Relational networks and religious sodalities at Çatalhöyük

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Çatalhöyük is often compared to the Pueblos of the North American Southwest. As someone whose work largely focuses on Ancestral Pueblo archaeology, I was intrigued by the possibility of comparing these two areas. My initial reaction upon walking around the site of Çatalhöyük was that it was nothing like the pueblos or the Pueblos of the Southwest. One of the most obvious differences is that the buildings do not share walls, leaving a gap between instead of the villages formed by contiguous rooms that define the aggregated pueblos in the northern Southwest. Buildings at Çatalhöyük were reproduced in the same spaces, creating columns of rooms over time with seemingly little articulation between them. In addition, plazas and other public spaces are difficult to discern, spaces that among the Pueblos are the central focus of villagewide activities. Last is the apparent absence of suprahousehold religious spaces - a paradox that marks Çatalhöyük as different from other Neolithic Anatolian villages as well as from prehispanic and historic Pueblo villages in the Southwest. The more that I became engaged with the archaeology of Çatalhöyük, however, the greater the similarities with Pueblo societies of the Southwest became. What makes them similar are not the specifics of the architecture, imagery, or artifacts, but the way in which religion was a central part of daily life for those living in both areas and how much of this was made clear through people’s interactions with things. At Çatalhöyük, the relationships that people had with other people, animals, plants, buildings, clay, stone, and so on, are evidence for a rich materiality. Like many Southwestern societies, such as the Pueblos, the people who inhabited Çatalhöyük were surrounded by objects and architectural installations that served as reminders of who they were, whom they interacted with, and where they came from. It is the massing of the buildings and the high degree of ritual density (sensu Bell 1997) at Çatalhöyük that make a comparison to the Pueblos of the North American Southwest of interest. In addition, I think that there is much to be learned by such a comparison as a way of looking at how religion shapes relationships, how it intersects with economic and political power, and how relational networks both divide and integrate village societies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationReligion at Work in a Neolithic Society
Subtitle of host publicationVital Matters
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781107239043
ISBN (Print)9781107047334
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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