Stanford anthropologist delves into Neolithic life in Turkey


The dawn of human history is coming to light in a Neolithic village in modern-day Turkey, thanks to a joint effort by scholars at Stanford University and the University of Stirling in Scotland.

Starting this month, IAN HODDER, a professor of anthropology at Stanford, will begin work with Stirling archaeologist ALEX BAYLISS to conduct radiocarbon dating at Çatalhöyük, Turkey, a mud brick site, estimated to date from 7,100 to 5,900 BC. The work will focus on items from the site’s East Mound, where animal and human bones, charred plant remains, and food crusts on ceramics have been found.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council and the National Science Foundation commissioned the five-year project with a $390,000 grant.

Hodder, director of the Çatalhöyük Research Project, started work on the site back in 1993. The site itself was discovered in the 1950s and became famous due to its large size and the dense occupation of the settlement, wall paintings and other art uncovered inside the houses.

“This grant will allow us to write history in prehistory,” Hodder said. “With advances in radiocarbon dating, we will be able to explore specific moments in the long process by which humans settled down, formed large villages and domesticated animals.

“We can also examine the specific moment at which cooking pottery was first used, unlocking the specific conditions that led up to this transformative moment,” Hodder said.

He added that archaeologists typically look at the distant past with a “blurred vision, uncertain of the exact dates at which things occur.” The new grant allows researchers to “put on glasses” so that they can see more clearly events that took place 9,000 years ago.