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Catalhoyuk in the Context of the Middle Eastern Neolithic

Catalhoyuk in the Context of the Middle Eastern Neolithic

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Published by: sat_su on May 12, 2011
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Asianregion of Turkey,although the mainfocus here is on theregion from centralto southeastern Turkey 
time period betweenthe Palaeolithic andthe Neolithic. Associated with achanged lithictechnology and moreintensive subsistencestrategies
Epipalaeolthicgroups in the Levantprior to the Natufianinclude those withmaterial cultureassemblagesincorporatingmicrolithic tools
region inthe eastern Mediterranean thatnow includes Israel,Palestine, the WestBank, Syria, Jordan,and Lebanon
culturalgroup that hasdistinctive materialculture, lasts fromapproximately 12500to 10000
, and isassociated withpredomesticatedcultivation
Pre-Pottery  Neolithic A (PPNA):
culturalgroup found in theLevant from
10000to 8700 cal
C¸ atalh ¨oy  ¨uk in central Turkey was first exca- vated by James Mellaart between 1961 and1965. At that time the main impact of the site was to show that early settled villages existedoutside the Fertile Crescent of the MiddleEast. The site also had a wide impact becauseof Mellaart’s (1967; Todd 1976) reconstruc-tions of elaborate shrines with complex paint-ings,installations,andsculptures.MuchofthesymbolismoftheNeolithicoftheMiddleEasthas been interpreted in terms of the bull andmothergoddessthemesthatMellaartthought were so prominent at C¸ atalh ¨oy  ¨uk (see for ex-ample Cauvin 1994).Since the 1960s, our understanding of theNeolithic of the Middle East has changedsubstantially. In particular, new finds fromthroughout the region have pushed back thedates of early settled life and have shown thatthe process is diverse—for example, the dif-ferences between the Levantine sequence andthatinsoutheasternTurkeyaremarked.How-ever, our understanding of C¸ atalh ¨oy  ¨uk hasalso changed as a result of new excavationsstartedbyHodderin1993(Balter2005;Dural2007; Hodder 1996, 2000, 2005a,b,c, 2006,2007). For example, it is clear that the sym-bolism at C¸ atalh ¨oy  ¨uk is part of domestic cultsand that female imagery is only a small partof a diverse set in which mother and goddesscharacteristics are hard to find. The main focus of this review is on howthe new results from C¸ atalh ¨oy  ¨uk fit into orchallenge wider theories about the Neolithicin Anatolia and the Middle East. C¸ atalh ¨oy  ¨uk, dated to 7400–6000
(Cessford 2005; alldates here are calibrated), occurs a long timeafter the first sedentary settlements in the Middle East (which emerge in the period be-tween the twelfth and ninth millennia
)and well after the first domesticated plants(in the ninth millennium
but see belowfor the debate about the dates). The Lev-antine sequence, described below, involvesEpipalaeolithic groups such as the Kebaranand Natufian (the latter from approximately 12,500
to 10,000
) with increasingly in-tensive hunting, gathering, and cultivation of  wild plants; followed by the Pre-Pottery Ne-olithic A (PPNA) from 10,000 to 8700
and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) from8700 to 6800; followed by the Pre-Pottery Neolithic C (PPNC) and Pottery Neolithic(PN). Because of the polycentric character of the processes of sedentism and domestication(Gebel 2004) throughout the Middle Easternand the Anatolian region, it is incorrect to usethese terms and sequences outside the Lev-ant, and other terms have been proposed for Anatolia(e.g.,¨Ozbas¸aran&Buitenhuis2002).However, the Levantine sequence is best un-derstood and documented and provides abenchmark for the sequences elsewhere. As comparatively well known as the Lev-antine sequence may be, there remains littleconsensus about the causes of the emergenceof sedentism in agglomerated villages and thedomestication of plants and animals. Despitethe late date of C¸ atalh ¨oy  ¨uk, the detailed ev-idence and the long-term projects at the siteallow insight into the character of prepottery and early pottery agglomerated settlement intheregion.Thesitehasremarkablydenseset-tlement (3500 to 8000 people in 13.5 ha) and wasoccupiedforalongperiod.TheNeolithicEastmoundis21mhigh,has18levelsofoccu-pation, and lasts 1400 years before settlementrelocated to the West Mound on the otherside of the river (the C¸ ars¸amba C¸ ay in the flatKonya Plain) during the early Chalcolithic inthe early sixth millennium
