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 Location: South East of Konya, Turkey.  Grid Reference: 37.66˚ N, 32.82˚ E

 

      Çatal Höyük: (The 'Forked Mound').

Çatal Höyük is now considered to be one of the earliest known 'cities' in the world.

The site was first identified in 1958 by J. Mellart, and excavations revealed a complex of interconnected 'mud-brick and plaster dwellings' (3), dating from 6,500 BC which covered 32 acres in the sixth millennium BC (1).

The city is 8,000 - 10, 000 years old. (4)

(Map of site - How to get there)

 

 

   Çatal Höyük: (Çatal Hüyük, 'The Forked mound')

Catal Huyuk, Turkey, Earth mother. (Ancient-wisdom.co.uk)

A series of 'extraordinary' shrines were identified which showed clear evidence of bull veneration, a vulture cult, and signs of worship of the prehistoric mother goddess (see right).

Collins says of it: 'The magnificence of its art, tools, weapon and skilfully fashioned jewellery showed a level of technology and sophistication which has forced archaeologists to review completely their understanding of the development of civilisation' (2)

The use of two feline figures in the image (right), is a common feature in many later middle-eastern and European sculpture, in which they invariably represent 'guardians' at places of power, such as on either side of  thrones, or at important entrances and gateways such as at Boghazkoy and Alaja Huyuk, (see photo's below), also both in Turkey. In early Egyptian myth the earth god Aker, (who was the divine god of the eastern and western  horizons or the entrance and exit to the underworld), was represented in hieroglyphs as two lions sitting back to back.

It is perhaps relevant that two lions are also used in portrayals of the legendary ante-deluvian Sumerian hero/king, Gilgamesh, creating a direct link between Pre-Sumerian, Sumerian and Post-Sumerian (Mesopotamian) cultural themes. The significance of the discovery of an such an early mother-earth figure, flanked by felines, combines to enforce the idea of an prehistoric matriarchal society, of which influences may also be seen in Malta, where the mother-earth figure is given similar such reverence at approximately the same time in history.

 

Boghazkoy, Turkey  Alaja Huyuk, Turkey

(left: Boghazkoy and right: Alaja Hüyük) Note: The lions are replaced by sphinx's at Alaja Hüyük.

(Rows of sphinx's were also used to line the entrances to many sacred Egyptian temples).

In relation to the seated woman above, is this figure of a kneeling man and a leopard. The jury's still out over its meaning.

 

 

   Other Artefacts:

Other artefacts include a polished obsidian mirror, drilled stone beads (including obsidian), and decorated skulls. It appears that metallurgy was also practiced here at an early time, as the existence of smelted copper, lead, and metals, are attested at Çhatal Hüyük since level IX, c 6,400 BC. (2) Mellaart said:

'To our great surprise we found pottery in every building-level right down to level XIII, so that no pre-pottery phases have yet been reached. This makes the Çatal Hüyük pottery the earliest in the near east, as level XII must probably be dated to about  6,800 BC (+/- 100 years)'. (3)

 

Clay stamp-seals: James Mellaart said of the baked clay seals:

'Whereas the earliest are round and small in size (level VI), the later examples are large and show a variety of shapes, including that of a human hand. They are decorated with fine geometric ornament in a pseudo-meander style. Spirals also occur. None of the designs are repeated and not more than a single seal is ever found in a house'. (3)

 

 

Also of interest were the numerous clay balls found at the site. Their meaning is conjectural.

Ground stone tools found at Çatal höyük include axe heads, mace heads, querns for grinding grain, ornaments such as pendants, and mirrors of obsidian. These artefacts were made by pecking - slowly crushing away the surface by tapping with another rock, then grinding - wearing away the surface by abrading it with or against another rock, and then sometimes finishing by polishing - grinding using fine sand or silt and water.

 

 

The mural paintings at Çatal höyük are the oldest in the world on human built structures. The most spectacular murals found so far at Çatal höyük are those from building F.V.1, which portray a variety of animals and human figures. These murals are on all four inside walls of the building but probably represent more than one composition or scene. The people seem to be interacting with the animals, pulling tongues, pulling tails, jumping on their backs. The animals shown have been identified as bulls, horses, stag deer, bear and wild boar, all of which are large and powerful and potentially dangerous to humans. Some of the acts shown appear to be things a person could never actually do with these animals.

 

 

This picture is believed by many to be a map of Çatal Höyük, dated at 6,200 BC.

(Click here for original image of map)

(More about Prehistoric Cartography)

 

These five bone rings (x1 - x5), had been cut from a single bone and were found on the left hand of juvenile skeleton 2119, burial 200...in the east-central platform of Building 1. Although they appear quite large, the hole is small, suitable only for a fairly small hand, and there is little doubt from the wear evidence that they were worn in life by juvenile 2119, who was buried with everyday rings on the left hand.

Also made from bone...this belt buckle...

