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A Town of Endless Peace: Çatalhöyük

Çatalhöyük was a neolithic settlement between 7400 and 5500 BCE. It is near a village called Küçükköy of Çumra district in Konya province, now. Çatalhöyük is the most important archaeological site and one of the oldest settlements of humanity. On the contrary of famous Göbeklitepe which older than it, Çatalhöyük is a lesser-known site although its archaeological excavations have been continuing for almost 50 years. Göbeklitepe has been excavating only for 10 years. By the way, what I’m going to tell you here is that I rubbernecked with a tour was set for Turkish press staff in August 5th, 2015 and found an opportunity to visit this magnificient place of the history of humanity.

When I saw Çatalhöyük excavation site for the first time, the first thing that caught my attention was the living quarters side by side or attached (so-called) buildings similar to the terraces. There were no streets or gateways. According to given information us, Çatalhöyük people were entering into their homes from a hole on the top of the roof.

Çatalhöyük archaelogical site director Professor Ian Hodder briefed us along our tour about excavations and Çatalhöyük neolithic life. According to Hodder, Çatalhöyük residents were hunting animals but never killing humans or each other. They were really peaceful community. Hodder also said that they were surprisingly participative and egalitarian people including no class distinction. Çatalhöyük community was living on with cultivation, livestock and foraging. The children were growing up in other families apart from their own parents.

I asked to Ian Hodder whether these people could be a real sample of primitive communal society. He confirmed me saying that this egalitarian lifestyle was “communal life”. Furthermore, Hodder said that it could not refer to neither patriarchal nor matriarchal life in Çatalhöyük.

Hodder also confirmed that there were no ruins of any temples. There was no evidence of established religion in Çatalhöyük. But, according to Hodder, there were mainly three tenets amongst Çatalhöyük people. First one was worshipping to wild animals. Hodder said about others: “One is ancestor cult (ancestor worship) or veneration of the dead as we understand from the skulls buried bottom of the neolithic habitations. Third type of their tenets is based on the sorcery. But this sorcery aims to protect of the people against evil spirits.”

Hodder added that Çatalhöyük people slept over the bones of their deads buried at the bottom of homes. The buried deads were keeping in the fetal position.

The black and white races were living together in Çatalhöyük considering the mural paintings of Çatalhöyük people figured with their skin colours. Hodder made an amazing correction in this issue: “Actually, most of them were red skins although some were dark-skinned.”

Where’s the Leopard?

In some mural paintings these “coloured” people had figured as clothed with leopard furs. A great number of Anatolian leopards was living in whole Anatolia (especially western and middle regions) and hunting by these people, about 9.000 years ago. Neolithic people believed that wearing leopard fur the power and spirit of the animal would pass through directly to them if they wore it. However, the Anatolian leopard is no longer living in Anatolia today. It became extinct because of hunting with fire arms of “wild” humans.

What’s interesting is that Ian Hodder wrote they were not found any leopard remnants amongst more than 600.000 animal bones from the excavations in his book of Çatalhöyük-Leoparın Öyküsü (Çatalhöyük-The Story of the Leopard). Where did the Anatolian leopards go despite figured their furs over Çatalhöyük people in the mural paintings?

During the tour I asked Hodder about this issue but he also said that he was not able to solve exactly this mystery. But he tells this story and effects to Çatalhöyük communal living in his above-mentioned book in detail.

Amazing Trade Routes

Nevertheless, there were interesting further evidence results from the excavations. Çatalhöyük residents were not introverted people. They were making trade extended into Mesopotamia and Syria. These people were travelling over Taurus Mountains to supply of their provisions and exchanging their necessaries. Hodder said this issue: “We estimate that a swatch of linen came from Syria which discovered in the excavations in 2013. This shows us that they traded with wide range geography.”

Furthermore, first yoghurt production had made in Çatalhöyük. A possibility strengthened of this production was here by discovering acorn capsules during James Melaart who discovered Çatalhöyük in 1958 and started first excavations between 1961 and 1965. Even, acorn capsules still use in region today for yoghurt production.

Key findings from the excavations include such as a 9.000 years mural painting, an obsidian mirror, underground structure plans (According to Hodder, this was an ordinary artifact by Çatalhöyük people), handprints, rarely seen daggers made by calyon, human or animal figures made by clay or stone, one of the swatches which weaved with hemp firstly in the earth, a plastered skull, a pot engraved over with two human and two bull heads, a headless woman figurine which symbolized lifecycle…

These findings and digital scannings in the area are processed in the computer office near the excavation site. All the excavation area and findings are recorded on the digital media and rendered in three-dimensional. These findings, datas, and digital conclusions which are from the excavations between June and September every year are broadcasting on

Article, photographs and illustration by LEVENT ELPEN


Ian Hodder, Çatalhöyük – Leoparın Öyküsü, Türkiye’nin Antik “Kasaba”sının Gizemleri Günışığına Çıkıyor. Çeviren: Dilek Şendil. Yapı Kredi Yayınları 2. Baskı, İstanbul, Mart 2014.

(Resim açıklamaları resim dosya adlarında belirtilmiştir)


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