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This presentation will help you get started in exploring the Last House on the Hill Web edition, a multigraph about the Berkeley Archaeologists @ Çatalhöyük (BACH) project at this famous 9000-year old Neolithic mound settlement in Central Anatolia, Turkey. This video focuses on the life-history of Building 3, which was the main focus of the BACH project. It was excavated in its entirety during seven seasons of work 1997-2003. This movie guides you through the interpretation of Building 3 in terms of its life history phases from construction to closure and abandonment that will help guide your exploration of the archive of the LHotH web edition. To know more about the way in which we collected and documented the data from Building 3, watch the Getting Started movie on the Life-History of the BACH Project.
The Life-History of
Center for Digital Archaeology
This video will help you get started in exploring the Last House on the Hill web edition, a
multigraph about the Berkeley Archaeologists @ Çatalhöyük (BACH) project at this famous
9000-year old Neolithic mound settlement in Central Anatolia, Turkey. This video focuses on
the life-history of Building 3, which was the main focus of the BACH project. It was excavated
in its entirety during seven seasons of work 1997-2003. This movie guides you through the
interpretation of Building 3 in terms of its life history phases from construction to closure
and abandonment that will help guide your exploration of the archive of the LHotH web
edition. To know more about the way in which we collected and documented the data from
Building 3, watch the Getting Started movie on the Life-History of the BACH Project.
Çatalhöyük Research Project 1993N
East Mound, Çatalhöyük
North Area, East Mound
The archaeological site of Çatalhöyük comprises two mounds. This is the earlier Neolithic East
Mound that was the main focus of both the 1960s excavation and the renewed (since 1993)
project. The northern eminence of the East Mound was untouched by archaeologists until
1993, when its top 10 cm were scraped off revealing this pattern of mud-brick walls. This was
to be the NORTH Area of excavation.You can see in the southwest of the mound the
excavation started in the 1960s, referred to as the SOUTH Area
Çatalhöyük Research Project 1993N
NORTH Area, East Mound 1993-2003
Understanding the lives of individual houses was an important aim of the Çatalhöyük
Research Project (including the BACH project) as a way of understanding the mass of
mudbrick walls that seem to present in these floor plans a dense - almost agglomerated pattern of rooms and buildings. They might tempt us to imagine that this represents
almost an urban landscape. But were the life histories of these houses synchronous, or
does the pattern represent a more complicated set of chronological relationships? Are
there, for example, only partial overlaps in time?
The North Area
Building 1 (Çatalhöyük Research Project) 1995-1997
We located the BACH project next to Building 1 whose excavation had started in 1995 so
that we could compare and relate the two different buildings with their different life histories.
The North Area
Building 3: Berkeley Archaeologists @ Çatalhöyük (BACH)
Building 3 became the focus of the BACH project. Both Building 1 and Building 3 in a sense
are Last Houses on THIS part of the Hill since - unusually - they were never built over.
Characteristically the mud-brick houses of Çatalhöyük were truncated, ﬁlled in and built
over, thus forming the mound. Building 1, for example was built using the truncated walls of
an earlier Building 5 as its foundations.
The New (2008) Chronology at Çatalhöyük
New (2008) Phases
After Farid (2008) Çatalhöyük Archive Reports, p.20
The two houses - Building 1 and Building 3 - are probably quite similar in age in terms of the
East Mound’s history, overlapping in their history with each other and with the house below
Building 1 called Building 5. According to James Mellaart’s original scheme, these three
houses have been dated to the middle of the East Mound’s occupation (Phase VIA-VII, that
spans roughly ca. 6900-6500BC). According to the new (2008) dating system at the site,
Building 3 has been dated to Phase N. Many of the other houses excavated in this NORTH
“neighborhood” after the BACH project also belong to roughly this time period.
Life-History of Building 3 - 50 years?
Life-History of the BACH Project - 7 years
Our identification of a change in phase in Building 3 was based on changes in the remodelling of architectural features inside the building, including the location of ovens,
hearths, storage bins and basins, as well as the edges of the platforms. We also carefully
matched ﬂoor re-plasterings with burial events. It seemed to us that starting with the
earliest burial in Phase B3.3 many re-modelling events happened after burial events. You
can check this idea yourself by exploring the archive of the LHotH web edition. Don’t
forget that these phases are the results of our interpretation of observations; the
residents almost certainly did not see them as “phases”, but they may very well have been
aware of burials under the house ﬂoors and the subsequent re-modelling of the building
as being markers of the life-history of the house (or their household). You can look at this
image as a separate item at your own pace in the archive of LHotH, in addition to the individual
phase image. And you can read in more detail about the sequence of phases of Building
3 in Chapters 4 and 5 of the printed edition of LHotH.
to Visualize Life in a
Illustration after Mellaart
(1967) Çatal Hüyük
Our understanding of what life was like in Building 3 is helped by images of
reconstructions such as this one in James Mellaart’s book on Çatalhöyük.
