PPND - the Platform for Neolithic Radiocarbon Dates

 

37°13'22.81'' N    38°55'20.51'' E   Download OxCal File

Anlage D am Göbekli Tepe, 10. Jt. v. Chr.. Foto: Klaus Schmidt © Oktober 2009

Any interpretation of the radiocarbon dates of Göbekli Tepe can be only preliminary because the excavations are still in progress. 

The tell of Göbekli Tepe lies 15 km northeast of the modern city of Şanlıurfa in southeastern Anatolia. It is located at the highest point of the Germuş range overlooking the Harran plain (Schmidt 2006, 2011). The excavations conducted by Klaus Schmidt since 1995 have revealed no traces of domestic structures but rather a cult-architecture, the monumentality, the antiquity (early and middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic), and the iconographic richness of which have exceeded all expectations.  

The stratigraphy of the ruin hill includes an older layer (III) dated archaeologically to the PPNA and which produced monumental architecture with huge T-shaped pillars arranged in circle-like enclosures around two taller central pillars. A younger phase (layer II, early and middle PPNB) consists of smaller rectangular buildings often containing only two small central pillars or none at all. Layer I comprises mixed sediments derived from agricultural activities and containing material of the Middle Ages and of modern date, but no architectural remains. 

At least the big enclosures of layer III were intentionally and rapidly backfilled at the end of their period of use. This poses a severe problem for the radiocarbon dating of this layer, as the sediments could either be considerably younger than the enclosures, or roughly contemporary with them.  Given this basic problem, the first thing is to attempt to date the architecture directly.  Pedogenic carbonates have formed on the lower surfaces of the limestone of Göbeklis´ architecture, and this can be radiocarbon dated (Pustovoytov 2002, Pustovoytov 2006, Pustovoytov, Taubald 2003, Pustovoytov et al. 2007a, Pustovoytov et al. 2007b).  Unfortunately the pedogenic carbonate layers accumulate at a variable rate over a long period of time so a sample comprising a whole layer yields only an average value. This problem can be avoided by sampling only the oldest calcium carbonate layer in a thin section:  the result should be a date near the beginning of soil formation (burying) around the stone (Pustovoytov 2002). 

Radiocarbon data are available from the architectonic structures of layers III and II. The radiocarbon sample age sequence (Figure 1) confirms the archaeological strata, though absolute ages are clearly too young, with layer III being dated to the 9th millennium and layer II to the 8th or even 7th millennia. The data thus do not provide absolute chronological points of reference for the architecture and strata, but only a terminus ante quem for the refilling of the enclosures (layer III) and the abandonment of the site (layer II).  

Better suited for the direct dating of the architectonic structures is the wall plaster of the enclosures, which consists of loam that fortunately contains small amounts of charcoal (Figure 2; Dietrich and Schmidt 2010). A sample (KIA 44149) taken from the wall plaster of Enclosure D (Area L9-68, Loc. 782.3) gives a date of 9745-9314 calBC (95.4%), placing the circle in the PPNA. 

Two approaches were taken with the filling material. Carbonized plant remains have been scarce at Göbekli, thus limiting the possibilities for dating charcoal. Nevertheless three charcoal samples (Figure 2) are available for Enclosure A. The two samples Hd-20025 and Hd-20036 are derived from short-lived plants (pistacia sp. / amygdalus sp.) from the filling of Enclosure A (Kromer and Schmidt 1998). Both date to the late 10th / earliest 9th millennium. This fixes the filling material of Enclosure A firmly in the PPNA, though, as was explained above, the possibility of older material used for burying the structure can not be completely excluded. A third charcoal sample (KIA-28407) was found in Enclosure A under a fallen fragment of a pillar:  it dates the final refilling of the enclosure to approximately the middle of the 9th millennium. 

The archaeological appraisal of a recently acquired series of 20 data obtained from bone samples (Figure 3) is more complicated, as they pose some methodological problems (Dietrich 2011). At least within the group of samples chosen, collagen conservation is poor and the carbonate-rich sediments at Göbekli Tepe may cause problems with the dating of apatite fractions. Only one sample (KIA-38007) yielded sufficient collagen for an AMS dating:  it comes from Enclosure B and resulted in a date of 8306-8236 calBC (95.4%), which does not meet the expected use time of the monumental enclosures. Recent reviews on radiocarbon dates of bone samples seem to show that such dates are systematically younger than charcoal dates (Denaire 2009; Zazzo and Saliège in press).[1] On the other hand it could be valid for the moment Enclosure B was finally buried, thus confirming KIA-28407. 

