The UNESCO World Heritage site of Çatalhöyük is a unique example of a well-preserved Neolithic settlement and for decades has been considered one of the key sites for understanding human prehistory. A major exhibition celebrating the site and the science of archaeology, ‘The Curious Case of Çatalhöyük’, will be held at the Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), Russell Square, from 12 October to 15 December 2018. The exhibition reveals the ‘behind the scenes’ of a pioneer excavation and research project of one of the most complex societies of its time.
Çatalhöyük is a Neolithic settlement located in the Konya plain of central Turkey. Since 1993, under the supervision of British archaeologist Professor Ian Hodder, the Çatalhöyük Research Project has been shedding light on how one of the world’s earliest societies made the transition from hunting to farming and how it was organised socio-economically.
ANAMED’s major exhibition in 2017, ‘The Curious Case of Çatalhöyük’ was developed to celebrate the 25th and final excavation season of the Çatalhöyük Research Project. Known for its fascinating, cutting-edge archaeological research methods and laboratory collaborations, the exhibition presents the Çatalhöyük excavation through various experiment-based display features, including 3D prints of finds, laser-scanned overviews of excavation areas, and immersive digital displays that bring the 9000-year-old settlement back to life.
‘The Curious Case of Çatalhöyük’ narrates the reflexive methods of the excavation through all its phases, starting from the moment the trowel touches the soil to the documentation of the finds, the laboratory analysis, and the sharing of information. Although traditional excavation remains the primary form of investigation at Çatalhöyük, digital, experimental, and visual reconstruction methods are increasingly employed to aid research and interpretation. This experimental legacy is reflected in exhibition displays and is complemented by incorporative artistic interventions, which underline how the site has been subject to various artworks.
As part of the exhibition, an award-winning immersive digital sculpture is commissioned to the media artist Refik Anadol from Turkey. Anadol developed a digital installation using Çatalhöyük Research Project’s archive, which consists of 2.8 million data records tied to 250,000 finds. By employing machine learning algorithms to sort relations among these records, Anadol transforms this knowledge into an immersive media installation that transcends research, archaeology, art, and technology.
This exhibition is organised by Koç University’s Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (ANAMED), managed by Şeyda Çetin, and curated by Duygu Tarkan, with contributions from Ian Hodder and other Çatalhöyük Research Project team members. The exhibition is designed by PATTU Architecture with the support of Yapı Kredi Bank that is one of the main sponsors of Çatalhöyük excavations since 1997 and the technological sponsorship of Grundig.
Highlights of the Exhibition:
*‘The Curious Case of Çatalhöyük’ invites visitors to gain a better understanding of the work carried out by archaeologists. Its combination of narration, interesting details, and a hands-on approach renders it unique and contributes to both archaeology and a greater public understanding and appreciation of Çatalhöyük.
*Through interactive excavation house set-up, visitors can step into the shoes of archaeologists working at a Neolithic site, an experience that can’t be duplicated, even at the site itself.
*Media artist Refik Anadol’s award-winning media installation reinterprets the entirety of the Çatalhöyük excavation archive. Anadol visually collated 2.8 million excavation records of 250,000 finds discovered during the 25 years of scientific research conducted by the Çatalhöyük Research Project. Anadol employed machine learning algorithms to find relations among these records and transformed this knowledge into an immersive media installation that transcends research, archaeology, art, and technology. Anadol’s work is the first instance of such a large volume of archaeological data from one site being used in an artistic and aesthetic framework.
*An interactive reimagining of the excavation house and on-site laboratories presents artefacts which have been catalogued and prepared for distribution to specialist labs for further examination.
*Visitors can handle 3D prints of Çatalhöyük finds, including figurines, fragments of pottery, and obsidian tools.
*A fly-through created from laser scans provides an overview of the excavation areas and landscape.
*Visitors can pick from 42 RFID discs — each representing an actual find from Çatalhöyük, including human bones, a stamp seal, and a basket remain — and scan them to reveal details about where and when the artefacts were discovered, the period they date to, and other information.
*More than 450 articles and books published on Çatalhöyük are available for visitors, so that they can explore the written sources about one of the most exceptional archaeological sites in the world.
20–24 November 2018, The Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London
Experience Çatalhöyük Through Virtual Reality
The Virtual Reality (VR) project presents an immersive recreation of the Çatalhöyük
settlement. Equipped with VR headsets, visitors will be transported back into a
Çatalhöyük building to observe life 9,000 years ago. Visitors will enter the Neolithic period, walk around the mud-brick houses of Çatalhöyük, virtually ‘pick up’ objects from the floor, witness the honeycomb-like architectural style from the rooftops, and see the landscape of the Konya plain.