CATAL HOYUK ONCE AGAIN


In the Konya Lowlands, in the south of Central Anatolia, Catal Hoyuk is one of the Near East's most important prehistoric archaeological areas. During the 1960s, James Mellaart's excavations, which were carried out over four seasons, discovered a series of important features related to the Neolithic Age around 6200 - 5500 B.C.. Among the discoveries were platforms used as divans embellished with the horns of bulls, sunken stone seats and wall paintings which highlight the richness of elements used in the decoration of houses. The wall paintings with their geometric designs also depict groups of people hunting animals, the flesh of headless humans being devoured by giant vultures and what appears to be a volcanic eruption. Among these Neolithic dwellings simple vessels, obsidian tools and statues of what is interpreted as being a Mother Goddess have been found. The abundance of ritual objects in the excavation site led Mellaart to suggest that this section of settlement was religious.

Since Mellaart's work, excavations in Turkey and neighbouring countries are being compared with the findings in Catal Hoyuk. In 1993, under the guidance of Dr. Ian Hodder from Cambridge University and the chairman of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, Roger Matthews' management, a new area of work was begun. For three seasons the site work has been under progress and is expected to continue for several years. Surface findings of pieces of utensils and other objects have been carefully gathered and led to new discoveries; for example, fixing the boundaries of Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantinian settlements. Future excavation sites have also been determined. Last season, areas with adjoining Neolithic structures have begun to be excavated.

A two room Neolithic dwelling is currently being excavated. It is thought that one of the rooms was used for at least two different purposes over a period of time. The remnants of a partition wall have been found on one of the walls. The partition is visible by slight protrusions in the wall which have been covered with a thin layer of red plaster. In this room a stove and an ox's horn embedded in the wall have been found. In the other room, a stone divan covered in a thick layer of white plaster has also been found. This dwelling on the north of the hill carries many similarities with the ones that Mellaart has been excavating even though there is a marked distance between them. It is now considered that all the buildings of Catal Hoyuk are of similar kind, with an array of wall paintings and plastered raised platforms used as divans.

Catal Hoyuk's continued excavations in the new year are hoped to provide a gleaming light on Anatolia and the Near East's significant Neolithic era.


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