Saylor.org's Ancient Civilizations of the World/The Development of Early Towns: Jericho and Catal Huyuk

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Jericho[edit]

Jericho is one of the world's oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. Archaeologists have evidence of inhabitants living in the city since 9000 BCE. Even before the era of permanent settlement, the area that would one day become Jericho was a popular camp site for Natufian hunter-gatherers. As the earth emerged from a relatively cold period known as the Younger Dryas between 10,000 and 9000 BCE, the area became more hospitable for human settlement. The village began with small circular dwellings, burials in the floors of the buildings, the cultivation of wild grains and the use of no pottery. Buildings were made of clay and straw bricks held together by mud dried in the sun.

By 9400 BCE, the town had more than 70 of these dwellings, with more than 1000 inhabitants. Most interesting to archaeologists is the evidence for a stone wall over three and half meters high and a tower of equal height. The wall was likely used to prevent flooding from the nearby Jordan River and was an unprecedented innovation in human history.

Catal Huyuk[edit]

Catal Huyuk (Çatalhöyük, Turkish for Forked Mound) is one of the largest and best-preserved Neolithic settlements known to archaeologists. Located in southern Anatolia, in modern day Turkey, Catal Huyuk was inhabited between 7500 and 5700 BCE. The site is comprised completely of domestic buildings, several with large rooms with murals. The mud-brick domiciles were crammed together in tightly-packed bunches with no streets or footpaths between one another. Entrance to these homes was accessed through holes in the roof and ladders down into the home. In this sense, the roofs of the homes served as the walkway in the village.

All walls and platforms of the buildings were covered over in smooth plaster. Combined with the fact that the rooms were kept scrupulously clean, they interior of these buildings looked bright white. Although archaeologists generally discovered little trash in the buildings, dead family members were typically buried beneath the floor or hearth. Apart from the murals discovered on walls throughout the settlement, a number of religious figurines were scattered throughout the settlement. Although archaeologists do not know much about the religious practices of Catal Huyuk, there seemed to have been no temples for the religion, but rather individual shrines to deities within the home. Figurines were highly symbolic and ranged from hunted or domesticated animals to men with erect phalluses, to the "Seated Woman of Catal Huyuk". Interestingly, while there are some male deity figurines, the majority are female, like the Seated Woman. Although this might indicate that the society was a matriarchy, what men and women ate and drank indicated there was no social status differentiation between the sexes. Apart from equality of the sexes, there seems to be no form of socio-economic differentiation, as evidenced by the similarity of all homes without differentiating features.

Seated Woman