Catal Huyuk “first religious designed city” and a “city of equality”

Men and women held equal status in the ancient city of Catalhoyuk (around 10,000 to 5,000 years ago)

Çatalhöyük was a very large Neolithic and Chalcolithic proto-city settlement in southern Anatolia, which existed from approximately 7500 BC to 5700 BC, and flourished around 7000 BC. Çatalhöyük is located overlooking the Konya Plain, southeast of the present-day city of Konya (ancient Iconium) in Turkey, approximately 140 km (87 mi) from the twin-coned volcano of Mount Hasan. The eastern settlement forms a mound which would have risen about 20 m (66 ft) above the plain at the time of the latest Neolithic occupation. There is also a smaller settlement mound to the west and a Byzantine settlement a few hundred meters to the east. The prehistoric mound settlements were abandoned before the Bronze Age. A channel of the Çarşamba river once flowed between the two mounds, and the settlement was built on alluvial clay which may have been favourable for early agriculture.

Yes Çatalhöyük was a place of relative gender equality, where men and women held equal status.

Overlooking the Konya Plain in Turkey lies the remarkable and unique ancient city of Çatalhöyük, the largest and best-preserved Neolithic site found to date. At a time when most of the world’s people were nomadic hunter-gatherers, Çatalhöyük was a bustling town of as many as 10,000 people. According to a 2014 report in Hurriyet Daily News , archaeologists have now gained new insights into the ancient city as further excavation work has revealed that Çatalhöyük was a place of gender equality, where men and women held equal status. Çatalhöyük, which means ‘forked mound’ and refers to the site’s east and west mounds, features a unique and peculiar street-less settlement of houses clustered together in a honeycomb-like maze with most accessed by holes in the ceiling, which also served as the only source of ventilation into the house. The rooftops were effectively streets and may have formed plazas where many daily activities may have taken place. The homes had plaster interiors and each main room served for cooking and daily activities.

“paganist” Believe in spirit-filled life and/or afterlife can be attached to or be expressed in things or objects and these objects can be used by special persons or in special rituals can connect to spirit-filled life and/or afterlife who are guided/supported by a goddess/god or goddesses/gods (you are a hidden paganist/Paganism: an approximately 12,000-year-old belief system) And Gobekli Tepe: “first human made temple” as well as Catal Huyuk “first religious designed city” are both evidence of some kind of early paganism.

