Well, as a lover of history since just about forever, I can remember learning about some place called Catalhoyuk in middle and high school. I remember it was supposed to be the first human city and it was somewhere around the Fertile Crescent, which was somewhere in the ‘east’ near some rivers called the Tigris and Euphrates. And that was about as extensive as the information in our textbooks was, if I remember right. The name of this first city has been lodged in my brain since I was about 12 (I’m guessing?) so at least in that respect, that lesson in human history was a success.
However, I am continually surprised and delighted as time goes on to learn more about these seemingly random places and things I got a little hint of in childhood but remained in my mind as bits of trivia more than anything else. Well, Çatalhöyük was fetched from the corners of my memory since we’ve lived in Turkey, because – you guessed it!- it’s in Turkey that this first ever human city was built!
Çatalhöyük is located in central Turkey, southeast of the modern city of Konya (ancient Iconium, for you history lovers). The ancient settlement is over 9,000 years old and may have been home to as many as 8,000 people, which might not sound like much by modern standards, but would have been huge compared to a hunter-gatherer group. This interesting article explores some of the questions archaeologists have been asking about what led people to live in permanent urban settlements and eventually invent farming.
Female goddess figurine, a common find around Çatalhöyük
I find it absolutely fascinating trying to imagine what these cultural ancestors of ours thought about the world they lived in, how they would have managed their society, how they would have survived and apparently thrived in the environment they lived in. Obviously, we can never know what they would have thought or what their worldview would have been, but I always find it so humbling to consider humans at once the same as us physically, emotionally, intellectually, and yet so different from us, divided as we are by such a huge gap in time, culture and technology. The awe and wonder of it all just go humming through me, right into my skin and my bones! I guess it gives me a healthy dose of being put-in-my-place, when I think my thoughts and views, my political, religious, cultural, etc. opinions and beliefs, my very existence in this world are so all-important, it reminds me that I’m just one small player in a great huge human drama that has been unfolding for hundreds of thousands of years and I’m just fortunate to be a part of it. Basically, I just shouldn’t take myself so seriously and should just celebrate the fact that I’m here at all and be thankful for all the thousands upon thousands of generations of human ancestors that made my current life possible!
So, again, Turkey seems to be right-smack-dab in the middle of culture, history, religion, EVERYTHING, certainly from a western perspective. What an amazing place to be! And definitely read the article; it’s incredibly fascinating.