NSF/SBE-RCUK: Radiocarbon Dating and Chronological Modelling of Neolithic Çatalhöyük East

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: Biological and Environmental Sciences

Abstract

Çatalhöyük is a UNESCO World Heritage site in central Turkey that receives more than 25,000 visitors a year (with 86,000 visitors to the website (http://www.catalhoyuk.com)). It was first excavated in the 1960s, and new excavations have continued since 1993. The site has gained renown for its size (13 ha), its well-preserved mud-brick architecture, and for its dramatic wall paintings and relief sculpture. The c.19m of Neolithic deposits through the East Mound are seminal for our understanding of key developments in Neolithic life from the domestication of cattle and the adoption of a settled way of living, to the invention of pottery and the growth of long-distance trade.

This project will provide precise dating for the Neolithic occupation at Çatalhöyük East, by using Bayesian statistical modelling to combine a series of 650 radiocarbon dates with the detailed stratigraphic record of the modern excavations and, following a rigorous reassessment of the extant archive, with information from key parts of the 1960s sequence. There are two components to this programme: firstly to provide precise dating for a complete section through the East Mound, and secondly to extend the sequence away from this section so that contemporary houses and spaces can be identified and compared.

With precise calendar dating it will be possible to explore the following research questions:

A. The Pace of Change
How long did it take for new innovations - pottery, milking, domestication of cattle, obsidian blade technology etc - to catch on? Do some changes take longer than others? Does change come as a constant, imperceptible stream or as a series of abrupt, punctuated revolutions? Is there any evidence of abrupt change during the '8.2k climatic event'?

B. The Organisation of Society
What did the settlement look like at any one moment in time? How was it organised? What was the nature of contemporary groupings of middens and houses? Did the more elaborate houses adopt innovations (in lithic or ceramic technologies and styles) more quickly/slowly than less elaborate houses?

C. Ritual and Religion
How was ritual organised? Did the community have a strong sense of 'history'? At what scale was memory constructed? How long did human skulls circulate before they were re-buried? Were cattle skulls and horns re-cycled over long periods of time? Was there a religious and social revolution half way through the sequence?
In general terms, a detailed chronology will allow for the first time a historical narrative to be constructed for a prehistoric tell. Interpreting this in deep prehistory will be a challenge, particularly as only broad comparisons will be possible between our generational sequence and regional comparanda which are, at best, dated to within several centuries. Çatalhöyük will be a microscope through which we can examine the origins and development of settled societies. The broader agenda we will consider includes the development and spread of early farming, the emergence of religion, and the development of the conditions that allowed the growth of urbanism.

This project is undertaken under the auspices of the Çatalhöyük Research Project, which is directed by Ian Hodder, with permission from the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. It will be published as a monograph by the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles. The project also has long-standing engagements with local communities, the wider public generally, the media, museums, commercial companies (sponsors), local and regional governments, and international organizations such as UNESCO. Our overall hopes and expectations are that more finely dated ancient sites will allow understandings of historical processes at a level of detail hitherto only available in recent time periods, with a concomitant positive impact on the levels of attainable generality.

Planned Impact

The proposed research will allow more detailed dating of ancient sites, and so will allow more detailed exploration of 'big questions' such as how the earliest settled communities were organized, what factors lead to increased rates of innovation, and how did humans in the first settled communities respond to climate change? The answers to such questions will have wide impact outside academia because Çatalhöyük is a well-known heritage site on the UNESCO World Heritage list, with 25,000 visitors a year to the site and 86,000 visitors to the website (http://www.catalhoyuk.com). The project has worked with a diversity of stakeholder groups since 1993, engaging them in the research process. Through these various engagements, the dating project aims to involve diverse communities in the scientific understanding of the origins of settled life and in the unique cultural achievements expressed at Çatalhöyük.

The results of the project will be disseminated to wider publics in a number of ways. As well as the monograph publication, the results will be incorporated into a popular book written by Ian Hodder to be submitted to Cambridge University Press. Annual Reports will be published in 'Heritage Turkey' and the project's annual Newsletter, which is circulated to commercial sponsors and members of the Friends of Çatalhöyük. There are many Çatalhöyük videos on YouTube and the project is on social networking sites. It is also often on television. The results from the new project will be incorporated into such programs.

The Çatalhöyük research database has a publically accessible web interface. The aim at the end of the project is to make the whole database available as a 'Living Archive' that integrates excavation data, artefact data, an image database including video and 3D, as well as diaries, published texts, and the results of the dating project. The entire repository will be exposed using Open Linked Data and stored as a long-term archive at the Archaeological Data Service York, UK.

