Where Everybody Belongs Çatalhöyük

IAN HODDER OF STANFORD UNIVERSITY HAS BEEN LEADING THE EXCAVATIONS AT ÇATALHÖYÜK SINCE 1993.

Prof. Ian Hodder has made major contributions to history and archaeology through the theories he has developed and the finds he has unearthed at Çatalhöyük. We talked with him about archaeology and the Çatalhöyük site, which UNESCO added to its World Cultural Heritage List this year.

As the academic who has been leading the team excavating Çatalhöyük for twenty years now, can you tell us a little about the region?
The Çatalhöyük site is truly a very important place, primarily because it’s an extensive site that dates back to very early periods. Another feature that enhances the importance of this place is that it has survived to our day extremely well-preserved. Çatalhöyük tells us how humans made the transition to settled life and started farming. There are also magnificent examples of the art of the period on this wonderfully preserved site. That is why it has been declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. Çatalhöyük is one of the best sites representing early society.

What makes Çatalhöyük stand out in terms of the history of civilizations?
Until Çatalhöyük was discovered, other areas in Mesopotamia and the Near East were regarded as the origin of the history of civilization. But Çatalhöyük proved that the starting point of man’s development was in Turkey and in Anatolia. Thanks to Çatalhöyük, historians, art historians and researchers today can better explain the human life of 9,000 years ago, the birth of art and the story of man’s development.

You have made some very important finds in the Çatalhöyük excavations. What do those finds tell us?
We are talking about an extremely remote and very early site from the point of view of art. But the figures in the various cave paintings provide important clues about the art of the Paleolithic. The treatment of the bull theme, the wall paintings on the theme of women, and the drawings, first encountered at Çatalhöyük, in which the trunk and head are depicted separately make this place exceptional. Most importantly, they shows that Çatalhöyük ushered in a new lifestyle, a new era and a whole new concept in the history of mankind.

How do you view the cultural richness of Anatolia?
Turkey has a very special cultural richness. A large number of civilizations came and inhabited these lands. Those civilizations go back in sequence to what we could call the dawn of civilization. Turkey is a bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa. Coming from Africa, the first humans spread to Anatolia and from there to Europe and Central Asia. Agriculture too spread to Europe via Anatolia. Similarly, many languages came to Europe from this part of the world. Anatolia was always a source of new developments and ideas. The Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman civilizations too constituted key steps in the cultural richness of Anatolia. For all those reasons, Anatolia is one of the richest areas in the world in terms of its archaeological heritage.

At what moment were you the most impressed by Çatalhöyük and why?
Definitely the first time I came across it, because the size of the site and its state of preservation made a deep impression on me. Until I saw Çatalhöyük I had never seen a site so large or one that contained so much information about the everyday life of humans. I could see here down to the smallest detail the change and development people experienced in their everyday lives over two thousand years. Çatalhöyük was like an enormous laboratory in which I could work.

Which among the Çatalhöyük finds thrilled you the most?
I experienced tremendous excitement and joy when I found an unusual figure of a woman made of baked clay.

What would you recommend that visitors to Turkey should see?
Almost every spot in Turkey is special. Almost every region in the country has magnificent cultural richness. But I of course would recommend above all that people see Çatalhöyük and Konya. In particular, everyone should definitely see the Anatolian Seljuk architecture at Konya. Göbeklitepe in Şanlıurfa is another of my top recommendations. More generally, I would recommend that they see Cappadocia, Ephesus, and the major historic sites in Istanbul.

PROF. IAN HODDER
Director of the dig at Çatalhöyük since 1993, Prof. Hodder is one of the leading names in modern archaeology. Bringing a new perspective to archaeology with the Post- processualist approach he put forward, Hodder believes in the philosophy that individual ideas engender collective values.

ÇATALHÖYÜK IN BRIEF
•          Discovered towards the end of the 1950’s.
•          First excavated by James Mellaart between 1961 and 1965.
•          Excavations ongoing under the direction of Prof. Ian Hodder since 1993.
•          Elements of the everyday life and art of 9,000 years ago discovered on a site dating to 7,400 B.C.E.
•          Inscribed on Unesco’s World Cultural Heritage List.
As the academic who has been leading the team excavating Çatalhöyük for twenty years now, can you tell us a little about the region?
The Çatalhöyük site is truly a very important place, primarily because it’s an extensive site that dates back to very early periods. Another feature that enhances the importance of this place is that it has survived to our day extremely well-preserved. Çatalhöyük tells us how humans made the transition to settled life and started farming. There are also magnificent examples of the art of the period on this wonderfully preserved site. That is why it has been declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. Çatalhöyük is one of the best sites representing early society.

What makes Çatalhöyük stand out in terms of the history of civilizations?
Until Çatalhöyük was discovered, other areas in Mesopotamia and the Near East were regarded as the origin of the history of civilization. But Çatalhöyük proved that the starting point of man’s development was in Turkey and in Anatolia. Thanks to Çatalhöyük, historians, art historians and researchers today can better explain the human life of 9,000 years ago, the birth of art and the story of man’s development.

You have made some very important finds in the Çatalhöyük excavations. What do those finds tell us?
We are talking about an extremely remote and very early site from the point of view of art. But the figures in the various cave paintings provide important clues about the art of the Paleolithic. The treatment of the bull theme, the wall paintings on the theme of women, and the drawings, first encountered at Çatalhöyük, in which the trunk and head are depicted separately make this place exceptional. Most importantly, they shows that Çatalhöyük ushered in a new lifestyle, a new era and a whole new concept in the history of mankind.

How do you view the cultural richness of Anatolia?
Turkey has a very special cultural richness. A large number of civilizations came and inhabited these lands. Those civilizations go back in sequence to what we could call the dawn of civilization. Turkey is a bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa. Coming from Africa, the first humans spread to Anatolia and from there to
Europe and Central Asia. Agriculture too spread to Europe via Anatolia. Similarly, many languages came to Europe from this part of the world. Anatolia was always a source of new developments and ideas. The Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman civilizations too constituted key steps in the cultural richness of Anatolia. For all those reasons, Anatolia is one of the richest areas in the world in terms of its archaeological heritage.

At what moment were you the most impressed by Çatalhöyük and why?
Definitely the first time I came across it, because the size of the site and its state of preservation made a deep impression on me. Until I saw Çatalhöyük I had never seen a site so large or one that contained so much information about the everyday life of humans. I could see here down to the smallest detail the change and development people experienced in their everyday lives over two thousand years. Çatalhöyük was like an enormous laboratory in which I could work.

Which among the Çatalhöyük finds thrilled you the most?
I experienced tremendous excitement and joy when I found an unusual figure of a woman made of baked clay.

What would you recommend that visitors to Turkey should see?
Almost every spot in Turkey is special. Almost every region in the country has magnificent cultural richness. But I of course would recommend above all that people see Çatalhöyük and Konya. In particular, everyone should definitely see the Anatolian Seljuk architecture at Konya. Göbeklitepe in Şanlıurfa is another of my top recommendations. More generally, I would recommend that they see Cappadocia, Ephesus, and the major historic sites in Istanbul.

ONGOING SUPPORT
Hedef Alliance has been supporting the excavations at Çatalhöyük since 2011. Known for his interest in history and archaeology, the company’s board chairman, Ethem Sancak, had this to say; “As man becomes free and prosperous, he begins to wonder where he came from. Every person seeking the past will certainly find his way to Anatolia and Çatalhöyük, mankind’s oldest and most priceless heritage. We must know and preserve it and pass it on to future generations.”