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South Area, Çatalhöyük

Located in the Konya Plain of central Anatolia, Çatalhöyük comprises two large artificial mounds (tells), whose occupation spans the Aceramic Neolithic to Early Chalcolithic, c. 7400 – 5500 cal BC.

The site is well known for its densely-packed mud-brick settlement and the fact that the community attained an unprecedented scale for a Neolithic site, with an estimated population of 3,000 – 8,500 at the height of its occupation (c. 6500 cal BC). It also has a rich symbolism, with wall-paintings, figurines and benches containing plastered skulls of wild bulls. The site was first excavated in the 1960’s, with current work beginning in the 1990’s, the Çatalhöyük Research Project being directed by Prof. Ian Hodder of Stanford University.

With no local supplies of stone or wood, trade and exchange was of major importance to the community, with excavations generating huge quantities of worked obsidian, despite the fact that the nearest sources lay some 200 km to the NE in southern Cappadocia.

At the MAX Lab our characterisation of the Çatalhöyük obsidian forms part of a long history of obsidian sourcing at the site. We are currently engaged in a number of projects at the site including (a) analyses of Aceramic Neolithic assemblages in relationship to material from the nearby antecedent site of Boncuklu in the context of Neolithisation processes in the Konya Plain, and (b) characterising the material from the uppermost strata of the East Mound in order to provide an insight to consumption practices from the later Early Ceramic Neolithic to the Early Chalcolithic – as represented by assemblages on the neighbouring West Mound. 

References for Çatalhöyük obsidian analyses

  • Carter, T., Dubernet, S., King, R., Le Bourdonnec, F.-X., Milić, M., Poupeau, G. and Shackley, M.S. (2008), ‘Eastern Anatolian obsidians at Çatalhöyük and the reconfiguration of regional interaction in the Early Ceramic Neolithic’, Antiquity 82(318): 900-909.
  • Carter, T., Poupeau, G., Bressy, C., Pearce, N.J.G. (2005), ‘From chemistry to consumption: towards a history of obsidian use at Çatalhöyük through a programme of inter-laboratory trace-elemental characterization’, in I. Hodder (ed.), Changing Materialities at Çatalhöyük: Reports from the 1995-1999 Seasons. McDonald Institute Monographs and BIAA, Cambridge: 285-305 & 535-57.
  • Carter, T., and Shackley, M.S. (2007), ‘Sourcing Obsidian from Neolithic Çatalhöyük (Turkey) Using Energy Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence’, Archaeometry, 49(3), 437-454.
  • Carter, T., Poupeau, G., Bressy, C. and Pearce, N.J.P. (2006), ‘A new programme of obsidian characterization at Çatalhöyük, Turkey’, Journal of Archaeological Science 33(7), 893-909.
  • Gale, N.H. (1981), ‘Mediterranean obsidian source characterisation by strontium isotope   analysis’, Archaeometry 23: 41-51.
  • Renfrew, C., Dixon, J.E. and Cann, J.R. (1966), ‘Obsidian and early culture contact in the Near East’, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 32: 30-72.
  • Wright, G.A. (1969), ‘Obsidian Analyses and Prehistoric Near Eastern Trade: 7500 to 3500 B.C.’, Anthropological Papers No. 37. Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan. Ann Arbor.