A wide range of audiences make up the 25,000 annual visitors to the site, half are Turkish and half foreign, and they come from all walks of life. This is the best opportunity to have global impact at multiple levels. Many buy the site guide book that discusses current work and will incorporate the results of the new project. The results will also be included in the on-site panels and in the Visitor Centre, and will impact on new displays in Konya Museum and changes to the important exhibit about Çatalhöyük in the national museum in Ankara (which also sells a version of the site guide book).

Local communities and schools are engaged in the work at Çatalhöyük through a number of mechanisms. The Çatalhöyük Research Project runs an educational program that involves 600 children annually, and has a series of other initiatives such as village feasts and performances at the site, comics distributed to local villages, and public lectures. These activities will all include the results of the dating project.

The Çatalhöyük Research Project has sponsorship support from a number of major international and Turkish companies. Each year their staff visit the site, mount exhibits about our work in their corporate offices, and include descriptions of the site in their annual reports. Çatalhöyük is part of corporate responsibility, and the results of the new dating program will have an impact in these venues.

Local, regional, and national Governments are closely involved in Çatalhöyük, to ensure compliance with both Turkish laws, regulations, and guidelines and UNESCO stipulations. The new dating research will be carried out within these various regulatory frameworks and the results will be disseminated to the various institutions involved. UNESCO continually monitor work at the site and the Çatalhöyük Research Project reports back to the World Heritage Committee. The results of the proposed project will be incorporated into these reports.
 
Description The new chronologies for Çatalhöyük provided this project are key to involving diverse communities in the scientific understanding of the origins of settled life and in the unique cultural achievements expressed at the site. This is reflected in the 25,000 visitors a year to the site itself, and in recent years 86,000 annual visitors to the website (http://www.catalhoyuk.com). It also focuses in special events, such as the 'The curious case of Çatalhöyük' exhibition (Istanbul, 21.06.2017-18.02.2018; https://anamed.ku.edu.tr/en/curious-case-catalhoyuk; Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London, Russell Square, 12.10.2018-15.12.2018).
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Economic

 
Description Radiocarbon Dating and Chronological Modelling of Neolithic Çatalhöyük East 
Organisation Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan
Country Poland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This is a joint project, I and my team at Stirling University, run the scientific and statistical elements.
Collaborator Contribution This is a joint project, the team at Poznan University run the archaeological excavation and analysis
Impact Baranski, M.Z., Bayliss, A., García-Suárez, A., Love, S., Nowak, A., Pawlowska, K., Regulska, K., Tibbetts, B., Tsoraki, C., Doyle, S., Gamble, M., Guerre, L., Killackey, K., Quinlan, J., Saj, M., Sobott, R., Southon, J., Stroud, E., Tarkan, D., Taylor, R.E., and Wolfhagen, J. in press: 'Gdansk (GDN) Area Excavations and Building Archaeology Research' in I. Hodder (ed),Çatalhöyük excavations: the 2009-2017 seasons . Los Angeles, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press / London, British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Radiocarbon Dating and Chronological Modelling of Neolithic Çatalhöyük East 
Organisation Stanford University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This is a joint project, the scientific and statistical side of the work is run by myself and my collaborators at the University of Stirling
Collaborator Contribution This is a joint project, the archaeological side of the work is run by my collaborators at Stanford University
Impact Bayliss, A., Chivall, D, Farid, S, Goslar, T, and Tung, B, in press Punctuated Histories for the North Area of Çatalhöyük East, in I. Hodder (ed), Çatalhöyük excavations: the 2009-2017 seasons. Los Angeles, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press / London, British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Radiocarbon Dating and Chronological Modelling of Neolithic Çatalhöyük East 
Organisation University of Gdansk
Country Poland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This is a joint project, I and my team at Stirling University, run the scientific and statistical elements.
Collaborator Contribution This is a joint project, the team at Poznan University run the archaeological excavation and analysis
Impact Baranski, M.Z., Bayliss, A., García-Suárez, A., Love, S., Nowak, A., Pawlowska, K., Regulska, K., Tibbetts, B., Tsoraki, C., Doyle, S., Gamble, M., Guerre, L., Killackey, K., Quinlan, J., Saj, M., Sobott, R., Southon, J., Stroud, E., Tarkan, D., Taylor, R.E., and Wolfhagen, J. in press: 'Gdansk (GDN) Area Excavations and Building Archaeology Research' in I. Hodder (ed),Çatalhöyük excavations: the 2009-2017 seasons . Los Angeles, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press / London, British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara.
Start Year 2016