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Çatalhöyük, the Neolithic City that pre-dated the Ancient Egyptians by 4,000 years!

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posted on Jan, 18 2010 @ 07:40 PM
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 Copper Age.

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.

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.

[atsimg][/atsimg] Complete Neolithic Pot in Situ

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

[atsimg][/atsimg]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:

[atsimg][/atsimg]Photo of the Dig showing dwellings constructed in close proximity to one another

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 protection.

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:

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.

BURIALS IN THE HOME 1996 Archive Report Conclusion

One of the most amazing facts about the people of Çatalhöyük is the way they buried their dead.

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.

[atsimg][/atsimg]Burial of a headless pregnant woman with foetus still inside

As explained by Ian Hodder when writing about the 1996 dig:

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.

[atsimg][/atsimg]Child burial within a dwelling

1997 Archive Report

It seems that in 1997, some of the best finds were uncovered.

Some of the more interesting bone tools found were as follows:

Needles, a Chisel/Gouge, a Pottery Polisher, Plaster Tools, Spoons, a Handle, Ornaments, Pendants, Rings, Knucklebones, 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 of plaster.

A selection of Figurines from the site, nearly 2,000 pictures can be found HERE.





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 female.

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.


posted on Jan, 18 2010 @ 07:41 PM

STAMP SEALS 1997 Archive Report "Stamp Seals"

These seals are made of baked clay and bear incised ornaments with many different shapes apart from the classical shapes known from other Levant & S.E European Neolithic stamp seals.

Examples of Çatalhöyük stamps seals



These are just 2 of 351 pics regarding seal stamps, please view more HERE.

It is not known for sure what they were used for, either stamping ownership, counting, decorating textiles and pottery have all been suggested. However they do suggest a skilful and complex society.

1997 Archive Report - Grave Goods

Bearing in mind these burials were within the walls of the dwellings, the grave goods are truly amazing, an example:

In 1996 a bracelet of 44 dentalium shell beads was found around the arm of skeleton 1924 and two pendants - one of bone and one of stone - were found below the chin of the same skeleton. During 1997 six further items were recovered from heavy residue left unsorted last year - two more dentalium beads; three stone beads, all of different colour and type and another bone pendant. This was clearly the other half of the one found last year, which had been broken and then reworked.

Some photos of grave goods:





There are over 5,000 pics to be found


The site above gives a very accurate and succinct description of Çatalhöyük architecture.

The entrances to the attached buildings were via the ceilings. This style of architecture can still be found in the eastern provinces of Turkey. Despite being very close in proximity to one another, the houses display separate walls with a small gap between them. The walls were built with sun-dried mud bricks supported by wooden beams. This technique is called "himis" and is still utilised in certain areas of Anatolia. The small doorways in the houses are thought to have been for small domestic animals to get in and out. The inhabitants of Catal Hoyuk used the flat roof tops as a means of getting from one dwelling to another. The roofs were made from clay, wood and reeds and measured approximately 60 centimetres in width. The roof tops were a convenient place to carry out daily activities as the interiors of the houses had poor light and ventilation.

However, the author describes the architecture as being in a childhood period, but I disagree, according to Hodder:

There is an 'oven' in the south wall near what was probably the ladder entrance from the roof, and a hearth near the oven. An obsidian cache occurred by this hearth. A main platform occurred in the centre of the east wall, with benches on its north and south sides. Along the north wall a step occurred and the main platform was in the northwest corner surrounded in red paint. In the centre of the west wall there were traces of sculpture within a well-defined panel. Nearby, a later collapsed 'arch' may have been in place from this phase. Burials began under the north and east platforms.




They must have been one of the first to even contemplate interior design!

[atsimg][/atsimg]Onsite reconstruction of Catal Hoyuk house

[atsimg][/atsimg]Wall painted red

It is not exactly known why the horns of cattle adorn many of the walls in the homes of these Neolithic people. Obviously it is out of some sense of respect to the animal, it has been theorised that the platform in front of the horns is a place of ritual or worship.


In all the homes the religious paintings and statues have the heads of animals with horns. Some houses have peculiar differences to them; for example, small areas found are considered to be areas of worship. According to current thinking, when an important member of a house died, the house was emptied and closed.

Childlike Stage!! I strongly disagree!


Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed as an extrusive igneous rock. It is produced when felsic lava extruded from a volcano cools without crystal growth.

It is only found in a few locations, and has for several millennia been used to make arrows, cutting tools and worked ornaments and trinkets.

In Çatalhöyük, Obsidian has been found cached within the walls of houses and buildings. Çatalhöyük is approximately 140 km (87 mi) from the twin-coned volcano of Hasan Dağ. A source of Obsidian. Obsidian from the region has been traced as far East as China, and to Syria and the Mediterranean.

