Archaeology Odyssey 8:3, May/June 2005

Excavating Catalhoyuk

In 1993, after a 30-year hiatus, the Turkish government granted British archaeologist Ian Hodder a concession to excavate at Catalhoyuk—a project to which James Mellaart, the original excavator of the site, gave his blessings.

By Shahina Farid

From Mellaart’s excavations, we know that the people who lived at Catalhoyuk harvested crops and domesticated animals. They lived in densely packed mudbrick houses, which were occupied for hundreds of years. They expressed themselves vividly in paintings and relief sculptures.

But who were they, why did they settle here, and how did they live?

The modern excavations conducted by the Catalhoyuk Research Project (of which Ian Hodder is overall project director and I am site director) indicate that the landscape has changed significantly since Neolithic times. Located on the flat Konya Plain, the 32-acre mound is today surrounded by agricultural fields; on clear days, the mountain ranges of Karadag, Karacadag and Hasan Dag are visible some 25 miles to the southeast. Nothing suggests that 9,000 years ago this spot witnessed a major change in the development of human civilization: the beginnings of urbanization.

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