Çatalhöyük Diary 3 – Painted Platforms


This entry will be primarily concerned with a series of paintings that I have uncovered on the south facing face of platform f. 1651.  As we prepared to excavate the next series of platform surfaces, a thin layer of plaster, 16651, was removed to reveal a black line painting, in a figural, repeating style, stretching from the east to the western extent.  This painting was fully recorded by Jason Quinlan and Kathryn Killackey, who photographed it and drew it, respectively.  After initially being conserved with consolidant brushed along the black lines, the painting and accompanying plaster layer, 16647, was removed to reveal painting 16657, which was a series of black vertical lines.  This painting was somewhat more ephemeral, and not apparent to the western extent of the platform.  This painting and accompanying plaster was recorded (again, drawn and photographed) and then removed to reveal painting 16666.  Unlike 16647 and 16657, this painting stretched along both the south-facing and east-facing faces of the platform.


While the painting was very patchy and hard to trace on the east-facing face, and appeared to be solid red, the south-facing wall was solid red with five hand-prints mid-way up the elevation of the platform.  These hands were all horizontal and oriented with their fingers pointed west.  They did not appear to be modeled with real hands.  Similar hands were found by Mellaart, and appear on plates 43-44 in his Catal Huyuk: A Neolithic Town in Anatolia, though the hands in painting 16666 did not have circles inside the palms.

Though it has been interesting excavating these paintings and seeing the reactions to them from site archaeologists and visitors, they have slowed progress in Building 49 considerably, and I hope that 16666 will be the last of the series.



After removing the last layer of paintings from the platform, we removed several surfaces from the top, revealing (yet) another burial cut and a line of intricate textile-like paintings along the north and west walls surrounding the top of the platform.  These are thought to correspond with a large painting lifted by conservation in 2006.  It remains to be seen whether these paintings continue beneath the platform surfaces, as there are several left, but excavation of two juvenile and two adult skeletons halted progress and the excavation season has ended for the primary building 49 team.  However, two archaeologists that had been working in the South Shelter will be moving in to finish the building, and the archive report will be completed later this year, with full details of the burial-painting-platform sequence in the northern extent of building 49.

Author: colleenmorgan

Dr. Colleen Morgan (ORCID 0000-0001-6907-5535) is the Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She conducts research on digital media and archaeology, with a special focus on embodiment, avatars, genetics and bioarchaeology. She is interested in building archaeological narratives with emerging technology, including photography, video, mobile and locative devices. Through archaeological making she explores past lifeways and our current understanding of heritage, especially regarding issues of authority, authenticity, and identity.

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