Konya Çatalhöyük Neolithic City: Anatolia's First Settlement

The most important feature of Çatalhöyük is that it is one of the oldest settlements in the world. Çatalhöyük (Çatalhüyük in some sources) is a historical settlement that has been proven to have been inhabited 9000 years ago.

Çatalhöyük has a value that has evolved from a village life to urbanization. Perhaps unprecedentedly, it is a place where 8000 people can live together.

Çatalhöyük history

It was first discovered by James Mellaart in 1958 and excavations continued until 1965. Afterwards, excavations were halted due to Mellaart’s notoriety.

In 1993, excavations continued under the presidency of Prof. Dr. Ian Hodder, in partnership with Turkey, Greece, England and the United States. After Hodder’s retirement, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Çiler Çilingirlioğlu took over the excavation presidency.

Konya Catalhoyuk Plani Haritasi
Konya Çatalhöyük Travel Plan Map

Included on the World Heritage List in 2012, Çatalhöyük actually has two mounds. The mounds are named Çatalhöyük (East) and Çatalhöyük (West), named after the resemblance of the two hills to forks.

The western mound is closed to visitors. In the East, you can visit two different mounds called East and South. A whole history lies beneath these mounds covering the Neolithic and Chalcolithic Ages.

Although some of them have been opened with the excavations carried out today, most of them are still under the ground. I am sure that 10-20 years from now, the view that will emerge will be much more spectacular. Even the results of the current excavations are enough to excite people.

Catalhoyuk Arkeolojik Alan Korumasi
Catalhoyuk Evleri Kalintilari

Let’s talk about the historical houses in Çatalhöyük. As the excavations revealed, the houses were built right next to other houses when needed, with no gaps in between.

There was no concept of street in the city. Although the walls of most houses were adjacent to each other, there was the logic of a courtyard and there were narrow passages leading to this courtyard.

The narrow passageways were used as garbage and toilet waste disposal areas. The houses built around the courtyards formed neighborhoods. And these neighborhoods formed the city.

But if the houses were adjacent to each other, how were these houses accessed? As you can imagine, transportation between these houses built with adobe, wood and reed was provided by roofs.

Very interestingly, those who wanted to enter the house used the doors on the roof of the house. From the roof, they would go down the stairs to the room of the house. The rooms of the houses are not big at all, everything is very modest.

Konya Catalhoyuk Modeli

The houses were all one-story and usually consisted of two rooms, one of which was used as a room and the other as a small storage area. Since the houses received light only from the ceiling, they were painted white to ensure that the rooms were the brightest.

Since the houses were not resistant to the elements, they were regularly maintained, painted and even demolished and rebuilt. As the rebuilt houses were built on the old land, the mounds we see today were formed over time.

Catalhoyuk Mezarlari Gomu Alanlari
Catalhoyuk Neolitik Kenti Gezi Notlari

The houses also make a decorative statement because the walls of the rooms were decorated with red paint, similar to the paintings that people painted on caves in the paleolithic age.

The paintings, which were mostly based on hunting, gave way to more decorative patterns in the following centuries, for example geometric patterns such as bird motifs.

In this case, we can also talk about art here. The artifacts include bowls depicting human faces and bull’s head figures called bukranium, which represent power.

Catalhoyuk Dekoratif Duvar Boyalari
Catalhoyuk Dekoratif Boga Resimleri

One of the murals depicts Mount Hasan, which erupted about 7000 years ago, with a view of the city from above. The eruption of the volcano was painted on the wall by the people of the time.

This painting, which is considered the world’s first map and the world’s first landscape painting, is now on display at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. Volcanic eruptions also had an extra effect on the people living here.

The materials they used, such as knives, were made of obsidian, which was formed by the hardening of volcano lava. They also produced materials that served as mirrors by polishing such dark colored stones.

One of the artifacts excavated from Çatalhöyük, also in the Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Ankara, is a figure of the earth god Kybele made of clay.

Since women symbolize fertility, fertility and fertility, the statue of the mother goddess Kybele is depicted overweight. The most important feature of this statue other than being Kybele is its completeness.

Since there is no museum where all the artifacts excavated from this region are exhibited, they were distributed to museums in the surrounding area. Anatolian Civilizations Museum and Konya Archaeology Museum are the two museums where the most artifacts from Çatalhöyük are exhibited.

