Excavated by James Mellaart in the early 1960s, the site has been widely recognised as of unique international significance. The popular Collins guide to Turkey is one of many that describe Çatalhöyük as 'probably the most important archaeological site in Turkey'. It is one of the first urban centres in the world (at 7400BC) and it has the first wall paintings and mural art. The spectacular art provides a direct window into life 9000 years ago, and the site is an internationally important key for our understanding of the origins of agriculture and civilisation.
The aims of the current international project at Çatalhöyük involve full-scale modern archaeological excavation and conservation, and promotion of the site for visitor access. Archaeological excavation and conservation by an international team started in 1993 under the direction of Dr Ian Hodder of the Çatalhöyük Research Project, Stanford University, under the auspices of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, with a permit from the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and in close collaboration with the University of California at Berkeley, London University, Istanbul University, Selcuk University, and Poznan University. The work aims at extensive uncovering of new areas of the site and the recovery, conservation and presentation of paintings and sculpture. The work is planned to continue over 25 years.
The ultimate aim is to provide the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism with a well planned heritage site. Visitors are able to experience the site in a number of ways. A conservation laboratory has been built and the latest techniques applied. The aim is that the conserved wall paintings, sculptures, textiles, wooden and ceramic artifacts will be placed on display in a site museum, enhanced by virtual reality techniques and interactive video. Replicas of some of the paintings are being placed back in conserved houses on the site, under a range of shelters. Part of the site is being covered so that the ancient houses are protected and so that visitors can walk around a Neolithic village. An experimental house has been built for tourist entry. By providing a range of visitor experiences the full heritage potential of the site can begin to be exploited.
The main research direction is to place the paintings and symbolism 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.
- Description of images of Catalhoyuk (clockwise)
- Reconstruction drawing of a house or shrine excavated in the 1960s by James Mellaart
- View from outside the South Shelter.
- View inside the South Shelter.
- View of the mound from the air in 1997
- View of the dig house where team members live and work during the excavation season.
- Shelter over Building 5, on display for visitors.
- View inside the Experimental House where visitors can see a reconstruction of a Neolithic building.