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The Mystery Ruins Of Catalhoyuk

By James Donahue

First excavated in Turkey by James Mellaard in 1958, the ancient city of Catalhoyuk has had archaeologists scratching their heads. The city, estimated to have been constructed by an advanced culture in what was known as Mesopotamia, was occupied by thousands of people in or around 7,500 BC.

But Catalhoyuk doesn’t look like the ruins of other Mesopotamian settlements. There are no central shops or "government" type buildings, and all of the homes are built like honeycombs, with the mud-brick outer walls touching each other and the doors located on the flat roofs. The people had to climb down ladders to get into their houses, and walk over the rooftops of the town to get from place to place. There were no streets winding through the city.

The ceiling openings also served as chimneys and ventilation for the people living below.

The other odd thing about the people of Catalhoyuk was that they buried their dead in the floors of the houses.

One report said the design of the homes, with entrance doors on the roofs, is "unlike anything we know today," and pointed out that this early "advanced" civilization, although located in the heart of the Mesopotamian empire, was unique to that area as well.

Obviously the writer of this report was unfamiliar with the unique structures still being used at Shongopovi, the community atop of the Second Mesa on the Hopi Reservation in northern Arizona. When my late wife and I visited there, and also the other towns like Polacca on the First Mesa and Hotevilla on the Third Mesa, we found this very same architecture still in use. The buildings were made of clay brick, the walls were attached in a honeycomb arrangement, and the main buildings, or town meeting rooms, could only be accessed through doors on the flat roof.

Our guide, a two-horned priest, explained that the Hopi legend told how the people emerged in the ancient past from a second world by climbing up into the current world. The door on the roof was symbolic of this great historical event, and a constant reminder of the gift of the creator. The community elders met in this special room to decide affairs of the tribe.

Could there have been a connection between the Hopi people with the people of Catalhoyuk in the distant past? And what could that historical event have been that brought such strange memories? We noticed that the nearby Navajo tribe held a similar legend, although their buildings did not resemble either the Hopi or Catalhoyuk.

Catalhoyuk, which may have once been home to as many as 8,000 people in its prime, is located near the twin-coned volcano Mount Hasan, on an elevated portion of the vast Konya Plain, southeast of the City of Konya. A channel of the Carsamba river once flowed nearby, making the area favorable for agriculture. It is believed the city was abandoned before the Bronze Age, making it among the oldest known advanced civilizations in the world.

The homes in Carsamba had plaster interior walls. The plaster was worked to a smooth finish. The ladders leading up to the doors were squared-off timber or sometimes step stairs. The ladders and cooking hearths or ovens were usually located on the south wall of the room. Sometimes there were extra rooms with low doorways leading to them.

There was evidence that houses were often built on top of the rubble of older homes, which helped account for the fact that the ruins of the city were resting on top of a mound. The mound was composed of the rubble from former homes that had been partly demolished and then replaced. Careful study by archaeologists found about 18 levels of settlement at the site.

There is evidence that Catalhoyuk may have been a matriarical society, with the women holding the dominating role. Female figurines, carved and molded from marble, blue and brown limestone and even alabaster are found everywhere in the ruins. Many represent what appears to be a female deity. Male figurines are also found at the site, thus leading to disagreement among researchers as to whether the people had a matriarchy or patriarchy, or perhaps there was an equality among the sexes.