The Nevali Cori Cult Buildings

There were three consecutive nondomestic buildings at Nevali Cori constructed in the same location, and associated with each of the first three (of five) Neolithic occupation levels of the site (Hauptmann 1997:131-132, contra Hauptmann 1993:55). The earliest of these structures (Building I) was poorly preserved, consisting ofwall fragments. Building II was almost square, nearly 14 m on a side (Hauptmann 1993:42-48, Figures 4-8). A narrow entrance was located in the center of the southwest wall, and a bench 1 m wide and covered with broad stone slabs ran along the northwest, northeast, and niche walls. On the southeast wall, the bench was interrupted by a deep niche, which Hauptmann thinks may originally have held a pedestal (1993:47). Into the bench were set thirteen monolithic slabs or pillars, at least one of which retained its T-shaped capital (Hauptmann 1993:Figure 7). The floor was terrazzo, made up of a 15 cm thick layer of stone chips set in a mortar bed, and the walls were white plastered with traces of red and black suggesting that they may have been painted.

Nevali Cori Building III was constructed inside Building II, using the same terrazzo floor (Hauptmann 1993:48-55,Figures 9-13; 1997:132). The position of the entrance was retained in the southwest wall, and a new, continuous bench was constructed along the other three walls. The niche in the southeast wall of Building II was filled in, and a new very small niche was built into the northeast wall above the bench. Holes were cut into the floor and in these holes were placed two rectangular slabs or pillars that stood approximately 3 m high. One of the slabs (half of which was still standing in situ when the building was excavated) was sculpted in low relief (Hauptmann 1993:Figure 16). It depicts the body of a female, with long rectangular breasts on the narrow face that can be seen from the doorway; below the breasts are stylized hands with five fingers, attached to V-shaped arms on the broad sides of the pillar. Fragments of a T-shaped capital/head were again found (Hauptmann 1993:Figure 11,to left). Like a series of contemporary or slightly later buildings at Cayonü (Hauptmann 1993:Figure 28; Schirmer 1983 and discussion below), this square building can be interpreted as a "community" structure based on plan alone; the presence of monumental sculptures in the Nevali Cori building strongly suggests use for ritual rather than solely political behavior.

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