9,500 – 7,700 Years Ago – Catal Huyuk (Turkey), is the “first religious designed city” settlement where evidence of religious civilization develop likely contains a spiritual center making it a religious temple city. Catal Huyuk, which in Turkish Catal is for “fork,” Huyuk for “mound.” Likely, inhabitants practicing worship in communal shrines, leaving behind numerous clay figurines and impressions of phallic, feminine, and hunting scenes. Catal Huyuk, a town in southcentral Turkey with an estimated population of 5,000 – 10,000 people, is the apparent center of fertility cult and goddess worship. The houses are accessed via their rooftops, were crammed tightly together, and with little evidence of specialization, hierarchy, or elite. A site of this size might be expected to produce evidence of specialization, elite, and large communal areas, rather than the evidence for an even distribution of labor and resource. However, the site does reveal evidence of rich symbolic and artistic actions, including shrine areas, plastered features, bucrania, wall paintings, figurines, and burials, focused on particular houses, and described as ‘history houses’. Along with goddess and bull cults has been a broader perception of a ‘cult of skulls’ or skull cult. The skull cult has its roots in the Levantine PPNB, with plastered skulls recovered from sites including Jericho, ‘Ain Ghazal, Kfar HaHoresh, and Tell Aswad. Recent excavations have extended this phenomenon into Anatolia, with plastered skulls recovered from Catal Huyuk, and one skull of an adult male, buried in the arms of an adult female at Catal Huyuk. Such plastered skulls were originally believed to venerate elder, male ancestors. However, recent analysis has revealed that many plastered skulls were of children and females, which suggest that these were related to ancestors, the ‘ancestor’ category was not one limited to the elder male image. On this same site, one of the oldest known representation of a drum was discovered in a fresco with more than thirty characters, some of which playing percussions, dancing around a huge bull. Two characters hold what looks like musical instruments similar to the malunga or berimbau, a single-string percussion instrument or musical bow, originally from southern parts of Africa. Although the bow is now thought of as a weapon, a 15,000 years old cave painting in France, displays a bow being played as a musical instrument. Also of relevance in Catal Huyuk is a mural where the color of the dancers’ skin seems to say they might belong to different ethnic groups. Some are black, others white, and others half black and white. Blacks are sometimes covered with a leopard skin. Also found at Catal Huyuk are stone and bone figures shaped in the form of feminine and rooms with altars of veneration. In fact, over 25% of the rooms have altars to a seeming feminine deity. Many of them are linked with images of horns, the horns of the bull. It is a curious anomaly. At first sight, the mother goddess is a symbol of fertility. The horns of the bull are identified with male potency. Yet both are linked in an altar, which is seemingly of primary honor to a feminine deity. In Building 42, a woman held the head of a man in a burial. The man’s head had been plastered to create the features of his face and had been painted red; indeed, it had been plastered several times, suggesting that the plastered skull had been retained for some time before burial with the woman. This burial seems to hold special significance as suggested by the fact that this is the only example of a plastered skull found at the site, and indeed there is only one other example from anywhere in Turkey. The burial was in fact a foundation burial: it had not been dug through the floors of the house, but the floors of the house had been built up above the burial. Therefore, this event must have had a social significance, the founding of a new house. The event had both practical and religious significance. The religious significance was heightened by the placing in the grave of another remarkable object, the claw of a leopard. The detailed study of the figurines at Catal Huyuk has shown that removable heads and dowel holes in torsos to contain heads were much more prevalent than had been thought. The paintings too show headless bodies associated with vultures. The art from Gobekli Tepe also shows a headless body with an erect penis associated with birds. Overall, it is possible that myths circulated in which heads were removed and carried upward by birds of prey. This process could be reenacted in the removal and replacement of heads on figurines. It seems possible that the process of removing and circulating human heads created ancestors that could communicate with the world of animal spirits. This is seen in the artistic renderings of humans interacting with oversized animals at Catal Huyuk as well as be communicated with by humans in the caring for and replastering of skulls, and in the reenactment of head removal on figurines. Those studying the figurines have increasingly noted the fascination with body parts, buttocks, breasts, navels and so on. Indeed, the more examples of art found, the more the focus on the human form. It has long been assumed that the primary focus of symbolism at early village sites in the Middle East is a nurturing ‘mother goddess’ who embodies notions of birth and rebirth. However, recent finds at both Gobekli Tepe and Catal Huyuk have suggested a link to death and violence as much as to birth and rebirth. Recent finds at Catal Huyuk include a figurine that looks like a typical ‘mother goddess’ from the front, with full breasts and extended belly, but at the back she is a skeleton, with