2005 Çatalhöyük Excavation Blog

Rebecca Daly photo

Rebecca Daly, who works on faunal analysis at Çatalhöyük, is on site now for the 2005 feild season to provide insight into dig life, lab life and more.

August 12, 2005

Well, I have left the site for the year. They are closing down the building, fitting everything into locked rooms and covering much of the excavation in sandbags. I finished analyzing everything that came out this season and the couple of things that appeared after the end of last season, but I didn't get to go through the older stuff, remnants from Mellaart and from early years on the new excavation that were not analyzed in the same way. There is talk of a long season next year, in which case I should have plenty of time to get to that stuff.

I have also found a dissertation topic, one which relies only partially on the worked bone, so I will also have to look at the human figurines and possibly even go to Cambridge to look over the photos of the wallpaintings they have there. It is going to be a busy but exciting couple of years!

I am writing this from the bus, and I think I really should mention that the Turkish bus system is truly amazing. You can get anywhere relatively fast, and there is always a conductor on the bus, who will keep offering you tea or coffee or soda and little snack cakes. The stops often have very good food, and people are very friendly- after all, when you are about to spend 14 hours together, it makes sense to be acquainted! It is a very nice, very cheap way to travel, as a flight from Istanbul to Konya will be over $100, while a bus will be in the region of $18.

Anyway, that is pretty much all I have to say for this year. We are hoping to have a four month season next year, and to work intensely on a couple of houses instead of opening a large area. But that all depends on how much funding we get, which is a difficult thing to estimate! I really want to get to the older pieces, which again will only be possible with a long season. And of course, I have to write up the analysis from this season, so it can be posted. A busy year!

August 11, 2005

I have finished everything, with ten minutes to spare. I am sure that I will think of several things I forgot when I leave, but for now, I am done. The last party of the season is tonight, and it should be a nice one, people are relaxing and ready to chill by the fire. Everyone is planning their last day off in Konya, the last but of shopping, the last sight, etc. It will be good to be off.

Part of the last stage of leaving is dealing with the government rep. Turkey is one of the strictest countries in the world when it comes to antiquities, sadly in a 'locking the barn door after the horse has gone' way. We have to have a government representative on site every day that we work, and there is a huge list of things we have to consult with him before we can do, including leave the site for more than a single day and excavate walls. In my case, I don't deal with him too much during the season, because my tools cannot be exported and so I have to analyze them here, and he won't want them to leave the site until the end of the season. At the end of the season, the rep decides which things are going to go to the museum and which museum, and of the things that stay, which things they might want to take to a museum later.

The rep changes every year, and cannot repeat more often than every three years, to avoid them getting to attached to the archaeologists and letting them get away with stuff. It is a difficult negotiation, because the rules on what we need permission for are so strict that no one could do anything at all without asking, so each rep interprets them in the way that makes the most sense to them. Almost none of the reps are archaeologists, and so they don't necessarily pick ways that make sense to us. This one has little understanding of archaeology, and keeps taking the impressive funds out of the secure room to show his friends, ignoring security concerns and our hopes for residue testing by handling everything. But he let most of the worked bone stay onsite, except for a couple of the most impressive looking pieces. This is good for me, because I will need to go back periodically and look at older pieces, to compare them with things that were found nearby in space but not in time.

August 9, 2005

We are officially done with excavation for the year. We had the final site tour, and each trench leader explained what they had found and what they hoped to do next year, so I will summarize that here.

At the center of the south shelter, Simon had gotten down to most of the floor in his house, although it was badly damaged by animal burrows and later pits. He had not been able to finish the full in the small room off to the side, and hopes next year to being the whole house to the floor and then take it and the neighboring midden out, to reach the burned later visible on the edge of the section Mellaart left.

On the south summit, Roddy had removed the house he was working in last summer and gotten down to the floor in almost all of the house below. He says that their layouts are strikingly and even suspiciously similar, and wonders if there was someone in charge of keeping the layout the same. He also wonders why this house was so plain in comparison with the shrines mellaart found right next to it. The plan is to expand the area to the east and west so he can take out the walls and go down to the best house, which looks as though it had been preserved to a greater height than most.

