Inhabiting Çatalhöyük: Reports from the 1995-99 Seasons, by members of the Çatalhöyük teams, ed. Ian Hodder
This volume is a much anticipated first monographic publication from the renewed excavations at Çatalhöyük, dealing with material from the 1995-1999 seasons. In some ways, this volume is difficult to review at this time. Although it is volume 4 in the publications of the Çatalhöyük Research Project, it is actually only the third to appear and in some ways we must wait until volumes 3, 5 and 6 are available to fully understand the current publication. It is perhaps particularly difficult without volume 3 which will deal with the excavation and interpretation of the contexts and buildings excavated during 1995-99 we now know a great deal about what material was recovered but rather less about where it was recovered from. Volume 5 will deal primarily with artefactual studies and volume 6 will be synthetic.
This is a book with an enormous amount of substance and depth. Not only are there 25 chapters, each one packed with data and detailed interpretation, but there is also supplementary CD in a pocket at the back. No fewer than 42 authors have contributed. Coordinating and publishing this array of research is a major achievement in itself.
The volume is described as dealing with various aspects of inhabiting Çatalhöyük. This distinguishes it from volume 3 which will deal with contexts and buildings, and volume 5 which will deal with the materiality of life in effect the artefacts from the site. Although perhaps a little arbitrary, this division works as well as any and this volume is reasonably cohesive.
The book is divided into three parts. Part A deals with environmental remains, part B focuses on human remains, and part C concentrates on sediments. Again there are a few chapters that sit slightly awkwardly within their sections but the division is generally cohesive.
Rather than repeating the same thing for all chapters, it is worth stated that in all of them the analysis is thorough, often uses advanced approaches and techniques, and produces both critical new data and thought provoking interpretations. Not all of the studies are in the same depth but all will become standard references within Near Eastern archaeology and many beyond.
Part A consists of chapters 2 to 10 and chapter 23 (on the CD). The bulk of it is made up of three chapters. Chapter 2 on the mammal remains (Nerissa Russell and Louise Martin), chapter 8 on the macrobotanical remains (Andrew Fairbairn, Julie Near and Daniéle Martinoli) and chapter 10 on the wood charcoal (Eleni Asouti) which between them occupy almost 40% of the whole volume, and chapter 2 has substantial additional material on the CD. Shorter chapters cover bird bones (Nerissa Russell and Kevin McGowan), microfauna (Emma Jenkins), eggshell (Jane Sidell and Claire Scudder), shells (David Reese) and phytoliths (Arlene Rosen). Not all are at equal levels of depth (the microfauna and eggshells are preliminary and pilot studies respectively) and the shells slightly confusingly include material from Mellaarts excavations in the 1960s. On the CD, chapter 23 discusses discard and disposal practices (Lisa Yeomans).
Part B contains chapters 11-16 and chapters 24 and 25 on the CD. Again this is dominated by two closely linked chapters by Theya Molleson, Peter Andrews and Basak Boz on the burials and the reconstruction of the people of Çatalhöyük. Both these chapters have substantial portions on the CD, perhaps particularly critically, including the actual descriptions of the burials. This is one occasion where splitting material between print and CD seems to disarticulate the material a little too much. A shorter chapter deals with social aspects of the burials (Naomi Hamilton). This currently sits awkwardly because it touches on both context and grave goods, neither of which are yet published, but will doubtless be more comfortable when the other volumes are also available. Further chapters include DNA (Ripan Malhi, Marcel van Tuinen, Joanna Mountain, Ian Hodder and Elizabeth Hadly), stable-isotope analysis (Michael Richards and Jessica Pearson) and population estimates (Craig Cessford). There are two additional chapters on the CD, discussing oral health (Basak Boz) and a specific study of the possible occurrence of lung disease at Çatalhöyük (Wendy Birch).
Part C contains chapters 17-22. Chapter 19 is much the most substantial, dealing with micromorphological and microstratigraphical analysis (Wendy Matthews) and containing significant additional material on the CD. Other chapters deal with an ethnographic study of villages in central Anatolia (Nurcan Yalman), magnetic, radar and resistivity (Clark Dobbs and Donald Johnson), chemical analysis of floor residues (William Middleton, Douglas Price and David Meiggs), phosphorous analysis (Ali Akin-Akyol and Shinde Demirci) and biomarkers of faecal deposition (Ian Bull, Mohammed Elhmmall, Vincent Perret, Wendy Matthews, David Roberts and Richard Evershed).
As well as the entirety of three chapters (23-25), the CD contains a mix of supplementary material for 13 of the chapters, mainly in the form of PDF. For some chapters, this consists of primary counts and data, and it was very welcome to see that the measurements for the animal bones were not only included but were present in usable form as Excel spreadsheets. For other chapters there is much more substantial material on the CD chapters 11 (description of the burials), 18 (magnetic, radar and resistivity studies) and 19 (micromorphology and microstratigraphy) in particular. This is a mixed blessing. Certainly it keeps the length of the volume, and thereby its cost, down but there can be little doubt that material in the printed section will be read much more than that on the CD so it also hides away significant material. This is of no real consequence where the material consists of data relevant only to specialist study but perhaps of more concern where the descriptions of the burials are concerned. The CD also seems to show a fortunately rare piece of carelessness in publication the folder with the original illustrations from chapter 18 seems an oversight when they are included in the fully formatted PDF of the chapter on the same CD.
This volume will doubtless be used in very different ways, and our perception of it may well change as the remaining volumes dealing with the 1995-99 seasons are published. In some ways it can presently be seen as a magnificent example of a traditional excavation report. Individual sections contain exciting material in abundance but there is little cross referencing. Although this will undoubtedly change, presumably with the publication of volume 6, each of the chapters essentially stands alone. In other excavation reports this might be unremarkable but it is perhaps more interesting in the case of Çatalhöyük where one of the more eyecatching research themes has not just focussed on the site but also on how research is carried out. It is difficult in this volume to see the integration and interaction so passionately discussed in the second Çatalhöyük volume (Hodder 2000). It may well be that this will return in volume 6, and it will be interesting to see whether any tension was felt between the organisation of the publications and the aspirations of the working practices.
The range of techniques and the detailed attention to sampling and intensive analysis is almost unparalleled, certainly within Near Eastern prehistoric research. As well as advancing our knowledge of Çatalhöyük itself, it will also act as a shop window for some of these approaches, encouraging other projects to look at what was achieved and to utilise similar approaches to their own material.
There is no doubt that this volume, together with its companion volumes when they are available, represents an enormous amount of extremely substantial academic effort. The cost of the volumes, however, is significant. Given that this volume (£60 on its own) really needs to be considered as part of the group of volumes 3-6, the total cost of accessing the material from 1995-1999 will be £253 (if the Oxbow Books prices for the remaining three volumes are accurate). You will get a great deal for your money but this price does set up a barrier both for individuals and for some libraries. Given the importance that the Çatalhöyük project has previously attached to inclusiveness in the archaeological debate, could a different publication model have been used, perhaps with much greater use of freely available web based material? This might also have opened up a possibility of a more interactive use of the text, including a multilinear rather than the linear structure encouraged by the print format.
Review Submitted: November 2005
The views expressed in
this review are not necessarily those of the Society or the Reviews
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