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CATALHOYUK - UPDATES

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Bianca
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« Reply #60 on: April 25, 2008, 09:36:32 am »









Hodder, a tall, bespectacled, 56-year-old Englishman, first heard about Catalhoyuk in 1969 as a student of Mellaart’s at London’s Institute of Archaeology. In 1993, after some delicate negotiations with Turkish authorities, helped greatly by support from leading Turkish archaeologists, he was given permission to reopen the site.

Nearly 120 archaeologists, anthropologists, paleoecologists, botanists, zoologists, geologists and chemists have gathered at the mound near Konya summer after summer, sieving through nearly every cubic inch of Catalhoyuk’s ancient soil for clues about how these Neolithic people lived and what they believed. The researchers even brought in a psychoanalyst to provide insights into the prehistoric mind.

Catalhoyuk, says Colin Renfrew, emeritus professor of archaeology at CambridgeUniversity in Britain, is “one of the most ambitious excavation projects currently in progress.” Bruce Trigger of Montreal’s McGillUniversity, a noted historian of archaeology, says Hodder’s work at the site “is providing a new model of how archaeological research can and should be carried out.” Still, Hodder’s unorthodox approach—combining scientific rigor and imaginative speculation to get at the psychology of Catalhoyuk’s prehistoric inhabitants—has generated controversy.

Archaeologists have long debated what caused the Neolithic Revolution, when prehistoric human
beings gave up the nomadic life, founded villages and began to farm the land. Academics once emphasized climatic and environmental changes that took place about 11,500 years ago, when the
last ice age came to an end and agriculture became possible, maybe even necessary, for survival. Hodder, on the other hand, emphasizes the role played by changes in human psychology and cog-
nition.
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« Reply #61 on: April 25, 2008, 09:41:18 am »










Mellaart, now retired and living in London, believed that religion was central to the lives of Catal-
hoyuk’s people. He concluded that they had worshiped a mother goddess, as represented by a
plethora of female figurines, made of fired clay or stone, that both he and Hodder’s group have unearthed at the site over the years. Hodder questions whether the figurines represent religious deities, but he says they’re significant nonetheless. Before humans could domesticate the wild
plants and animals around them, he says, they had to tame their own wild nature—a psychological process expressed in their art. In fact, Hodder believes that Catalhoyuk’s early settlers valued spirituality and artistic expression so highly that they located their village in the best place to
pursue them.

Not all archaeologists agree with Hodder’s conclusions.

But there’s no doubt the Neolithic Revolution changed humanity forever. The roots of civilization were planted along with the first crops of wheat and barley, and it’s not a stretch to say that the mightiest of today’s skyscrapers can trace their heritage to the Neolithic architects who built the first stone dwellings.

Nearly everything that came afterward, including organized religion, writing, cities, social inequality, population explosions, traffic jams, mobile phones and the Internet, has roots in the moment people decided to live together in communities.

And once they did so, the Catalhoyuk work shows, there was no turning back.
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« Reply #62 on: April 25, 2008, 09:44:09 am »









The phrase “Neolithic Revolution” was coined in the 1920s by the Australian archaeologist
V. Gordon Childe, one of the 20th century’s leading prehistorians.

For Childe, the key innovation in the revolution was agriculture, which made human beings the
masters of their food supply. Childe himself had a fairly straightforward idea about why agricul-
ture was invented, arguing that with the end of the last ice age about 11,500 years ago, the
earth became both warmer and drier, forcing people and animals to gather near rivers, oases
and other water sources. From such clusters came communities. But Childe’s theory fell out of
favor after geologists and botanists discovered that the climate after the ice age was actually
wetter, not drier.

Another explanation for the Neolithic Revolution, and one of the most influential, was the
“marginality,” or “edge,” hypothesis, proposed in the 1960s by the pioneering archaeologist
Lewis Binford, then at the University of New Mexico. Binford argued that early human beings
would have lived where the hunting and gathering were best.

As populations increased, so did competition for resources, among other stresses, leading some
people to move to the margins, where they resorted to domesticating plants and animals. But this
idea does not square with recent archaeological evidence that plant and animal domestication
actually began in the optimal hunting and gathering zones of the Near East, rather than in the
margins.
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« Reply #63 on: April 25, 2008, 09:46:25 am »









Such traditional explanations for the Neolithic Revolution fall short, according to Hodder, precisely because they focus too much on the beginnings of agriculture at the expense of the rise of per-
manent communities and sedentary life. Though prehistorians once assumed that farming and
settling down went hand in hand, even that assumption is being challenged, if not overturned.

It’s now clear that the first year-round, permanent human settlements predated agriculture by at
least 3,000 years.