Using a Replica at Çatalhöyük to
Visualize Life in a Neolithic House
At Çatalhöyük, during 1998-2001 BACH team co-director Mirjana Stevanovic built
(with help) a full-sized replica of a Çatalhöyük Neolithic building, modeled on a
composite of Building 1 and 3, complete with storage chambers and ladder for roof
access. You can read more about this in Chapter 22 of the printed edition of LHotH
and explore videos and images in the archive of the LHotH web edition.
Visualizing Life at Çatalhöyük with
Okapi Island in Second Life
Screenshots by Ruth Tringham and Okapi Island team
We also created Okapi Island in the virtual world of Second Life that also enabled a visitor to
vicariously experience the place of Çatalhöyük. This was a to-scale replica of the East mound,
the reconstructed houses in the southwest corner of the mound, and the BACH Area. Sadly
this is now defunct for ﬁnancial reasons, but you will be able to experience it passively
through watching a movie of the island housed in the archive of the LHotH web edition.
The later ﬂoors of Building 3
From its construction to its closure and abandonment Building 3 was charaterized by ﬁve
platforms around a lower Central Floor Area. Each is identiﬁed with their feature number. The
ﬂoors throughout Building 3 were re-plastered many many times during the occupation of
the building and are key to building its life-history.
Feature 162 (northcentral platform)
Units of ﬂoor 1 and packing below,
assigned to Phase B3.4B
Units of burial cut,
skeleton, ﬁll and lid,
assigned to Phase
To help keep track of the replasterings, each ﬂoor replastering was given a unique unit
number (as a separate depositional event). Sometimes, as in this example of Feature 162, a
speciﬁc ﬂoor might be divided arbitrarily (by archaeologists) into quadrants. Thus here the
ﬂoor plaster (yellow outlined numbers) and underlying packing (turquoise outlined) of
Phase B3.4B has eight units numbers, expressing different quadrants of the platform.
Moreover, this floor and packing (along with all the underlying - earlier - floors) were cut
by a pit dug for the burial (F.617) of a boy whose sequence of units also date to Phase
B3.4B. You can find more details of these terms in the glossary, but the units and their
groupings into features is the foundation to the documentation of Building 3.
lid: unit 6206
ﬁll: unit 6211
617: the last
and ﬁrst for
cut: unit 6207
This Feature 617 is the ﬁnal burial of Building 3 - a 5-year old child in a basket - and was
discovered at the end of the 1999 season. This shows you the way the different units
describe the sequence of depositional events in burials at Çatalhöyük: ﬁrst the cut or pit
creating an edge and a void, then the body (in this case placed in a basket), then the ﬁll of
the pit, and ﬁnally its clay and plaster lid to mask its position on the ﬂoor.
Harris Matrix of Units in Feature 173
We work out the sequence of depositional events (units) that create the archaeological
evidence of the life-history of Building 3 by building what is called a Harris Matrix. This
image is part of the matrix for the northeast platform Feature 173. You can see the sequence
of ﬂoors (orange) and their underlying packing (turquoise) and the phases that they have
been assigned to; and you can see a burial (Feature 631) cutting through the phase B3.4B
ﬂoors and actually also all the preceding ﬂoors. This is the most detailed scale at which we
can work out the life-history. Eventually we will have the complete Harris Matrix for Building
3 in the archive of the LHotH web edition
Building 3 Features/Phases
An easier way to understand the sequence is to examine it at the scale of “the feature” (a
collection of units). On this chart, which you can examine also as a separate item in the
archive of the LHotH web edition, features are described by category and by phase. Floor
features are any features that are ﬁxed to the ﬂoor such as ovens, hearths, bins, burial pits,
basins etc. The phase in which a feature is constructed is yellow; if it continues into a later
phase it becomes grey. Thus you can see that a big change happened between Phase B3.1D
and Phase B3.2 when many earlier features were discontinued and many new ones were built.