Ulrike had gotten down to the floor in her house, which exposed an unusual plastered pillar near one side. It was older than the floor, and had been kept. There was an unusual series of small niches on the wall near the pillar that she described as shelf-like, and the oven was much more complex than usual. There were also a lot of later disturbances, so she was having trouble figuring out the relationships between all of the elements. She won't be back next year, so this house might not be opened. Several of them might not, and Shahina suggested that we vote for our favorites, although I doubt that would actually influence the decision without some reasons other than coolness to back it up!

Lisa had gone through huge amounts of midden, and finally gotten to a near floor level. She had an interesting oven closure deposit of a nearly complete dog and a cow skull. This house again probably won't be opened next year, and Lisa will go somewhere else.

Doru and Lisa also opened a new house in the last couple of days, hoping to work fast and get down to the floor. Unfortunately, there were six or seven Roman burials in there, and along with the there from Ulrike and the six babies from Lisa kept the human remains team busy and behind, and the room unfinished.

Doru had the most spectacular area this year, buildings 51 and 52. 52 had burned, it it the building the cattle rib burnishers and the seeds and the bucranium and horn cores and the various other interesting things came from. Apparently, after it burned, building 51 was built inside it.it is a lovely little building, and we see all hoping that they will take out 51 next summer to get to whatever is left of 52, in case it is like what we already have. It also must have been very important to get a new building built right inside it like that.

The Polish team and the Istanbul team have already left, and their areas are partially covered by the sandbags.

Aug 8, 2005

Season Coming to a Close

Well, I have not been updating much, mostly because we see coming to the end of the season, and excavation has been slowing down. Only the 4040 and the south shelter see still digging, and they will stop tomorrow. It has been very nice as people clear out. We have more space, and can spread out a little. The food has also gotten better, as Ismail only has to cook for 50 on his single stove instead of for 100. It is sad to see people leave, but at the same time nice to be able to go up on the terrace and be alone, or only have four people in a room.

The Istanbul team is just finishing covering their area for the winter. The stuff that was only scraped they out under sandbags, and the rest they will cover with geotextile, to stop plants growing through it in the months they see away. It also protects it a little from damage by the sandbags themselves. Interestingly, when they went into Konya to buy more bags, they actually went to a dedicated plastic bag shop, where they make your bags to order. I cannot imagine a plastic bag shop surviving in the US, or indeed anywhere in Europe. It is kind of a cool thing, that there is a store for anything you could possibly want to buy.

I have been proceeding with my recording, although frustratingly I made a mistake when I was measuring, and have had to do most of it over. But I am nearly caught up!

There is talk of a long season for next year, with four or five months of excavation. I think it would be great, they could uncover so much, but also a little frustrating, because most of the specialists cannot afford to stay for the whole time. We shall see if it happens.

Aug 1, 2005

It has been a slow couple of days here, in part just because we haven't found anything really exciting, in part because we had a day off, and in part because I've been feeling less than perfectly healthy (I think because of our earlier plumbing problems). But here goes!

We went into Konya on Friday as usual, and among other things, I got a nice little hammock to hang up on the terrace. It is amazing how easy it is to feel familiar with a place, I felt as though I had just left, wandering through the familiar streets and visiting the familiar shops. I managed not to buy any carpets (and if you haven't been to Turkey, you don't realize how difficult that actually is), and I had a nice conversation with one of the owners, who is trying to expand into other types of textile, like silk embroidery, and other regions, like the US. It must be very difficult to run a business that operates on three continents. I also visited the hammam, which I love with a fierce passion. You never feel quite so clean as when you are leaving the hammam after getting scrubbed and soaped and massaged. If only there were similar places at home. On the way home from Konya, the bus broke down. We all climbed off, grumbling about how hot the bus was and how long it would take for US to get back, but the driver just went around to the engine and fixed it. It was pretty cool, whenever I've had mechanical problems at home, we've had to wait for a replacement.

