Catal Huyuk Neolithic Site on the Konya Plateau in Turkey By Susan Daly Catal Huyuk is the oldest and the largest Neolithic city found, so far. It dates to 8,000 years BCE and was occupied continuously for 376 generations. No specific reasons for its abandonment have been found but it may have just gotten too high for comfortable living on top of the mound. Mrs. Daly at Catal Huyuk Rebecca Daly, a bone analyst at Catal Huyuk The population of the eastern mound is estimated to have been up to 10,000 people but the average population is believed to have been between 5,000 and 8,000 people. Life expectancy was very short by modern standards, with males living to 34 and females living to around 28 years. The height of this mound The East Mound dig The Catal Huyuk site is believed to be haunted by local people. This may explain why no other people settled here after the original builders left the site. Local people farm around the base of the mound but had done no digging on the mound because of the belief that it was haunted by ghosts. The dig house compound Catal Huyuk was occupied from 8,000 BCE for about 1600 years. During this period, the climate was very different than it is now. More rainfall meant that these people farmed extensively with productive fields located about 8 kilometers away from their homes. This required a lot of work to walk back and forth to farm. This site was first discovered in 1958 and excavations started in 1961 led by James Mellaart. Mellaart was banned from Turkey in 1965 after some artifacts were found to be missing . The site remained closed until 1993 when Dr. Ian Hodder from University of Cambridge and Stanford University began a 25 year project. Modern archaeology involves more than just digging. Under Dr. Hodder, many aspects of life at Catal Huyuk are examined as each layer of soil reveals pottery, animal tools and bones, shells, seeds, wall paintings, and food remnants. Many different experts contribute their expertise to interpret life in this Neolithic village. Faunal analysis lab A modern goat skull for reference Specialists in faunal analysis examine the remains of animals found here to see differences and similarities between the modern animals in this area and what lived and died here during its occupation. Domesticated animals did exist and that was a big change from nomadic life. This also helps us to understand what their diet was like. A section of an earlier dig During the period of 1961 -1965, James Mellaart excavated nearly 200 buildings using 6 or 7 archaeologists as supervisors but with all digging done by local laborers. He believed that these people worshipped a goddess figure since many female figurines were found here. An artists reconstruction of the site. These buildings were accessed through a ladder from the roof, similar to the Pueblos found the American southwest. Each building was separate but built right next to the next building with no paths or streets. It is not clear if this was for defense or simply the way people preferred to live. The hole in the roof also let out the smoke from cooking fires. Flotation area for dirt from the site. Flotation involves sending a small amount of the sites soil through water to allow the dirt to float away while heavier objects in the soil are left in the bottom of the catch basin to be collected and later identified. This is another new technique to find more information from an archaeological site. Obsidian flints Obsidian is volcanic glass and would have been a trade good coming from nearby Cappodocia.There were 3 volcanoes whose eruptions approximately 1 million years ago produced the obsidian found at Catal. Obsidian is very sharp and requires a lot of work to make into knives and axe blades. Under one of the dig tents looking outside. The “ Finds Room “ where artifacts wait to be logged in and examined. In 1993, when Dr. Hodder was allowed to reopen this site, the Turkish government wanted to insure that no other objects would be missing so everything found is catalogued and carefully examined before being sent to Ankara. There is a Turkish official on the site at all times to make sure that nothing disappears again. Finds which have been washed , air drying outside the Finds lab. More Finds The Pottery Lab Crate storage The dig season here is from mid June to late August, the hottest time of the year. There might be as many as 100120 archaeologists at work on different aspects of Neolithic life here in any season. The work is dirty and very hot since the average temperature here runs around 95-100 degrees daily. A Map showing the dig sites. Local women sorting finds at the dig house. To give visitors a better understanding of life here, a replica of a typical house has been built. This allows visitors to see how Neolithic people would have lived. Local children are invited every spring to come and learn about their history by spending a day here being an “ junior archaeologist". This should help the kids to value their own history and protect it. The Experimental House Inside the experimental house The ladder is on a small platform and the oven and fire were placed close to the opening to allow the smoke to go out the hole in the roof. In the winter, these houses would have been very smoky, because a covering kept out the snow and cold but also kept in the smoke. Food preparation area A local children’s program teaches kids about the site and they leave their hand prints when they finish. Because Mellaart excavated so quickly, his scrap pile often contains objects his workers missed. The local children get to sort through some of this pile when they practice being an archaeologist. Mellaart scrap pile A wall mural in the experimental house A wall mural found here Storage bins in the experimental house. This mural shows an auroch, like a modern bull with large horns. A bull head mounted on the wall and another wall painting in the experimental house. An auroch head mounted on the wall. This is a replica. Archaeologists at work Conserving a fragile object so it can be safely moved. Another house being excavated. You can see the oven and the platform for the ladder on the left. Lots of archaeology is simply tedious and time consuming removal of dirt. Several homes being excavated. The height of the walls is due to their destruction when a head of the household died. People destroyed the old home and moved when a significant man or woman died . They buried their dead in the floor of their homes. The bodies are in a fetal position. Some key people ‘s heads were kept in the home to serve in rituals. Some skulls were plastered and painted with red ochre. A skeleton found in a house. An artists view of the floor burial at Catal Huyuk. The red comes from red ochre applied after death. An infant burial. The baby is wearing 2 turquoise bead bracelets , one on each wrist. Another burial in the floor Examining a burial in the floor The following slides show you everyday objects found at Catal Huyuk. How do these objects help us to better understand what life was like for Neolithic people? Do some objects look familiar ? Bones used for tools A highly polished obsidian mirror A mural showing 2 animals. 2 small clay figurines. The work of sorting objects. A single clay object. A large clay pot which may have been used for cooking. A pottery bowl with a tripod stand. A bone & pottery hook and eye. This female figurine was what Mellaart considered a “ goddess” .Many have been found. They may have been part of religion. The next slide shows a map of Turkey and the location of Catal Huyuk. It also shows three areas where trade took place. Shells from the coast and obsidian from Cappodocia, as well as trade with the Red Sea are shown. Catal which means mound in Turkish is a very large archaeological site with a wealth of information to teach us about Neolithic life. These people were not so different from us. They lived and worked at farming and herding. They had to heat their homes in the winter and keep them cool in the hot Turkish summers. They cared about their families and buried their dead with objects they valued. What will you remember most about Catal Huyuk?