Ritual and social structure during the late neolithic and early chalcolithic: pit rituals of Uğurlu Höyük-Gökçeada

Karamurat, Cansu
Prehistoric pits are often interpreted as trash or food storage; however, recent studies indicate that pit-use is also related to ritual activities. The aim of this study is to understand the function of pits at Uğurlu Höyük- Gökçeada (Imbros Island) dated to Late Neolithic & Early Chalcolithic Periods (5900-4900 BC). Based on production techniques, temporal and spatial relations and artifact distributions among 37 pits and related architectural contexts, this thesis establishes history of the emergence of pit area and its social function. Many elements of Uğurlu pits; such as association with communal buildings, mortuary practice, plaster use and “house closing”, alongside association with symbolically significant artifacts indicate a structured social action, i.e. “ritual”. Considering regional variations, a comparative scheme demonstrates similarly structured pit rituals became the hallmark from Northern Levant and Anatolia to Aegean and Balkans during the 6th millennium BC. Strikingly, many elements of pit rituals also indicate links to the Early Neolithic “Ancestor Cults” of Anatolia and Levant reflecting processes of social group formation through the agency of place. Whereas this ancestor rituals negotiated social ties between place, actual houses and actual dead, the Late Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic ancestor rituals made the same negotiation with pits and symbolical artifacts referring to houses and dead metaphorically. Ultimately, pit rituals of Uğurlu reflect an intermediate stage in the major social transformation that took place during and in the aftermath of transition to agriculture intertwined with shifts in people’s perception of their identity and social landscape.
Citation Formats
C. Karamurat, “Ritual and social structure during the late neolithic and early chalcolithic: pit rituals of Uğurlu Höyük-Gökçeada,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2018.