The significance of his is quite great, the Silk Route was considered to be the earliest example of sustained ancient trade, but the hoarding of this mineral combined with the occurrence of it in far flung places actually suggests that our Neolithic City was far more advanced and trading thousands of years before anyone else.

[atsimg][/atsimg]Obsidian Cache in Situ

Well ATS, I have brought you just a taste of the information that is out there. I am exhausted otherwise I could go on for ever, but I hope this has been enlightening for you.

I wasn't aware of these remarkable people and their 14 hectare city until recently.

Imagine what treasure awaits under the other %95!

All the best ATS, Kiwifoot!

[atsimg][/atsimg]Panoramic View Of The Dig



Çatalhöyük Image Database

Çatalhöyük Wiki

CATAL HUYUK Local Histories

Çatalhöyük Excavation Site

[edit on 18-1-2010 by kiwifoot]

posted on Jan, 18 2010 @ 07:50 PM
Fantastic post! Thank you so much for your efforts to bring us this information.
Star and flag for me.

posted on Jan, 18 2010 @ 07:54 PM
Amazing pictures and excellent artifacts, I love when new discoveries are uh earth, showing how developed our ancinent people were.

posted on Jan, 18 2010 @ 07:57 PM

Originally posted by bvproductions
Fantastic post! Thank you so much for your efforts to bring us this information.
Star and flag for me.

Ah no worries! I recommend checking out the official site as there are thousands of photos and stuff!

I wasn't aware of this place until recently, so I thought I'd share it!

The mind boggles at the thought of what could be under the other two mounds and the rest of the main one!

Thanks, Kiwifoot!

[edit on 18-1-2010 by kiwifoot]

posted on Jan, 18 2010 @ 07:58 PM
The first image of the figurine you posted bears a strong resemblance to the Venus of Willendorf -

posted on Jan, 18 2010 @ 09:03 PM
reply to post by kiwifoot

Yes, thank you for bringing this to us. We are discovering more and more cultures that had a developed alot longer and had trade well past the prescribed time that many Western historians have said. We are starting to see that the Neolithic humans or society may have been more advanced and/or more societal that what was let on. And I agree with you that the article about the buildings where the guy said it was being in it's childhood is wrong. What gets me about the way they built and the cleanliness (I will post a link to Wiki about this society) and keeping of animals inside and the human rubbish (both waste and garbage) which was collected and thrown outside has me stumped a little. It almost seems that there society was more defensive in nature than offensive. Because they built the houses (which are beautiful) to be connected to each other and to have all their daily lives and end of their lives to be done IN THE HOUSES and not outside the residences. It would make more logic to have some rudimentary walled structure surrounding the houses and then they would be able to walk about outside their walls but inside their defenses.

It's hard to get into the thinking of a society much less a clan of individuals that could be many large families linked together over the centuries. It could have been as easy as they wanted to be closer to the animals that provided them with sustenance and items to use. But its still a beautiful site, seeing these people thriving and essentially trading with others well over 7500 BC.

[edit on 18-1-2010 by hoghead cheese]

posted on Jan, 18 2010 @ 09:03 PM
So what's your take on this find compared to that of the speculation of Sumeria? Does anyone here have any comparisons.

posted on Jan, 18 2010 @ 09:13 PM
These are the kind of posts I come to ATS for. Well presented and extremely interesting. I am partial to world history anyway.

Excellent job.

posted on Jan, 18 2010 @ 09:24 PM
reply to post by SerialLurker

The first image of the figurine you posted bears a strong resemblance to the Venus of Willendorf -

Yes, there are thousands of similar Venuses found all over the Eurasia... even into Siberia and Northern Africa.

I think I've seen the third Venus pictured (its photo, I mean). I thought maybe I had seen it in The Language of the Goddess by Marija Gimbutas (published 1989, written between 1975 and 1985), but I can't find it at the moment. Catal Huyuk is mentioned in the Gimbutas book, but clearly she would only have access to the first phase dig results at that time.

With respect to the large number of animal statue finds, the Goddess had a lot of 'helpers' or incarnations. The bird statue for example, is the

main epiphany of the Goddess as Giver-of-all, including life and death, happiness, and wealth; alias Fate. Waterfowl (duck, goose, swan) bring happiness, wealth, nourishment; birds of prey (vulture, owl, raven, crow) are omens of death and epiphanies of the Death Wielder; prophetic birds (cuckoo, owl) prophesy spring, marriage, and death; birds of the soul (dove, cuckoo, and other small birds) are seats of the souls of the human dead.

