Site Overviews: Turkey: Gulludere: Iron Age & Medieval Settlement
Located in the commercially vital region known as the Erzurum Plain in Turkey, Güllüdere reveals two distinct periods of habitation. The first, dating from the Iron Age (900-300 BC), provides evidence (especially similarities in pottery styles) that the inhabitants had cultural and commercial connections with the nearby sites of Tetikom and Tasmasor. The second period occurred during the Early Medieval Period. Findings from both habitation periods include multiple structural foundations, indicating a settlement and a cemetery either nearby or inside the settlement boundary. The burial practices observed at this cemetery allow archaeologists to link Güllüdere to well-established surrounding settlements in eastern Anatolia.
Of the 44 graves excavated at Güllüdere, 10 were definitively Iron Age. The deceased were buried in two distinct manners, the more elaborate of which involved placing the remains in a large ceramic or terracotta jar. While the exact reasons for this practice have not been determined, it is similar to the burial styles at neighboring sites, indicating a religious link. Following the normal pattern for jar burials in this region, grave goods accompanied the bodies. Those from the Iron Age are believed to have consisted only of the deceased’s personal belongings. (The burial sites at Tetikom or Tasmasor included elaborate gifts, whose absence at Güllüdere could be the result of grave robbing rather than different spiritual practices.) Despite the general absence of grave goods in the Güllüdere cemetery, archaeologists discovered some stone, ceramic, and metallic objects. A few were wellpreserved, such as a stone seal depicting a horse, a symbolically important animal in eastern Anatolia.
These jar burials most commonly involved children. While adults were buried this way to a lesser extent, no evidence of this was discovered at the Güllüdere cemetery. The more common practice for adults was a simple soil burial, with the deceased placed on one side in a crouching, fetal position. Notably, all but one Iron Age burial site was situated with a north-south orientation, providing more evidence that the residents of Güllüdere at this time had an organized belief system and specific understanding of an afterlife.
It was difficult to analyze Güllüdere’s habitation during the Medieval Period. The foundations of a few Hellenistic structures were discovered but were so damaged that meaningful conclusions were impossible to draw. The graves from this period yielded even less information than those from the Iron Age. A few Christian tombstones were, however, found at the site, implying that Byzantine Christian influences were present at the time of the burials.
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