. The Neolithiceconomywasbasedonawiderangeofdomes-ticated and wild plants (Fairbairn et al. 2005,Hastorf 2005) and based only partially on do-mesticated animals (sheep and goat—cattleand pig were not domesticated through themainNeolithicsequenceaccordingtoRussell&Martin2005).C¸ atalh ¨oy  ¨ukcanthusprovide some insight into the ways in which peoplelived in these early villages.Early theories of agricultural origins inthe Middle East were based on single envi-ronmental, climatic, and population density causes. The last glacial maximum occurred at
106 Hodde
24,000 to 18,000 years ago when the region was cold and dry. The gradual change to warmer and wetter conditions after this timesuffered a setback in the Younger Dryas(11,500 to 10,000
) during the second half of the Natufian. Bar-Yosef (2001) is amongmany that see the Younger Dryas conditionsleading to intensification and then to PPNA and the first agriculture. One limitation of the climatic argument is that scholars nowindicate that sustained domestication of plants did not occur at the end of the YoungerDryas in the PPNA but considerably laterin the PPNB (Colledge et al. 2004, Nesbitt2002, Willcox 2002).External causes of change have tended tobebalancedduringrecentdecadesbytheoriesthat focus on social factors such as prestigeexchange (Bender 1978), feasting (Hayden1990), and symbolism (Cauvin 1994). So-cial factors may have provided the drivingforces behind sedentism and intensification. Although evidence from the Natufian on- wardoflarge-scalecommunalbuildingworks,and of open areas used for roasting pits, is widespread, evidence throughout the regionand period of marked social ranking, exceptat C¸ a ¨on ¨u in southeastern Turkey, is lacking(¨Ozdo ˘gan &¨Ozdo ˘gan 1990).Certainly recent finds have shown withgreat clarity that initial sedentism was closely tied to ritual. Landscapes may have beendrawntogetheratritualcenterstowhichpeo-ple came for initiation, feasting, burial, ex-change, marriage, etc. (Schmidt 2000). In factseveral of the early sites seem to have beenritual centers, whatever other functions they may have had. In north Syria and south-east Turkey, at sites such as Tell ‘Abr 3, Jerf el Ahmar, and G ¨obekli, one finds largePPNA buildings, circular and semisubter-ranean, which have generally been acceptedas communal ritual buildings. Those at Tell‘Abr 3 are 7–12 m in diameter (Yartah 2005). The internal furnishings of these communalbuildings are certainly elaborate, but we needto avoid getting caught in a possibly inappro-priate opposition of ritual versus domestic. At
Pre-Pottery  Neolithic B(PPNB):
culturalgroup found in theLevant from 8700 to6800 cal
Pottery Neolithic
 Tell ‘Abr 3, building B2 was dug 1.55 m into virgin soil and had a bench within its circu-lar walls. This in turn was lined with stoneslabs polished and decorated with wild ani-mals. Bucrania (cattle skulls) were depositedin a bench. But in another building, M1, ahearthwasfound,andonthefloorwerefoundlimestonebasinsandbowlsaswellasgrindingstones (Yartah 2005).Indeed,Yartah(2005)arguesthatthelargeearlyPPNAcommunalbuildingsatMureybetand Jerf el Ahmar are not elaborate ritu-ally and symbolically and were probably usedfor stockage and multiple functions. But atthe end of PPNA Yartah suggests that thereis less evidence of economic functions andmuch decoration and ritual—e.g., at Jerf el Ahmar, Tell ‘Abr 3, and probably G ¨obekli.However, the interpretations of these build-ings,theircommunalanddomesticversusrit-ual nature, remain problematic until detailedaccounts of floor residues and discard prac-tices are available. The forensic work on thefloors at C¸ atalh ¨oy  ¨uk shows that floors can becarefully cleaned and abandoned and that mi-croresidues of activities can be discerned only  with careful analysis. This work showed thatthe supposed “shrines” at C¸ atalh ¨oy  ¨uk wereactually used as domestic houses (Bull et al.2005, Matthews 2005, Middleton et al. 2005).Even if, as seems likely, social and ritualgatheringwasanimportantcomponentoftheprocesses that created permanent sedentary gatherings of people, we are left with the is-sueofwhypeopleadoptedmoreelaborateandlarger-scalesocial andritual practices,includ-ingthefashioninganderectionoflargemono-lithsandsemisubterraneancircularstructures,and all the investments of labor necessary forlarge-scale feasting and ritual. Disadvantagesof economic intensification and of collectivelivinginonespotcanbecited:hardwork(seenin stress markers on skeletons) and depletionof resources, sanitation, disease, etc. (Larsen1995). So by which process did people submitthemselvestogreaterworkandintensificationtoachievethebenefitsofsocialandritualelab-oration and sedentary village life?
