Çatal Höyük (“Forked Tumulus”) holds the remains of a Neolithic (New Stone Age) settlement believed to be among the world’s oldest human communities.
If you’re interested in very, very old things—about 9500 years old—this archeological site (also spelled Çatalhüyük and, in either case, pronounced cha-TAHL-hew-yewk) is a must-see. Few sites (Jericho, for example) are older.
Michael Balter (see below) reports from a recent visit:
“There is now a great deal to see here, as the past two seasons have focused on a larger scale excavation and several parts of the mound are now actively being dug. New structures have been built, an audio guideshould be ready, new explanatory panels, and dramatic sweeps of the past and present excavations all await the visitor. The scene is dramatically different from just two years ago, and of course people can visit all year round although during July and early August is most likely to catch the digging.”
Çatal Höyük is open daily from 08:00 am to 17:00 (5 pm), for free. You must visit the site in the company of the guard. You can take photos, but don’t smoke or pick up any objects you may see on the site. (It’s appropriate to tip the guard who shows you around.)
Start with the tidy museum, with exhibits labeled in Turkish and English. Then visit the recreated house right by the site entrance.
Having seen these two buildings, it’s much easier to appreciate the archeological site itself, and the masterful work the archeologists are doing here to uncover and visualize the past of our common ancestors.
For the full story, read Michael Balter‘s excellent book The Goddess and the Bull. Çatalhöyük: An Archaeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilization. Written by a veteran reporter for Science magazine, it reads as smoothly and enjoyably as a novel, bringing to life the personalities of the archeologists, showing the significance of their discoveries, and making vivid what humans were like 7000 years ago.
Some artifacts from Çatalhöyük and similarly old Neolithic sites are now in the Konya Archeological Museum.
The dig has its own quite elaborate and impressive website as well, with bulletins on recent finds from the archeologists and much more.
Old as it is, Çatalhöyük is not as old as the world’s first temple at Göbekli Tepe, and positively young compared to the cave at Karain near Antalya, which was continuously occupied for an estimated—and incredible—25,000 years.
—by Tom Brosnahan
|How to Get toÇatalhöyük|