In January 2005, Simon and Schuster's Free Press imprint will publish the long-awaited "authorized biography" of the Çatalhöyük excavations. Michael Balter, former Paris bureau chief for Science and now one of the magazine's chief archaeology writers, spent six years researching and writing this definitive account of the dig, covering its turbulent history, colorful characters, and the state-of-the-art scientific methodology that has given Çatalhöyük an international reputation.
In seventeen lively and gripping chapters, Balter describes the dramatic discovery of the site by British archaeologist James Mellaart in 1958, the early years of the excavations during the 1960s, and the murky circumstances under which digging stopped in the wake of the mysterious "Dorak Affair." The story picks up again in the early 1990s, when Ian Hodder returns to Çatalhöyük with a whole new generation of archaeologists who quickly make a whole new round of major discoveries.
The reader learns all about the vigorous debates over why hunter-gatherers settled down into farming communities some 10,000 years ago; but Balter also breathes real life into the community of archaeologists that has taken root at Çatalhöyük in the present day, giving rare personal glimpses into the lives of archaeologists--what motivates them to pursue their passionate quest to unravel the mysteries of the past. And in an Epilogue written right after the 2004 season, Balter brings readers up to date on the very latest discoveries, including a "Mother Goddess" style figurine and a painted, plastered human skull--the first ever discovered at Çatalhöyük.
Michael Balter is an American journalist, originally from Los Angeles. From 1991 to 2004, he served as Science's Paris bureau chief, and is now a contributing correspondent for the magazine specializing in archaeology and human evolution. He is also a former oral historian for the University of California, Los Angeles, where he honed the skills needed to bring the complex characters at Çatalhöyük to life.