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 Turkey's oldest town?

***In June 2012 Çatalhöyük became Turkey's 11th world heritage site***

The most famous attraction near Konya is probably the Neolithic site at Çatalhöyük (Fork Mound), near the dusty small town of Çumra.

These days the dramatic discoveries at Göbeklitepe, near Şanlıurfa, have stolen some of Çatalhöyük’s thunder but until recently this was one of those mysterious ancient sites that set romantics all aquiver as they dreamed of the dim and distant past and the days when the cult of the Mother Goddess prevailed in Central Anatolia.

Actually, modern archeologists are not as convinced as they used to be about that goddess. Turns out much of the mythology arose from one roly-poly statuette recovered from a grain bin into which it could quite possibly have fallen accidentally.

But the thing about Çatalhöyük, like so many prehistoric sites, is that hard facts are impossible to come by. In their place come theories that tend to change with the zeitgeist.

If you’ve already visited Ephesus and Aphrodisias you may find Çatalhöyük a tad disappointing. Although there’s a small on-site interpretation centre and a replica of what archaeologists think the houses excavated from inside the tell (settlement mound) would have looked like, the rest of the site consists of a series of mud-walled holes in the ground that won’t make a lot of sense to you without someone to explain them.

Suffice to say that the 9,000-year-old settlement at Çatalhöyük appears to have consisted of homes that were entered from the roofs via ladders, that were designed to a standard plan, and that served as burial places for their inhabitants when their days were done (their skeletons were buried beneath benches reminiscent of the sedirs that later adorned Ottoman houses).

What might appear to be streets running between the houses were, in fact, large rubbish dumps. Strangely, no public buildings have been identified at the site – no temples, no town halls, no meeting chambers – a fact that on its own makes Çatalhöyük different from other archaeological sites (although it may be that they will come to light one day).

Excavations have been ongoing since 1961 but still only a tiny part of the site has been uncovered which means that there’s still ample scope for theories about life here to change again. The best of the finds are on display in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara with just a few paltry offerings in the Konya Archaeological Museum.

Scattered across the flat surrounding plain are several other evocative tells that still await excavation.

Transport info

The biggest problem is getting here without your own wheels. There are infrequent buses from Konya southeast to Çumra (33km) where you can hire a taxi to the site or to Kükköy whence you can approach it on foot. In a group it might be easier to hire a taxi in Konya.

Read what the New York Times had to say: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/08/world/europe/08iht-M08C-TURKEY-DIG.html?pagewanted=all


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