In the late 1980s, a drought caused a drastic drop in the Sea of Galilee in Israel, revealing the re-
mains of a previously unknown archaeological site, later named Ohalo II. There, Israeli archaeologists found the burned remains of three huts made from brush plants, as well as a human burial and several hearths. Radiocarbon dating and other findings suggested that the site, a small, year-round camp for huntergatherers, was about 23,000 years old.

By about 14,000 years ago, the first settlements built with stone began to appear, in modern-day Israel and Jordan. The inhabitants, sedentary hunter-gatherers called Natufians, buried their dead
in or under their houses, just as Neolithic peoples did after them. The first documented agriculture began some 11,500 years ago in what Harvard archaeologist Ofer Bar-Yosef calls the Levantine Corridor, between Jericho in the JordanValley and Mureybet in the EuphratesValley. In short, the evidence indicates that human communities came first, before agriculture.

Could it be, as Hodder tends to believe, that the establishment of human communities was the real turning point, and agriculture just the icing on the cake?
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« Reply #64 on: April 25, 2008, 09:48:11 am »









Hodder has been influenced by the theories of the French prehistory expert Jacques Cauvin, one
of the first to champion the notion that the Neolithic Revolution was sparked by changes in psychology. In the 1970s Cauvin and his co-workers were digging at Mureybet, in northern Syria, where they found evidence for an even earlier Natufian occupation underneath the Neolithic layers. The sediments corresponding to the transition from the Natufian to the Neolithic contained wild bull horns. And as the Neolithic progressed, a number of female figurines turned up. Cauvin concluded that such findings could mean only one thing: the Neolithic Revolution had been preceded by a “revolution of symbols,” which led to new beliefs about the world.

After surveying several Neolithic sites in Europe, Hodder concluded that a symbolic revolution had taken place in Europe as well. Because the European sites were full of representations of death and wild animals, he believes that prehistoric humans had attempted to overcome their fear of wild nature, and of their own mortality, by bringing the symbols of death and the wild into their dwellings, thus rendering the threats psychologically harmless. Only then could they start domesticating the world outside. It was Hodder’s search for the origins of that transformation that eventually took him to Catalhoyuk.

By the time Catalhoyuk was first settled—about 9,500 years ago, according to a recent round of radiocarbon dating at the site—the Neolithic epoch was well under way. The residents of this huge village cultivated wheat and barley, as well as lentils, peas, bitter vetch and other legumes. They herded sheep and goats. Paleoecologists working with Hodder say the village was located in the middle of marshlands that may have been flooded two or three months out of the year.

But ongoing research suggests the village wasn’t anywhere near its crops.
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« Reply #65 on: April 25, 2008, 09:50:15 am »









So where did they grow food?

Tentative evidence has come from Arlene Rosen, a geoarchaeologist at the Institute of Archaeo-
logy in London and an expert in the analysis of phytoliths, tiny fossils formed when silica from
water in the the soil is deposited in plant cells. Researchers think phytoliths may help reveal some
of the conditions in which plants were grown. Rosen determined that the wheat and barley found
at marshy Catalhoyuk were likely grown on dry land. And yet, as other researchers had shown, the closest arable dry land was at least seven miles away.

Why would a farming community of 8,000 people establish a settlement so far from its fields? For Hodder, there is only one explanation.

The settlement site, once right in the middle of marshlands, is rich in the dense clays that villagers used to make plaster. They painted artworks on plaster, and they fashioned sculptures and figurines out of plaster.

“They were plaster freaks,” Hodder says.
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« Reply #66 on: April 25, 2008, 09:53:31 am »









If the people of Catalhoyuk had located their village in the wooded foothills, they would have had
easy access to their crops and to the oak and juniper trees they used in their mud-brick houses.
But they would have had a difficult, perhaps impossible, time transporting the clay from the marshes over a distance of seven miles: the material must be kept wet, and the villagers’ small reed-and-grass baskets were hardly suitable for carrying the large quantities that they clearly used to plaster and replaster the walls and floors of their houses.

It would have been easier for them to carry their crops to the village (where, as it happened, the foodstuffs were stored in plaster bins). In addition, the CarsambaRiver, which in prehistoric times flowed right past Catalhoyuk, would have enabled villagers to float juniper and oak logs from the nearby forests to their building sites.

Some experts disagree with Hodder’s interpretations, including Harvard’s Bar-Yosef, who believes sedentariness became more attractive for hunter-gatherers when environmental and demographic pressures pushed them to keep their resources together.

