The Catalhoyuk Research Project, directed by British archaeologist Ian Hodder, consists of about 250 archaeologists and researchers from around the world. During the summer months, the team gathers together on the arid Konya Plain to understand how people lived at Catalhoyuk 9,000 years ago.
From the beginning, however, the Turkish authorities also wanted to develop Catalhoyuk as a heritage site, open not just to experts but to the public at large.
The site now features a visitor center providing information about Catalhoyuk, an introductory video and replica artifacts (the originals are on display at the Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Ankara and the Konya Archaeological Museum). In the near future we plan to offer interactive media displays and audio guides, so that visitors can tour the site at their own pace.
Tourists can also view the original trenches cut by Mellaart in the early 1960s, in an area we have continued to excavate. To protect the remains, an 80- by 155-foot shelter has been erected over this section of the ancient town. We have revealed a complete Neolithic house, which visitors can view while standing on a platform (because of the delicate mudbrick and plaster, we cannot allow people to enter the house).
Our archaeological team has also constructed what we call the Experimental House, which is a kind of laboratory where we try to replicate ancient techniques. We’ve made mudbricks, constructed a roof (patterned after local village examples, since no Neolithic roofs have survived), plastered walls and built furniture. We continue to experiment in this house; for example, we built an oven in which we burned wood and dung and then compared the residues to residues excavated from the site. We’ve also painted designs on the walls using a combination of pigments and fixing agents, yet we still haven’t been able to duplicate the artistry demonstrated by Catalhoyuk’s Neolithic inhabitants. We’ve also molded plaster bulls’ heads on walls and dug holes through platforms, imitating the burial practices uncovered at the site.
In 2003 we began excavating a large area of buildings in a 130-foot-square area to the north of the mound. We plan to expose a whole swath of contemporary Neolithic buildings, which will eventually be protected under cover.
Our project is also dedicated to the education of the future custodians of this site: the local population. We hold tours for nearby villagers and promote an awareness of prehistoric archaeology in schools by conducting summer activities at the site for children. In recent years, the children have excavated the spoil heaps left by Mellaart in the 1960s, built model Neolithic houses, painted plaster walls inside the Experimental House and made small figurines and bulls’ heads. In 2004, some 500 children took part in these activities over a two-month period.