The Goddess and the Bear Hybrid Imagery and Symbolism at Çatalhöyük, Joan Marler and Harald Haarmann
The Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey’s Konya Plain (c. 7400-6000 BC) was discovered in 1958 by British archaeologist James Mellaart. During four seasons of excavation, between 1961 and 1965, Mellaart’s team uncovered over three hundred rooms, many of which contained not only well-built domestic features and skillfully produced crafts and tools, but dozens of polychrome wall paintings, clay and plaster bas reliefs, ritual installations and sculptures indicating a pervasive and sophisticated ritual life that extended throughout the duration of the Neolithic occupation (see Mellaart 1967, 1989). The people of Çatal Hüyük were not peasants. Apart from being competent agriculturalists, builders and painters, weavers and undertakers, they also made baskets, mats, wooden vessels and clay pots; they smelted copper ore . . .they carved bone and stone into statuettes of their deities, as well as into mortars, pestles, querns, polishing stones, etc. They carried on one of the most sophisticated chipped stone industries in obsidian (volcanic glass) and imported Syrian flint. They were traders and prospectors, ranging far and wide over southern Anatolia, since the Konya Plain itself lacked all manufacturing resources except food, clay, reeds and mud (Mellaart 1989:15). Within the domestic context, Mellaart found rooms which he considered to be shrines or sanctuaries containing wall paintings, multiple bucrania, reliefs of various kinds, and numerous human burials. A number of these special rooms contained large anthropomorphic bas reliefs in a specific open-leg posture with arms raised in an orant position (Figure 1). The faces, hands and feet had all been carefully removed before each room was filled in to provide the foundation for the construction of a new building.