The Complexity of Open Spaces at the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük, Turkey

Stanford Archaeology Center
Wednesday, May 8, 2019 12:00 PM
Stanford Archaeology Center

Theorists have long recognized open spaces as integral components of densely-populated settlements, and relate them to the social, political, and economic configuration of residents and communities. Within the context of Neolithic Southwest Asia, treatments of open spaces vary widely, both in approach and in how explicitly they center open spaces within the study. The “public”-“private” continuum, however, has served as an important analytical and interpretive vector within the literature. In fact, the development and organization of these spaces are frequently contextualized within frameworks of changing household structures and property regimes. While this ground may already seem well-trodden, it is apparent that the disproportionate focus on Neolithic structures as correlates of houses and households has left some research avenues unexplored. As areas that provide the community with a common physical and social setting, open spaces represent materialized consensus, and provide an opportunity to better understand communal life and social relations during this period. Using the site of Çatalhöyük (7100-6700 Cal. BCE) as a case study, my project moves the analytical focus away from the Neolithic house to the open spaces. Çatalhöyük is composed of clusters of structures interspersed with open areas. A traditional understanding of open spaces at Çatalhöyük sees them transformed from informal, communal receptacles for rubbish into activity areas that were used by individual houses as they became more autonomous and insulated; mirroring the aforementioned social transformation noted in the region. A systematic re-evaluation and integration of excavation data and material analysis has since been deployed to better understand the use and long-term development of these spaces. Here I will present some preliminary results, with a focus on the excavations conducted in 2016-2017.

Justine Issavi is a dissertation writer in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford. She earned a B.A. (2009) and M.A. (2011) from UC Merced in World Cultures and History. She has conducted long-term research (2010-2017) in Turkey as part of the Çatalhöyük Research Project. Her research interests concern the interrelated and long-term shifts in social organization, cultural practices, and interpersonal relationships associated with sustained sedentism in Southwest Asia. She is also interested in the intersection of archaeological practice and digital technologies and has worked to develop digital workflows for various aspects of archaeological fieldwork.