Çatalhöyük is an electrifying place. For more than a half-century it has inspired archaeologists, other researchers, authors, artists and general audiences globally to think, write, picture and dream about the many generations of people who lived here more than 9000 years ago. The site has been the subject of books, videos, comics, exhibitions, postcards, fine artworks, songs, board games, and even fashion shows. More so, it has given rise to thousands of illustrations and photographs, and more recently, digital models, which circulate around the world, sparking myths, conversations and reimaginings of Çatalhöyük.
Many of these visual media have been generated on the site itself, in association with excavations that have been conducted here since the early 1960s. In those days, Çatalhöyük became iconic through the meticulously drawn building reconstructions of illustrator Grace Huxtable, and the site and finds photography of Arlette Mellaart. These were regularly published in popular magazines such as the Illustrated London News, creating a visibility for Çatalhöyük that still now has a real impact on its reception amongst the global community.
Today, the site continues to see a variety of illustrators, museologists, photographers and visual specialists add to its pictorial legacy. At Çatalhöyük itself, on the dusty Konya plain, the work of these individuals is crucial to understanding the partial and ephemeral archaeological record. Our site guidebook, brochure, map, Visitor’s Centre, on-site signage, full-size replica home and associated media enable visitors to picture the full nature of Çatalhöyük’s buildings and neighbourhoods. This is important because the site was once a buzzing place, with homes folding in upon and on top of one another, floors hiding dozens of buried bodies, rooftops where much of one’s everyday life in the Neolithic played out, and rooms full of layers upon layers of breath-taking artwork.
Çatalhöyük is still an extraordinary location, and it is an especially sensational experience if you visit during the excavation season, when you can watch hundreds of specialists at work—digging, recording, sorting, analysing, conserving, and re-presenting its material culture (see images on our Facebook and Twitter feeds). There is nothing quite like standing at the top of the site’s South Area excavations and looking down into 20+ metres of human history. It is an awe-inspiring sight, which testifies not only to life in the past, but to the labour of more than 50 years of archaeologists in the present who’ve opened up more than 1000 years of continuous human occupation.
We are committed to further opening the site to the international community. Working under the leadership of the site’s Database Lead, Dominik Lukas, and the Project Coordinator, Bilge Küçükdoğan, with critical support from Project Assistant Ali Kavas, Photographer Jason Quinlan, Illustrator Katy Killackey, among many others, we have redesigned Çatalhöyük’s web presence. Together, we have also begun to elaborate its social media feeds with biography-style posts researched and written on site in the summer months. And alongside this, we have initiated a monthly blog to expose interested visitors to some of the many dimensions of Çatalhöyük’s story: its hidden narratives, its varied researchers, its quintessential interpretations. We hope you’ll follow our posts, share them with others, and play a role in continuing to spread the site’s inspirational legacy around the world.
Sara Perry, Director of the Çatalhöyük Visualisation Team