The archaeological site called Çatalhöyük, from the Turkish words çatal "fork" and höyük "tumulus", is a tell of a huge Neolithic and Chalcolithic proto-city settlement in southern Asia Minor. It existed from approximately 7500 BCE to 6400 BC and flourished around 7000 BCE. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2012.
The finds from Çatalhöyük, dating back to the 1st half of the 6th millennium BCE, are now on display in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.
So-called Mother Goddess Figurine
Çatalhöyük figurine (so-called Mother Goddess, terracotta, 5750 BCE). The female figurine, which has been associated with both agricultural and human fertility because of her huge breasts and wide hips, is depicted sitting between two leopards, suggesting a strong social persona. The round shape between her legs might represent the head of a nascent child or, on the other hand, the skull of a reputable forefather.
When the figurine was found, its head and hand rest on the right side were missing. The current head and the hand rest are modern replacements.
Let us quote Ian Hodder, the head of Çatalhöyük excavations and the author of the book "Çatalhöyük. The Leopard's Tale" : "When [James Mellaart] discovered opulent female imagery [...] he presumed that it represented the 'Mother Goddess'. The powerful naked woman sitting on a seat of felines, with her hands resting on their heads, seems to conjure up precisely the tamer of nature so well known from historical mythologies in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Egypt. [...] More recently, cultural anthropologists have withdrawn from making such sweeping generalizations, because human groups living today or in the recent past offer a diverse picture when it comes to the roles of the two sexes. Furthermore, anthropology provides no substantive evidence for true matriarchates. [...] Rather than talking simplistically about matriarchies and patriarchies, we should expect, according to the ethnographic evidence, a more complicated picture, which is just what we find at Çatalhöyük".
Figurines from Çatalhöyük, the 1st half of the 6th millennium BCE, now in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. These figurines depict mainly women; thus they were dubbed the goddesses, but this identification is uncertain. They were made from a variety of materials, including limestone, terracotta, alabaster, and marble.
Leopard reliefs from Çatalhöyük (painted plaster ornament, 6000 BCE). Leopards must have had a special place or a religious meaning in the lives of the people of Çatalhöyük. These plastered leopard reliefs once decorated the walls of a Çatalhöyük house. The number of coats of plaster and paint applied to the leopard heads suggest that the reliefs adorned Çatalhöyük residences for many years.
Scene with a Bull
A scene with a bull, from Çatalhöyük, painted plaster ornament, around 6000 BCE. Around a cloven-hoofed red bull with huge horns, a big tail and tongue shown lolling out, there is a group of highly active people with a leopard skin. The picture depicts mostly men as well as a pregnant woman. Donkeys and dogs are also shown. There is an object on the bull’s tail, which could be a drum. Some people are shown holding bows, sticks and axes.
Humans Surrounding a Deer
Human figures around a deer, painted plaster ornament, from Çatalhöyük, 6000 BCE. Around a large red deer are shown numerous male figures with beards who wear various types of garments made of black leather and leopard skin. Some of the figures are shown bent forward as if they were running. None of the figures have weapons. Some of the men are shown touching the deer’s nostril, tail, and horns. Below there is a dog and a female figure rendered with exaggerated lines.
Wild Animals Mural
Mural with the representation of wild animals. Mural painting from Çatalhöyük (Painted Plaster Ornament, 6000 BCE).
Mural Painting from Çatalhöyük (Painted Plaster Ornament, 6000 BCE). This mural painting is believed by some to depict Mount Hasan the volcanic hill rising behind the town of Çatalhöyük. James Mellaart, the first excavator of the site, believed it to be so. Alternatively, other scholars think it depicts a stylized leopard skin with geometric patterns. If the former interpretation is true, then it may be considered the world's first city plan.
Recently, the researchers from the USA, New Zealand, and Turkey have provided new evidence that supports the hypothesis suggesting that the mural excavated at the Neolithic Çatalhöyük is the oldest-known map.
Obsidian and Flint Weapons
Weapons found at Çatalhöyük comprise daggers, arrowheads, spears, mace heads, and axes, made of obsidian and flint. All were produced with great care. The dagger with the snake-shaped handle of bone and cutting blade made of flint is thought to have been a ritual implement.
Collection of ceramics made of terracotta and stone, and a spoon made of bone.