ribs, vertebrae, scapulae, and pelvic bones clearly shown. In 2004, a grave was found in which a woman held a plastered skull of a man in her arms; she was also found with the only leopard bone ever found onsite, worn as a claw pendant. In fact, there is much imagery and symbolism of death and violence at Catal Huyuk. There are bulls’ heads fixed to walls, and other installations on and in walls, including the tusks of wild boars, vulture skulls, and the teeth of foxes and weasels. The new finds from the earlier sites of Gobekli Tepe and Nevali Cori in southeastern Anatolia indicate that this focus on dangerous, wild animals is a central theme of the development of early villages and settled life. Death acted as a focus of transcendent religious experience during the transitions of the early Holocene in the Middle East and that it was central to the creation of social life in the first large agglomerations of people. This seems to be the role of dead ancestors in the creation of ‘houses’. Certain houses at Catal Huyuk had many more complete skeletons than there were people who could have lived in those houses. For example, Building 1, which was inhabited for only 40 years by a family-sized group, had 62 burials beneath the floors. It was clear that people had been buried into this house from other houses. So while some houses have no burials in them, the average is 5-8, there appear to be a small number of houses that have 30-62 burials and therefore seem to have a special nature and in the upper levels, there are more representations of women in the figurine corpus. Social status early in the site seems to have focused on wild animals, associated feasts and male prowess, whereas in the upper levels the success of the house was represented by the size of the house, by the centrality of the hearth and by representations of women. The teeth of foxes and weasels, the tusks of wild boars, the claws of bears and the beaks of vultures were placed in protrusions on the walls and also found was a leopard claw and the talons of raptors in burials. In addition, there are stamp seals of bears with the same body shape of the mother goddess with legs bent and arms raised which may symbolize an exhibit connection of motherhood, power, and violence. The focus was on parts of animals that are dangerous or piercing and there is little symbolic emphasis on femurs, humeri, molar teeth, and so on. Dangerous or flesh-eating wild animals and birds are also chosen for representation. The economy at Catal Huyuk is based on domestic sheep and goats, but these hardly appear in the symbolism. At Catal Huyuk, many figurines are found without heads, and in one case, there is evidence for the intentional severing of a stone figurine head by cutting, probably using an obsidian blade. Archaeologists have found numerous obsidian tools that show flattened and abraded edges from working stone surfaces. About a dozen clay figurines have dowel holes, suggesting that the process of removing and keeping heads could be played out in miniature. The ability to remove and replace certain heads might allow for multiple identities and potential narrativization, it has been argued that detachable heads at Catal Huyuk ‘were used to portray a range of emotions, attitudes, or states of being’. There are several bodies with dowel holes than heads made for attachment, which could suggest that the head is more determinative and the bodies are deemed more generic, although this may not imply a hierarchy. Among the figurines, almost all of the examples have detachable heads, are large female forms, and depict breasts, and one is androgynous. At lower levels of the site, as already noted, obsidian is present in hoards or caches below the floors. In the upper levels, these hoards cease and obsidian becomes more bound by new specialist technologies. Pottery too becomes more complex and more specialized after Level V. It gradually becomes more decorated and by the time of Catal Huyuk West, 8,000 years ago, it is heavily decorated with complex designs. By this time of the West Mound as well, burial in houses of adults largely ends. It is presumed that burials are offsite and perhaps in cemeteries. Catal Huyuk acts as a bridge between societies in the Fertile Crescent to the east where agriculture and settled life began the earliest, and in societies in western Anatolia, Greece, and southeast Europe where agriculture and settled life did not begin until 9,000 years ago with economies that quickly included domestic cattle. To the east, there is more evidence of collective ritual and there are more claims for social differentiation related to ritual. Scholars agree that the major monuments of this area and period from 12,000 – 9,000 years ago, such as the temples of Gobekli Tepe, the towers of Jericho and of Tell Qaramel, the large circular buildings at Jerf el Ahmar and the Skull Building of Cayonu, indicate collective rituals. There is little clear evidence of concentrations of power that depend on or are related to the control of production of the temples. To the west of Catal Huyuk, there is less evidence for large-scale rituals, temples, or religious monuments. Indeed, early Neolithic sites to the west of Catal Huyuk are more similar to Catal Huyuk in that the symbolism is often house-based and associated with clearly egalitarian villages. These societies had a fully-fledged agriculture in which domestic cattle and sheep played key roles, allowing smaller scale societies to spread over a diversity of environmental zones. It seems that the shifts made at Catal Huyuk around 10,500 years ago contributed to the ability of societies to break out of “history making” toward more flexible and individual house-based production.

