The Konya Plain is among the first regions beyond the Fertile Crescent to adopt a Neolithic life-style (including agriculture, animal husbandry and permanent sedentary settlement) already in the late Aceramic Neolithic period (at ca 8500-7500 BC).
Excavations at Boncuklu Höyük (Aceramic Neolithic) offer a vivid account of the earliest evidence for settled life in the Çarşamba river delta, but the wider regional picture remains far from well-understood. KRASP’s contributions include our identification of Aceramic Neolithic chipped stone assemblages from small settlement mounds with predominantly Bronze Age pottery. While more evidence is needed, these might be associated with additional small village sites contemporary with Boncuklu and the pre-XII levels of Çatalhöyük (figure 1). We have also identified sites with large quantities of Aceramic Neolithic chipped stone scatters in the marginal landscapes of the steppe and highlands. These sites demonstrate frequentation by more mobile groups, but more data and analyses are needed to address the relationship between such activities in the margin and contemporary farming settlement in the alluvium.
During the following Pottery Neolithic (ca 6800-6000 BC), Çatalhöyük grew into one of the largest known settlements from this period, with an estimated inhabited area of ca 13ha and a population of about 5000-8000 people. With its size and evidence for highly formalized ritual spaces, Çatalhöyük represents a very early case study for a large-scale aggregated settlement which appears to have sustained much of the population of the Çarşamba alluvium for over 1000 years. Despite its evident success, this settlement model was not replicated elsewhere in the Konya Plain. In fact, KRASP has yet to identify a site of comparable size in the region until the Late Chalcolithic/Early Bronze Age transition, some two and a half millennia later.
For reasons that we are only beginning to understand, large-scale settlements only re-emerge in the Konya Plain in the late 4th millennium BC (the Late Chalcolithic/Early Bronze Age transition) in the same fertile landscapes of the Çarşamba and May river deltas (figure 2). KRASP has investigated two such sites, at Samıh Höyük and Sarlak Höyük. Our intensive surveys show they reached their maximal spatial extent during this period (ca 18ha and 20ha respectively, figure 3). We have also revealed that both settlements contracted considerably or were abandoned following a site-wide conflagration in the mid-late 3rd millennium BC.
During the early 2nd millennium BC (Middle Bronze Age), excavations at Konya-Karahöyük have revealed the emergence of a primary regional centre in the Konya Plain there. With an upper mound of 20ha and an extensive lower town, the material culture and scale of the Middle Bronze Age settlement is comparable to that of the well-known palaces hosting Old Assyrian trading enclaves to the north on the Central Anatolian Plateau. The prominence of this site is likely associated with the establishment of a network of fortifications around the margins of the Konya Plain, several of which have been investigated by KRASP (see Political Landscapes).
In the late 2nd and early 1st millennia BC, the centre of political power appears to have shifted east to Türkmen-Karahöyük, a mound of 35ha with an extensive lower town and several satellite settlements covering approximately 80-100ha (figure 4). Contemporary with the rise of Türkmen-Karahöyük, sedentary settlements appear for the first time in the steppe in the northern region of the Konya Plain. While more data and analyses are needed, we are raising the possibility that the earliest permanent settlement in this dry, steppe landscape may have been related to the onset of irrigation (canal) systems in the region (see Modifying Landscapes). More broadly, our working hypothesis is that the rise of Türkmen-Karahöyük as a central place is closely associated with the Luwian-inscribed monuments of Kızıldağ and Karadağ (see Political Landscapes), the maintenance and expansion of the fortification network around the Konya Plain, and the beginning of the irrigation of the steppe.