Macro Botany 2002

Makro-Botani Ekibi

Meltem Agcabay & Katy Killackey


The Çatalhöyük macrobotanical team processed 269 flotation samples during the 2002 excavation season. The vast majority of these samples, 236, came from BACH's Building 3.  The Polish team collected and floated only 9 samples from the TP area, due to its mixed contexts, and the 24 South samples came from small trenches, excavated for the shelter during the construction process.  Out of the 269 flotation samples, 24 samples were analyzed as priorities from building 3 in the BACH area, with a focus on spaces 87, 88 and 89.  These priority samples from the BACH area came from burials, ovens, room fills, fills, bins, fire installations, floors, cuts and posthole fills.  The Polish and South area flotation samples were not studied in the field this year due to the lack of contextual or temporal information in these sectors.  The BACH priority samples included several bins, fire installations and one oven that represent the earliest use of building 3.  There seems to be food preparation evidence in these areas, although the macroremains do not tell us anything about the bin storage use.  Over all, we can say that these contexts did look similar to the same type of contexts we have studied in the other excavated buildings, such as Building 5 and 7.  The patterns seen in previous years continue in these specific contexts, as do the types of deposits and the taphonomy of erosion.


Çatalhöyük makro-botani ekibi 2002 kazı sezonunda toplam 269 yüzdürme örneklemesini işlemden geçirdi. Bu örneklemelerin 236 tanesi, yani büyük çoğunluğu, BACH alanındaki 3 nolu yapıdan geldi. Polonya ekibi, TP alanındaki kazı toprağının karışık içeriği nedeniyle, sadece 9 örnekleme toplayıp yüzdürmeyi uygun gördü. Geriye kalan 24 örnekleme ise güney alanındaki koruyucu çatının inşası sırasında açılan küçük açmalardan geldi. 269 yüzdürme örneklemesinden 24 tanesi, BACH bölgesindeki 3 nolu yapıya ait olan ve özellikle mekan 87, 88 ve 89'a odaklanan öncelik örneklemeleri olarak incelendi. BACH alanından gelen bu öncelik örneklemeleri, gömüler, fırınlar, oda dolguları, dolgular, depolar, ocaklar, tabanlar, kesikler ve direk deliği dolgularından alınmıştı. Polonya ve Güney bölgesi yüzdürme örneklemeleri üzerine, bu bölümlerde bağlam ve uzama dair bilginin bulunmaması sebebiyle, sahada çalışma yapılmamıştır. BACH öncelik örneklemeleri, pek çok depo alanı ve ocağın yanı sıra, 3 nolu yapının en eski kullanımını temsil eden bir fırını da içermektedir. Bu alanlarda yiyecek hazırlandığına dair kanıtlar olmasına karşın, makro kalıntılar depolama alanı kullanımına dair herhangi bir ipucu vermemektedir. Genel olarak söyleyebiliriz ki, bu bağlamlar, 5 ve 17 nolu yapılar gibi daha önce kazılmış olan yapılardaki aynı tür bağlamlarla benzerlik göstermektedir. Önceki yıllarda ilişki ağları (pattern), dolgu türleri ve erozyon tafonomisine dair gözlemlenen sonuçlar, bu yıl gündeme gelen bağlamlarda da süregelmektedir.


2002 Season

This year's flotation team, Meltem Acgabay and Katy Killackey, with the flotation machine attendants Riza Buyuktemiz and Mevlüt Sivas, water-separated a total of 269 sediment samples, with 236 coming from the North BACH area, 9 samples from the Polish TP area, and 24 samples taken from the South area.  The two mechanized flotation machines used for this were built in previous years for the Çatalhöyük project (see the previous botanical 1996 archive report for the machine details).  The vast majority of these flotation samples were from the BACH area as were all of the 24 priority samples.  We continued to use the processing procedures that have been set up in 1996 by Hastorf and Near and refined in the 1999 field season by Fairbairn and Kennedy.  While we still prefer to have 30 litres of sediment from each unit sampled, this could not always happen this year in the BACH area.

