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Surfaces and streets: phytoliths, micromorphology and changing use of space at Neolithic Çatalhöyük (Turkey)

  • Lisa-Marie Shillito (a1) and Philippa Ryan (a2)

The site of Çatalhöyük occupies a key position within the development of larger settlements in south-west Asia, but the apparent absence of outdoor activity areas has challenged conceptions of social interaction within the site. Where did the inhabitants of this substantial settlement meet together if there were no public spaces? The identification of outdoor activity areas is difficult in such a densely patterned settlement, but micromorphology and phytolith analysis, when used together, can provide secure interpretations. The present study applies these methods to a stratigraphic sequence of deposits in the South Area, where a succession of open areas was located adjacent to a series of buildings. The analysis reveals that these open areas were gradually transformed from a place for the dumping or accumulation of midden material in the early phases, to an informal and then a formally laid surface in the later stages. This suggests that although streets or courtyards may have been rare or absent in the early centuries at Çatalhöyük, they were present in the later phases of the occupation.

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