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Çatal Hüyük, (pronounced Chat-al Hoo-yook) located in Turkey; is the oldest known city. First discovered in the late 1950s, it was excavated by James Mellaart between 1961 and 1965. Current excavations led by Ian Hodder have been ongoing since 1993.

Çatal Hüyük is a 9,000 year old Neolithic city, it was the largest and most spectacular farming settlement of the era. The city covered an area of 32 acres and most notably it had no streets. Houses shared their walls and could only be entered by the roof.

It was the beginnings of agriculture that made Çatal Hüyük possible; its economy was based on simple irrigation agriculture, sheep and cattle breeding, and there is evidence of trade in textiles, skins, volcanic glass (obsidian) for tools, and light blue apatite for ornaments.

The houses contained a hearth, mudbrick platforms that served as work or sleeping areas, the interior walls were covered in frescoes of hunting scenes and apparent shrines where the skulls of wild oxen were set into the walls.

Çatal Hüyük may have had a population of around 10,000 people. Tell es-Sultan or Jericho may be somewhat older but was not quite a city.

"The site lies 32 miles southeast of Konya in southern Turkey and is one of several sites being excavated on the Anatolian plain.

"Catal Huyuk has yielded among other splendors, a unique sequence of sanctuaries and shrines, decorated with wall paintings, reliefs in plaster, animal heads, and containing statues, which give us a vivid picture of Neolithic man's concern with religion and beliefs.

"Out of 139 living rooms excavated, not less than one-fourth appear to have served the religion. Such worship rooms or shrines are more elaborately decorated than houses and they are frequently the largest buildings.

"Although these buildings are used for religious practices, no provisions for animal sacrifices have been discovered. No pits for blood or caches of bones of sacrificed animals such as we find in the Early Bronze Age shrines of Beyce Sultan.

"The only evidence of burnt offerings consist of small deposits of charred grain preserved between a plastering of red clay on ceremonial hearths.

"In plaster reliefs goddesses appear solely in anthropomorphic form and the place of the male is taken by bulls and rams, a more impressive exponent of male fertility. Only the bull, stag and leopard occur in full outline as well as in the form of heads, whereas the ram is never fully shown, and is simply represented by rams heads. Stags, boars, and leopards are rare and may be regarded as attributes of the deities, rather than as symbols of the god and goddess themselves

(Excerpt from Catal Huyuk by James Mellaart; Thames & Hudson, London, 1967.)

Çatal Hüyük lasted until 5000 BC.

Sources:

http://dig.archaeology.org/drdig/neareast/15.html
http://www.smm.org/catal/home.html
http://emuseum.mnsu.edu/offices/alpha/classes/book/farming/catalhuyuk.html
http://www.telesterion.com/catal3.htm

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