Slobodon Mitrovic, and occasionally the flotation team, oversaw the heavy residue sorting with the help of women from Kuccukoy, including Fadimana Yasli, Suna Yasli, Saliha Sivas, and sometimes Hatice Yasli.  As described in previous archive reports and in Slobodon's own reports and papers, we continued implementing the adjusted system of 1999, updated by Fairbairn and Kennedy, based on the what was developed in 1996-7 by Hastorf and Near.  This procedure includes recording the chosen fractions of the different sizes on a form and weighing these fractions of artefacts.  The artefacts are then distributed to the specialists which provides then with data for the priority tours. 

It has been proposed by the project that complete blanket sampling will be altered to be more selective, given that the project now has a good idea of the taphonomy and taxa throughout the time periods of the site.  This year saw this variation from the excavation team's previous blanket sampling strategy of collecting sediment samples from every excavated unit.  The Polish team working in the TP area decided not to employ blanket sampling this summer as they were excavating through a mix of different time periods and mixed deposits and had not yet reached the Neolithic layers.  Thus they collected a systematic sample of the excavated area and took the samples to Poland for analysis.  In the South Area, where the foundations for the new shelter were being excavated, samples were not taken from all contexts.  This was because of the unusual excavation strategy employed of small, thin and scattered trenches.  The shape of these trenches prevented the excavators from completely uncovering contexts and their relationship to adjacent contexts.  With the shelter completed, we plan to return to systematic sampling next year.

The on site priority macrobotanical analysis is designed to take about 2-3 hours, enabling 3-6 samples to be studied for every priority tour.  In this procedure, we sort, identify to plant category, weigh and count plant part categories.  These categories are cereal grains, chaff, pulses, herbaceous material, rhizomes, wood, and seeds.  These are separated into the greater than 4 and greater than 2 mm sub-samples. The smaller sized material, greater than 1 and .5 mm fractions, were scanned under an 8-15 power microscope that resides at the site.  For these we only write comments on the forms.  When the heavy residue is processed in time, we also count and weigh those plant parts and make commented about them on the form.  These comments include notes on the diversity, density and abundance scores for each sample, as developed by Fairbairn and Kennedy in 1999, in order to make these rough sorts comparable.  Once done, a summary is written in the priority book.  On the day of the priority tour, these results are presented along with the other material data sets.  The results of the presentations and discussion is then summarised in the priority book.  A portion of the remaining unsorted samples will be systematically analysed by different team members off site during the year, with the light and the heavy residues being exported with permission from the Ministry of Culture from the Konya Museum of Archaeology.  All the Building 3 archaeobotanical samples from the 2001 and 2002 seasons were sent to U.C. Berkeley for further analysis.


The BACH Area

In the 2002 season, the BACH team completed excavating Building 3, with the exception of some of the lowest walls.  Building 3 has five phases and this year the excavators finished the earliest two phases.  From the large midden deposits found at the base of the building, it seems that Building 3 was constructed on top of a midden.  This year they also excavated in the adjoining southerly spaces, 87, 88, and 89.  They do not as yet have a complete picture of their relationship to Building 3, but they seem to be contemporaneous.  In the space 87 they found at least eight burial pits that included up to twelve people. 


Building 3:

The final excavations of Building 3 occurred this year.  Overall there was a focus on food contexts, with bins, ovens and fire installations.  


The Kitchen Area Fire Installation:

Three units make up a kitchen area located in the southeastern corner, which in later phases contained a long sequence of middens.  These installation units show a similarity with the upper units botanically.  All the samples from the kitchen area that we looked at were very similar.  These units had a low density of plant remains.  Unit 8445 had a few pulses such as Pisum sp. and Lens sp.  There were also some cereal fragments and an array of wild seeds.  Most of the wild seeds were Scirpus sp.  A cluster of samples studied included Unit 8501, from the base of fire installation on the first floor of the building, Unit 8504 at the rim of the fire installation and Unit 8507 from a fire installation just above and associated with the second floor.  The small amount of plant materials in these samples was very fragmented with the individual pieces less than 2mm in size.  Unit 8501 had very few remains, some parenchyma and some weed seeds.  Unit 8504, from the rim of fire installation, also has few plant remains, such as chaff fragments and weed seeds.  Unit 8507, which is from the second floor of the fire installation, is denser than the others, but again with very few overall plant remains.  This sample did have a large variety of wild taxa, including Rumex sp., Chenepodium and some Cyperaceae.  These taxa suggest a mix of activities associated with these fire installations, food preparation at least, but probably other things like tool manufacture and processing.


