James Mellaart is an English archaeologist who is responsible for discovering and excavating the Neolithic village of Catalhoyuk in Turkey. He was assisted by his wife Arlette and directed the excavation. When Mellaart excavated the site in the 1960s more than 150 rooms and buildings were found, some decorated with murals, plaster reliefs, and sculptures. The site has since been seen as important as it has helped in the study of the social and cultural dynamics of large permanently occupied farming settlements in the Near East.
The city as a whole was enormous covering roughly 32.5 acres (130,000 mē), and housing 5,000-8,000 people, whereas the norm for the time was around one tenth of this size. The site stirred great excitement when Mellaart announced it and has since caused much head scratching. In fact, more recent work as turned up comparable features at other early Neolithic sites in the Near East, and this has benefited many people in their understanding of the site and therefore many of its once mysteries are no longer real issues.
Mellaart was also involved in a string of controversies eventually leading to his banning from excavations in Turkey in the 1960s. Some of this is covered in the 1968 book by Pearson and Connor, called "The Dorak Affair" (New York: Atheneum, 1968).
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