SETTLEMENT REGION - CATAL HOYUK


It is not surprising that an extraordinary settlement such as Catal Hoyuk is in the heart of Anatolia which has been a cradle to many civilisations. In order to fully understand and appreciate why an important group of the Neolithic Age chose to establish itself in the Konya region, we need to examine and become familiar with this area. Catal Hoyuk is situated to the south-east of Konya where the Carsamba river nourishes the fertile plains.

Catal Hoyuk's settlement site was found by archaeologist James Mellaart in 1951. At the time he was working at the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara. Though the site was initially recorded in 1952 the first detailed research of the area began in 1958 by Mellaart and two colleagues because of difficult and inaccessable conditions.

Scattered surface findings have yielded an array of obsidian tools specific to the Neolithic Age. The obsidian stone with its glass like quality was the most important tool making material of this age. It is estimated that the obsidian stone was originally brought to the area from the Hasan Mountain region as a means of bartar and trade.

Catal Hoyuk was the most suitable place for settlement during the Neolithic Age. With a spectacular backdrop of mountain forests stretching to the banks of rich marshland, Catal Hoyuk seems to have been tailored for agriculture and the breeding of animals. Findings suggest that the region was an abundant source of flora and fauna. The reason behind this natural wealth is the existence of a large lake up until 16000 years ago. The region's seemingly unending plains is the result of this lake. Also, the lack of stones around the lush lake bed meant that the people of the area used mud bricks as their primary building material.

When this great lake began to dry approximately 16000 years ago, smaller lakes and swamps emerged creating the Salt Lake of today. As a result of the lake drying, large areas of land became available for animals to graze freely. Due to the abundance of animals and wildlife flocking to the area to drink there was no need to spend time on hunting. Also, much time was not taken up by farming as the fertile soils yielded crops readily. It is thought the the ample supply of meat and crops allowed the people of Catal Hoyuk to spend most of their time involved in religious activities and decorating the interiors of their homes.

The Konya Lowlands' largest river, Carsamba, fed the region and created fertile alluvium soil. However, what at first glance appeared to be ideal for agriculture slowly disintegrated due to salt deposits created by vapourisation. The primary reason for weak plant distribution on the plains today lies behind the salination of the land over the milleniums.

The first Neolithic settlement 7000 B.C. on this fertile lowland has greatly challenged the earlier ideas about this age. Until 1951, a vast number of Neolithic Age features had been attributed to the eastern Mediterranean region, Syria and Mesopotamia instead of Catal Hoyuk. The first early and second late Neolithic settlements were established on adjacent east and west hills where the Catal Hoyuk people created one of the most magnificent civilisations of history. The name "Catal Hoyuk" originated from a forked road to the north of the hills. The words "catal" meaning fork and "hoyuk" meaning mound. It is an interesting coincidence that this name marks an important crossroad in the history of civilisation.


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