 

Çatalhöyük was a street-less settlement of houses clustered together in a honeycomb-like maze.

Through analysis of wall paintings, sculptures, and burials, researchers have concluded that men and women held equal status in Çatalhöyük. “Thanks to modern scientific techniques, we have seen that women and men were eating very similar foods, lived similar lives and worked in similar works,” said Stanford University Professor Ian Hodder, who directed the excavations. “The same social stature was given to both men and women.” The level of equality also extended beyond gender and appears to have applied to the society as a whole. “People lived with the principle of equality in Çatalhöyük, especially considering the hierarchy that appeared in other settlements in the Middle East. This makes Çatalhöyük different. There was no leader, government or administrative building,” Professor Hodder said. Another interesting discovery that emerged from excavations was that burials of the deceased, which were typically in pits under the floor or beneath hearths in houses, were not organised according to family relationships. “We have also seen that people who were buried under houses were not biologically relatives or members of the same family. They lived as a family but their natural parents are not the same. Those who were born in Çatalhöyük did not live with their biological parents but with others,” said Hodder.

A pit burial in Çatalhöyük. 

Çatalhöyük was composed entirely of domestic buildings, with no obvious public buildings. While some of the larger ones have rather ornate murals, the purpose of some rooms remains unclear. The population of the eastern mound has been estimated to be, at maximum, 10,000 people, but the population likely varied over the community’s history. An average population of between 5,000 and 7,000 is a reasonable estimate. The sites were set up as large numbers of buildings clustered together. Households looked to their neighbors for help, trade, and possible marriage for their children. The inhabitants lived in mudbrick houses that were crammed together in an aggregate structure. No footpaths or streets were used between the dwellings, which were clustered in a honeycomb-like maze. Most were accessed by holes in the ceiling, with doors reached by ladders and stairs. The rooftops were effectively streets. The ceiling openings also served as the only source of ventilation, allowing smoke from the houses’ open hearths and ovens to escape. Houses had plaster interiors characterized by squared-off timber ladders or steep stairs. These were usually on the south wall of the room, as were cooking hearths and ovens. The main rooms contained raised platforms that may have been used for a range of domestic activities. Typical houses contained two rooms for everyday activity, such as cooking and crafting. All interior walls and platforms were plastered to a smooth finish. Ancillary rooms were used as storage, and were accessed through low openings from main rooms. All rooms were kept scrupulously clean. Archaeologists identified very little rubbish in the buildings, finding middens outside the ruins, with sewage and food waste, as well as significant amounts of wood ash. In good weather, many daily activities may also have taken place on the rooftops, which may have formed a plaza. In later periods, large communal ovens appear to have been built on these rooftops. Over time, houses were renewed by partial demolition and rebuilding on a foundation of rubble, which was how the mound was gradually built up. As many as eighteen levels of settlement have been uncovered. As a part of ritual life, the people of Çatalhöyük buried their dead within the village. Human remains have been found in pits beneath the floors and, especially, beneath hearths, the platforms within the main rooms, and under beds. Bodies were tightly flexed before burial and were often placed in baskets or wound and wrapped in reed mats. Disarticulated bones in some graves suggest that bodies may have been exposed in the open air for a time before the bones were gathered and buried. In some cases, graves were disturbed, and the individual’s head removed from the skeleton. These heads may have been used in rituals, as some were found in other areas of the community. In a woman’s grave spinning whorls were recovered and in a man’s grave, stone axes. Some skulls were plastered and painted with ochre to recreate faces, a custom more characteristic of Neolithic sites in Syria and at Neolithic Jericho than at sites closer by. Vivid murals and figurines are found throughout the settlement, on interior and exterior walls. Distinctive clay figurines of women, notably the Seated Woman of Çatalhöyük, have been found in the upper levels of the site. Although no identifiable temples have been found, the graves, murals, and figurines suggest that the people of Çatalhöyük had a religion rich in symbols. Rooms with concentrations of these items may have been shrines or public meeting areas. Predominant images include men with erect phalluses, hunting scenes, red images of the now extinct aurochs (wild cattle) and stags, and vultures swooping down on headless figures. Relief figures are carved on walls, such as of lionesses facing one another. Heads of animals, especially of cattle, were mounted on walls. A painting of the village, with the twin mountain peaks of Hasan Dağ in the background, is frequently cited as the world’s oldest map and the first landscape painting. However, some archaeologists question this interpretation. Stephanie Meece, for example, argues that it is more likely a painting of a leopard skin instead of a volcano, and a decorative geometric design instead of a map. Çatalhöyük had no apparent social classes, as no houses with distinctive features (belonging to royalty or religious hierarchy, for example) have been found so far. The most recent investigations also reveal little social distinction based on gender, with men and women receiving equivalent nutrition and seeming to have equal social status, as typically found in Paleolithic cultures. Children observed domestic areas. They learned how to perform rituals and how to build or repair houses by watching the adults make statues, beads and other objects. Çatalhöyük’s spatial layout may be due to the close kin relations exhibited amongst the people. It can be seen, in the layout, that the people were “divided into two groups who lived on opposite sides of the town, separated by a gully.” Furthermore, because no nearby towns were found from which marriage partners could be drawn, “this spatial separation must have marked two intermarrying kinship groups.” This would help explain how a settlement so early on would become so large. In upper levels of the site, it becomes apparent that the people of Çatalhöyük were gaining skills in agriculture and the domestication of animals. Female figurines have been found within bins used for storage of cereals, such as wheat and barley, and the figurines are presumed to be of a deity protecting the grain. Peas were also grown, and almonds, pistachios, and fruit were harvested from trees in the surrounding hills. Sheep were domesticated and evidence suggests the beginning of cattle domestication as well. However, hunting continued to be a major source of food for the community. Pottery and obsidian tools appear to have been major industries; obsidian tools were probably both used and also traded for items such as Mediterranean sea shells and flint from Syria.

