What Çatalhöyük Makes Us Think

As a residential area from approximately 9,000 years ago, Çatalhöyük consists of two mounds located in the east and west sides. It was a settlement area during Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods and carries with it great mysteries and secrets to this today.

Çatalhöyük is in Konya city, 52 kilometers away from the city center. In particular, traces which belong to settlements during Neolithic Period draw attention. The sheer size of this settlement area, its high population, and their artistic and cultural values make Çatalhöyük extremely appealing. As a result of the research, it is now known that approximately 8,000 people lived in the settlement areas. There is a difference between Çatalhöyük and other known settlement areas of the Neolithic Period. This difference is the fact that folks of the Neolithic Period abandoned their villager status and began an urbanization phase, moving from rural to urban. Regarded as one of the oldest settlement areas in the world, Çatalhöyük is one of the earliest agricultural societies.

The east side of Çatalhöyük has carried the oldest Neolithic Period remnants found so far to this day. Discovered in 1958, excavation of the region initially began in 1961. Excavations made in 1993, and still ongoing, are managed by Cambridge University. Operations made on the main mound are planned to continue through 2018.

What Çatalhöyük Makes Us Think
Çatalhöyük. Photo: Turgut Tarhan, Atlas Magazine

Eighteen neolithic settlement layers were excavated in the East Çatalhöyük area. The architecture alone in this place demonstrates the area’s uniqueness. Gateways, canals, and streets had a significant impact and part to play on this architecture. There was no central palace or temple, nor were there storage rooms in this settlement area. Houses were built next to each other in the area which consisted of only open areas and houses. What resulted were actual neighborhoods. The residents of the area were highly successful at working with wooden materials and with basket-making and they proceeded into pottery making in the later periods. That’s why the earliest made pots were black and badly produced. Other remnants found from this period are mace heads, mirrors, garlic presses, rings and bracelets, adzes, needles, and spoons.

What Çatalhöyük Makes Us Think
Houses were built next to each other in the area which consisted of only open areas and houses.

Pottery remnants were also found in the West Çatalhöyük area. That’s why it is argued that it was a Chalcolithic Period settlement. In this excavation site, pottery from Hellenistic and Byzantine Periods were also discovered. Buildings in this area were designed with big, rectangular construction plans. The people of the west side made many general pottery pieces and designed some tools such as a hand-mill, scoop, and spoon, and they made jewelry.

What Çatalhöyük Makes Us Think
Pottery remnants were also found in the West Çatalhöyük area. That’s why it is argued that it was a Chalcolithic Period settlement.

It was also found out that people living in Çatalhöyük had an entombment tradition and this line of research unearthed human bones. According to the remains, the dead were buried in the fetal position. Some jewels were put on the dead people before burial. In addition, people buried their relatives under their houses.

Rug patterns, flower designs, and geometric shapes were used on the artistic works of that period. Heads and bull horns were used as accessories in people’s homes. Also discovered among the extant remnants are some boards that depict human and animal figures. Apart from these, another interesting find from this period is the fact that human and animal skulls were buried individually. Researchers emphasize that this indicates skulls were considered valuable financial objects of the era.