific exploration of the cave began in the mid-19th century. Excavation attempts made in 1920 were followed by systematic archaeological work in the 1980s financially supported by the National Geographic Society.

In the Byzantine era, a cave-church was carved into the walls of the upper cave, and a monastery was built outside the cave mouth. Although these alterations may have resulted in the loss of prehistoric material, some artefacts remain in the cave. In the upper cave, traces of settlements were found dating back to the Upper Paleolithic subdivision of the Stone Age up until the Chalcolithic period of the Bronze Age.

These traces were lying on beach sand from the last interglacial period and beneath debris from Byzantine and later times. The beach sand covers sediments with Lower Paleolithic artifacts. The upper cave was destroyed by treasure hunting and illicit diggings, which left 2–3 m (6.6–9.8 ft)-deep pits. Unlike the prehistoric deposits found in the lower cave, the upper cave lacks any evidence of debris from that era.

The existence of paleontological and archaeological findings point towards the use of the cave as a human and an animal habitat, alternatively. The finds include bones of herbivore and carnivore mammals, marine and freshwater molluscs, microfauna as well as artifacts like potsherds, knives on flint, oldowans, choppers and hammerstones on quartzite, as well as manuports.

The wide variety of prehistoric faunal specimens belong to bones of herbivore mammals such as cave bears (Ursus deningeri), horses (Equus caballus), wild boars (Sus scrofa), fallow deer (Dama dama), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), deer (Megaloceros), cattle (Bos/Bison), antilopes (Gazella), goats (Capra), and carnivores such as wolves and dogs (Canis), foxes (Vulpes), tigers (Panthera), cats (Felis) and hyenas (Crocuta).

Findings of "more than 5000 fossil bones and teeth of cave and brown bears", which provide some chronological indicators, led to their extensive scientific study. Another subject of such extensive study were the fossils of several species of Middle Pleistocene bats (Chiroptera), including horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus), mouse-eared bats (Myotis), long-eared bats (Plecotus) and bent-winged bats (Miniopterus).

Some artifacts found in Yarımburgaz Cave are exhibited in the Istanbul Archaeology Museums. In 2001, Yarımburgaz Cave was declared an archaeological-nature reserve of first grade. It is also listed as "Cultural Property under Enhanced Protection".

During the last two decades, the cave suffered serious, irreversible damage caused by the external interactions of humans. Following scientific excavations inside the cave, and the related publications in the 1990s, the cave gained wide popularity. For this reason, it was brought to the attention of several picnickers, treasure hunters, illegal explorers, amateur speleologists and archaeologists due to its past use as a historic cave-church and its proximity to the city center.

Yarımburgaz is a double cave with slightly offset upper and lower entrance chambers, connected laterally inside the cave. Below Byzantine and modern debris, the upper cave encloses Chalcolithic to Upper Paleolithic occupations above a beach sand attributed to the Last Interglacial. Below the beach sand, strongly modified sediments contain sparse Lower Paleolithic artifacts. The lower cave preserves only Lower Paleolithic industries, but with abundant cave bear and other fauna.

Lower cave sediments (0.5 m thick) comprise a lower, barren section of decalcification clays interfingering with alluvial fine sands, small gravel and rounded pebbles from the cave interior, and isolated limestone blocks from the cave ceiling. These sediments have been strongly affected by secondary phosphatization that fills vugs, cements the sediments, and produces thick reaction rinds on the large blocks. The upper 2 m of the fill becomes more rocky as the evidence of human and bear utilization of the cave becomes prominent.

No habitation structures or hearths were detected in the lower cave. ESR and uranium-series dating suggests an age between 160 and 390 ka for the lower cave occupations. Apparently the cave was wide open to the exterior at that time. The final phase of filling was characterized by abundant angular limestone blocks, suggestive of earthquake disturbance.

The cave system consists of two passages; the longer, lower passage penetrates about 500 m into the limestone ridge, but the shorter, higher one reaches a dead end only 50 m from the present entrance. A short transverse corridor connects the two longer passages, sloping down from the upper to the lower cave about 25 m inside the cave. The mouths of the two passages are, respectively, 11.5 and 18.6 m/sl and face southward overlooking the Sazlidere valley, the marshy floodplain of which is only about 1 m above sea level.

The lower passage is still an active karstic cave, with growing speleothems and pools of standing water in its dark, inner recesses. Evidence of running water exists in the form of rounded quartz and chert pebbles and stratified sand on the cave floor. These exotic materials indicate that an insurgence exists (or existed in the past) in the inner reaches of the cave. We excavated similar deposits in Lower Paleolithic levels in the outer part of the lower passage, as described below.

Also, deposits of very fine silt and clay occur in the active portion of the cave, especially where lateral karstic conduits join the main passage. These fine deposits appear to be reworked surface soil or decalcification clays washed in from other parts of the karstic system. Again, they have counterparts in the Lower Paleolithic deposits. The upper cave was strongly modified in Byzantine times when a church was carved into its walls, and a monastery constructed outside the cave mouth.

These modifications removed prehistoric deposits to an undetermined extent, but some Chalcolithic and Upper Paleolithic deposits remain. The lower cave was also disturbed by illicit excavators or treasure seekers. Modern pits as deep as 2 or 3 m were revealed in our excavations, and any evidence of prehistoric deposits intermediate in age between the Lower Paleolithic and the modern, mixed debris is missing, that is, Middle/Upper Paleolithic and Chalcolithic, which are present in the upper cave.

On the other hand, erosion of preexisting cave sediments was very clearly in evidence at the mouth of the lower passage. The deepest trench (in the lower cave, adjacent to another trench) reached 5 m below the present floor of the lower cave, but the lowest 3 m appear to be barren of artifacts or bones. We did not reach bedrock at any point along the central axis of the lower cave.

Human ancestors, cave bears, and brown bears have coexisted in Eurasia for at least one million years, and bear remains and Paleolithic artifacts frequently co-occur in cave sediments, particularly those dating to the Middle Paleolithic period. These peculiar associations were once the inspiration for the so-called “cave bear cult”, a theme that persists in popular literature.

A deeper understanding of the causes of human-bear associations in Paleolithic caves is made possible in part by appeal to modern bear ecology. A central example of Paleolithic human-bear relations is the Middle Pleistocene case of Yarımburgaz Cave in Turkish Thrace. Here, multiple lines of evidence show that cave bear and human use of caves were independent events.

The apparent spatial associations between human artifacts and cave bear bones in the cave are explained principally by slow sedimentation rates relative to the pace of biogenic accumulation and bears' bed preparation habits. In other circumstances, however, cut marks on bear bones suggest that some bears were hunted by hominids. These are usually brown bears, whose remains often occur as a very minor component of refuse middens.

None of the examples support the notion of ritual use of cave bear remains by ancient humans. Although the cave bear cult is just a story, the Middle Paleolithic record is not without provocative indications of Neanderthal (Middle Paleolithic) social sensibilities.


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