Monday, January 8, 2007

Exciting new finds at Çatalhöyük

Exciting new finds at Çatalhöyük and Plans for a new museum 120 people from all over the world have assembled at Çatalhöyük again this summer. The team has come from Britain, the United States, Iran, Romania, Serbia, Greece, Poland – in fact 21 different countries. All these people have come to join Turkish colleagues working at the site. They have made some exciting new discoveries that are changing interpretations of this 9000 year old site in the Konya region. ‘The goddess is a bear’. One example of the new discoveries is a beautifully made stamp seal (Figure 1). These stamps were probably used to stamp designs on skin or clothing. This example shows an animal with its front and hind legs raised upwards. Such figures have been known from Çatalhöyük for some time as plaster reliefs on the walls of houses. An example excavated by James Mellaart is shown in Figure 2. These plaster reliefs have often been interpreted as ‘mother goddess’ figures. But the heads and hands of the plaster relief examples have always been cut off, so it was never possible to say whether the figures were humans or not. But now the stamp seal provides a key. Here the head and the hind paws remain. They clearly show that the figure is an animal, probably a bear. So it is probable that the reliefs with upraised arms and legs are not goddesses but bears. Depicting animals, such as leopards, in houses is common at Çatalhöyük, and so it is not surprising that we should find a bear. Another important find this year was our first full ‘bucranium’. A bucranium is a skull of a wild bull that has been plastered. In this case, the bucranium was found in an area of excavation on the north hill of Çatalhöyük in the 4040 area. In a small room we found a bench with bull horns set along the edge (Figure 3). Next to it a very large will bull head, lightly plastered, had been set into a niche. The base of the niche has been painted. This is a remarkable find that will be preserved in place and put on display, as the aim is to cover the 4040 area with a shelter. In 2005 excavation has continued under the South shelter that has already been reconstructed. A new excavation area has been opened up by a team led by Dr Mihriban Özba?aran from Istanbul University Department of Prehistory. They are working on the edge of the mound in order to get to the earliest levels of the mound so that they can understand the origins and early development of Çatalhöyük. By contrast, a new team from Selcuk University led by Ahmet T?rpan is starting work to understand the latest occupation at Çatalhöyük. On the Konya Plain just to the east of the Çatalhöyük mound is a large historic site. They are starting to excavate here in order to explore the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine development of the site. The collaboration between Selcuk University and the Çatalhöyük project has other components as well, including scientific training, the provision of books, and language education in the UK. An educational programme at the site sponsored by Shell and Coca-Cola has continued this year. The aim of the programme is to educate young people from the Konya region, and other areas of Turkey, about the importance of archaeology for Turkey and about Çatalhöyük. This year 600 children will spend a day at the site. Each day 20 children spend the day learning about the site, doing some excavation of previously excavated earth, doing Çatalhöyük paintings and making models of Çatalhöyük houses. This programme is being run by Gulay Sert. A new museum for Çatalhöyük At present, although over 11,000 visitors come to the site each year, there are no original objects that can be seen. All the finds from the site are held in Konya or Ankara museums. For some years the project has been discussing with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism the idea of creating a museum at or near Çatalhöyük so that tourists can view at the site the objects and art that have been found. An exciting new design for this museum has been created by Cengiz Bekta?. He has conceived the museum as fitting into the local traditions and into the style and character of Çatalhöyük itself. So he has designed the museum as made of mud brick. Visitors will be able to walk on the roofs of the museum, as people did at Çatalhöyük. And the museum will be covered by a tent that mimics the twin mound at Çatalhöyük. The present aim is to locate the museum between Çatalhöyük and the nearby town of Çumra, and the Konya Vali, the Konya Kultur Muduru, and the Çumra Belediye Baskan, are all giving their support. The inside of the museum will have gallery space, but will also act as a community and research center. It will have extensive storage capacity, as well as lecture room, library and conservation facilities, educational and craft production areas. Acknowledgements An international team based in Cambridge University has undertaken archaeological research at Çatalhöyük since 1993, with a permit granted by the Ministry of Culture, and under the auspices of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara. We are especially grateful to the General Director of Monuments and Museums, and to our temsilci Kazim Mertok. The main sponsors of the project are Koçbank and Boeing. Other sponsors are Shell, IBM, Thames Water, and Merko. Funding for the project in 2005 has also been received from the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, Stanford University, the Global Heritage Fund, Selcuk University, University College London, John Coker, the University of Poznan, and the Polish Heritage Council. The team from Istanbul is sponsored by Coca Cola, Konya Ticaret Odasi, Kosiad Konya Sanayici ve Isadamlari Dernegi, Konya Valisi and Cumra Kaymakami. The project is especially thankful for the support of the Turkish Friends of Çatalhöyük. The project also owes much gratitude to the Çumra belediye ba?kan? and the Çumra kaymakam. Figures 1. Stamp seal in the form of an animal, probably a bear, recently excavated at Çatalhöyük. Photo Jason Quinlan. 2. Wall relief found by James Mellaart, and often interpreted as a goddess. 3. Bull head installation recently discovered at Çatalhöyük (photo Jason Quinlan), with reconstruction by John Swogger. 4. Plans and models for new museum at Çatalhöyük Çumra.

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