Clues as to when mankind really began living in urban patterns lie in Çatalhöyük

Clues as to when mankind really began living in urban patterns lie in Çatalhöyük

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Çatalhöyük Research Project Director Ian Hodder says goddess icons do
not, contrary to assumptions, point to a matriarchal society in
Çatalhöyük. Findings in Çatalhöyük show that men and women had
equal social status. According to Hodder, who also has been following
the Göbeklitepe excavations in Şanlıurfa, meticulous archaeological
excavation in southeastern Anatolia can change all scientific
archaeological assumptions

ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News

Clues as to when mankind really began living in urban patterns lie in
the Neolithic layers of Çatalhöyük.
Çatalhöyük is within the borders of Cumra district in the central
Anatolian city of Konya and is only 10 kilometers away from the
district. The discovery of Çatalhöyük by English researcher James
Mellart in the beginning of the 1950s had vast repercussions for the
scientific world. Mellart was trying to prove that the oldest
agricultural towns were located not only in the eastern Mediterranean
but also in central Anatolia when he ran into a big surprise. As a
result of research conducted, Çatalhöyük was discovered to feature a
permanent settlement pattern thousands of years ago. The surprise also
raised many questions: Why were all the buildings attached? Why were the
people able to enter their houses only through the roof?

As Mellart continued his research until 1965, many layers were
discovered. But from then on research stopped until 1993. That was when
a protégé of Mellart, Professor Ian Hodder from the University of London
resumed excavation work researching the most important layers of the
ancient city using different techniques and methods.

While on a short visit to Turkey Hodder spoke to the Turkish Daily
News about the recent findings and excavations in Çatalhöyük. Hodder
said the male icons found during the excavations negate the belief that
Çatalhöyük was a matriarchal society. According to Hodder, pointing
to the symbolic ties between Hittites and Çatalhöyük, possible
excavations in southeastern Anatolia would shake scientific
archaeological assumptions.

Research into Çatalhöyük's DNA

“When I was a student, Professor Mellart used to tell us about
working in Çatalhöyük. It was legendary to me. Working in Çatalhöyük was
my dream,” said Hodder and added that Mellart's basic findings are
essential. Yet, Hodder and his team make use of technology.

 “We are analyzing DNA. We check bones and teeth to find out about
their eating habits in those days,” said Hodder adding that such
research is very detailed and it takes a long time to acquire scientific

Hodder thinks that archaeology is like forensic medicine as it makes
use of various methods from natural and positive sciences to answer
questions like “Why are residential areas so large?” “Why did
people choose to live collectively?” “Why did they use the roofs and
ladders to enter the houses?” and “Why did they have burial sites on
the ground floor of their houses?”

“Çatalhöyük's societal life and relations with its neighbors are
the most important parts of our research. With this research, we are
aiming to shed light on the ways of settling which took place 9,000
years ago.”

Hodder said findings point to ties between Çatalhöyük, Hittites and
other ancient civilizations of Anatolia, since bulls and strong women
icons in Çatalhöyük also carry great symbolic importance in Hittite

Hodder said Çatalhöyük has come to be identified with the icon of a
goddess, adding, “Mellart drew public attention to the female icon he
found during excavation. Therefore, Çatalhöyük came to be identified
with the goddess. Female icons, male icons and phallus symbols were
found during excavation. When we look at what they eat and drink and at
their social statues, we see that men and women had the same social
status. There was a balance of power. Another example is the skulls
found. If one's social status was of high importance in Çatalhöyük, the
body and head were separated after death. The number of female and male
skulls found during the excavations is almost equal.”

18 mysterious layers of Çatalhöyük

A total of 18 layers have been excavated in Çatalhöyük thus far.
“Research shows that cattle were not domesticated on the lowest
layers. Domestication exists on upper layers. Symbolism lessens on upper
layers. Buildings are constructed more suited for production. The
difference between the layers is huge,” said Hodder.

Hodder said among the 18 layers, the fifth, sixth and seventh layers
are the most important ones, as early art and burial sites are observed
the most in these layers. According to Hodder, Çatalhöyük people are
devoted very much to their ancestors.

Leading the excavations for 14 years now, Hodder aims to make it 25
years looking for an answer to symbols and permanent settling. Hodder
plans to open a Çatalhöyük Museum with support from Konya Metropolitan
Municipality. Hodder said Çatalhöyük is an obligatory part of the school
activity curriculum in California and every year more than 600 foreign
and local children visit the excavations in groups of 20.

Hodder said this year excavations in Çatalhöyük yielded bear
patterned friezes and Anatolia is one of the world's richest
archaeological sites, adding, “Anatolia has great importance when it
comes to the spread of culture throughout the world. Findings show that
agriculture, settlements, crockery production and various figures spread
through Europe from Anatolia.”

The secret of the world lies in southeastern Anatolia

 “Southeastern Turkey has great archaeological importance. If
comprehensive excavations are conducted, we may come across findings
that will shock the scientific world. We can even obtain data that would
rewrite the science of archaeology. As a matter of fact, excavations in
the 11,500 year-old Neolithic residential areas of Göbeklitepe, which
lies 15 kilometers northeast of Şanlıurfa, radically changed our

Before the Göbeklitepe excavations it was widely believed that the
area stretching from east Mediterranean Lebanon to Jordan experienced an
agricultural revolution, said Hodder. Yet, the Göbeklitepe excavations
tore this argument to shreds. Hodder said the agricultural revolution
began much earlier in southeastern Anatolia, and recent findings show
that the transition to an agricultural society began in more than just
one place.

Hodder said the male icon and headless bird icon found in Göbeklitepe
share similarities with those found in Çatalhöyük. Unlike Çatalhöyük,
male symbolism is more prominent in Göbeklitepe. Male sexual organs were
drawn on animal icons found in Göbeklitepe, which leads to the complete
disposal of the idea that agriculture is related to female and goddess
images, said Hodder.

 I. Ian Hodder was born in 1948 in the United Kingdom. He went to
University of London, where he became James Mellart's protégé. He
completed his dissertation on “Spatial Analysis on Archaeology” in
1975 at Cambridge University. After working as a lecturer from 1974 to
1977 at Leeds University, he returned to Cambridge and became a
Professor of Archaeology in 1996. In 1999, he started working at
Stanford University's Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology.
Hodder has written extensively on Neolithic Europe, ethno-archaeology
and symbolic and structural archaeology. Hodder has been leading the
excavations in Çatalhöyük since 1993. The Turkish Culture




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