Catalhoyuk is one of the most ancient of all settlements ever found. After a few false starts, it’s in the process of being excavated – but that excavation is taking a very, very long time.
In the meantime, archaeologists are fascinated by the sheer wealth of information that the settlement is yielding. To call it a mere settlement is a little misleading, and it’s actually a massive, complex city that was once home to about 10,000 people at any given time and sprawled over about 24 acres. Currently, it’s one of the earliest Neolithic civilizations ever found, and it’s the first that shows a definite departure from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a society based on agriculture.
It’s estimated that the society was active for around 1,400 years, and came to an end 7,500 years ago. (For some perspective, that’s about 5,000 years before the Egyptians were just starting to think about building the pyramids.)
Archaeologists working on the dig have discovered some truly amazing things. The society didn’t seem to have much in the way of familial ties, oddly. Houses didn’t have doors like we typically expect to see, instead, they were built into the ground and accessed by ladders that went through the roof. And under the floors…. that was a handy place to bury the dead. Each of the city’s 10,000 homes were found to have 30 or so bodies buried beneath them, and that’s also how they’ve been able to determine that family ties weren’t really a big deal. Only a handful of the bodies have been shown to have been related by blood, and instead of biological ties, it’s thought that the more important thing was an organizational system based on tools and trade.
What remains elusive is what happened to the civilization after hundreds of years and hundreds of successful, thriving generations. The team currently excavating the ruins of the city suspects that it might have had something to do with a cold snap that happened around the same time the city was abandoned, but it hasn’t been confirmed that Turkey was vastly impacted by the weather change. It’s also been surmised that their reliance on agriculture has something to do with the demise of the city, but proof has been elusive.
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