oldest city in the world

Photoessay: CatalHoyuk – 9,500 Year Old City Revealed

oldest city in the worldMy main reason for going to the city of Konya wasn’t to see the Mevlana Museum (dedicated to the Persion poet Rumi – his tomb is there) or to see whirling dervishes  but instead was to see something far older.

I wanted to visit the site of CatalHoyuk – one of the oldest known cities of humanity.

The Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük was first discovered in the late 1950s and excavated by James Mellaart between 1961 and 1965. The site rapidly became famous internationally due to the large size and dense occupation of the settlement, as well as the spectacular wall paintin gs and other art that was uncovered inside the houses.

At around 9500 years old – this is an incredibly old site and as such, don’t expect to see a lot because it isn’t particularly developed for tourists , but – if you are interested in archaeology and want to see a working dig in progress or just visit a really really old place – this is a cool visit.

There is no permanent staff except the security guard who will show you in (from 9 to 5 generally) and give you access to the small museum and the two major digs. Don’t forget to tip him 10-20 TL. He’ll show you around or leave you to wander as you prefer. He might even offer you tea.

For those interested but not interested enough to go (or able to go) here is a very nice interactive website created by the archeological team

The Mysteries of Catalhoyuk

The book The Goddess and the Bull also offers a lot of insight and information.

Wikipedia also offers a wealth of information:

The people of Çatalhöyük buried their dead within the village. Human remains have been found in pits beneath the floors and, especially, beneath hearths, the platforms within the main rooms, and under beds. Bodies were tightly flexed before burial and were often placed in baskets or wrapped in reed mats. Disarticulated bones in some graves suggest that bodies may have been exposed in the open air for a time before the bones were gathered and buried. In some cases, graves were disturbed and the individual’s head removed from the skeleton. These heads may have been used in rituals, as some were found in other areas of the community. Some skulls were plastered and painted with ochre to recreate faces, a custom more characteristic of Neolithic sites in Syria and at Neolithic Jericho than at sites closer by.
ancient religion CatalhoyukVivid murals and figurines are found throughout the settlement, on interior and exterior walls. Distinctive clay figurines of women, notably the Seated Woman of Çatalhöyük  (photo left), have been found in the upper levels of the site. Although no identifiable temples have been found, the graves, murals, and figurines suggest that the people of Çatalhöyük had a religion rich in symbols. Rooms with concentrations of these items may have been shrines or public meeting areas. Predominant images include men with erect phalluses, hunting scenes, red images of the now extinct aurochs (wild cattle) and stags, and vultures swooping down on headless figures. Relief figures are carved on walls, such as of lionesses facing one another.

 

Getting There

To get there is a relatively simple, though costly experience. Catalhoyuk lies about 45 km from Konya. The easiest way to get there is to take a taxi. I found online sources that said a taxi would be between 30-50 Turkish lira but using the meter it came out to roughly 120 TL each way – I bargained ahead of time and got the whole trip for 100 TL. If you can do better, my hat’s off to you.

The taxi drivers generally know where it is.

To get there the cheaper way: Take a minibuses from Konya’s Eski Garaj minibus terminal to Çumra (3.5 TL), and from there a taxi for the last 17 km for about 35 TL.