I have been told that there are quite a few types in these updates this year, and I have to apologize. I am typing them on my phone, which doesn't always agree with me on speling completion, plus I suck at typing in a more general sense. So, I am sorry, and I will try to avoid contractions in the future.

In further news, interesting things have been happening. Doru has a collection of sheep metapodials in his area, which was probably a collection for tool making. This is the first one we have had that was clearly only intended to be used for tools, since most of the tools are made from metapodials. Roddy has reached the next house, and is finding more burials underneath his new platforms and benches, which are both beautiful and very Mellaart-ian. The Polish team is leaving soon, so they are trying to finish, as is the Istanbul team. Lisa found a concentration of microfauna, which Rhian thinks is a single complete frog, and also a nearly whole, articulated dog skeleton on the floor of the house.

We have also been having unusual weather. It has rained three times since I arrived, once for quite a while and strongly. This is really unusual, since this is technically a desert. I love it though, it is such a change from the normal sunshine and horrific heat. Unfortunately, because these storms are so uncommon, things are not built for them, and we had some problems after the big storm last night. The Polish team lost their shelter (it blew away- they really have bad luck with shelters), and the flotation tent collapsed. This could have been worse, at least none of their samples blew away, but it is still a big problem! I slept up in the hammock the night before last, and it was beautiful. Because this IS a desert, it was really cold in the middle of the night, and because we are in the middle of nowhere, the stars were unbelievable.

I have gotten some interesting pieces, including a thing they call a 'bullroarer', which is similar to something the Australian Aboriginies use to whirl around in the air and make a loud strange buzzing noise. I also have an interesting plaque from the Polish unit which I have to glue together.

Aug 3 2005

Early Painting Tools and Spoons!

It is a big day for me today!! The Polish team found a little plaque OT plate a few days ago, and I got around to washing it and gluing it back together yesterday. It is a pretty little thing, about four inches long and two wide, with curved edges on the long sides and little decorative bumps at the ends of the edges. (I know, it doesn't sound like much, but most of what I get are simple points, so it IS a big deal!). Mellaart found a couple of similar things which he described as 'wrist guards for archery' despite the fact that there is no way to attach them. But looking at the thing as it dried, I was struck that it was exactly the perfect shape to put in your hand to hold paint while you painted. It was an interesting idea, but not one I was likely to be able to show with wear, but I had hopes. So this morning, wheni was at the microscope looking for the traces of manufacture and use, I found something much more exciting-pigment. Just little tiny bits that were caught in the pores, but little bits of pigment nonetheless! I had our pigment expert check and take samples, and am just ecstatic that my theory was proved right so rapidly and so conclusively! Yay!

I have also just gotten a very nice spoon from Lisa's area. It has a deep bowl and a nice little handle, and is getting tested for residue before I get to look at it. Over all, an excellent day for worked bone!

Aug 2 2005

Another Figurine Found!

Lots of excitement today! We found another figurine! It is nowhere near as pretty as the bear stamp, but it is probably more important, and very exciting. And kind of ugly!

It is a small thing, just about four inches high, but it, again, it going to be critical for further discussion of religion on the site. It is a little woman from the front, with big pointy breasts and a big pointy belly (although I do wonder what would make a belly quite that pointed!), and with her hands (including fingers) resting on her breasts. But from the back she is a skeleton, with a spine and ribs and shoulder blades and the pelvis. It is cool and freaky at the same time! Various people have been saying various things about birth and death and the Mexican day of the dead skeletons and vultures and it has really provoked a lot of discussion. A couple of folks even refer to it as ETs little sister! This has been a big season so far, let is hope it will continue that way!

Aug 1

A Museum in Turkey

This will be a little short! We had a meeting today to talk about museum and public presentation issues related to the site. A museum is being planned, and there is a lot of discussion on where it should be located, what it should look like, and who should benefit from it. At the moment, it looks like the town council of Cumra is going to win, putting it on the road to the site half an hour away. The closest village, Kuccukoy, has been fighting hard to get it, but it is so small it seems unlikely. The building itself is also a controversy, as it has been designed to fit with the region, so it is made of mud brick and has a catal-like silhouette. But mud brick melts in the rain over time, so the architect wants to put a huge tent over the building. From the plans we saw, it looks like it will completely hide the silhouette, which I think defeats the whole point! But it is still being planned, so I am sure they will figure it all out.