This general picture is further supported by a date measured on humic acids from a buried humus horizon (IGAS-2658). It gives the late 9th / early 8th millennium for layer II over the fill of Enclosure D. Another date on humic acids (KIA-28407) was measured on the earth sample which yielded the charcoal for KIA-28407; but its calibrated date (5559-5373 calBC, 94.6%) lies far outside the expected age range. 

In conclusion, charcoal samples suggest that the refilling and “burial” of the big enclosures began in the late 10th and early 9th millennium, while KIA 44149 from the wall plaster of enclosure D indicates building activities in the early PPNA. The final intrusions in the big enclosures are dated by KIA-28407 roughly to the middle of the 9th millennium, and this is supported by the data on pedogenic carbonates. 

The analysis of charcoal samples, which are now available in a considerable numbers from recent excavation work, will be pursued preferentially in the future. Also further analysis is necessary to show whether or not poor conservation of collagen is a general problem at the site.

Oliver Dietrich
Deutsches Archäologisches Institut
Orientabteilung

[1] A similar observation was made for the radiocarbon dates of Abu Hureyra

 


14C Dates

 Code  BP Dev. Δ13C Location material References
Hd 20025 9452 73 not available Enclosure A "Schlangenpfeilergebäude", Loc. 44.3, L9-75. S/CH, pistachio, almond Kromer, Schmidt 1998
Hd 20036 9559 53 not available Enclosure A, "Schlangenpfeilergebäude"; L 9-75, Loc. 48.1 S/CH, pistachio, almond Kromer, Schmidt 1998
IGAS 2658 8880 60 not available Layer II; over filling of Enclosure D; L 9-68 humic acids Dietrich 2011
KIA 25373 8895 55 -14.27 Wallstone "Terrace-Wall"; L9-79 pedogenic carbonate lamination Pustovoytov et al. 2007a
KIA 25467 9290 70 -19.49 Layer III; Enclosure A; L 9-75 pedogenic carbonate lamination Pustovoytov et al. 2007b; O. Dietrich pers. comm.
KIA 26021 9020 30 -12.50 Layer III; Enclosure A; L 9-65 pedogenic carbonate lamination Pustovoytov et al. 2007a
KIA 26168 8625 45 -13.31 Layer II; Wallstone Lionpillar-Building, surroundings; L 9-80 pedogenic carbonate lamination Pustovoytov et al. 2007a
KIA 26169 8440 40 -14.05 Layer II; Lionspillar-Building outer wall; L 10-71 pedogenic carbonate lamination Pustovoytov et al. 2007a
KIA 28033 7180 40 -13.63 Layer II, upper part; gap at pillar XI; L 9-56 pedogenic carbonates Dietrich 2011
KIA 28406 7600 60 -13.19±0.25 Layer II, lower part; Pillar XI; L 9-56 pedogenic carbonates Dietrich 2011
KIA 28407 (A) 9250 55 -24.82±0.11 Enclosure A "Schlangepfeilergebäude"; CH of earth sample KIA 28407; L 9-75 CH Dietrich 2011
KIA 28407 (B) 6515 45 -27.92±0.12 Enclosure A, under a fallen pillar fragment; L 9-75 humic acids Dietrich 2011
KIA 28965 8485 40 -13.18±0.19 Layer III; Enclosure D; L 9-78 pedogenic carbonates Dietrich 2011
KIA 29564 7525 45 -11.33±0.19 "Atelier", quarry on the plateau pedogenic carbonates Dietrich 2011
KIA 38006 6620 32 -12.80±0.24 Layer II; Loc. 48.4; L 9-66 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 38007 (A) 9065 35 -17.71±0.35 Layer III, Enclosure B, Loc. 107.1.; L 9-66 Bone/Collagen Dietrich 2011
