Following the footprints of Palaeolithic pioneers at Dülük

Dülük is one of the most important open air Palaeolithic sites in Turkey. Muine Atasayan discovered it in 1938. She visited Dülük village and Roman tombs near it in 14th February 1938 with students from archaeology and anthropology departments from Ankara University. At that day, she discovered the first Palaeolithic tools in the area.

There is no information about how she first came here, but the old Dülük train station has a special place in my imagination. I’ve always imagined her looking from a train window and seeing the big cave, Şarklı Mağara, on the western hill of Keber Tepe. We’ll never know if she came here by train or by other means of transportation.

Figure 1: The old Dülük train station.

The discovery of Dülük was one of the earliest Palaeolithic discoveries in Turkey made in the founding times for palaeoanthropology and prehistoric archaeology in the country. After 1938 many important researchers in prehistory and palaeoanthropology somehow visited or worked here at Dülük. If we try to list the researchers who worked at Dülük and who published material from here might well show the importance of Dülük for prehistory in Turkey:  

Helmuth Theodor Bossert, Halet Çambel, İsmail Kılıç Kökten, Enver Yaşar Bostancı, Refakat Çiner, Jean Perrot, Angela Minzoni-Déroche, Işın Yalçınkaya, and Mehmet Özdoğan…

Figure 2: Drawing of a flake from the first publication about Dülük by Muine Atasayan in Türk Antropoloji Mecmuası, Number: 19-22 September 1939.

Almost every prehistorian visited Dülük, however these researchers left many unsolved questions to us like how old are these tools, what was the climate and environment like here during the Palaeolithic… Many of these researchers were specialized in stone tools, and they collected many tools from here, but it is interesting that one of the most important questions about Dülük is still about the stone tool technology, since early researchers only collected hand-axes and typologically beautiful artefacts rather than focusing on the understanding of the lithic technologies.

In 1947 Kılıç Kökten wrote: “We have classified the tools that are quite plenty and become heavy in a room where we are guests in the village. The axes are larger and more typical than any stone axes we have ever had.”

In 1962 Enver Bostancı wrote: “Dülük village became famous with its Lower Palaeolithic tools. Researchers who stop by here could always find new tools.

Figure 3: A Levallois point core among other artefacts and natural stones at Dülük.

In 1988, Angela Minzoni-Déroche wrote “the surface collecting was never done systematically, nor are there any maps showing the places where the collection was done; as a result, the collection of Lower Palaeolithic tools was apparently limited to hand axes, neglecting other tools.

Indeed, all researchers were right about what they said: Dülük artefacts are very typical, we still find thousands of them on the hills of the village and no systematical work was done here despite many researchers have worked here between 1938 and 2004.

Figure 4: Survey in 2021, working on observation points with 25 meters intervals.

In 2009, I visited Dülük for the first time. There was no house on top of Boynuzlukaya and the dirt road was not reaching to Cimşit Tepe at that time. Within the last decade these have changed, now factories and roads surround Dülük. In 2019 after almost 30 years of silence we restarted the Palaeolithic research at Dülük. Our aim is to systematically research this very important Palaeolithic site, define the lithic technology better, understand the hominin behaviours, and more importantly date the Palaeolithic occupations here. We know that we are stepping on the footprints of Turkish palaeoanthropology pioneers.

Written by: Ass. Prof. Dr. Berkay Dinçer, Istanbul University, Department of Anthropology

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