Catal Huyuk

By Tim Lambert

Buildings in Catal Huyuk

Catal Huyuk was one of the world’s first towns. It was built in what is now Turkey about 6,500 BC not long after farming began. Catal Huyuk probably had a population of about 6,000.

In Catal Huyuk, the houses were made of mud brick. Houses were built touching against each other. They did not have doors and houses were entered through hatches in roofs. Presumably having entrances in the roofs was safer than having them in the walls. (Catal Huyuk was unusual among early towns as it was not surrounded by walls). Since houses were built touching each other the roofs must have acted as streets! People must have walked across them.

In Catal Huyuk, there were no panes of glass in windows and houses did not have chimneys. Inside houses were plastered and often had painted murals of people and animals on the walls. People slept on platforms.

In Catal Huyuk, the dead were buried inside houses. (Although they may have been exposed outside to be eaten by vultures first).

Although Catal Huyuk was a true town (defined as a community not self-sufficient in food) at least some of its people lived by farming. They grew wheat and barley and they raised flocks of sheep and herds of goats. They also kept dogs. As well as farming the inhabitants of Catal Huyuk also hunted animals like aurochs (wild cattle), wolves, foxes, and leopards.

Life in Catal Huyuk

People in Catal Huyuk wore clothes woven from wool. They also wore jewelry made of stone, bone, and shell. The people of Catal Huyuk wove baskets of reeds. They also made pottery and they used obsidian, a hard volcanic rock to make tools and weapons. Craftsmen made dishes of wood. They also made carved wooden boxes for storage.

We do not know what the people of Catal Huyuk believed but religion was important to them. They made figurines of clay and stone, which may have been gods and goddesses. They also mounted bull skulls on the walls of some buildings and covered them in plaster to resemble living heads. It is believed these buildings were shrines.

Catal Huyuk was abandoned about 5,000 BC. Nobody knows why but it may have been due to climate change. Catal Huyuk was then forgotten for thousands of years till it was rediscovered by James Mellaart in 1958. He began excavating Catal Huyuk in 1961.