KIA 38007 (B) 6475 37 -17.71±0.35 Layer II, Enclosure B, Loc. 107.1; L 9-66. Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 38008 8930 45 -13.85±0.21 Layer III, Enclosure D, Loc. 25.4; L 9-68 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 42204 8475 60 -12.35±0.19 Layer III; Enclosure B, Loc. 113.1; L 9-66 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 42205 9000 65 -11.81±0.16 Layer III, Enclosure B, Loc. 71.1; L9-66 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 42206 6745 30 -9.91±0.19 Layer II; Loc. 50.2; L 9-66 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 42207 7830 35 -12.86±0.18 Layer II; Loc. 28.1; L 9-68 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 42208 8380 40 -11.90±0.15 Layer II; Enclosure F, Loc. 28.1; K 9-87 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 42209 5775 25 -9.83±0.16 Layer II; Loc. 24.4; L 9-17 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 42210 8370 35 -13.86±0.23 Layer III; Enclosure D, Loc. 18.2; L 9-68 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 42211 7985 45 -11.47±0.30 Layer ?; Enclosure G, Loc. 81.3; L 9-58 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 42212 8665 45 -12.96±0.17 Layer III, Loc. 49.6; L 9-58 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 42213 8860 80 -13.36±0.34 Layer II, Loc. 96.2; L 9-58 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 42214 8115 60 -12.62±0.21 later pit feature, unclear; Loc. 4.19; L 9-58 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 42216 7735 40 -9.35±0.26 Layer III, Enclosure D; Loc. 19.2; L 9-68 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 42217 8860 50 -13.34±0.20 Layer I; Loc. 10.1; L 9-68. Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 42218 8950 65 -12.34±0.16 Layer III, Enclosure D, Loc. 25.2; L 9-68 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 42219 9120 50 -8.53±0.24 Layer III; Enclosure D, Loc. 21.7; L9-68 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 42221 9230 130 -15.37±0.16 Layer III; Enclosure B, Loc. 74.2; L9-66 Bone/Apatite Dietrich 2011
KIA 44149 9984 42 -26.31±0.57 Layer III; Enclosure D, Loc. 782.3; L9-68. CH, in wall plaster Dietrich, Schmidt 2011:82-83.
Ua 19561 8430 80 -11.00 Layer III; Enclosure C, wallstone near pillar 11, 115 cm below surface, L9-76. pedogenic carbonate lamination Pustovoytov et al. 2007a
Ua 19562 8960 85 -12.00 Layer III; Enclosure B, Wallstone near Pillar 8, 105 cm below surface; L9-66 pedogenic carbonate lamination Pustovoytov et al. 2007a
Ua 21415 7450 85 -14.3 Layer II, Wallstone, Lionspillarbuilding, L 9-80 pedogenic carbonates Dietrich 2011
Ua 21416 6405 70 -10.80 Stone, fill of looters pit; L 9-87 pedogenic carbonates Dietrich 2011

 

 

Associated Projects

Fig. 1 Calibrated radiocarbon dates of pedogenic carbonate laminations, indicating two main filling events during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (Dietrich 2011)


Fig. 2 Calibrated radiocarbon dates of charcoal samples (Dietrich 2011).

 

Fig. 3 Calibrated radiocarbon dates of bone samples (Dietrich 2011)

     
   
© ex oriente e.V.   |   contact   |   imprint   |   made by datalino 2008-2013 

Ba'ja Projekt

The Significance of Ba'ja for Early
Near Eastern Neolithic Research

The 1997 Season

The 1999 Season

The 2000 Season

The 2001 Season

The 2003 Season

The 2005 Season

The 2007 Season

The 2008 Season

The 2010 Season

Eastern Jafr Project

Eastern Jafr
Joint Archaeological Project

Qulban Beni Murra

Bookshop & Publications

Bookshop

Conditions of Sale

Free Downloads

Neo-Lithics

SENEPSE

Downloads of Articles

About us

About us

ex oriente Publishers

Board

Statutes

Contact

Legal Information

Associated Projects, Cooperations

PPND (Neolithic Radiocarbon Dates)

Neolithic Heritage Trail (u.c.)

Basta Joint Archaeological Projekt (u.c.)

PIGPA Project (u.c.)

'Ain Rahub Project (u.c.)

Cooperations

Donations

Donations (u.c.)

News & Activities

News (u.c.)