Oven (Fire installation in SW corner):

To the west of the fire installation, in the southwest corner of Building 3, is an oven.  Two samples were investigated, units 8392 and 8394, from this oven.  These samples are dominated by food remains, followed by wood and chaff.  We found many pieces of nutshell and nutmeat, which is probably an almond species (Amygdalus sp.).  It seems that this oven had an unusual amount of nut remains.  Also, the wild seed species were very dense and diverse.  Unit 8394, from the oven floor, had more than 600 wild seeds, dominated by Polygonum sp., Rumex sp., Galium sp., and Carex sp.  This sample also had many food taxa such as cereals and nuts with many nutshells.  Unfortunately, these plant remains were in a mixed condition.  Unit 8392, which is again oven floor, looks very similar to the other sample, with dense food remains.  But this sample has more cereal grains of wheat and barley in very good condition.  There are again many pieces of almond meat and nutshells, as well as wild seeds.  It seems that the inhabitants possibly used wild grass for making fire in this oven, because there is very little wood or chaff in the samples relative to the other samples out of the BACH area.  The condition of these oven remains suggest either a low, slow fire or perhaps that these seeds were burned with indirect exposure to the heat.

Unit 8525 is an ash area, just to the north and adjoining this oven.  This sample is not very different from the nearby oven deposits.  This sample is dominated by food remains, with a little bit of wood.  Again the preservation is quite good with very nice wheat grains and cereal fragments, as well as nuts and nutshells from the Amygdalus sp.  This botanical assemblage suggests that it is a rake out of the adjoining oven. 

Unit 8563, which is an earlier oven base in this same area, had many whole cereal grains in good condition and most of these are hulled barley.  There is an unusually dense amount of cereal in this oven context.  In the upper deposits, the majority of the food remains were nuts while from the base of oven, cereal dominated.  The sample includes some chaff and many weed seeds, usual for an oven.  Most of the wild seeds are Galium sp., Scirpus sp., and Sisymbrium sp.


Screen wall (Fill on near screen wall):

Two units were considered interesting enough for study along the screen wall on the western side of the building.  The unit 8397, which is fill near the screen wall, has mostly parenchyma, probably from the Scirpus tuber.  We did find many tubers in the screen wall in previous years; perhaps these were mixed in the mud used for construction.  There is also some chaff, wild seeds and cereal.  Unit 8401 is fill on the screen wall.  It has some cereal, wild seed and parenchyma in the sample.  Most wild seeds are Scirpus sp., Fumaria sp. and Carex sp.  Units 8397 and 8401 have quite different compositions.  Unit 8401 has a lot more wood then Unit 8397.  Unit 8397 has many grass seeds while 8401 has none.  These botanical remains suggest construction remnants.


Bins (northwest corner):

One sample, 8391, comes from a bin base uncovered in the northwest corner of Building 3.  The remains are extremely sparse.  There is nothing to indicate this sample represents the contents of the bin. There is some chaff, pulse and wild seeds, but these are probably background material from the general site.  As before with the bins in Building 5, one must turn to the micro analysis, such a phytoliths and micromorphology, for any real information as to what was stored in the bins.


Obsidian Cache (fill in an obsidian cache):

This obsidian cache, 8446, is located by the ladder and the fire installation in the southeast corner.  The excavators found two pieces of nice obsidian points with some animal bones.  They decided that these obsidian pieces were perhaps placed there for ritual ceremony at the beginning of the building, like an offering.  But such caching near an oven and the entrance is seen elsewhere at the site.  The botanical sample unit 8446 was very dense.  There was a thousand wood pieces.  There is a great variety of plant types such as cereals, peas and lentils and there is many wild seeds, most of them Trigonella types.  This suggests that the cache was buried using material straight out of the fire installation, shortly after a fire had occurred, hence the almost solid wood.


Spaces 87, 88 and 89

After a two year break, excavation of Spaces 87, 88 and 89 was resumed.  This season we prioritised three samples from space 87, four samples from space 88 and two samples from space 89.  All of these samples were field sorted at Çatalhöyük following our standard Phase I methodology and the results were reported back to the excavators during our bi-weekly priority tours.

