Catal Hoyuk The Myth Of The Goddess Revisited

Catal Hoyuk is the most famous Neolithic site in Turkey by virtue of the large scale excavation of well-preserved buildings that were sometimes burnt, leading to excellent preservation of organic and inorganic materials. A large corpus of mural and portable art, including a diverse collection of figures made of clay and stone, provides our best evidence from central Anatolia for a religion centered on anthropomorphic deities. In his preliminary reports, Mellaart illustrated the most interesting and elaborate figures as well as representative examples of simpler types, and gives us some information on the contexts in which they were found (Mellaart 1962,1963,1964,1966).2 My analysis, originally presented as a paper in 1995, supports Mellaart's identification of the stone and large clay figures as cult statues, but at the same time it moves the discussion of these artifacts from speculation based on figurine form and a direct historical approach relying on European mythologies to an argument based on form, archaeological context, the condition of artifacts at the time of deposition, and generalizations based on ethnographic parallels.

Figurine Form, Context, and Function at Catal

A consideration of figurine attributes (form, size, and material) results in four distinct groups within the Catal industry: small clay figures of animals and humans (referred to by Mellaart as ex voto figures, and by Hamilton [1996]as "humanoid");large clay figures of humans; stone figures of humans; and natural or slightly modified rocks that suggest human forms (re-ferredtohere as "concretions," "pebble," or "columnar" figures to indicate form,presumablycorrespondingtoHamilton's "schematic" figures). Mellaart assigned these morphological groups to two functional classes based in part on the archaeological contexts from which they were recovered—small clay figures(invariablyreferredtoas"crude") and "statuettes" (Mellaart 1967:180). Mellaart meticulously documents most of the large figures or statuettes in his publications and provides abundant high quality photographs and drawings (Mellaart 1962, 1963, 1964, 1966). He does not, however, provide a complete catalogue, and in her new study of the Catal material Hamilton states that she has been able to locate a total of 254 figurines and fragments from the Mellaart excavations (Hamilton 1996:215-217). Most or all of the unpublished pieces appear to be small clay figures of humans and animals (Hamilton 1996:215). In addition to looking at published sources, I have been able to view most of the large figures and a sample of the small clay figurines that have been on display in the Ankara Museum of Anatolian

2In early summer 1997, after the first version of this article had been completed and sent to Ian Kuijt, Peter and Wendy Matthews kindly lent me the British Institute's still uncatalogued copy of On the Surface (Hodder 1996). In this volume Naomi Hamilton reports on her study of all of the Catal figurines, both those excavated by Mellaart and those recovered by the new excavations. Hamilton has located and catalogued 254 figures from the Mellaart excavations, assigning new numbers for analytical purposes (1996:215), and only these new numbers are used to identify figures within her discussion of the sample. When discussing individual figures the findspot is given so that some of the distinctive figures can be recognized based on location and description, but it seems foolhardy to guess about the match between new numbers and Mellaart's publications, and I have therefore not systematically tied Hamilton's discussion of individual figures to my own,

Civilizations, allowing an assessment of wear and breakage. It is, therefore, possible to reconsider the Catal figurines within the analytical framework set out for Hajji Firuz and Gritille.

0 0

Post a comment