User:Okapi/Remixing Çatalhöyük: Life Histories of People, Places & Things

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Remixing Çatalhöyük: Life Histories of People, Places & Things

How are the lives of people intertwined with the lives of the houses in which they live?

What can clues left within a house tell us about its former occupants?

How do archaeologists construct the lives of people, places, and things from what remains?

Clues from the past that survive into the present, such as artifacts, architectural structures, and burials, provide windows into the past. The Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey is just such a window. By studying the landscape that surrounded Çatalhöyük, the houses that made Çatalhöyük, the objects and burials we find in the houses, and even the middens—the areas where people discarded the refuse of their day-to-day activities—archaeologists are able to re-create the life histories of people, places, and things.

Çatalhöyük was a Neolithic settlement that was inhabited continuously for more than 1,200 years, over 9,000 years ago. The Neolithic was a time when people began to cultivate plants and domesticate animals. In this part of the world, people were “settling down,” living less nomadic, more sedentary, lives. They were creating more permanent settlements—settlements that were occupied for longer than one season. These changes had significant effects on how people lived.

At Çatalhöyük, people lived side-by-side with their ancestors. When people died, they were buried in pits dug into the floors of their homes. After the burial, the pit was filled with the soil dug out, which might contain both clean earth and organic-rich earth from older middens below floor-level. The filled pit was then covered with a plaster lid that looked just like the floor plaster, the whole floor was renewed, and life continued. Although most burials came from inside the houses, one burial—an old, crippled man—was found in a midden from a different part of Çatalhöyük. Had he lost his family, or was he a traveler?