SOAS University of London

The Curious Case of Çatalhöyük

The Curious Case of Çatalhöyük Poster

Date: 12 October 2018Time: 10:30 AM

Finishes: 15 December 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: Exhibition Rooms

Type of Event: Exhibition

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Çatalhöyük is a unique example of a well-preserved Neolithic settlement and for decades has been considered one of the key sites for understanding human prehistory. A major exhibition celebrating the site and the science of archaeology, ‘The Curious Case of Çatalhöyük’, will be held at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London, Russell Square, from 12 October to 15 December 2018. The exhibition reveals the ‘behind the scenes’ of a pioneer excavation and research project of one of the most complex societies of its time.

Çatalhöyük is a Neolithic settlement located in the Konya plain of central Turkey. Since 1993, under the supervision of British archaeologist Professor Ian Hodder, the Çatalhöyük Research Project has been shedding light on how one of the world’s earliest societies made the transition from hunting to farming and how it was organised socio-economically.

‘The Curious Case of Çatalhöyük’ was developed to celebrate the 25th and final excavation season of the Çatalhöyük Research Project. Known for its fascinating, cutting-edge archaeological research methods and laboratory collaborations, the exhibition presents the Çatalhöyük excavation through various experiment-based display features, including 3D prints of finds, laser-scanned overviews of excavation areas, and immersive digital displays that bring the 9000-year-old settlement back to life. 

‘The Curious Case of Çatalhöyük’ narrates the reflexive methods of the excavation through all its phases, starting from the moment the trowel touches the soil to the documentation of the finds, the laboratory analysis, and the sharing of information. Although traditional excavation remains the primary form of investigation at Çatalhöyük, digital, experimental, and visual reconstruction methods are increasingly employed to aid research and interpretation. This experimental legacy is reflected in exhibition displays and is complemented by incorporative artistic interventions, which underline how the site has been subject to various artworks.

As part of the exhibition, an award-winning immersive digital sculpture is commissioned to the media artist Refik Anadol from Turkey. Anadol developed a digital installation using Çatalhöyük Research Project’s archive, which consists of 2.8 million data records tied to 250,000 finds. By employing machine learning algorithms to sort relations among these records, Anadol transforms this knowledge into an immersive media installation that transcends research, archaeology, art, and technology.

This exhibition is organised by Koç University’s Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (ANAMED), managed by Şeyda Çetin, and curated by Duygu Tarkan, with contributions from Ian Hodder and other Çatalhöyük Research Project team members. The exhibition is designed by PATTU Architecture with the support of Yapı Kredi Bank that is one of the main sponsors of Çatalhöyük excavations since 1997 and the technological sponsorship of Grundig.

Parallel Event:

Experience Çatalhöyük Through Virtual Reality
20–24 November 2018, The Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London 
Travel to the Neolithic period by Experiencing the Unesco World Heritage Site of Çatalhöyük

The Virtual Reality (VR) project presents an immersive recreation of the Çatalhöyük settlement. Equipped with VR headsets, visitors will be transported back into a Çatalhöyük building to observe life 9,000 years ago. Visitors will enter the Neolithic period, walk around the mud-brick houses of Çatalhöyük, virtually ‘pick up’ objects from the floor, witness the honeycomb-like architectural style from the rooftops, and see the landscape of the Konya plain.
VR event opening hours:
Tuesday-Saturday 12:00-17:00
Thursday: 12:00-20:00

About Çatalhöyük:

People first settled at Çatalhöyük around 7100 BC. It was home to a society undergoing a continual transformation, and by 6500 BC, radical changes had occurred. More efficient cooking pots were developed, which in turn created time for other activities. Domestic cattle and milk were introduced, and there was an increase in housing and population density. Burials and ritual behaviour also became more elaborate. At its peak, approximately 3000 to 8000 people lived, worked, and died at Çatalhöyük.

The British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara (BIAA) initiated work at Çatalhöyük, which would soon prove to be a unique site. From 1961 to 1965, British archaeologist James Mellaart unearthed 160 buildings in the first Çatalhöyük excavations. Survey work and excavation resumed on a large scale in 1993, under the direction of another British archaeologist, Ian Hodder. The discovery of the site caused great excitement in the archaeological community, and the findings from the site have been revolutionizing our knowledge of the technology, art, culture, and beliefs of the Neolithic Period. 

About Koç University ANAMED:

Koç University’s Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (ANAMED) was founded in 2005 and is located in Istanbul, Turkey. The primary activities of the centre include granting fellowships to researchers specializing in Turkey’s cultural heritage, providing library services, hosting public meetings such as symposia, conferences, and workshops, organising exhibitions, and publishing scholarly works related to Anatolian civilizations.

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