(Gimbutas 1989, glossary entry for Bird, page 322)

In addition, the Bull was the symbol of the source of life and regeneration and remains so to this day, all over the world. The mystery religion of Mithras involved worship of the bull, Pablo Picasso claimed to draw inspiration from the bull ( perhaps as a 'totem'), and in India of course there is the "Sacred Cow".

Many other animals play a part in the mythology of the Goddess: butterflies, dogs, deer, frogs, hedgehogs, serpents, sows, toads, turtles.

This appears to be a very interesting dig.

[edit on 18/1/2010 by rnaa]

posted on Jan, 18 2010 @ 09:26 PM
I have some interesting observations based on the presence of the mother goddess figurine and the fact that their primary diet for vegetables was non-cereal.

Firstly, the mother goddess figurines are currently theorized to belong to the upper paleolithic up through the neolithic ages with the main difference of the latter is the introduction of proper agriculture(primarily cereals).

Mother Goddess wiki
Paleolithic wiki
Neolithic wiki

BUT, according to the archaeologists excavating at Çatalhöyük, the primary source of vegetable foodstuffs was mostly "peas, lentils and potatoes"(most assuredly not grains). Also(and I'm basing this on the one picture you put in your post; I looked through about 25 pages and am eager to finish this post before I die
), the mother goddess figurine found seems to be in a style more at home in the paleolthic age(in fact it looks remarkably like the 'Venus of Willendorf' which has been dated to approximately 24,000 to 22,000BC).

This would seem to imply that the site existed before 10,000BC. Of course, I'm just a layman so perhaps one of our board experts on such matters can give a little more info on such things.

[edited for typos and reworded to make sense]

[edit on 1/18/2010 by Mad Simian]

posted on Jan, 18 2010 @ 09:29 PM
A few years ago I was watching a Documentary on Çatalhöyük in which it was speculated to have had constant human civilisation for as much as 25,000 years.

One thing I found interesting was the depiction of a volcanic eruption destroying a city much like Çatalhöyük. In the Documentary they proposed this artistic rendering to illustrate an earlier site that was possibly destroyed by such an eruption, which was pinpointed based on the "view" or perspective supplied by the art work, and thought to be at least 10,000 years older. It would seem that another such city did predate Çatalhöyük and was destroyed.

Sorry I don't have links to offer as it was on TV, and my crazy old fading brain has forgotten most of the details now.

posted on Jan, 18 2010 @ 10:24 PM
This was great! I love hearing about newly (more or less lol) discovered cities, least the ones I haven't known about yet. Can't wait for more! I've gotta research this city, and learn to say its name lol

posted on Jan, 19 2010 @ 03:59 AM
Awesome stuff, these are the types of posts I come here for as well. The pictures on the provided links are quite amazing, probably going to spend a good amount of time checking this out! I wonder what the reason for the original excavation's cancellation.

posted on Jan, 19 2010 @ 04:39 AM
Birds of a feather, flock together?

For some Reason, this painting comes to mind.....blowing off dust

The sleep of Reason produces.....

Of which feather do you ab/subscribe?


The 'red' paint for the mask was most likely Annatto, though is most currently in use in central/south America and Asia.

[edit on 19-1-2010 by Perseus Apex]

posted on Jan, 19 2010 @ 04:45 AM
S&F!!! Excellent thread, there's not much more interesting than ancient civilizations IMO so fascinating! I'm just amazed I've never read or heard of this civilization before such a wealth of information... I've read the thread now I'm going to pour over all of your provided links when I get home from work.
Again excellent thread OP.

posted on Jan, 19 2010 @ 05:29 AM
Excellent work Kiwi. A very intersting and enlightening thread about a peoples who I had never heard of before, who were very advanced way before their time.

I'm currently reading "Dead Men's Secrets" (so far wary about the validity of the content due to some of the claims being unconfirmable by standard research, but an entertaining read nevertheless), so I found this very much on topic with my current reading material.


posted on Jan, 19 2010 @ 05:45 AM
reply to post by kiwifoot

kiwifoot does it again !

Every thread you make my friend, seems to be more interesting than the last.

This one ... this one is amazing and deserves all the Stars & Flags (including another from me) that it has received.


posted on Jan, 19 2010 @ 06:51 AM
This is a wonderful thread, so informative and thought provoking thankyou OP for a great thread.

I have a theory, is it possible that this civilisation was living with other civilisations? The reason I speculate is because I am sure that half human, half animals used to live on this planet. Therefore, could it be possible that they were not worshipping the animals rather they were using the bull horns as a sign of respect.

There is so much we don't know but 'others' do, I wonder how they sleep at night supressing the truth from us on a day to day basis.

Excellent thread once again.

posted on Jan, 19 2010 @ 06:56 AM
reply to post by kiwifoot

This is very interesting... you know how they calculated the age of the settlement?

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