Çatalhöyük Archaeological Site

Completed Project
World Monuments Watch
Çumra, Konya, Turkey

Çatalhöyϋk, one of the earliest Neolithic, matriarchal societies in Anatolia, existed from approximately 7500 to 5700 B.C. It was excavated between 1961 and 1965 by James Mellaart and the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, but looting and unsuccessful conservation efforts caused the Turkish government to revoke excavation rights. Only four percent of the site had been excavated, and all without the benefits of modern techniques and conservation methods. In 1993 a new permit was granted for a 25-year project that trains specialists from the eastern Mediterranean in conservation and site management. The main conservation problems at the site have included the collapse of the high trench walls left at the end of the 1965 excavation and the continuing of loss of plaster sculptures and paintings. The effects of tourism on the site have also caused erosion and collapse. A massive drop in the water table led to drainage in the lower levels of the site, thus causing decay of the earliest organic materials that previously had been preserved in their waterlogged state.


1996 and 2000 World Monuments Watch

The site was included on the World Monuments Watch in 1996 and 2000 to highlight conservation concerns. The Turkish government was in full support of the planned preservation efforts laid out by the Çatalhöyϋk Research Trust, but few state funds were available to support the project. Through the aid of American Express, WMF was able to support stabilization, conservation, and research efforts. While it proved impossible to artificially control the water table around such a large site, excavation of a small sample of the previously waterlogged levels served to conserve examples of the preserved materials before all were lost.

Çatalhöyϋk represents the origins of Anatolian culture and is believed to be where Indo-European languages began. This site has been recognized as having a central place in the origins of civilization, representing the largest urban center of its time and contains evidence of early pottery, metal, agriculture, textiles, and wooden artifacts. It contains an important range of murals depicting life, rituals, and beliefs, and it marks the first time wheat, barley, beer, cattle, sheep, goats, textiles, and copper are known to have been used.

Last updated: February 2019.

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