Hold that thought for later!
the zones of
“clean” white platforms
“dirty” kitchen & ladder area
“dirty” food preparation & storage
central ﬂoor area
In the early part of its history, before Phase B3.4A, Building 3 comprised one large room that
we designated Space 201. Partitioning by the two small walls and the screen wall transformed
this space into the two rooms, Space 86 and Space 158. We grouped the changing
conﬁguration of features into three zones within Building 3 that are deﬁned in the same way
throughout the history of Building 3 (look in chapters 4 and 5 of the printed edition of LHotH
for more details):
The South-and-West Zone referred to sometimes as the “dirty” area of the building was the
center for domestic activities around food and resources. This zone was further divided into a
zone encompassing the small western room Space 158 and the southwest platform (F.169)
that was a focus of food preparation and storage, and a zone that included the south-center
lower area which we sometimes referred to as the “kitchen” and the southeast platform (F.
167) which was the location for the ladder entrance.
The Northeast Zone referred to sometimes as the “clean” area of the building comprised the
white plastered platforms (F.162, F.173, F.170) that were the location for burials and presumably - not domestic activities.
The Central Floor Zone is a lower area connected directly to the “kitchen”; this acted as a
transitional zone between “clean” and “dirty” areas, and was also the location for child burials.
Building 3, Phase 1A-D
Prolonged stability and gradual changes were carried out through the four sub-phases of
Phase B3.1. The spatial arrangements and the activities in the house indicate that, in the
initial stages of its occupation, few domestic features were built; these were gradually
acquired through time. The oven (red)(F.758), however, was in the SW corner from the
beginning We assume that those activities, which in the earliest phases were not performed
in Building 3, took place elsewhere in the settlement. As features were built into Building 3,
their associated tasks and activities were brought inside it. For instance, the bins (yellow)(F.
770, 786) in the northwest corner began with one in Phase 3.1B and increased to two in Phase
3.1D; the basins (yellow) (F.780, 781) began with one in Phase 3.1B and then increased to 3-4
in Phase 3.1C. At the end of Phase B3.1, possibly as the accumulation of the necessary
interior facilities was completed, the doorway (green)(F.633) to the outside or the neighboring
house was closed up, perhaps indicating that the occupants of Building 3 could now act more
as an independent social and economic entity. (Hearth is orange)
Building 3, Phase 2
Phase B3.2 was deﬁned by major re-modelling with a thick layer of packing under the ﬂoor in
the western zone burying the storage bins and bench of the previous phases. On top of this
packing and ﬂoor plaster a new oven (red)(F.646) was located in the center of the house away
from the perimeter walls - very unusual for Çatalhöyük. Moreover it was horseshoe shaped
instead of the traditional oval. Next to the oven was another extraordinary feature (F.758)
(orange), a shallow basin ﬁlled with tiny clay balls, that are most likely to have some purpose
in cooking. Storage basins(yellow) were built where previously there had been the oven.
(Hearth is also orange)
Building 3, Phase 3
In the Phase B3.3 remodel there was a return to the original organization of the interior space
with the oven (red, F.642) back in the southwest corner. No remains of storage facilities in the
form of basins or bins from this phase were found preserved. It is possible that in Phase B3.3
storage took place in movable containers such as bags or baskets that have not preserved or
- more likely - storage was located outside of Building 3. In this phase the earliest burials (of
three children) (F.648,756,757) occur in the Central Floor Zone. Between the burials of the
two older children and earlier than them is the burial of a baby which was buried in a basket
with obvious grave goods, the only such burial in the BACH Area
Building 3, Phase 4a
Another major remodel (in Phase B3.4A) coincided with structural difficulties of the house
caused by deterioration of the west wall. The major physical partitioning of the house into
two distinct rooms (Space 86 and Space 158) began in this phase with the construction of two
partition walls (grey) (F.160,161). The resulting long narrow room (Space 158) became clearly
the location of storage basins and bins (yellow)(F.171,639). Three separate burial events
occurred cutting below the north-central platform (F.634,644,647). For a story on
interpreting one of these burials I can recommend that you seek out the video “once upon a
time at Çatalhöyük” in the archive of the LHotH web edition. In this last part of the history of
Building 3, the oven (red)(F.779)moved to the center of the south perimeter wall.
Building 3, Phase 4b
The ﬁnal occupation phase B3.4B continues many of the trends of the previous phase. Most
obvious is the construction of the Screen Wall (beige)(F.155/601) in the space between the
two partition walls, ﬂanked by two pillars. In this way, the narrow room Space 158 was cut off
entirely from the main residential area of Building 3, while the collapse of its west perimeter
wall was perhaps slowed down by the construction of shoring walls (grey) on its interior. No
features for storage in this room Space 158 occur in this phase. The single burial (F.631) of
an older male under the northeast platform (F.173) occurs in this phase. In the ﬁnal burial
event of Building 3 a young child was buried in a basket (F.617) under the north-central
platform (F.162). You can ﬁnd a time-lapse movie of the excavation in the archive of the
LHotH web edition that helps share the experience in 3 mins of 32 hours of excavation.