Anatolian Cultural Evolution

10,000 Years Ago – Turkey, Anatolian Cultural Evolution round this time there is no identifiable community buildings. Presumed family lineage, age- and gender-based social ranking; village management by council and/or chiefs; pottery production. Symbolisms relating to fecundity, life, and death in naturalistic human and animal forms. Local changes in pottery and lithic typologies and technologies reflect changes in subsistence modes. Then around 9,500 – 7,700 years ago – Catal Huyuk, Turkey, is the “first religious created city” settlement where evidence of religious civilization develop likely contains a spiritual center making it a religious temple city. Catal Huyuk which in Turkish Catal is for “fork”, Huyuk for “mound”. Inhabitant’s likely practicing worship in communal shrines, leaving behind numerous clay figurines and impressions of phallic, feminine, and hunting scenes. Catal Huyuk, a town in Southcentral Turkey with an estimated population of 5,000 -10,000 people, is the apparent center of fertility cult and goddess worship. The houses are accessed via their rooftops, were crammed tightly together, and with little evidence of specialization, hierarchy, or elite. A site of this size might be expected to produce evidence of specialization, elite, and large communal areas, rather than the evidence for a fairly even distribution of labor and resource. However, the site does reveal evidence of rich symbolic and artistic actions, including shrine areas, plastered features, bucrania, wall-paintings, figurines, and burials, focused on particular houses, and described as ‘history houses’. Along with goddess and bull cults has been a broader perception of a ‘cult of skulls’ or skull cult. The skull cult has its roots in the Levantine PPNB, with plastered skulls recovered from sites including Jericho, ‘Ain Ghazal, Kfar HaHoresh, and Tell Aswad. Recent excavations have extended this phenomenon into Anatolia, with plastered skulls recovered from Catal Huyuk, and one skull of an adult male, buried in the arms of an adult female at Catal Huyuk. Such plastered skulls were originally believed to venerate elder, male ancestors. However, recent analysis has revealed that many plastered skulls were of children and females which suggest that these were related to ancestors, the ‘ancestor’ category was not one limited to the elder male image. On this same site, one of the oldest known representation of a drum was discovered in a fresco with more than thirty characters, some of which playing percussions, dancing around a huge bull. Two characters hold what looks like musical instruments similar to the malunga or berimbau, a single-string percussion instrument or musical bow, originally from southern parts of Africa. Although the bow is now thought of as a weapon, a 15,000 years old cave painting in France, displays a bow being played as a musical instrument. Also of relevance in Catal Huyuk is a mural where the color of the dancers’ skin seems to say they might belong to different ethnic groups. Some are black, others white, and others half black and white. Blacks are sometimes covered with a leopard skin. Also found at Catal Huyuk are stone and bone figures shaped in the form of feminine and rooms with altars of veneration.  In fact, over 25% of the rooms have altars to a feminine deity. Many of them are linked with images of horns, the horns of the bull. It is a curious anomaly. At first sight, the mother goddess is a symbol of fertility. The horns of the bull are identified with male potency. Yet both are linked in an altar which is seemingly of primary honor to a feminine deity. In Building 42, there was a burial in which a woman held the head of a man. The man’s head had been plastered to create the features of his face and had been painted red; indeed, it had been plastered several times, suggesting that the plastered skull had been retained for some time before burial with the woman. This was a highly charged event, as suggested by the fact that this is the only example of a plastered skull found at the site, and indeed there is only one other example from anywhere in Turkey. The burial was in fact a foundation burial: it had not been dug through the floors of the house, but the floors of the house had been built up above the burial. So this highly charged event had a social significance, the founding of a new house. The event had both practical and religious significance. The religious significance was heightened by the placing in the grave of another remarkable object, the claw of a leopard. The detailed study of the figurines at Catal Huyuk has shown that removable heads and dowel holes in torsos to contain heads were much more prevalent than had been thought. The paintings too show headless bodies associated with vultures. The art from Gobekli Tepe also shows a headless body with an erect penis associated with birds. Overall, it is possible to argue that myths circulated in which heads were removed and carried upward by birds of prey. This process could be reenacted in the removal and replacement of heads on figurines. It seems possible that the process of removing and circulating human heads created ancestors that could communicate with the world of animal spirits (as seen in the artistic renderings of humans interacting with oversized animals at Catal Huyuk) as well as be communicated with by humans (in the caring for and replastering of skulls, and in the reenactment of head removal on figurines). Those studying the figurines have increasingly noted the fascination with body parts, buttocks, breasts, navels and so on. Indeed, the more examples of art found, the more the focus on the human form. It has long been assumed that the primary focus of symbolism at early village sites in the Middle East is a nurturing ‘mother goddess’ who embodies notions of birth and