G’Day ATS, I have to begin by apologising as I’m afraid this thread will be a rather large one.
As is befitting one of the
most important archaeological sites on our fair planet!
The amazing place I want to discuss today is Çatalhöyük
Çatalhöyük, from the Turkish for “fork” (catal) and “mound” (hoyuk) can be found in Southern Turkey.
Discovered in the late fifties, Çatalhöyük is quite simply, the Oldest City in the World! It was initially excavated from 1961-1965 by James
Mellaart, who uncovered what is acknowledged to be the cradle of Neolithic Civilisation, running up and into the
The city was active from approximately 7500 BCE to 5700 BCE, and it's estimated the population was anywhere up to 10,000 people at its peak.
A scandal cut short Mellart’s dig, and until 1993 the site lay quiet.
EXCAVATING BEGINS 1993 Archive Report
The current dig (yes it has been going on for over 16 years) began on the 1st of September 1993:
The principal aim for the 1993 and 1994 seasons is to obtain information from surface work which, on the one hand, will yield results,
significant in their own right, concerning surface and subsurface distributions of artefacts and architecture and, on the other, will in future
provide guidance for a long term programme of excavation at the site commencing in 1995.
If you have any doubt to the importance of this site, let me quote the report:
Our work in 1993 has now made it clear that the main mound consists of three distinct eminences: a large southern one, which rises 15 m above
the surrounding modem plain and whose western flank was the site of the 1960s excavations, a smaller northern one, rising 9 m above the plain, and
a wide, low eastern one, 5 m above the plain. These three eminences are not separate mounds, as considerable depths of cultural deposits lie in the
lower areas between peaks thus joining the three eminences into one main mound.
The area of this main mound has now been established as 14 hectares.
That’s right ATS, this Neolithic City is 14 hectares!!!! Now you can see why this thread will be a biggie!
The initial excavation in 1993 gave up some startling finds.
Complete Neolithic Pot in Situ
In all, a total of 242 squares, each measuring 2 by 2 m, were collected at Çatalhöyük in 1993. This represents a total area of 968 m2, or
approximately 0.7% of the total surface area of the main mound if calculated at 14 hectares.
As well as Neolithic Pottery and remnants of Buildings, other Artefacts were found. Several bone tools, principally awls were retrieved, as were
fragments of small polished stone axes. Clay objects include figurines and an unusual miniature table or stand with a hemispherical feature. One of
the most striking finds, but of unknown date, is a ceramic face with faint traces of red paint
Ceramic face with faint traces of red paint
I will come back to the finds of excavations in later years further on in the thread, they get more amazing as the dig goes on.
DOMESTIC DWELLINGS Archive Report Conclusion 1995
The excavation of the mound revealed that Çatalhöyük was essentially a continuous pattern of Neolithic dwellings, with no recognisable public or
communal building observed:
Photo of the Dig showing dwellings constructed in close proximity to
Despite Catal Hoyuk being a highly organised city, it is not known whether a central system of management existed. It is interesting to note that
not one single private or central place of worship has yet been found. Nor is there a fortress or any semblance of a city wall. Instead, the houses
were erected adjoining one another. The walls facing the outside of the houses are without windows or doors, which may have provided the necessary
It is known that they kept their livestock within the confines of the settlement.
The finding of thick layers of dung within the settlement indicates that animals were kept within the settlement. Dung from within buildings,
including on otherwise clean floors in 'shrines', indicates that at least young animals were brought into buildings.
And from the 1995 dig we have details of fish bones, chickens, cattle, deer, wild boars and donkeys. Also:
BURIALS IN THE HOME 1996 Archive Report Conclusion
A very wide range of plant resources was in use. The significant presence of pea, lentil and tubers correlates with initial results from
tooth-wear studies which indicate a heavy reliance on non-cereal plants.
One of the most amazing facts about the people of Çatalhöyük is the way they buried their dead.
Burial of a headless pregnant woman with foetus still inside
The people of Çatalhöyük buried their dead within the village. Human remains have been found in pits beneath the floors, and especially
beneath hearths, the platforms within the main rooms and under the beds. The bodies were tightly flexed before burial, and were often placed in
baskets or wrapped in reed mats. Disarticulated bones in some graves suggest that bodies may have been exposed in the open air for a time before the
bones were gathered and buried. In some cases, graves were disturbed and the individual’s head removed from the skeleton.
As explained by Ian Hodder when writing about the 1996 dig:
Child burial within a dwelling
BONE TOOLS, FIGURINES, GRAVE GOODS AND STAMP SEALS
1997 Archive Report
A small hearth was constructed by the north-western platform which was itself used for processing or depositing small fish. A cattle bone was set
into the southern wall. Burials continued under the platforms and by the end of the use of the buildings over 37 people, mostly children and
juveniles, had been buried beneath the floors. There were few grave goods except necklaces and pendants. Older individuals were buried to the east of
the room, younger to the west.
It seems that in 1997, some of the best finds were uncovered.
Some of the more interesting bone tools found were as follows:
, a Chisel/Gouge
, a Pottery Polisher
, Plaster Tools
, a Handle
, Fish Hooks
, and a Soft Hammer
. Please go to the link above for in depth descriptions
of these brilliant finds.
I hope your opinion of Neolithic people has been altered by reading all that!
FIGURINES Archive Report 1997 Figurines
During the 1997 season 52 figurines were found, a few of which had been excavated in 1996 but retrieved from heavy residue this year. The majority
were fragmentary, and most were parts of humanoid or animal figures. However, several complete or almost complete figures were found, as well as a
number of fragments of considerable interest. Almost all the pieces found this year were made of clay, the majority of them lightly baked, a few were
A selection of Figurines from the site, nearly 2,000 pictures can be found
It had been suggested using finds from the earlier excavation that the Çatalhöyük society was matriarchy,worshipping the Mother Goddess. However
this was a conclusion derived from the 200 or so figurines that Mellaart uncovered that suggested the majority of the figures across the site were
Professor Lynn Meskell explained that while the original excavations had found only 200 figures, the new excavations had uncovered 2000 figurines
of which most were animals, with less than 5% of the figurines women.
Indeed there is hardly any indication of a ruling class or social classes:
The people appear to have lived relatively egalitarian lives with no apparent social classes, as no houses with distinctive features (belonging to
royalty or religious hierarchy, for example) have been found so far.