Even though the Çatalhöyük is renowned by the archaeological remains, this excavation site is important for many reasons. Çatalhöyük is a center for prehistoric art, a strong holy site and also a place which inspires the contemporary art. While Çatalhöyük is an education, cultural heritage and tourism center, it is also rich with local traditions. For archaeologists, significance of Çatalhöyük stems from the fact that it bears the marks of daily life from 9000 years ago. Archeological excavates at Çatalhöyük dates back to the 4 year digging works of the British Archeologist James Mellaart, staring in 1961. Mellaart has unearthed hundreds of Neolithic buildings, many wall paintings, wall reliefs and figures during his excavations. Imitation of some of such remains is displayed at the visitor center. Information obtained during Mellaart’s discoveries has been spread widely and reached to present time, and increased national and international interest.
Çatalhöyük excavations were restarted in 1993 by a team of international archeologists. Three main targets were set for the current project, which is planned to continue for over 25 years: Continue the excavation works, conserve and preserve the remains and present the Çatalhöyük to public.
What is Çatalhöyük? How was the life here thousands of years ago? Everyone has a different answer for such questions. There may be diverse interpretations on the remains even among archeologists. In addition, as we acquire new information and the life around us changes, the story of the Çatalhöyük also changes.
Even though the lowland of Konya is a dry place today, there was a wetland surrounding Çatalhöyük thousands of years ago. Food grains such as wheat, barley and lentil were important in addition to animals such as sheep and goat. Croplands were about 12 km away. This area had provided various natural resources such as water, adobe, reeds to be used for making wicker and covering roofs, wild plants, water fowls and their eggs. First settlement began 9400 years ago and lasted for one thousand year covering 376 generations. During this period of time, houses at the Çatalhöyük had become the focal point of life. People of that period used their homes much differently than we now do. Some 60 dead were uncovered under the floors of some of the houses. Condors mangling headless human corps were depicted in a well known fresco.
Çatalhöyük is also renowned by its art. Among the art objects are wall paintings, wall reliefs and figures. Due to erosion and destruction, it is undesirable to keep such art items at the excavation site. They are currently exhibited at the Ankara Anatolian Civilizations Museum.
Some accept the figures and wall paintings discovered at the Çatalhöyükte as an evidence of the matriarchal society focusing on the mother goddess. However, archeological evidence suggests that man and woman were treated equally. Both are known to have similar eating habits and life style, and are buried similarly. Following a settlement period of one thousand years, people moved to a small area on the west. The site had been used as cemetery later during Romans and Byzantium. Today, the site is not only an archeological resource but is a source of inspiration, sanctity and pride. Most importantly, it is an important site where we can learn about and share our rich cultural heritage.