Archaeological excavations in Dersim are concluded: Urban life dates back 6,000 years

Archaeological excavations in Dersim are concluded: Urban life dates back 6,000 years
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Excavations in Dersim prove that there were Neolithic-Paleolithic communities based in the Munzur Mountains
Dersim is a city known for having rich natural life and dense mountainous areas. There was not much information about the history of life in the city. The length of time the city has been inhabited was revealed with the archaeological field surveys carried out in the city center and the districts since 2015, with the permission of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.


With the excavation of chipped stone tools from the Middle/Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic periods during the survey conducted in Ovacik District in 2020, the oldest traces of humanity were discovered in northeast Anatolia. Another address of excavation in Dersim was the mound located in Tozkoparan (Tanz) village of Pertek district. The second phase of the archaeological rescue excavations in the Tozkoparan Mound in 2021 continued this year as well.


During the rescue, excavation carried out with 15 personnel under the chairmanship of Tunceli Museum Director Kenan Oncel and with the consultancy of academics from various universities in Duzce, Erzurum, Diyarbakir, and Corum, architectural structures of 5.500 years old, thought to belong to the “Late Chalcolithic” and “Early Bronze” ages were discovered. During the examinations made on the surface of the Tozkoparan Mound and its surroundings, findings belonging to the Neolithic period 9,000 years ago were also found in the region. Excavations in the Pertek Tozkoparan Mound which were ongoing for two years were completed.


In the excavations carried out in the city, information regarding the “Early Bronze Age” period was obtained in the region, and the pottery remains revealed that the region was an important transition point. The most important finding was the connections of the Pertek Tozkoparan Mound with Mesopotamia and Transcaucasus. Tunceli Museum Director and the Head of Excavation Kenan Oncel, who evaluated the work to +Gercek said that the excavation work they carried out in Pertek Tozkoparan Mound was the continuation of the work that started in 2021.

Emphasizing that the history of the city goes back to 5000 BC with the discovered architectural structure and the findings obtained in Tozkoparan Mound, Oncel said “Tozkoparan is a center for us. We are expecting earlier periods as well. But of course, it's too early to say anything right now. We have found a monumental structure in the architectural remains. At this stage, we cannot say anything about whether this monumental building is a building used by a ruler or whether it is a religious site. As the area expands, it will be clearer as we descend to lower layers.”


Oncel who stated that the findings obtained in the survey conducted in the region are exciting pointed out that, after Elazig-Keban, especially in the north of Euphrates, no research was conducted in this region until a few years ago. Reminding that Tunceli is a closed-off region until today, it is the most hidden and unknown city in Turkey's archaeology with the least number of research, Oncel said that the excavations revealed that the region was a transition between the Transcaucasus and Mesopotamia.


Stating that they started to reveal the transition between the Caucasus and Mesopotamia in the historical adventure of Tunceli by excavating concrete pieces of evidence, Oncel said that in Elazig Keban, they found many similar findings of the Caucasian culture observed in the Transcaucasus. Stating that the findings obtained in the field surveys are not limited to this, Oncel said, “In Tunceli, we saw tools made from Bingol, Karacadag region, and Central Anatolian obsidian. We saw that this region has an intense connection with its surrounding regions, its north and south, and even with Central Anatolia.”


The findings from the archaeological excavations reveal that urban life in the region dates back to about 6,000 years ago. To the question of what the new findings reveal, Oncel answered, “The oldest Neolithic settlement in the north that we knew of was Kovancılar Cinaz Mound. It was said that the Neolithic did not pass towards the north of the Euphrates, to the Tunceli region. Mehmet Ozdoğan, one of the best archaeologists in Turkey and even in the world said that “Neolithic and Paleolithic societies must have reached Munzur.

These societies must have passed through the Tunceli region.” But this was only a thesis. When we conducted research there, we saw that this thesis was true. During the surveys we conducted in the Tunceli region, we saw that Neolithic societies came to the Tunceli region and even reached up to the Munzur Mountains during the paleolithic periods. In a sense, the information is starting to change. Some information was missing, we are completing those missing lines. As we descend into lower layers, I hope to reach earlier periods. We have predictions that archeology on Tunceli may go back even further. All the evidence points to it."


Stating that the findings reveal the historical adventure of the region, Oncel said: “Tunceli was a place with unknown archaeology. We have revealed that there is a historical adventure, that there is an uninterrupted life from the Paleolithic societies to the present day. We have proved that, in Tunceli, just like in Elazig, Erzincan, Malatya, or in the regions further south and west, the Neolithic, Paleolithic, Bronze, and Iron Ages, all civilizations lived uninterruptedly the same fates and that that adventure is full and complete. The information coming from there will show what it will tell us in the coming years. These studies can develop in line with the strategies of our Ministry and our cultural assets. Because Tunceli has just started. It is a very, very important region for us, for our ministry, for Anatolian, and Turkish archeology.”