Çatalhöyük Research Project

The Social Geography of the Çatalhöyük Settlement

The archaeological site of Çatalhöyük (7400 - 6000) in central Turkey is one of the best known Neolithic sites in Anatolia and the Near East and an example of the importance of Anatolian contribution to the development of early societies.

First excavated by James Mellaart in the early 1960s, the aims of the current international project under Ian Hodder involve full-scale modern archaeological excavation and conservation, and a programme of promotion of the site for visitor access.

The main research direction is to situate the elaborate symbolic production at the site within a full environmental, economic and social context. Central questions concern the origins of the site and its early development, social and economic organisation and variation within the community, the reasons for the adoption and intensification of agriculture, the social context for the early use of pottery, temporal trends in the life of the community, trade and relations with other sites in the region.

The Çatalhöyük Research Project which was based at the UCL Institute of Archaeology until 2012 drew on the expertise of many of its staff and students:

  • Simon Hillson was a joint coordinator of the Human Remains team along with Clark Larsen of Ohio State University. Much of the teams work on site involved analysis of the remains of the dead who were buried under the floors of the houses and to record them on their bespoke database. Ongoing research projects include studies of dental pathology and stable isotopes in relation to diet, limb bone morphology in relation to activity, and the pattern of biological relationships between people buried in different houses. Emmy Bocaege has been working on dental impressions that she collected from the children’s remains for her PhD.
  • Arlene Rosen coordinated the Phytolith team who study the microscopic silica bodies that are found in many plants and are a common occurrence at Çatalhöyük. Philippa Ryan completed her PhD on ‘Diversity of plant and land-use during the Near Eastern Neolithic; phytolith perspectives from Çatalhöyük’ which included an investigation the role of wild and domesticated plant resources, the types of environments exploited, any evidence for resource ranking, temporal changes in plants present on-site, differences in plant usage between site areas or buildings, as well as ‘plant pathways’ on to the site.
  • Louise Martin who was a joint coordinator of the Faunal team continued her research into the issues of cattle domestication whilst sheep and goat remains continue to be a focus of particular interest. Elizabeth Henton successfully completed her PhD involving stable isotope study of life history in sheep remains. Louise has collaborated with Lynn Meskell of Stanford University on a new research project based around animal figurines, specifically quadrupeds, and the possibilities for investigating indigenous taxonomies. In archaeology it is a novel, but perhaps rather obvious idea, to have a figurine specialist and a faunal analyst work together on such topics. They explored whether new methodological approaches and cross-disciplinary analyses offer new insight into relationships between Neolithic people and animals.
  • Karen Wright has led the Ground Stone team who systematically analyse and record on a bespoke database all ground stone artefacts. Intensive studies of raw material properties, sourcing and lithic technologies undertaken with particular focus on ground stone cores and debitage, manufacturing technology and discard. The project covers all aspects of ground stone technology, artefact use-life, spatial distribution, contextual analyses and relationships of the ground stone to other categories of finds and features. The Stone Bead project evolved from the ground stone studies and has been primarily studied from a technological perspective in which the bead making process, which includes the acquisition of raw materials and the manufacture of stone beads, is closely examined to determine the social significance of stone beads, as related to social and individual identity, trade, adornment and the body, as well as craft specialization. Stone bead manufacturing technology is increasingly a focus in Neolithic research; extensive workshops have been documented in Jordan (e.g., Wright et al. 2008). Roseleen Bains is nearing completion of her PhD with Karen Wright on the stone beads.
  • Since 2003 conservation at the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük (Turkey) was the responsibility of a team led by Elizabeth Pye, and Duygu Camurcuoğlu. Other members of the team were Master’s students drawn from the UCL conservation programmes, and Turkish students interested in developing conservation skills. Conservators work closely with the other site specialists, providing first aid on site, and treating finds in the site laboratory to make them accessible for research. They seek to integrate conservation into the wider study of the site, and take a holistic approach: working on structures and artifacts; using preventive and remedial techniques; combining research and practice; working with students, specialists and the local community to demonstrate the benefits of conservation; attempting to work as sustainably as possible by training future conservators, by promoting the development of conservation in Turkey, and by testing local materials and traditional techniques.  Particular features include the programme of applied research projects undertaken by Masters students in order to develop conservation procedures suitable for the context. Another feature is the collaboration with the local community: in sourcing and application of local clays for the continual maintenance of the mudbrick architecture, and in training local women to uncover painted areas on the delicate plastered walls. Duygu Camurcuoğlu’s research focused on the materials and techniques of the painted plaster and grew out of the need to understand the technology and deterioration of the wall paintings in order to devise appropriate approaches to their conservation .
  • Thilo Rehren has contributed to a joint publication on copper fragments from the site. Initial analysis has demonstrated that the metal was extremely pure with little evidence of any alloying components. The samples were in addition analysed using a microprobe to investigate the composition of the minor elements that are below detection levels using SEM-EDS. These results confirmed, generally, the purity of the copper. Lead isotope analyses were undertaken in collaboration with Professor Ernst Pernicka.
  • Shahina Farid, former Field Director and Project Coordinator for the Çatalhöyük Research Project focused on the rigour and accuracy of archaeological methods and the resulting data, which at Çatalhöyük is collated in an innovative, fully integrated, relational database and GIS. Her research focused on the stratigraphic sequence of the excavations at Çatalhöyük and its overall phasing of occupation thereby defining continuity and change through more than 1200 yeas of Neolithic occupation of the site. It is upon this data that researchers based their analysis on change and continuity through time at the site.
  • Beliz Tercirli PhD candidate under the supervision of Mike Rowlands is researching the concept of Archaeological Parks with Çatalhöyük as a case study. Her project is framed within the fundamental aim of contributing to broader archaeological knowledge regarding sustainable archaeological landscape management, this research evaluates the role of Archaeological Parks in the formation and dissemination of knowledge and understanding of the past. The research further asks if archaeological parks satisfactorily incorporate the interests and engagement of all interested parties. The interesting set of challenges presented by the Çatalhöyük landscape, such as its rural and remote location, prehistoric context - often not valued by a wide audience, limited visibility and fragility of the remains and differing stakeholder interests, yield the site an ideal case study for investigating the challenges and facilitating factors in developing a model for the planning, accomplishment and management of an archaeological park.