rebirth. But recent finds at both Gobekli Tepe and Catal Huyuk have suggested a link to death and violence as much as to birth and rebirth. Recent finds at Catal Huyuk include a figurine that looks like a typical ‘mother goddess’ from the front, with full breasts and extended belly, but at the back she is a skeleton, with ribs, vertebrae, scapulae, and pelvic bones clearly shown. And in 2004 a grave was found in which a woman held a plastered skull of a man in her arms; she was also found with the only leopard bone ever found onsite, worn as a claw pendant. In fact, there is much imagery and symbolism of death and violence at Catal Huyuk. There are bulls’ heads fixed to walls, and other installations on and in walls, including the tusks of wild boars, vulture skulls, and the teeth of foxes and weasels. The new finds from the earlier sites of Gobekli Tepe and Nevali Cori in Southeastern Anatolia indicate that this focus on dangerous, wild animals is a central theme of the development of early villages and settled life. Death acted as a focus of transcendent religious experience during the transitions of the early Holocene in the Middle East and that it was central to the creation of social life in the first large agglomerations of people. This is because of the role of dead ancestors in the creation of ‘houses’. Certain houses at Catal Huyuk had many more complete skeletons than there were people who could have lived in those houses. For example, Building 1, which was inhabited for only 40 years by a family-sized group, had 62 burials beneath the floors. It was clear that people had been buried into this house from other houses. So while some houses have no burials in them, the average is 5-8, there appear to be a small number of houses that have 30-62 burials and therefore seem to have a special nature and in the upper levels, there are more representations of women in the figurine corpus. Social status early in the site seems to have focused on wild animals, associated feasts and male prowess, whereas in the upper levels the success of the house was represented by the size of the house, by the centrality of the hearth and by representations of women. The teeth of foxes and weasels, the tusks of wild boars, the claws of bears and the beaks of vultures were placed in protrusions on the walls and also found was a leopard claw and the talons of raptors in burials. So there is a focus on parts of animals that are dangerous or piercing; there is little symbolic emphasis on femurs, humeri, molar teeth, and so on. Dangerous or flesh-eating wild animals and birds are also chosen for representation. The economy at Catal Huyuk is based on domestic sheep and goats, but these hardly appear in the symbolism. At Catal Huyuk many figurines are found without heads, and in one case there is evidence for the intentional severing of a stone figurine head by cutting, probably using an obsidian blade. Archeologists have found numerous obsidian tools that show flattened and abraded edges from working stone surfaces. About a dozen clay figurines have dowel holes, suggesting that the process of removing and keeping heads could be played out in miniature. The ability to remove and replace certain heads might allow for multiple identities and potential narrativization, it has been argued that detachable heads at Catal Huyuk ‘were used to portray a range of emotions, attitudes, or states of being’. There are several bodies with dowel holes than heads made for attachment, which could suggest that the head is more determinative and the bodies are deemed more generic, although this may not imply a hierarchy. Among the figurines, almost all of the examples have detachable heads, are large female forms and depict breasts, and one is androgynous. At lower levels of the site, as already noted, obsidian is present in hoards or caches below the floors. In the upper levels these hoards cease and obsidian becomes more bound by new specialist technologies. Pottery too becomes more complex and more specialized after Level V. It gradually becomes more decorated until, by the time of Catal Huyuk West, 8,000 years ago, it is heavily decorated with complex designs. By this time of the West Mound as well, burial in houses of adults largely ends. It is presumed that burials are offsite and perhaps in cemeteries. Catal Huyuk acts as a bridge between societies in the Fertile Crescent to the east where agriculture and settled life began the earliest, and in societies in Western Anatolia, Greece, and Southeast Europe where agriculture and settled life did not begin until 9,000 years ago with economies that quickly included domestic cattle. To the east, there is more evidence of collective ritual and there are more claims for social differentiation related to ritual. Scholars agree that the major monuments of this area and period from 12,000 – 9,000 years ago, such as the temples of Gobekli Tepe, the towers of Jericho and of Tell Qaramel, the large circular buildings at Jerf el Ahmar and the Skull Building of Cayonu, indicate collective rituals. There is little clear evidence of concentrations of power that depend on or are related to the control of production of the temples. To the west of Catal Huyuk, there is less evidence for large scale rituals, temples, or religious monuments. Indeed, early Neolithic sites to the west of Catal Huyuk are more similar to Catal Huyuk in that the symbolism is often house-based and associated with clearly egalitarian villages. These societies had a fully fledged agriculture in which domestic cattle and sheep played key roles, allowing smaller scale societies to spread over a diversity of environmental zones. It seems that the shifts made at Catal Huyuk around 10,500 years ago contributed to the ability of societies to break out of “history making” toward more flexible and individual house-based production.

