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Excavations at the South Area of Çatal Höyük

Çatalhöyük (also Çatal Höyük and Çatal Hüyük, or any of the three without accent marks -- Çatal is Turkish for 'fork' and Höyük is Turkish for "mound") was a very large Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement in southern Anatolia, dating from around 7500 BC for the lowest layers. It is located in the Konya Plain, southeast of the present-day city of Konya, Turkey. The buried eastern settlement forms a mound which would have risen about 20 metres above the plain at the time it was inhabited. There is also a smaller settlement mound to the west and a Byzantine settlement a few hundred meters to the east. The mound settlements were abandoned before the Bronze Age. A channel of the Çarsamba river once flowed between the two mounds and the settlement was built on alluvial clay which may have been favourable for early agriculture.


The site was first brought to worldwide attention by James Mellaart's excavations between 1961 and 1965, which revealed that Anatolia was the centre of an advanced culture in the Neolithic period. After Mellaart was banned from Turkey for a variety of reasons outlined in Pearson and Connor's 'The Dorak Affair' (1968, New York: Atheneum) the site lay idle until September 1, 1993, when investigations began under the leadership of Ian Hodder from the University of Cambridge.


The settlement was described by Mellaart as the earliest city in the world. However, it is more properly described as an overgrown village rather than a true town or city. The settlement seems to have consisted entirely of domestic housing with open areas for dumping rubbish, without obvious public buildings or signs of division of labour (some of the houses are larger than the rest and bear more elaborate wall paintings, but their purpose is not entirely clear at this time, though some sort of ritual purpose is suspected).


The population of the eastern mound has been estimated at up to 10,000 people, but was probably much less for most of the time, and 5,000 to 8,000 is a likely more reasonable estimate. The inhabitants lived in mud-brick houses which were crammed together in an agglutinative manner. Most were accessible only by holes in the ceiling and reached by a ladder, so most daily activities and interaction between people took place on the rooftops. Remains of many people have been found to be buried in pits beneath the floors. The houses were renewed over time by partial demolition and rebuilding -- twelve levels of settlement have been uncovered -- which was how the mound became built up. Although no temples have been found, the graves and vivid murals and figurines found throughout the settlement suggest that the people of Çatalhöyük had a sort of religion. They appear to have been living egalitarian lives with no apparent social classes, as no houses with distinct features (belonging to a king or priest, for example) have been found so far.


A major industry was the construction of obsidian tools and people living at the site may have been involved in the domestication of cattle.




External links

  • Çatalhöyük Excavations of a Neolithic Anatolian Höyük (http://catal.arch.cam.ac.uk/catal/catal.html)
  • The First Cities: Why Settle Down? The Mystery of Communities (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/282/5393/1442)

For Further Reading

  • Balter, Michael (2005). The Goddess and the Bull: Catalhoyuk, An Archaeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilization. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0743243609.







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