Catalhoyuk Gezilecek Yerler
Catalhoyuk Kirmizi Duvar Resimleri

In the Neolithic city of Çatalhöyük, one of the world’s first known mass settlements, there is no separate area for the dead, in fact there is life with the dead.

And what does this mean? It means that the dead people are buried on the floor of their houses. When you visit Çatalhöyük, the hollow areas you will see on the floors of the houses are where the dead were buried.

The dead were placed in these small wells inside the house. As a result of the excavations, the world’s first piece of woven fabric was found wrapped around a baby in these tombs.

Catalhoyuk Mezar Gomuleri
A 2014 drawing by Kathryn Killiackey, an illustrator of Çatalhöyük, emphasizing the burial system at Çatalhöyük.

When you enter Çatalhöyük, the guard uncle tells you what to do and your route. Before visiting the mounds, I recommend you to learn basic history information such as the history and life of Çatalhöyük and the characteristics of the houses in the information house.

This place is also known as Çatalhöyük Museum. Inside you can see the artifacts unearthed here. During the tour, you will come across very educational and instructive panels.

Catalhoyuk Muzesi Cakmaktasi Kama Bicagi
A flint wedge found at Çatalhöyük
Catalhoyuk Muzesi Buluntulari
From left to right, wooden box, bone hook, perforated buckle and bone needle used for drilling

After leaving the information house, we examine the sample houses built to give you an idea of what Çatalhöyük houses were like and their living spaces. Storage areas and rooms where basic living activities are carried out are worth seeing.

What was life like before Çatalhöyük?

It is said that the ancestors of Çatalhöyük came down from Karadağ, 70 kilometers away from Çatalhöyük.

The Montenegrins, who lived in caves in Montenegro and tried to survive by hunting, made plans to descend for centuries and with the accumulation of centuries, they managed to descend to the present Çatalhöyük region. With their ability to build houses, they started to live here.

However, the presence of game in the mountains pushed them to domesticate animals. Small animals like sheep were domesticated and they benefited from their meat and milk. However, they still had to go out and hunt for large animals.

Since Çatalhöyük is a place that sheds light on the history of humanity, it is an ancient city that attracts the attention of archaeologists all over the world and much research is being done on it.

One of the studies conducted by the Old Dominion University in the USA was very pleasing to me. They made a 3D modeling and animation of the city and provided the opportunity to travel around the city.

With this simulation, curious issues such as how life was for the city, how hunting was done and the environment where this historical site is located were brought to reality with a simulation.

The bad thing is that there is no place in Turkey where we can see this kind of simulation. Çatalhöyük, one of the first settlements before the great civilizations of the world, can gain a different dimension for everyone with hands-on learning.

Wetlands are places where people like to settle. Throughout history, settlements have mostly been on the edges of these puddles, streams and rivers. The people of Çatalhöyük also preferred the water’s edge.

In order to build their houses, they used the clay source on the banks of the Çarşamba River to make clay bricks and built their houses with these mud and clay bricks.

The fact that they could grow their crops using the fertile alluvium carried by the river was another reason to move to this region. Archaeologists have also observed domestication in agriculture.

For example, wheat was domesticated and started to be used. This means that wheat can be sown and harvested. But barley was not yet available in the market at that time.

Catalhoyuk Guney Tepesi
Catalhoyuk Guney Kazi Alani

Human skulls have been found with fractures from being hit with hard objects.

Although it reveals some possible internal problems, it is said that no one died because of a war with others. By examining the skeletal bones, the cause of death can be understood.

Among the hundreds of skeletons found by archaeologists during the excavations, no one died because of war. No one was found to have died as a result of bone amputation or an arrow in the head or back.

There is no evidence of anyone being superior to anyone else. Everyone’s house was the same size, everyone’s storage space was the same size, everyone made the utensils and knives they would use in daily life and prepared the walls of the houses themselves.

This can be easily understood from the different mixtures on the walls of each house. Because if everyone had a job, the products would have been similar to each other.

Where is Çatalhöyük and how to get there?

Çatalhöyük is a historical sightseeing point located in Konya. Çatalhöyük can be reached with a 40km (50min) journey from the center of Konya. Çatalhöyük is also within the borders of Çumra district and 12km from the district center.

If you are coming to Çatalhöyük by car, there is a free parking lot at the entrance of Çatalhöyük Excavation Area. You can park your car here and the entrance is free of charge.

Address: Küçükköy Mah, Çatalhöyük Yolu, Çumra, Konya