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Turkey: Prehistoric Site Bears Telltale Signs of Modern Woes

At its peak, 3,500 to 8,000 people lived there

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Turkey, Prehistoric, Modern Woes
Photo of researchers excavating the ruins of Catalhoyuk, June 18, 2019. Catalhoyuk's residents lived in clay brick structures akin to apartments, entering and exiting through ladders that connected the living areas of houses to the roofs. VOA

Overcrowding. Violence. Infectious diseases. Environmental degradation.

It may sound like the worst of modern mega-cities.

But people encountered these very same problems when the first large settlements were being established millennia ago as humans began to swap a nomadic hunter-gatherer existence for a lifestyle centered on farming, scientists said on Monday, based on findings from a prehistoric site in south-central Turkey.

The researchers examined 742 human skeletons unearthed at the prehistoric ruins of Catalhoyuk, inhabited from 9,100 to 7,950 years ago during a pivotal time in human evolution, for clues about what life was like at one of the earliest sizable settlements in the archeological record. At its peak, 3,500 to 8,000 people lived there, with the researchers calling it a “proto-city.”

Turkey, Prehistoric, Modern Woes
The researchers examined 742 human skeletons unearthed at the prehistoric ruins of Catalhoyuk. VOA

High rate of infections

The residents experienced a high rate of infections, as seen in their teeth and bones, probably caused by diseases spreading in crowded conditions amid challenges to proper hygiene, the researchers said. Overcrowding may have contributed to interpersonal violence. Many skulls bore evidence of healed fractures to the top or back of the cranium, some with multiple injuries.

The shape of these injuries indicates they may have been caused by hard clay balls found at Catalhoyuk that researchers suspect were used as projectiles from a sling weapon

“A key message that people will take from these findings is that our current behaviors have deep roots in the history of humankind,” said Ohio State University biological anthropologist Clark Spencer Larsen, who led the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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“The people living in this community faced challenges of life in settlements addressing fundamental issues: what to eat, who produces the food, how is the food distributed, what are the social norms for division of labor, the challenges of infection and infectious disease in settings where there is limited sanitation, the strategy of interpersonal relationships involving animosity in some instances,” Larsen added.

Weather played a role

As the world emerged from the last Ice Age, with warmer conditions conducive to crop domestication, there was a shift from foraging to farming beginning 10,000 to 12,000 years ago among people in numerous places.

The people grew crops including wheat, barley and rye and raised sheep, goats and eventually cattle. Some homes boasted wall murals, and other art included stone figurines of animals and corpulent women.

Catalhoyuk’s residents lived in clay brick structures akin to apartments, entering and exiting through ladders that connected the living areas of houses to the roofs. After death, residents were buried in pits dug into the floors of the homes.

Catalhoyuk, measuring about 32 acres (13 hectares), was continuously occupied for 1,150 years and appears to have been a largely egalitarian community. It was eventually abandoned perhaps because of environmental degradation caused by the human population and a drying climate that made farming there harder, the researchers said. (VOA)

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U.S. Starts ‘Unwinding’ Turkey from F-35 Program over Russia Defense Deal

The United States on Friday raised the stakes in its standoff with Turkey

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U.S., Turkey, F-35, Russia, Defense
FILE - A Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft is seen at the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. VOA

The United States on Friday raised the stakes in its standoff with Turkey over Ankara’s deal to acquire a Russian air defense system, laying out a plan to remove the NATO ally from the F-35 fighter jet program that includes halting any new training for Turkish pilots on the advanced aircraft.

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart, seen by Reuters on Friday, that laid out the steps to “unwind” Turkey from the program.

Reuters on Thursday first reported the decision to stop accepting more Turkish pilots for training in the United States, in one of the most concrete signs that the dispute between Washington and Ankara is reaching a breaking point.

The United States says Turkey’s acquisition of Russia’s S-400 air defense system poses a threat to the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 stealthy fighters, which Turkey also plans to buy. The United States says Turkey cannot have both.

U.S., Turkey, F-35, Russia, Defense
FILE – Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 21, 2019. VOA

The United States on Friday raised the stakes in its standoff with Turkey over Ankara’s deal to acquire a Russian air defense system, laying out a plan to remove the NATO ally from the F-35 fighter jet program that includes halting any new training for Turkish pilots on the advanced aircraft.

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart, seen by Reuters on Friday, that laid out the steps to “unwind” Turkey from the program.

Reuters on Thursday first reported the decision to stop accepting more Turkish pilots for training in the United States, in one of the most concrete signs that the dispute between Washington and Ankara is reaching a breaking point.

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The United States says Turkey’s acquisition of Russia’s S-400 air defense system poses a threat to the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 stealthy fighters, which Turkey also plans to buy. The United States says Turkey cannot have both.

U.S., Turkey, F-35, Russia, Defense
FILE – A Russian serviceman walks past S-400 missile defense systems in central Moscow, Russia, April 29, 2019. VOA

Strains in ties already extend beyond the F-35 to include conflicting strategy in Syria, Iran sanctions and the detention of U.S. consular staff in Turkey.

The disclosure of the decision on the pilots follows signs that Turkey is moving ahead with the S-400 purchase.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on May 22 that Turkish military personnel were receiving training in Russia to use the S-400, and that Russian personnel may go to Turkey. The head of Russian state conglomerate Rostec, Sergei Chemezov, said the country would start delivering S-400 missile systems to Turkey in two months, the Interfax news agency reported.

‘Devastating’ deal

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday it was “out of the question” for Turkey to back away from its deal with Moscow. Erdogan said the United States had not “given us an offer as good as the S-400s.”

The Turkish lira declined as much as 1.5% on Friday before recovering some losses. The currency has shed nearly 10% of its value against the dollar this year in part on fraying diplomatic ties and the risk of U.S. sanctions if Turkey accepts delivery of the S-400s.

Kathryn Wheelbarger, one of the Pentagon’s most senior policy officials, said last week that Turkey’s completion of the transaction with Russia would be “devastating,” dealing heavy blows to the F-35 program and to Turkish interoperability within the NATO alliance.

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“The S-400 is a Russian system designed to shoot down an aircraft like the F-35,” said Wheelbarger, an acting assistant secretary of defense. “And it is inconceivable to imagine Russia not taking advantage of that [intelligence] collection opportunity.” (VOA)