Space 87:

Space 87 is situated in the South-west corner of the BACH area.  This summer 12 burials were uncovered in 8 pits within this small space.  Two flotation samples from the burial fills were examined by the archaeobotanical team.  The first burial fill sample, unit 8385 S.2, has a moderate density of wood and contains a diverse mixture of different plant material, including cereals, pulses, lentils, peas, tuber parenchyma, herbaceous material, hackberries and a mix of wild seeds.  In general, the remains are in poor condition and have the appearance of a midden deposit.  In contrast, the second burial fill sample, 8421 S.2, has a low density and a lower diversity of plant remains.  This sample contained some cereal, chaff, almond nutshell and a few of the most commonly found wild seed, Scirpus martimus.  The last sample we examined from Space 87, Unit 8467 S.2, comes from floor fill.  This sample was chosen for comparison with the burial fills.  It has a moderate density and a similar mixture of plant remains as 8421 S.2.  In comparison with 8385 S.2, the midden-like burial fill, the floor fill had a lower density and diversity of plant remains.  From these three samples there is not yet a clear pattern that characterises the burial fills in this space.  Perhaps the fills were in fact simply the re-deposition of the material being dug out of the floor to make room for the burials.  This would account for the similarity between one of the burial fills and the floor fill, as well as the lack of any clear pattern representing any discrete activity.  The contents of these samples are probably redeposited material from food activities.

Space 88:

Space 88 is the central small space to the south of Space 201 in Building 3.  This year several floor layers were excavated in this space.  The first sample we looked at from Space 88, unit 8463 S.2, is comprised of a thick layer of burnt material.  This sample had a high plant density and was made up almost entirely of unusually large pieces of wood in good condition.  Pulses were the other major component of this sample, including Lens, Vicia, and the rare Cicer genera.  Due to its good condition and the large size of the wood fragments, this is probably a primary deposit, or at the least, the burnt material was disturbed very little before its deposition.  The other three samples examined from Space 88, Unit 8505 S.2, Unit 8506 S.2, and Unit 8518 S.2, were from a mixture of surface, floor and packing layers.  Overall, these three samples have similar contents to previous floor and packing samples we have examined across the site.  They have moderate to low densities and are composed mostly of wood with a small amount of other material, such as cereal, chaff and wild seeds.  Unit 8463 S.2, the burnt layer, stands out sharply from these samples as some sort of special single event involving edible material in the form of pulses.

Space 89:

Space 89 is the third small room to the south east of Building 3.  The excavation this summer went through about a meter of fill in this space and still the floors have not been reached.  Two flotation samples from the fill, Units 8405 S.3 and 8388 S.2, were compared to see if there was any variation between the fill in different areas of the space.  Both samples were composed mostly of wood with some cereal and a little chaff, pulse and wild seeds.  Overall the two samples were very similar, with the exception that Unit 8405 S.3 had a higher density of plant material.  This indicated that while there is some variation between different areas of the fill in Space 89, overall, the same sort of botanical material was being deposited in the space through time, whether it was a rapid infilling of the space or a slow one with many dumps.  A third sample, 8406 was only dry sieved and contained only wood.


The South Area:

While we did not study any of the South area samples this field season, there was a very interesting botanical find discovered.  From a midden area, northeast of Mellaart's trench and close to Summit area, many figurines were uncovered.  One of them was a minute mother goddess figurine.  Embedded within her back was one small, whole carbonized seed.  We were unable to remove the seed and get a full view of it, but we concluded that it was a wild seed, tentatively identified as Galium sp. 



In sum, while the priority tours of this field season were focused on BACH, the samples we studied came from an assortment of contexts that did not form any sort of coherent group.  Instead, these scattered samples gave us glimpses of possible botanical patterns for a wide variety of contexts, including fire installations, middens, pit fills, room fills and floors.  A more detailed study including these samples and others that have yet to be sorted will help us better understand the patterns for these contexts.  Over all we can say that the samples form these contexts did look similar to the similar types of contexts we have studied in the other excavated buildings, such as Building 5 and 7.  Also, the patterns of previous years continue in these samples, as do the types of deposits and the taphonomy of erosion.


© Çatalhöyük Research Project and individual authors, 2002