Hacılar Excavations

Location: Hacılar; Burdur Province

Years: 1957-1960

Project Director: James Mellaart

Participants: Arlette Mellaart, David Stronach (1957-1959), Elizabeth Beazley (1957-1959), David French (1958-1960), Clare Goff (1960)

Government Representatives: Osman Aksoy (1957-1959), İ. Ebcioğlu (1960)

Funding: private grant


In 1956, villagers at Burdur showed James Mellaart some unique sherds of pottery that had apparently come from a mound near the Hacılar village, about 25km west of Burdur.  Upon reporting the discovery, he was gived a grant to conduct a sounding at the site.

The following year, in September 1957, they returned to conduct a sounding.  Within two weeks the team had accomplished their goals for the project, namely, to understand the culture and approximate dates of the pottery which had been discovered, and to create an occupation sequence down to virgin soil.  The sounding provided evidence for a link between the pre-history of Syro-Mesopotamia and Greece and the Balkans.

The project was continued in 1958 with five weeks of work between mid-August and mid-September.  Though some inconveniences were encountered, such as labour shortage and the requirement of re-levelling the excavated site upon completion, the season was on the whole successful.  They revealed what they believed to be a fortified settlement (which showed evidence of having been burnt) at the top level, and spent much of the season cleaning it and collecting the pottery it contained – nearly one hundred thousand sherds.  Much of this painted pottery was decorated with patterns, and select pieces were mended and delivered to the Ankara Museum.  A sounding was undertaken in the lower levels as well, producing some small finds and pottery sherds.  Taken together, the material points to the settlement beginning sometime in the late Neolithic period and continuing uninterrupted until the Early Chalcolithic. 

The team carried on with excavation work in 1959, working from 10 August to 11 September, with the primary goals being the clearing of the fortress and further investigation into the Level II settlement consisting of three potters’ workshops and a courtyard.  In the latter area, they discovered more pottery and that the site had been destroyed by fire.  They came across a fortification wall, also burnt, in Level III.

The fourth and final season, taking place between 1 August to 7 September 1960, was described as being the most spectacular and as producing the most important discoveries.  A sounding was undertaken in order to examine the lower levels, and a Late Neolithic settlement was found in Level VI.  A collection of approximately 35 sculptured clay figures was also discovered, some of which were unbaked.  Some restoration work was initiated to consolidate them. 

The significance of the Hacılar excavations lies in the fact that the site was “earlier than any settlement known in Turkey at that time and yielded the first information about Neolithic and Early Chalcolithic culture in Asia Minor” (Vandeput 2008: 2).


Mellaart, J. 1958: ‘Excavations at Hacilar; First Preliminary Report’ Anatolian Studies 8: 127-156

Mellaart, J. 1959: ‘Excavations at Hacilar; Second Preliminary Report, 1958’ Anatolian Studies 9: 51-65

Mellaart, J. 1960: ‘Excavations at Hacilar; Third Preliminary Report, 1959’ Anatolian Studies 10: 83-104

Mellaart, J. 1961: ‘Excavations at Hacilar; Fourth Preliminary Report, 1960’ Anatolian Studies 11: 39-75

Vandeput, L. 2008: ‘The British Institute at Ankara: 60 Years Young’ Anatolian Studies 58: 1-14

See also:

Mellaart, J. 1970: Excavations at Hacılar, Vol. 1. Edinburgh

Mellaart, J. 1970: Excavations at Hacılar, Vol. 2. Edinburgh

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