BostonUniversity archaeologist Curtis Runnels, who has conducted extensive studies of prehistoric settlements in Greece, says that nearly all early Neolithic sites there were located near springs or rivers, but those settlers seldom decorated their walls with plaster. Runnels says there may well be other reasons that Catalhoyuk occupants settled in the marsh, even if it is not yet clear what they were. “Economic factors always seem a little inadequate to explain the details of Neolithic life, particularly at a site as interesting as Catalhoyuk,” Runnels says. “But my view is that Neolithic
peoples first had to secure a dependable supply of food, then they could concentrate on ritual practices.”
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« Reply #67 on: April 25, 2008, 09:57:28 am »









But Hodder maintains that the people of Catalhoyuk gave a higher priority to culture and religion
than to subsistence and, like people today, came together for shared community values like religion. Hodder sees support for that idea in other recent Neolithic digs in the Near East.

At 11,000-year-old Gobekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey, a German team has uncovered stone pillars decorated with images of bears, lions and other wild animals. “These appear to be some sort of monuments, and they were built 2,000 years before Catalhoyuk,” Hodder says. “And yet there are
no domestic houses in the early levels of settlement at Gobekli. The monuments appear to belong
to some sort of ritual ceremonial center. It is as if communal ceremonies come first, and that pulls people together. Only later do you see permanent houses being built.”

At Catalhoyuk, the plaster-covered skull found last year testifies to the material’s significance for
the people of this prehistoric village. Yet the find leaves Hodder and his coworkers with an enigmatic portrait of early human togetherness: a woman lying in her grave, embracing the painted skull of someone presumably very important to her for 9,000 years.

Whatever brought our ancestors together, it was enough to keep them together—in death as well
as in life.


http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/seeds_civilization.html
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« Reply #68 on: May 28, 2008, 01:04:27 pm »











                                            Çatalhöyük: a Stone Age city 
 




If you start spouting terms like Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic over the average dinner table, chances are eyes will glaze over and someone will seek to change the direction of conversation by asking you to "Pass the salt, please."

 
 
Use the more populist term for this lengthy period (in excess of half a million years) in mankind's development -- the Stone Age -- and you may well get more interest.

To men of a certain age images of the voluptuous Raquel Welch, star of the 1960s "so bad it's good" movie "One Million Years B.C." may well spring to mind. Clad in nothing more than a skimpy fur bikini,
the statuesque Welch fled the unwanted attentions of ugh-ughing Neanderthal men and rampaging dinosaurs with a reckless disregard to the period (Neanderthal man became extinct tens of thousands
of years before 1 million B.C. and dinosaurs 65 million years ago).

Hannah-Barbara's cartoon classic "The Flintstones" left many a '60s child with the firm impression
that
in the Stone Age (so called because in this period man used stone tools and weapons rather than metal) people called Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble commuted to work in stone-wheeled cars,
drove home to watch stone TV sets and petted dinosaurs instead of dogs. But the kind of popular entertainment that peddled such patent (if entertaining) nonsense did reflect a genuine and bur-
geoning popular interest in how mankind developed.
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« Reply #69 on: May 28, 2008, 01:11:02 pm »








In 1961 the British archaeologist James Mellaart began excavating a 20-meter-high hüyük (a mound built of man-made debris, otherwise known as a tel) in the Konya Plain, near the small town of Çumra.

 Although he failed to unearth either a cave girl's fur bikini or a stone TV, what he did discover over
the next four years was every bit as exciting as fiction. Çatalhöyük turned out to be one of the most important sites not only in Turkey, but in the world.

Prior to Mellaart's discoveries, it had been thought that urbanization had started much later -- in the Bronze Age. But here was proof that Neolithic (the last period of the Stone Age) man had gathered together to live communally, from around 7,500 to 6,300 B.C., in a settlement up to 8,000 strong.

 Mellaart's excavations at Çatalhöyük electrified not only the archaeological world, but also captured the imagination of the public -- and his populist book about the site propelled both the remains and their discoverer to fame.

How could Stone Age man be thought of as primitive when he lived in an urban environment of densely packed houses and decorated the interior of his home with wall paintings, sculptures and relief carvings?

The "city's" dead were ritually buried beneath the floors of some of the houses, with beautiful objects including necklaces, marble bracelets and mirrors made from obsidian (a glass like volcanic rock found in huge quantities in nearby Cappadocia).

Mellaart and his team also found statues of a mother goddess and other female figures (and no corresponding male figures) -- leading to much speculation that Çatalhöyük was a matriarchal
society.
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« Reply #70 on: May 28, 2008, 01:14:08 pm »









Of course, you have to approach Çatalhöyük with a spirit of adventure and curiosity.

No one can claim that a 20-meter-high dirt eminence, covering some 15 hectares of the rather bleak Konya Plain is the world's most visually appealing spectacle -- even if it does contain 16 layers of Neolithic settlement (apparently after around 80 years of occupation, the mud brick houses were abandoned, filled in and new ones built on top).

Fortunately, much work has been done on site to make Çatalhöyük visitor friendly.

