The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Decoration and cremation of neolithic human bones from Göbekli Tepe, Turkey


Department of Anthropology, German Archaeological Institute Berlin, Germany

March 26, 2015 9:45, Grand Ballroom C Add to calendar

Within the last three years excavation at Göbekli Tepe, the earliest known temple complex, located in East Turkey, revealed quite a lot human bone fragments from the filling of the buildings. Except one slightly better preserved skeleton, 594 single fragments have been investigated by macroscopic, radiological, scanning electron microscopical and histological methods. The most frequent type is skull fragments (349) followed by long bone fragments of the lower extremity (111) The amount of fragments is decreasing from the upper extremity (52) to foot, hand and fragments of spine, ribs and pelvis. This indicates that whole bodies were buried, and not only a selection of long bones and skulls were placed in the area. Several kinds of artificial treatment show specific burial customs: Signs of burning or impact of low heat were present in 109/594 of the fragments, 19/594 showed cut marks most probably due to dismembering. On skull fragments of three different individuals up to 3mm deep straight geometrically carved decorations are placed mostly in the frontal and anterior parietal parts of the skull. The carvings on the best preserved skull are extending in a sagittal line to the occipital and also to the mandible. In contrast to all other fragments, in this special case a drilling on the left parietal was done and remnants of ochre were visible. These different burial customs will be discussed in comparison to other sites in Neolithic Turkey and an overview about age and sex distribution as well as pathological processes will be given.