Plaster “caps” at Çatalhöyük

As I’d previously mentioned, I was digging a lovely burned building at Çatalhöyük before I left. Happily, several interesting discoveries were made in that short time. We uncovered a seated stone figurine with a beard that was painted (sadly, I don’t have any photos, but I’m sure it will make the official Çatalhöyük press release), an interior wall with plaster on both sides, a red-painted niche, part of a collapsed roof, and plaster “caps” on the pillars. We had originally planned to excavate the building down to the occupation surface (some 1.8m below the collapse!) but the building was halfway in the large “Mellaart” section, where there was ongoing work to understand the phasing of the tell, keying off the 1960s excavation. It was decided that though the building had great finds and a good chance of answering some broader questions about life at Çatalhöyük, we were unable to dig it properly and so excavation will cease–it will be conserved and backfilled carefully, waiting until the entire building can be exposed. I deeply respect that decision–though it was a bit disappointing at the time, I completely understood.

E VI,14.recon

Anyway, the plaster “caps” were a great find; the caps were illustrated in the original Mellaart reconstructions, but there weren’t any particular notes or photographs of them, so we weren’t sure if they were an elaboration of the building or an actual find.  We found two, and while the easternmost cap was unlikely to be disturbed, the westernmost cap (they were both on the north wall) had fallen off the pillar during the building’s collapse and cracked in half. The directors decided to lift the cap to preserve it, and possibly to investigate how it was constructed.

Pillars in Burnt Building Collapse

It was well photographed in situ and drawn from several perspectives by the site artist, Kathryn Killackey. We planned it, recorded it fully, and then it was ready to go. Shahina also mentioned that she might like a quick photoshop of it, “put back in place.” I took a few of my own photographs after we had lifted the cap, to get more exposure of the pillar:


Sadly, my camera’s light sensor is broken–which only became obvious after I downloaded these photos and the pillar cap was already gone. So I had to merge Jason Quinlan’s photo above with my own, like so:


I also did a semi-crazy full repair job. Fans of bad photoshop jobs, rejoice!


I then decided that I didn’t like the angle of the original job and tilted it some, erasing the part of cap where it had broken in half and tilted upwards in the back.


So, not perfect by any means, but about an hour’s worth of fun. The best part was moving around the cap and seeing exactly where it had fallen off–like two puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly.

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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