Located 60 km away from Konya, Çatalhöyük is a very rare example of a well-preserved Neolithic settlement, which existed from 7500 BC to 5700 BC. This extraordinary site has been considered one of the key sites for understanding human Prehistory! With its massive size, the distinctive layout of back-to-back houses, the features of wall paintings and reliefs representing the symbolic world of the inhabitants, Çatalhöyük is one of the most impressive settlements in World History. In addition, it is also the most significant human settlement documenting early settled agricultural life of a Neolithic community! Due to its great value, Çatalhöyük was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2012. So, if you want to check out this magnificent Neolithic site, here is your guide!
This entrancing site was first excavated by James Mellaart in 1958, who later led a team that further excavated the site between 1961 and 1965. The evidence revealed that Çatalhöyük was a center of advanced culture in the Neolithic period! During the excavation, Mellaart and his team also found 18 successive layers of buildings, signifying various stages of settlement in eras of history from 7100 BC till the 5600 BC!
So, what was life like in Çatalhöyük? First of all, we need to know that today, all that is visible on the surface of Çatalhöyük consists of two mounds; the smaller and more recent west side of the site and the larger and more ancient east side. 9,000 years ago, in the year 7,400 BC, the site of Çatalhöyük was situated in a wetland, where the climate was very moist and rainy. Other than that, there was a wide range of resources available, such as fish, water birds and of course, their eggs. On the drier ground there were some agricultural fields, and herds of wild animals. Till the 6,500 BC, life was pretty basic but after that, people developed more efficient cooking methods and tools, which created time for other activities, such as domesticating animals and making decorative objects, as figurative art!
In the later period, inhabitants of the East Mound started occupying many other sites and formed the West Mound. The excavation showed that over the millennia, the inhabiters used the East Mound for burial and other activities. The buildings of Çatalhöyük were also entirely domestic buildings with different sizes and shapes; some of the larger ones have even ornate murals. Houses were closely built together with no streets in-between and people moved around on roofs and accessed their homes down a wooden ladder via an opening in the ceiling. Inside these houses, you can still see the white plastered walls and floors, covered with paintings depicting hunting scenes and geometric patterns! People took great care of their houses, which were continually infilled, often burnt and rebuilt throughout the site’s occupation-eventually creating the sites' current look. The best part is, you still can see most of those in Çatalhöyük!
You can visit this ancient site, which can be found only a 45 min car ride away from Konya; it can be accessed too, by taking one of the hourly minibusses from Konya's Eski Garaj minibus terminal to Çumra and then by a taxi to the site. In here, you can check out the exhibitions and replica artefacts, as well as attend the tour to explore the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük and shop for souvenirs.
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