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This article uses spatial autocorrelation analysis in order to explore the social organisation of crop and herd management at the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in south-central Turkey. Evidence for spatial clustering across the settlement is sought at different scales (house, neighbourhood, radial wedge, sector, sub-mound) in the different periods of occupation from Early to Late. The data used are sheep carbon and nitrogen isotopes, densities of weed species in archaeobotanical assemblages and the densities of weed species in sheep dung. The results are interpreted in relation to existing work both on crop and herd management and consumption at Çatalhöyük and on the social organisation of the settlement. Complex nested and cross-cutting social groupings shared many aspects of production and consumption activities across the site resulting in limited spatial clustering of values. The impacts of taphonomic factors on these results are considered. Especially by the Late period of occupation at Çatalhöyük, there is some evidence of distinct labour and consumption organisation linked to houses and house groupings.
It is difficult to make general comments about processes of Neolithization and cultural change in Europe and the Middle East given the increasingly strong evidence for regional diversity, even at two ends of one valley (e.g. the Struma valley as discussed by Lichardus-Itten). Many of the authors in this volume argue that the spread of the Neolithic from the Middle East through Anatolia and into the Balkans and Europe was a complex and locally diverse process involving migration, exchange, diffusion and autochthonous development. Such arguments confound commentaries that seek overall themes and consistencies (as argued by Bleda Düring). “The Neolithic” has become such an enormously long period and there is so much going on at different times, at different rates and in different ways locally that any attempt to build a grand narrative seems doomed. At the level of grand narrative, evolutionary and migrationist views have returned to dominate the discourse (as claimed by Schier), but for many archaeologists (as opposed to biologists or linguists) the details of the stops and starts in the spread of various aspects of the Neolithic require contextual understanding (e.g. regarding Arbuckle and Makarewicz’ 2009 discussion of the delayed adoption of domestic cattle in central Anatolia).
This article uses results from the recent excavations at Çatalhöyük in Turkey to propose that continuous tensions between egalitarian and hierarchical impulses were dealt with in two principal ways during the Neolithic of the Middle East. A tendency towards overall balance and community (termed molar) is seen as in tension with more particulate and molecular tendencies, with both being brought into play in order to combat inequalities. It is also suggested that tendencies towards more molecular systems increased over time, at different rates and in different ways in different places, partly as a response to constraints associated with more molar articulations. Finally, it is proposed that a shift to molecular autonomy was associated with agricultural intensification. Staying egalitarian can be seen as an active process that contributed to the Neolithic transformations.
Spatial continuity of the house is often seen as crucial in providing temporal depth for the Neolithic societies of southwest Asia. While an emphasis on the creation of such continuities is evinced at densely agglomerated sites, other sites are characterised by dispersal and frequent relocation of habitation. Çatalhöyük (Turkey) and Tell Sabi Abyad (Syria) appear to be at either end of this spectrum. However, recently found evidence and reinterpretation of older evidence call into question the apparently stark distinction between the two sites. The purpose of this paper is to compare aspects of the archaeological evidence from Tell Sabi Abyad and Çatalhöyük, and in doing so to understand the different ways in which site formation and social continuity were achieved. In particular, the presence of breaks in spatial continuities – an often overlooked aspect of site formation – and its implications are discussed. It appears that at these two sites both continuity and breaks gave form and meaning to the settlements and to the societies that inhabited them. We argue that social continuities and anchors to the past can be constructed in many variable ways, and that direct spatial continuity of the house is but one.
Over recent years, a number of scholars have argued that the human mind underwent a cognitive revolution in the Neolithic. This book seeks to test these claims at the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey and in other Neolithic contexts in the Middle East. The volume brings together cognitive scientists who have developed theoretical frameworks for the study of cognitive change, archaeologists who have conducted research into cognitive change in the Neolithic of the Middle East, and the excavators of the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük, who have over recent years been exploring changes in consciousness, creativity, and self in the context of the rich data from the site.
One of the paradoxes of Çatalhöyük is that every time we excavate a new house we know approximately what we will find: we know roughly where the hearth and oven will be, where the burials will be, where the ladder entry will be, how much plaster will be on the main room and side-room walls, where we will find obsidian caches, and so on. And as we empty out the fill and come down onto the floors we always do find more or less what we are expecting. The rules are always followed to some degree: the northern floors are clean and white, the southern mixed with residues of cooking and production, whole pots are never found in burials, neither are whole animals. And yet, at the same time, every house is different; we are always surprised by the specifics of how things are arranged. A human body is found sprawled on a house floor, with its head removed, a sheep is found in a burial (although not quite because separated from the human body by a mat), in some cases we find the oven moved to the north part of the main room. The paradox of Çatalhöyük is that it stands out from many other sites because of the strict rule-bound repetition of houses tightly packed together in apparent conformity and order, while at the same time the site stands out as one of the great early flowerings of human creativity.
Over recent years, a number of scholars have argued that the human mind underwent a cognitive revolution in the Neolithic. This volume seeks to test these claims at the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey and in other Neolithic contexts in the Middle East. It brings together cognitive scientists who have developed theoretical frameworks for the study of cognitive change, archaeologists who have conducted research into cognitive change in the Neolithic of the Middle East, and the excavators of the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük who have over recent years been exploring changes in consciousness, creativity and self in the context of the rich data from the site. Collectively, the authors argue that when detailed data are examined, theoretical evolutionary expectations are not found for these three characteristics. The Neolithic was a time of long, slow and diverse change in which there is little evidence for an internal cognitive revolution.