Related outputs

  • Other outputs: TV
    • 2010 Lion TV, documentary on Origins of Cities
    • 2009 Channel 4 ‘Man on Earth'
    • 2009 BBC Blue Peter at Çatalhöyük
    • 2008 Discovery Channel – Early Farming
    • 2002 BBC - Radio 4 - Unearthing Mysteries
    • 2001 Turkish Radio & Television. Documentary about the excavations at Çatalhöyük
    • 1999 BBC ‘Secrets of the Stone Age’
    • 1998 BBC ‘Road to Riches’
    • 1996 Documentary on new technologies used at Çatalhöyük. Karlsruhe Team
  • Exhibitions
    • Ankara & Istanbul in Turkey, Karlsruhe in Germany
    • Community Collaboration Projects
    • Annual Childrens Summer School at Çatalhöyük
    • Community Collaboration with local villages


Selected donors include:
  • British Institute at Ankara
  • Stanford University
  • John Templeton Foundation
  • NSF
  • National Geographic
  • Global Heritage Fund
  • Turkish Cultural Foundation
  • UCL

Project Leaders:

  • Ian Hodder (Stanford University)
  • Shahina Farid (Project Field Director, UCL, 1995-2012)

Project Partners:

  • Stanford University
  • UCL
  • UC Merced
  • University of Southampton
  • Istanbul University
  • Selcuk University
  • Thrace University
  • Adam Mickiewicz University
  • SUNY Buffalo
  • Free University Berlin


Further information:

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