Archaeologists and local villagers (who until very recently were still building mud-brick structures not dissimilar to the Neolithic houses) have reconstructed a typical house. Some three by five meters square, the house is flat roofed and lime-washed.

The inhabitants entered their homes by a trapdoor in the roof, with a ladder leading down to floor level. Inside, areas of wall are decorated with paintings of hunting scenes (although the people of Çatalhöyük had domesticated cattle, they still hunted their wild forebears in the surrounding marshland and hills) and juniper rafters support the mud roof.

The cooking was done in a dome-shaped clay oven set on the floor beneath the trapdoor and woven reed baskets used for storage.

It's quite something to stand inside the gloom of a house lived in 9,500 years ago -- even if it is only
a replica.
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« Reply #71 on: May 28, 2008, 01:17:18 pm »











Just beyond the house lies a large, low building.

This is the dig house, which provides accommodation for the teams of archaeologists who excavate
the site annually.

The dig is guided and coordinated by Ian Hodder of Cambridge University, who has been working here since 1993. The aim of this phase of work is to find out as much as possible about the way of life of Çatalhöyük's inhabitants, utilizing the latest methods.

Compared to Mellaart's era, progress is slow as new excavation techniques throw up more information but also take more time.

Although Hodder is Cambridge-based, this is an international effort with partners from the US, Poland, Israel, Greece, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Canada, plus students from Turkish universities including the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ), İstanbul, Ankara, Ege, Anadolu, Çukorova and the local university, Konya Selçuk.

A project like this is expensive (around $1 million per season) and sponsorship essential with Koç,
Shell and Boeing amongst the corporate big boys helping to fund the excavations.

Perhaps even more exciting is the way in which the local villagers have been involved in this phase
of the project -- and not just in menial (though necessary) occupations such as guarding the site
from marauding flocks of sheep or cooking and cleaning for the archaeologists.

Some are tasked with sifting through soil samples and separating out and bagging bits of obsidian, pieces of bone and pottery shards for expert analysis.

In season as many as 80 excavators from all over the world, plus 40 local villagers, are hard at work
on this hot and exposed mound.
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« Reply #72 on: May 28, 2008, 01:20:29 pm »









One section of the dig house serves as the visitor center. Small but imaginatively laid-out, it has a number of sign-boards with photographs of excavators asking themselves, through comic-strip style thought bubbles, questions about the site --

"How did they make the mud bricks?"

"How many people lived in this building?"

or

"What did the murals mean?"



It's great for kids -- as is the audio-visual display which gives lots of background information about
this incredible site. There are recreations of wall paintings, copies of some of the figurines found on site -- notably that of a seated mother goddess (the actual figure, along with most of the other finds, is in the Ankara Museum).

The site has become something of a draw for contemporary followers of the mother goddess and
neo-feminists who see Neolithic Çatalhöyük as a place where women were at least the equals of,
if not superior, to men. This has yet to be proven, but the ongoing work at the site

                               (and in university research departments around the globe)

may eventually come up with some definitive answers as to the social structure of this Neolithic "city."
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« Reply #73 on: May 28, 2008, 01:23:21 pm »









Wander up onto the mound, a sea of vibrant purple larkspur in May, to look into the excavation areas themselves.

The south area is covered by a large steel-framed structure with semi-translucent plastic sheeting -- essential to prevent the exposed layers of settlement being eroded.

It's hard to imagine how the archaeologists have been able to distinguish the mud brick walls of the densely packed houses from the soil encasing them -- let alone reconstruct so accurately what they looked like.

On the top of the mound, tiny fragments of worked obsidian, brought here from Cappadocia, glitter amongst the dirt and swaying clumps of wild barley.

Obsidian was worked into tools used for a multitude of purposes such as skinning animals and threshing grain -- and was a valuable trading commodity. Fragments of bone peep out from the soil, too, mostly animal but some may be human.

Sometimes as many as 60 burials in one building.

Carbonized grain found on site, either gathered from wild varieties or cultivated, shows that the residents of Çatalhöyük were both hunter-gatherers and settled farmers.

Over to the northeast of the mound the newer excavation area (known as Bach) is in the process of being encased in a protective shed but should soon be open to visitors.
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« Reply #74 on: May 28, 2008, 01:25:28 pm »









Jericho has a claim to be the world's oldest city, but it is 10 times smaller than Çatalhöyük, making it more of a large village than a city.

Recent finds in Jordan suggest that there were larger and earlier urban settlements than Çatalhöyük.

 But this unique site has nothing to prove to the world.

The work that has been done here since the early 1960s, and looks set to continue well into the
future, has done a great deal to help us understand the development of our species and, perhaps
more importantly, made it accessible to the general public as well as to the expert.
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