Houses in Neolithic Turkey

Houses of leaves at Çatalhöyük: unstable houses, ‘the household’, and engines of change in Neolithic Turkey

5:00pm - 6:00pm / Wednesday 14th April 2021
Type: Seminar / Category: Research
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Speaker: Dr Kevin Kay, University of Leicester

Houses, from a distance, can look like tidy things. Against the uncertainty of changing climates, migrations, technological transformations and rising and falling institutions, archaeologists use the remains of dwellings to shed light on a different side of social life: the socializing power of daily practice, the baseline conditions of normality in a given place and time. A central interpretive move in most archaeologies of houses is to take each structure as a stand-in for a household, some group of people whose social position, economic role, internal and external relationships might be disclosed by the remains of their home. But what if the houses refuse to add up? If their qualities, and even their walls, shift and change incessantly in small or overarching ways? Can we understand domestic life, not just as a vector of socialization, but as an engine of change in the past?

I will zero in on the dynamics of Neolithic communities at Çatalhöyük (Turkey) by exploring the shifting assemblages of furnishings within Çatalhöyük houses. Using relative chronological methods developed for the site’s finely-stratified interiors (Taylor et al. 2016), I develop detailed biographies of diverse houses at Çatalhöyük. These suggest strikingly that, for most of the site’s history, houses were not self-sufficient. They must have been entangled in practice with other structures, and the people living in them must have been engaged in multiple communities that cross-cut the architecture (rather than in ‘modular’ households lining up tidily with architectural ‘units’). Focusing domestic life as a transformative rather than conservative process, I identify particular change-driving dynamics of daily life in Çatalhöyük houses—and reflect upon the implications for change at the larger scale of the Neolithic in the 7th millennium more broadly.

This event will take place online - please email Professor Doug Baird to register for the Zoom link.