Al Altan's
Focus on Catal Hoyuk

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With basic square shaped dwellings and flat roofs, Catal Hoyuk's architectural development can only be considered as being in its childhood period. The entrances to the attached buildings were via the ceilings. This style of architecture can still be found in the eastern provinces of Turkey. Despite being very close in proximity to one another, the houses display separate walls with a small gap between them. The walls were built with sun-dried mud bricks supported by wooden beams. This technique is called "himis" and is still utilised in certain areas of Anatolia. The small doorways in the houses are thought to have been for small domestic animals to get in and out. The inhabitants of Catal Hoyuk used the flat roof tops as a means of getting from one dwelling to another. The roofs were made from clay, wood and reeds and measured approximately 60 centimetres in width. The roof tops were a convenient place to carry out daily activities as the interiors of the houses had poor light and ventilation.

Catal Hoyuk's architectural structure allowed Mellaart to make use of the square shaped buildings when excavating by using the walls as a guide to designating parcels for research. This was made easier for the researchers as the walls were easily visible after slighty sweeping the surface of the roofs and because the excavations continued house by house the entire process was made less difficult.

However, because the plans and sizes of the buildings are all similar it is difficult to ascertain whether any of them are ordinary dwellings or sacred places. The dwellings have a main rectangular room with two side rooms used for storage. For means of heating a round or rectangle shaped stove was used. Furthermore, horseshoe shaped ovens were found. Each house also had a raised bank of earth or stone which was used as a table, divan and bed. These raised banks were also used for the burial of the dead and were covered with woven mattings thought to be earliest forms of kilims. After death, corpses were thrown to vultures and then the skeletons were cleansed and wrapped in soft cloth while the skulls were painted and decorated and buried in the homes. These scenes are depicted in paintings found on the walls of the dwellings. It has also been found that gifts were left in the graves. According to status, the gifts in the graves vary; for example, in the graves of women, obsidian mirrors and jewellery were found while in the graves of men, flintstone and spear heads made from the obsidion stone appear.

In nearly all of the houses, items of charm and religion in the shape of statues, reliefs and paintings can be found. The paintings adorned the mud-brick walls, which were often painted over again by using a thin layer of plaster to cover former drawings. It is estimated that during the period of use, the walls of the dwellings were painted at least thirty times. Some houses are known to have two hundred layers of thin painted plaster. As suggested by Mellaart, if the houses were painted once every year then it can be calculated for how long the dwellings were in use. However, this situation creates a new problem for the researchers who wish to study each layer separately, as maintaining the paintings as a whole at present is difficult. To develop new techniques, work in the laboratories is continuing at a rapid pace. At present, fiber-optic cables are passed through the layers to examine the methods and styles used in the paintings. This is an extremely time consuming and costly exercise.

Of the discovered paintings, most display religious concerns. In all the homes the religious paintings and statues have the heads of animals with horns. Some houses have peculiar differences to them; for example, small areas found are considered to be areas of worship. According to current thinking, when an important member of a house died, the house was emptied and closed. When the house was opened at a later date it was done so with a sacred intention. An entrance to these interior graves supports this theory. Apart from using the dwellings as a place of shelter, the fact that they were used as places of worship suggests that the people of Catal Hoyuk were on their way to developing other sites for worship and evolving through a stage of worship oriented religions.

Catal Hoyuk's houses with their wall paintings, bulls' heads and statues clearly indicate that the local people had obvious beliefs and acts of worship. Despite profuse religious motifs, there does not appear to be any signs of offerings or sacrifices. Unlike the remnants of Beyce Sultan during the First Bronze Age, there is no indication of any sacrificial altar. There are no suggestions that any animals were sacrificed or any pits were made for the storing of sacrificial blood. The only pointers to any form of offerings lies in the houses where in some rooms tools and materials have been left; for example, jewellery, weapons , seals and vessels.

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