 

There were 254 known figurines and fragments recorded from Mellaart's excavations. (5)

The clay figurine (left) dates from the 6th millennium BC.

"This figurine depicts a seated figure and was hailed as a typical Catal hoyuk 'Mother Goddess'. In fact it is unusual in a number of ways... it's one of the smallest ever found at the site... although this figure has a bulging stomach, it has no breasts... this figure has a hole in the top of the body for the attachment of a head, which is missing. The figurine is complete and undamaged."

Some of the anthropomorphic figurines have removable heads, in similarity to the headless figures in the wall paintings. (5) It is worth noting in relation to this that the bodies of the dead inhabitants of Çatal höyük were often decapitated. Several of the female-goddess figurines on Malta also show this same design feature.

 

Vulture worship - In many of the shrines the walls were adorned with enormous skeletal representations of vultures.  Human breasts were found moulded on the walls from plaster, behind which were found actual vulture skulls with their beaks protruding to form the nipples. The emulation of the vultures can be interpreted in terms of an association with the death process. The elaborate decoration of the shrines suggests the presence of a 'priesthood', and presumably, some concept of an afterlife.

Note: The Vulture is often portrayed in Egyptian hieroglyphs as carrying the 'Ba' or 'soul', (left), perhaps justifying Collins theory of an association between the prehistoric people of the Anatolian highlands and the 'Elder-Gods', spoken of in Egyptian mythology (2).

Evidence from recent (1999) examination of human remains at the site indicate that excarnation (removal of flesh after death as a result of vultures etc). was not carried out as once thought. (5)

 

Bull Worship - The discovery of evidence of 'Bull veneration' at this early time in prehistory is not uncommon. The same theme is repeated in art from prehistoric Crete, France, England and Egypt (amongst others), and the veneration of bulls is still practiced in countries such as India and Spain. Cattle clearly played an important role in prehistoric affairs and cattle bones have been found at many European megalithic structures. The palace of Knossos on Crete, had similar horns and murals as those found at Çatal Hüyük, making it tempting to suggest a connection, as is the discovery of cattle-veneration in Egypt, which was predictably carried to the extreme; For example, at the Saqqara complex where the bull frieze (below, left) came from, an early dynastic tomb was discovered containing 500 mummified cattle, and one of the most important gods of the Egyptian patheon was the (pre-dynastic) cow-Goddess Hathor ('Hat'-'Hor' - 'House of Horus'), who symbolised fertility, motherhood, and was the sky goddess, who's four legs were envisioned straddling the earth marking the cardinal points.

 

 Saqqara bul worship. Egypt

Egyptian (saqqara - left) and Anatolian bull worship (centre and right).

Velikovsky suggested that the origin of prehistoric bull-veneration was related to the arrival of the planet Venus, which he believed was witnessed, and from whence came the apparent universal calendar change from 360 days to 365 days. The discovery of such obvious evidence of cattle-worship from before the time he predicted, is not in favour with this theory. Such an early date does tie in nicely with another theory however, as it accords nicely with the motions of the 'Platonic year'. 

There have been several serious suggestions that the understanding of prehistoric astronomy extended to the recognition of the 'precession of the equinoxes', which has a cycle lasting approximately 25,960 years, and is measured by the gradual rotation of the zodiacal constellations on the horizon at the equinoxes). The product of such observations was the division of the sky into twelve equal parts, each occupied by a constellation, and each being visible at the equinoxes for a period of approximately 2,160 years. Although Plato's name is attached to this theory, it is known from Sir N. Lockyer's research at temples such as Denderra in Egypt, that the procession of the equinoxes was a recorded phenomena from long before the Greeks. Just how far back is a question yet to be answered, although it is tempting to associate the prehistoric veneration of cattle with the 'age of Taurus', which occurred at the same time as the constellation of Taurus was the 'rising' constellation at the equinoxes. It has also been suggested in relation to this, that the Sphinx was a remnant of the 'age of Leo', and that Christianity is symbolic of the 'age of Pisces'.

It is perhaps worth noting, in relation to this theme, the discovery of a marble figurine of a kneeling/sitting 'twin-goddess', as well as a scene on the wall of a shrine showing twin goddesses with two heads, two bodies but a single pair of legs. (3) 

 

Gallery of Images: Çatal Höyük,

Female Figurine: Seated and Holding her own Breasts.

 

Two-dimensional animal figurine: Perhaps representing the skin of a dead bear

 

 

(Other Prehistoric Turkish sites)

 

References:

1). M. Wood. In Search of Ancient Civilisations. 1992. BBC Books.
2). A. Collins. Gods of Eden. 1998. Headline book Publ.
3). The Great Archaeologists. (Ed by Edward Bacon). 1976. Secker & Warburg. From The Illustrated London News. 1964.
4). http://www.smm.org/catal/
5). L. Goodison, C. Morris. Ancient Goddesses. 1998. British Museum Press.
 

 

 
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