A lot of local children came to the meeting, which reminds me that I have not mentioned Jo-Jo. One of the faunal analysts has a 2 year old son with her on site. He is a good tempered child, but it has to be difficult to have a child here. With 100 people, his mother cannot possibly control what he does or what he eats. But he seems to be dealing with it well, he remembers when he is told he cannot have things. It is odd to think the he will grow up on the site, spending his summers here every year.

July 27, 2005

Bucrania and Bear Stamp Seal Found!

It has been a truly exciting day!First thing in the morning, Doru found a plastered bucranium. (a bucranium is the skull and attached horns of a cow, although it is sometimes also used for sheep or goats). It was directly under the other bucranium in his unit, which was itself fairly exciting because it was the first one we've found that is complete, but much better, because it is plastered. Some of the ones Mellaart found were plastered, but we hadn't found any until today. So, this was pretty cool, but things got even better. Shahina came into the lab and told is that Roddy had just found something that could revolutionize our interpretation of the religion in the site. Roddy brought it down at breakfast, and it was gorgeous!

It is a stamp seal, a little clay figure that's only carved on one side and has a handle on the other. It has its arms and legs to the sides with the hands and feet sticking up, just like the so-called 'mother goddess' reliefs. But while the hands have been knocked off for disposition, the head (unusually) was left on, and it's not a woman-it's a bear! It has a little about facing to the side, and little round ears, and a tiny little tail between its legs, and overall it is just gorgeous. It even has a tiny belly button worked into the lovely design worked onto the body. This is a HUGE deal, because most religious interpretation of the site has been centered on the idea that these figures with splayed legs represented the mother goddess, and if they don't, the site is totally different!

We also had the lab tour today, so the excavators came around and asked questions. The professionals were really interested, but the students really couldn't have cared less, which was a little disappointing. I think a few people learned something though.

July 26, 2005

The Plumbing

There is little big archaeological news today, the big discussion is the plumbing! The pump has been put for three days now, so there is no left over water up in the storage Tanks anymore, and none of the toilets worked all day. The fire department didn't come in the morning because they thought it would be fixed by then, so we were in pretty desperate straights. Let me tell you, NO one wants to be stuck anywhere with over 100 people and no toilets, especially not when most of those people spend their days getting got and filthy. Fortunately they finally came at teatime, so we all breathed a huge sigh of relief and stood in line. The dervishes are coming tonight, and the carpet shop is bringing dinner, so it should be a nice evening. It was the name day for one of the Polish team on Sunday, so we had a little party, which will make two parties in three days, somewhat of a record. It was nice to mingle with the other teams, the Poles spend a lot of time with just them. Of course, none of is speak Polish and boy all of them speak English so it's hardly surprising, but its still a shame.

This will be short, we're all bad tempered from the lack of toilet and showers, and I'm off to bathe. We all have our fingers crossed that the pump will be fixed soon! I will write about the dervishes tomorrow.

July 25, 2005

Going Through The Bones

I've begin to go through the bones. At first I was excited, because there were a lot of things I hadn't seen before, but then I realized that most of them came from the new Turkish area, from them removing the topsoil, so they're both pretty late and put of context. Still pretty though. I do have something I suspect might have been used for weaving though, and I have confirmed that the ribs seem to have been used on pottery, so that's cool. I'm right back in the swing of things, I feel like I never left. I have the usual sorts of wear on the usual sorts of things, and its kind of nice to fit into a routine.

There was some excitement in the conservation lab, the three anklets from Roddy's area, the south summit, came down to the lab. They're pretty little things, with beads from what looks like turquoise but is apparently lapis lazuli, carnelian, and dog teeth, and bone beads. Lots of people came to visit, and the conservators were thrilled because they're spending nearly all their time on horn cores which, while cool, are much the same, and are all pretty crumbly. They've named this the year of the horn cores, they've had so many.

