There and Back Again

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There and Back Again
Author: Julia Schönicke | Year: 2020

Towards a New Understanding of Abandonment Practices at the Neolithic Settlement of Göbekli Tepe

Göbekli Tepe is well-known for its monumental buildings with anthropomorphic T-shaped pillars, decorated with reliefs of wild animals which have been featured prominently in earlier works. The abandonment which occurred some 1500 years after the initial occupation of the site, however, remains virtually unexplored. This paper attempts to reconstruct abandonment practices and routines within and parallel to phases of occupation. A crucial source of data for the abandonment of Göbekli Tepe is provided by considerations relating to site formation, including the topography of the site with its mounds, steep slopes, and hollows where strong winter rainfalls potentially favoured erosional processes. I clearly oppose the widespread yet outdated interpretation of ‘ritual backfilling’ of the monumental buildings. Instead, I propose that the inhabitants of the Neolithic settlement were strongly intertwined with their landscape and built environment, which is reflected by the continuous re- building of structures as a response to slope slide events, the use of ruins for extracting recycled building material, and the creation of memory spaces by following a specific habitus. I argue that by applying micro archaeological approaches and the social sphere of ‘detachment from place’ the heterogeneity of settlement layout can be reconstructed by including the engagement of ancient people with ruins, abandonment, and memory.

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