Probably simultaneously with this event, the northern partition wall (F.160) was painted red.
Building 3, Phase 5A
Closure, Death and Burial of
Phase B3.5A encompasses the household abandonment of this building and – presumably their move to a new or different house. As the surviving members of the household
established a new location of residence, the old house was taken through an elaborate and
symbolically intense process of closure. The end of the life of a house at Catalhoyuk was
marked almost universally by some acts of planned demolition of features and decorative
installations, by ﬁnal simple plastering of all surfaces, and by the deposition of objects on the
ground. In Building 3, we had the deposition of a dagger and horns at the top of the ﬁll of a
room (Space 89) outside Building 3 but associated with it. Inside Building 3 itself, two
signiﬁcant groups of objects in the house were placed on the ﬁnal ﬂoor plasters: In the
southern part of the house (Cluster 1) large numbers of cattle and deer scapulae have been interpreted
as possible feasting debris; Cluster 2 in the center of Building 3 comprised two human skulls and
a carved cattle skull (boukranion). The boukranion had originally stood on the roof and was
placed on the ground after the roof was demolished. The demolition of the roof (grey)(F.157)
was carried out carefully onto the northern half of the building, so that the clean platforms
and burials underneath were protected.
The Roof of Building 3
The discovery of the roof was fortuitous and helped by the excavation of a post-Roman burial
through it. It is one of the very few instances of a preserved roof remains in the Neolithic of
the Near East.
illustration by John G. Swogger
The Roof of Building 3
Micromorphological analysis helped the interpretation that the roof was used for a large
number of domestic activities especially in the warmer seasons.
Phase B3.5B: Post-Neolithic 3rd
century AD burials
On this image you can see that the post-Neolithic visitors for the most part buried their dead
entirely inside Building 3. We wonder what they would have been able to see of the
abandoned Neolithic buildings on the surface that would indicate to them where the ground
was softest. All except one are buried with an east-west orientation. Only one, with richest
grave goods is buried north-south.
Phase B3.5B: Post-Neolithic 3rd
century AD burials
The excavation of burial Feature 153
In these images you can see the excavation of the grave (Feature 153) that cut through the
many layers of the collapsed roof of Building 3 that can be seen showing in the side wall of
the burial cut.
Excavating the Neighborhood
Originally we chose the location for the BACH Area in order to consider Building 3 in the light
of its neighbor Building 1 whose life-history was also known. Since 2003, the excavation in
the NORTH Area expanded hugely. A surface scraping in a 40x40m area south of the BACH
Area revealed a similar dense pattern of mud-brick walls.
Excavation in this area started in 2004 and has continued until the present, with many
buildings being deﬁned from a similar period in the history of the East Mound, but not
necessarily with a life history exactly parallel to that of Building 3. A shelter was planned to
cover the former BACH Area and Building 1/5 and the new 4040 Area - to cover the complete
neighborhood, with walkways between the buildings for modern visitors to view the ghosts.
You can see the outline of the proposed shelter if you look hard. In 2008 this dream was
achieved with this beautiful shelter.
Viewing the Neighborhood 2008
Here you can see visitors walking past the invisible BACH Area, looking down at the half
excavated Building 5 and the half-excavated Building 77
Building 3 in its
In the 2008 image we are looking from the viewpoint of Building 5 with the BACH Area on our
left south towards the rest of the neighborhood. In 2012 excavation started to ﬁll in the
missing part of the neighborhood immediately north and south of the BACH Area. In the 2012
image, we see Space 87, a tiny room full of 9 burial events that had been excavated as part of
the BACH project revealed to be part of a small building that expanded westwards and
probably included also Space 88 to its east that had also been excavated by the BACH project.
From our excavations we know that the resulting Building 114 was closely related to the
history of Building 3, but not entirely parallel having been constructed when Building 3
Life-History of Building 3 - 50 years?
So what have we learned about Building 3? It is smaller than many houses of the same phase
of the East Mound at Çatalhöyük. Maybe it was also shorter-lived. Fewer people are buried in
it than in many other houses in the neighborhood (Building 1, for example, housed 56!).
Eight people are buried in Building 3 plus two detached heads. Are the latter related to those
buried under the house? Are they all related to each other, how? Unusually, Building 3 was
not built on foundations of a previous building, but on midden. All of these observations
need explanation; their answers cannot be given without the help of informed imagination,
but they will begin to build a history of this household as rich as any soap opera. Please join
in the effort with your own stories, comments, and re-use of the archive of the LHotH web