We've also been having trouble with the water, the pump to bring up the cold water failed, so we couldn't take showers because all there was was boiling got. The fire department filled up the tank, but we're all worried about what might happen tomorrow. This place could get very unpleasant if people can't bathe.

We're planning a lab tour. Wednesday, which should be interesting. The excavators will be coming around to the various labs in the afternoon, and asking questions about what we're doing and why just like we do on the priority tours. I think its a great idea, because some of them have no idea how we work, and some of them don't think we actually do. Plus, it will help them to help is notice things we need to know. We shall see!

July 24, 2005

Back On Site!

I arrived on site Friday evening, just in time for dinner. It was a much easier trip, because when I arrived into Istanbul Thursday evening, the thought of taking the overnight bus actually have me a headache, so I got a plane ticket to Konya. The site is once again hosting record numbers of people, with a high of 115. I can't imagine how everyone is getting fed and housed, and indeed, there don't arm to be a lot of available spaces for tents, and all the beds are full. Saturday morning it took more than half an hour to find me a place to work, because the bone lab is already full, as is the botany lab (where the single shared microscope is this year, the other one having been borrowed by someone else from the British institute in Ankara before we could get it). I've ended up in conservation, which is very interesting anyway. But I will try to go in order!

I went on the priority tour Saturday morning, not because I had been able to look at the priority unit which had lots of worked none in it, but to see what was happening on the site. The Polish team had moved the tent from the old Bach area at the end of last season, an operation that involved a crane and lots of yelling. Unfortunately, sometime in the winter there was a huge storm that blew it all the way to the guards' house! So they have cobbled together a little covering with strips of canvas on wooden poles, but it isn't comfortable to work under because it's so low. There see also only four paid excavators this year, instead of the ten or so that is normal, because the dig is very indeedinded this year. Ian was very worried that we might not be able to manage to stay open long enough, and we really need another few weeks, but we have to take what we can get. I think there have been some hurt feelings over the selection of those four excavators, so it may come back to haunt us eventually, but there's no hope for it.

The 4040 has three main areas, led by Doru, Lisa, and Ulrike. Doru has two houses, one which is very late, and one which is level five-ish. The latter had several grain bins. They were filled with several kinds of food, including wheat, peas, and barley, and had been burnt (as had the house itself). One of them also had several large pieces of worked rib, all cow, that look (admittedly before cleaning and viewing under the microscope) as though they were probably pottery burnishers (or polishers). I asked Nurcan, and she said that the neighboring context had a lot of burnished pottery, so it is possible that they would need them. I'm excited to get on the microscope, although because three is only the one, I have to wait my turn. To continue. Lisa has another house, but she has been clearing put midden full, she three isn't that much to say about the house itself yet. Ulrike has the beginnings of an interesting area, but again, there is little actually there yet. She did find a lovely little stone figurine, which is probably a little person and possibly a woman with no head.

The Polish team has done some great work this year so far, among other things managing to figure put where exactly they see in relation to Mellaart's plans, and assigning their to level to level one. I think that may be the first level one in the new excavation, so it is pretty neat. They have also been working to clarify the stratigraphy in their area, because they have a lot of later intrusions to deal with.

There are only two areas under the south shelter, the one near the top, where Roddy works, and the one on the side halfway down, which we called Little Britain, where the plaster skull was found. Roddy has found a nice little cache of ground stone, as well as several burials (one of which is a child with three lovely tooth, turquoise and stone anklets) and is almost ready to get down to the next house level. Simon, in Little Britain, has found a baby and is also nearing the next house level.

The new thing for this year is the Turkish team, from Istanbul university. They have opened a new area, all the way over on the easy side of the mound next to the fence. They haven't built a shelter yet, and I honestly can't imagine how they see surviving the heat! They have mostly been clearing off the overburden, and see now going to take off a collapsed wall, and then they may start to get some interesting stuff.

View the archive of the 2004 updates from Rebecca
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