Catal Huyuk

Catal Huyuk
   An important early agricultural town in southeastern Anatolia, located in an area that was once part of the northern reaches of the Fertile Crescent. It was in the Fertile Crescent, an arc-shaped region lying along the western and northern borders of ancient Mesopotamia, that agriculture first began. Eventually, people from the Fertile Crescent migrated to Mesopotamia, so many scholars contend that the first agriculturalists can, in a sense, be thought of as "Proto-Mesopotamians." Farming and herding animals such as sheep and goats provided more food for people who were used to sustaining themselves through hunting and gathering. Thus, after they settled down to work the land, the inhabitants of the Fertile Crescent felt secure enough to stay in one place permanently. Villages began to appear, and over time a few grew into towns of a thousand people or more. The larger villages and towns, which possessed more crops, animals, and other valuable items than the smaller ones, must have become tempting targets for bandits and local enemies. This is proven by the fact that, by the late ninth and early eighth millennia b.c., some of these settlements began to protect themselves with defensive walls of brick or stone.
   Catal Huyuk (chat-al-hoo-YUK) was one of the first and also the largest of these fortified towns. In fact, it covered an area of about 32 acres (13ha), making it the largest Neolithic, or New Stone Age, site in the Near East. (Experts define Neolithic cultures as those that practiced agriculture but still used stone, rather than metal, tools and weapons.) It appears that Catal Huyuk was established as early as 8000 b.c. But its period of greatest prosperity was in the seventh and sixth millennia b.c. By that era the inhabitants had built a sturdy complex of houses that were connected to one another for the sake of mutual security. As noted archaeologist Trevor Watkins puts it, the town's square, flat-roofed houses were built side by side like a pile of children's building blocks, pushed together. Access to each house was by means of a door at roof-level, from which a steep ladder led down into the living area. Circulation [movement] around the settlement was across the flat roofs. The edge of such a settlement would have presented a solid, blank wall to any intruder or attacker. Once the ladders . . . were drawn up, the settlement would have been impregnable. ("The Beginnings of Warfare," in John Hack-ett, Warfare in the Ancient World,p. 16)
   Although Catal Huyuk's defenses were designed mainly to keep out local bands of marauders, they foreshadowed the large-scale international warfare that characterized the area later. In the second millennium b.c., the region in which the town was located became part of the Hit-tite Empire, which fought with Assyria, Babylonia, and other Mesopotamian empires for dominance in the Near East.
   considerably less is known about the social and political organization at Catal Huyuk and other early Near Eastern agricultural sites than about their building methods. But some evidence does indicate that religion played an important role in the life of such communities. At Catal Huyuk, for example, the remains of small mud-brick shrines dating from about 6150 b.c. have been found. These shrines featured primitive altars used for worshipping bulls as well as an early form of a mother goddess. Her name is unknown. But it may be significant that the earliest major cultures to inhabit the Mesopotamian plains, including the Ubaidians and the Sumerians, worshipped a number of powerful female deities; this lends support to those scholars who argue that some of the people who lived in the Fertile Crescent in Neolithic times were the direct ancestors of the first Mesopotamians.
   The remains of Catal Huyuk were first discovered in the 1950s, and major excavations of the site took place between 1961 and 1965 under the direction of English archaeologist James Mellaart. Since 1993 an ongoing series of digs there have been carried out by an international team led by Ian Hodder of the University of cambridge. These teams uncovered evidence that the residents of Catal Huyuk grew peas, lentils, and grains. They also raised sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, and chickens. Dogs and cats, presumably already domesticated, also roamed the town in its heyday.

Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary. . 2015.

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