This Stone Age settlement took humanity's first steps toward city life

Settled more than 9,000 years ago in Turkey, Çatalhöyük focused on farming with the seeds of urban living planted at its heart.

Beginning in the 1960s, work at Çatalhöyük (in central Turkey) has unearthed numerous levels of close-knit households where a large community of people lived during the Stone Age as humanity began to reject nomadic life.
Photograph by MARION BULL/ALAMY/ACI

The Konya Plain stretches for hundreds of miles across central Turkey. Almost 60 years ago, in a remote spot some 30 miles from the regional capital of Konya, a team of archaeologists began exploring two small hills. A fork in a local footpath and the two mounds themselves gave the site its modern name. Fork (çatal in Turkish) and mound (höyük) combine to form Çatalhöyük. Today the site is regarded by UNESCO as the most significant human settlement documenting early settled agricultural life. (See also: Face of a 9,500-year-old man revealed for the first time.)

Founded over 9,000 years ago on the bank of a river that has since dried up, Çatalhöyük is believed to have been home to an egalitarian Stone Age society who built distinctive homes, arranged back-to-back without doors or windows. They went in and out through openings in the roof. On the inside, they left wall paintings and enigmatic figurines.

These dwellings also played an important role in their funerary practices: Residents buried the dead under their homes. At its peak, the town housed as many as 8,000 people, who supported themselves through agriculture and raising livestock.

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