C¸ atalh¨ oy¨ uk 107
 Many authors have summarized the so-cial relations of hunter-gatherers (e.g., Ingold1999, Meillassoux 1972, Sahlins 1972). Ingeneralscholarsarguethatinhunter-gatherersocieties, the means of production are col-lectively owned, groups achieved reciprocalrights to the resources of other bands by ask-ing permission, and studies show a lack of ac-cumulation of personal wealth, with storagebeing only a technique for preparing for sea-sonal shortfalls. Ingold (1999) discusses thenotion of “collective access” (p. 401), and so-cialrelationsareimmediate(Woodburn1980)in that there is a lack of temporal depth inthe relations between self and other (Ingold1999). Formal institutions that structure so-cialrulesandregulations(p.406)arerelativellacking. People trust good hunters, but they trust the hunters not to reduce their auton-omy. A leader cannot place a person underobligation or compulsion because this actionis a betrayal of trust.Such descriptions of hunter-gatherer so-ciety are difficult to apply to societies inthe millennia that approach the domestica-tion of plants and animals. An investment of labor already accompanied the more inten-sive economies of the Kebaran and Natufian,and social relations could be decreasingly de-scribed as immediate. We find little evidencefor storage beyond that needed to tide overfrom season to season, and accumulation of personal wealth is limited right up into thePPNB. But there is undoubtedly an increasedfocus on temporal depth. As people dependedmore on things, and on intensive resourceextraction and cultivation, they would haveneeded to depend on others to provide ob- jects (in exchange), to tend objects (fields andanimals, houses and boats), to construct ob- jects (houses), to discard objects (organizingrefuse and discard in dense villages), etc.One of the conditions that made agri-culture possible in the Middle East was achanged relation to time and history. Ratherthan immediate and short-term relationships,societies in the region developed a strongsense of temporal depth tied to specificplaces well before domesticated plants andanimals emerged. Intensive collecting andearlyfarminginvolveddelayedreturnsystems(Woodburn1980).Butfordelayedreturnsys-tems to be viable (“selected for”), given theharder work and restrictions involved, therehad also to be wider structural changes. Oneofthesewasagreatersenseoftemporaldepth,history, and memory. Temporal depth is themainfocusofthisreview,butIbrieflyconsidertwo other regional conditions of possibility for sedentism and the emergence of farming. These possibilities include a symbolic focusonwildanimals,violence,anddeathandacen-tral dominant role for humans in relation tothe animal world.
One of the main results from the new ex-cavations at C¸ atalh ¨oy  ¨uk is that the buildings Mellaart (1967) saw as static entities are nowunderstood as the by-products of continu-ous processes. The new project has docu-mented the extraordinary sequences of plas-ters on floors, walls, and relief sculptures. These monthly and yearly replasterings withtheir associated residues often occurred up to450timesinhousesthatlasted70to100years. A house was then often rebuilt in the sameplace. The old house was dismantled, oftencarefully and with much careful cleaning andplacing of objects, and filled in with cleansoil, and the new house was built on thestumps of the walls of the previous house.In some places we have up to 6 rebuildingsin the same place. The repetition of the or-dering of social space within these buildingsequences is remarkable and has led to thehypothesis that social life was organized atleast partly through the routines and prac-tices of domestic socialization (Hodder 2006,Hodder & Cessford 2004). Embedded withina complex symbolic world, the daily activities withinhousesformedandreformedthesocial world.
108 Hodde

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