Gobekli Tepe and Primal Organized Religion

Gobekli Tepe: “first human made temple”

13,000 – 9,370 Years Ago – Gobekli Tepe, Turkey,  found the “first human made temple” at a Southeast Anatolian site and north of the Harran plain consisting of three circular structures of ritualistically engraved monolithic standing stones making a temple complex. The tall “T” shaped stones are elaborately carved with boars, felines, bovines, scorpions, vultures, and snakes abound, twisting and crawling on the pillars’ broad sides. There is a set of arms and hands seen on the pillars that could be related to a birth, but how it is represented; it seems to allude to possibly showing the concept of a birth through three states or realms. Likewise, the other reliefs (artistic representations) on the T shaped stones may be stylized animal spirits, with the seemingly most symbolically used animal being snakes, which are 28% of the engravings and shows it is more important than other animals. The sacred status of snakes goes back to the oldest place of worship in Africa; it was a natural stone snake rock being worshiped as well as there is a common connection in many mythologies to snakes goddess, part of goddesses, or a familiar for such. That is not to say there are not many snake gods as well. Gobekli Tepe proves proof of complex societies involved in some kind of organized religion before settling into more concentrated sedentary communities. The place where Gobekli Tepe resides is also known as “belly hill” and could have also held a significance long ago, possibly a reference to pregnancy; an interesting thought as a female figure was found connected with felines that may express a connection to one of the later themes associated with an ancestor mother or goddess cult. The throne seated female figure, made probably no later than 10,000 years ago, is carved in containing depictions of felines; this could maybe a proto-Kubaba. Kubaba is a prominent goddess and in Sumerian called Kug-Bau who is the only queen on the Sumerian King list.

By Damien Marie AtHope

References

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Insoll, T. (2012). The Oxford handbook of the archaeology of ritual and religion. Oxford, United Kingdom. Oxford University Press.

Hodder, I. (2013). Religion at Work in a Neolithic Society: Vital Matters. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, United Kingdom. Kindle Edition.

Understanding the bible (7th Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

When I describe the evolution of religion, I will use the prefixes (primal, proto, and progressed) for the set of stages of development of religion. My use of primal, proto and progressed as prefixes for subclasses I have organized such as early superstitionism, early religionism and organized religionism all connected parts in the evolution of religion. The “Primal” prefix is meant to express the very basic aspects appear but not yet fully evolved or beginning assemblages are starting to come together but lack form, The “Proto” prefix is meant to express the “earliest form of” or all parts of the earliest aspects are now assembled. And, the “Progressed” prefix is meant to express the “concepts or behaviors more fully solidify” or all parts of the aspects are now further developed from previously assembled concepts or behaviors. I would first like to point out that there seems to be some scant possible hinting of the earliest pseudo-superstition before 1 million years ago and possibly back to 2 million years ago, yet likely this is not yet full superstitionism and defiantly not religion, but there are still elements there that are forming that will further religions’ future evolution. This pseudo-superstition starts with symbolic, superstition, or sacralized behaviors that may have been possibly exhibited even if only in the most limited ways at start to further standardize around 1 million years ago with primal superstition. Then the development of religion evolution increased around 600,000 years ago with proto superstition and then even to a greater extent around 300,000 years ago with progressed superstition. Religions’ evolution moves from the loose growing of superstitionism to a greater developed thought addiction that was used to manage fear and the desire to sway control over a dangerous world. This began to happen around 100,000 years ago with primal religion, next the proto religion stage is around 75,000 years ago or less, the progressed religion stage is around 50,000 years ago, and finally after around 13, 500 years ago, begins with the evolution of organized religion. The set of stages for the development of organized religion is subdivided into the following: the primal stage of organized religion is 13,000 years ago, the proto organized religion stage is around 10,000 years ago, and finally the progressed organized religion stage is around 7,000 years ago with the forming of mythology and its connected set of Dogmatic-Propaganda strains of sacralized superstitionism.