After spending a few days in the Cappadocia area where we went through 2 underground cities and experienced the very interesting homes and sanctuaries carved out of volcanic tuff, it was time to leave that area and travel through the countryside to our next destination, Çatalhöyük. This area of Anatolia had been very wet and swampy after the melting at the end of the last ice age. This was the time of the hunter gatherers, as food and game was plentiful. Small settlements sprung up on the slightly higher areas. As time went on, the land continued to dry up, and layer upon layer of habitation built up in the same places so that hills were created. These were called höyüks, which means occupational mound, tumulus, or burial mound. We actually did visit what is purported to be the tumulus, or burial mound of King Midas a few days previously.
The höyüks were scattered about the countryside, and the vast majority of them have never been excavated. Their newest layers were at the top of the hill, and the archeologists had to dig down to the bottom to get to the oldest and original layers. We were also transitioning out of the volcanic geology and into the limestone geology. One site, Ashiklihöyük, was determined to be 10,000 years old, and obsidian shards from the production of arrow and spear points littered the ground. Obsidian is the product of volcanic eruptions. From this point on, most of the shards would be flint.
So that takes our journey to Çatalhöyük, purported to be the oldest city in the world. It was built around 2 hills of the Anatolian Plateau, and was occupied from 7500 BC to 5700 BC. The dwellings were cube shaped affairs, one next to the other, with access only through the roofs. The site consisted of a small museum, several reconstructed dwellings
with fine quality recreations of the original artwork inside on the walls,
and 2 additional buildings that covered the excavation sites for their protection.
The first drawing depicts a hunting scene with a deer, and the second is a scene with an aurochs, which is a primitive precursor to today's cattle. If you notice in the third scene, all of the men are wearing leopard skins. In this particular culture, the leopard was the sacred animal, the psycho-pomp, that escorted the deceased to the world beyond.
One excavation here is of the older mound, and is very deep. When that village was abandoned, the second one was built nearby, and the ruins are much shallower because it was not occupied as long. The practice was to collapse and compact the upper half of a room of the dwelling into the bottom half, and rebuild on top of that. Thus, the occupational mound got taller over time. Here are some photos looking down into the older and deeper ruin.