Catal Huyuk, Armenian Highlands 6000 BC - 2007

Catal Huyuk, Armenian Highlands (6000 BC)

Mother goddess in Huyuk (424x548)

Catal Huyuk was situated along the southern edge of the great salt depression in central Anatolia. It was likewise on the northern edge of the fertile Konya Plain, the city of Konya being to the northwest about 30 miles. However, the two cities never knew each other, as Catal Huyuk flourished around 8000 years ago. Both cities lie along the piedmont routes, or the edge of the foothills, where upland water sinking into the ground agains comes to the surface as springs. It is very probable Catal Huyuk exploited the salt deposits to the north, at Tuz Golu [Salt Lake]. Cities along the piedmont seem to have been connected with other remote early cities, for example Jericho, in Palestine, over 1500 miles to the southeast. Both cities existed at the very dawn of man’s civilization, being the oldest cities so far uncovered. In these cities man first grew crops, and began setting up complex social structures that developed into ‘ civilization.’ Catal Huyuk is a Neolithic city, using stone and bone for tools, and disappeared before metal was widely used.

What is surprising is the size of the city. The city was built between 6500 and 5700 BCE. Catal Huyuk lies 3000 feet above sea level, and actually was built in two areas, leaving two mounds. The largest is 32 acres in size, and with combined population, sould be considered a large city. By the 7th millennia Catal Huyuk was a trade center, long before the ancient cities of Mesopotamia could be called more than villages. The city lies along the edge of a small river, outlined by a few scattered poplars, and nearby are crater lakes, though the water at the crater is unfit. The plain stretches away, and one can see for miles, as far as the volcanoes, now called Hasan Dag. Obsidian was obtained here, as well as at Karaca Dag. This may have been the primary trade item; flint tools and raw flint cores.


The city was built with the houses joined together, facing into a common court. There being no windows or openings outward, the city presented a fortified city wall. The city grew in outward expanding rings, or lobes, always retaining the outward walls. The houses were rectangular mud-brick with flat roofs. This style is found again at Hacilar to the west, and the general plan still can be found today. Each one room house had an adjoining small room for use as a storeroom. Entry was through a door or opening part-way up the wall, probably using a short ladder which could be removed. This entry gives one a sense of security from water run-off, wandering animals, and perhaps it was easier to defend the family. The homes ranged from 10 x 13 to as much as 13 x 20 feet, with pillar-like enlargements set in the walls to support the roof. There were one or two platforms, the walls and platforms being plastered and occasionally painted red.

Many of the rooms had paintings on the walls and / or the ceiling. These paintings are the oldest in the world, and were most elaborate in the cult building. One room in a complex was set aside as a shrine for the mother goddess. The cult room had paintings of animals, and cryptic symbols, as well as the usual geometric patterns seen elsewhere. During excavation, it was found that the cult room was frequently rebuilt, and many religious articles were uncovered. Most were votive statuettes, in the form of pottery with reliefs of the mother goddess, bulls heads and horns, womens breasts, and leopards. These religious items show a high degree of skill, and cultural refinement. The over-riding theme is of a mother goddess of fertility cult. The cult seems to be the precursor of Artemis, known as Cybele in Anatolia.


Catal Huyuk

(Excerpt from Catal Huyuk by James Mellaart; Thames & Hudson, London, 1967.) "Outside the ring of professional archaeology, Catal Huyuk is still a name of little meaning. But the recent excavation of the site...still far from complete...has in fact given it an importance of an outstanding kind. For already Catal Huyuk ranks with Jericho in Jordan as one of man's first known essays into the development of town life. Before 6000 B.C., Catal Huyuk was a city of a remarkable and developed kind. "The site lies 32 miles southeast of Konya in southern Turkey and is one of several sites being excavated on the Anatolian plain. "Catal Huyuk has yielded among other splendors, a unique sequence of sanctuaries and shrines, decorated with wall paintings, reliefs in plaster, animal heads, and containing statues, which give us a vivid picture of Neolithic man's concern with religion and beliefs. "Out of 139 living rooms excavated, not less than one-fourth appear to have served the religion. Such worship rooms or shrines are more elaborately decorated than houses and they are frequently the largest buildings.

"Although these buildings are used for religious practices, no provisions for animal sacrifices have been discovered. No pits for blood or caches of bones of sacrificed animals such as we find in the Early Bronze Age shrines of Beyce Sultan.

"The only evidence of burnt offerings consist of small deposits of charred grain preserved between a plastering of red clay on ceremonial hearths.

"In plaster reliefs goddesses appear solely in anthropomorphic form and the place of the male is taken by bulls and rams, a more impressive exponent of male fertility. Only the bull, stag and leopard occur in full outline as well as in the form of heads, whereas the ram is never fully shown, and is simply represented by rams heads. Stags, boars, and leopards are rare and may be regarded as attributes of the deities, rather than as symbols of the god and goddess themselves.

"Several representations of breasts, constructed with animal bones, were also found, which evidently have a ritual and symbolic meaning of their own.

"The statuettes found in the shrines are a most valuable source for the reconstruction of Neolithic religion at Catal Huyuk, and in contrast to most other Neolithic sites they do not entirely consist of Mother Goddesses but also show a male deity. Moreover, many of these statuettes occur in groups, carved in the same material.

"They are anything but uniform and one definitely has the impression that different aspects of the deities are stressed. Various ages, hieros gamos (ritual marriage), pregnancy, birth, command over wild animals, etc. are all clearly defined and many of the statuettes tell a story beside simply representing the Goddess or the God. The frequency with which the goddess is shown associated with wild animals probably reflects her ancient role as the provider of game for a hunting population, and as patroness of the hunt.

"The birth of a god is frequently portrayed in the shrines. Differences in age distinguish between the god as son (the boy-god on the leopard; the adolescent god), the hunter in a leopard-skin cap, or the consort/husband, who is shown bearded and seated on his symbol, the bull.

"The same distinction in age is made a number of times in representing the goddess as mother or daughter and occasionally as twin goddesses in paster on the west wall of some of the shrines.

"The Divine Family was then patterned upon that of man, and the four aspects in order of importance: mother, daughter, son, father.

"The general feeling one gets from these materials favors the existence of but two deities...the Great Goddess and her son/paramour The Sky Father.

"As the only source of life, women became associated with the process of agriculture, with the taming and nourishing of domesticated animals, with the ideas of increase, abundance and fertility; hence, a religion which aimed at exactly that same conservation of life in all its forms, its propagation and the mysteries of its rites connected with life and death, birth and resurrection, were evidently part of Her sphere rather than that of man. It seems likely that the worship of the Goddess was administered mainly by women with the presence of male priests by no means excluded, and such rare objects as obsidian mirrors, leopard skins, and finely-wrought belt fasteners may have been part of the ritual paraphernalia of female and male priests."

The above description of a community of 7,000 years ago and its religious practices mirrors closely those of Great Britain, prior to the arrival of the Celts.



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