Presumably it is because I work at Çatalhöyük, a site referred to in just about every publication on ritual in the prehistoric Near East, that I have been asked to respond to Verhoeven's stimulating and thoughtful paper. It is certainly welcome to see an approach to ritual practice in the prehistoric Near East from a comparative and anthropological perspective rather than one in thrall to the search for origins of much later religious practices - as the discoverer of Çatalhöyük, James Mellaart (1965a, 77) puts it, ‘a cult of the Mother Goddess, the basis of our civilization’. At Çatalhöyük the debate has been dominated by the discourse of the goddess to the extent that other interpretations have been excluded, often subconsciously, so strong is this metanarrative (Meskell 1995). For instance, recent virtual reality reconstructions still depict the buildings as austere, atmospheric shrines rather than busy, smoky, dirty places of domestic work and (often rather restricted) movement. In a paper cited by Verhoeven I suggested that in order to counter this we should concentrate less on the iconography of the Çatalhöyük images and more on the mode of their experience and consumption (Last 1998). It is the need for an explicitly contextual consideration of meaning that forms my main criticism of the present paper. While a lot of detail is presented about the deposits found in the Burnt Village, the citing of various parallels from sites not necessarily greatly connected in time and space ultimately leaves a sense of vagueness, particularly in attempting to assimilate the fascinating clay ‘monsters’ to a widespread Near Eastern ritual interest in horns. In this contribution I wish to discuss the problems of interpreting the unique, offer some thoughts on how to get at the meaning and significance of these objects, and conclude by mentioning a recently discovered deposit from Çatalhöyük which raises similar issues.