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Neolithic Activities, In Art Form

What was the world like thousands of years ago? How did people live their lives at that period of time? There is a lot of curiosity among modern people about the ancient times. Archaeologists have been conducting excavations in different parts of the globe to get answers to all these questions.

Archaeologist Dr Eylem Özdoğan from Istanbul University and his colleagues recently discovered an 11,000-year-old carving with narrative scenes, while carrying out excavation works at a site in Sayburç in Anatolia in south-eastern Turkey. Reports suggest that the recently-unearthed oldest narrative ancient slab of the world tells a story about the human relationship with animals.

In an article published in the journal, named Antiquity, on December 7, 2022, Dr Özdoğan mentioned that excavations had begun at the site, located beneath a modern village in the Şanlıurfa Province in 2021. According to the author, the oldest known narrative scene was carved into an 11,000-year-old neolithic bench at Sayburç. Dr Özdoğan stated that the bench has two carved scenes, showing depictions of people interacting with animals. One can get a glimpse of how human beings used to defend themselves against the attacks of wild animals thousands of years ago in the artwork.

A somewhat terrifying moment has been captured in a piece of artwork, as it is seen a man grasping his phallus with leopards on either side. As the two leopards are waiting to attack the man, the person is trembling while covering his genitals with his hands. It seems that people used to protect their genitals while safeguarding themselves from wild animals. Archaeologists are of the opinion that it was an act of self-defence at that time.

Meanwhile, the second scene shows a squatting man ringing a rattle at a bull. The men, seen in these artworks, also look different, as they have cheeky faces, big ears, and big eyes. Dr Özdoğan explained: “These figures, engraved together to depict a narrative, are the first known examples of such a holistic scene. This was a picture of the stories that formed the ideology of the people of that period.

The excavations have also uncovered a number of residential buildings, and a large communal structure lined with stone benches along the walls. Dr Özdoğan is of the opinion that the structure might have served as a focal point for gatherings or ritual activities. The narrative scenes on the bench may depict historical characters or mythical figures which were a key part of the Neolithic tradition. “This building has all the characteristic features of the communal structures in the region. In this structure, as in other similar ones, animal and human images were found. However, here the characteristic figures of the period coexist and form a scene.” added Dr Özdoğan.

Archaeologists believe that this particular place was inhabited by Neolithic people in the 9th Century BC, when important transformations had taken place in human civilisation. Instead of a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle, people began to establish permanent settlements and concentrated on farming. Researchers have opined that more archaeological remains could be found if further excavations are carried out in that area. Even many unknown stories of the Neolithic era can be revealed.

Dr Özdoğan insisted: “Archaeological evidence can provide some insight into the traditions of past societies, but clearer evidence rarely survives. So, this discovery is exciting. Sayburç has very clear evidence in this respect and has the potential to tell us a lot about the Neolithic.

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