Catal HuyukÇatal Hüyük or Çatalhöyük
It has been assumed that man discovered that he could hammer soft stones - naturally occurring nuggets of gold as well as copper and silver compounds - into useful or pleasing shapes, sometime around 6000 BC. The first hammered-metal artefacts were found in the highlands of the Zagros and Taurus mountains.
Situated close to the old town of Konya, on the vast plains of Anatolia in present-day southern Turkey is the excavated remains of Catal Huyuk. These are the remains of a network of shrines and dwellings belonging to a protoneolithic community that had lived between 8,500 and 7,700 years ago. An extraordinary amount of detail and decoration covering the sub-surface dwellings was uncovered as well as the discovery of jewellery, tools and weapons.
James Mellaart, in his Huyuk: A Neolithic Town in Anatolia, (Thames and Hudson, 1967), observes:
How, for example, did they polish a mirror of obsidian, a hard volcanic rock, without scratching it and how did they drill holes through stone beads (including obsidian), holes so small that no modern steel needle can penetrate. When and where did they learn to smelt copper and lead, metals attested at Catal Huyuk since Level IX, c. 6400bc?
Fire had become the oldest symbol of divinity in Indo-Iranian myth and ritual, with the oldest known fire altars dating back as early as 2000 BC. The people of Catal Huyuk with the emerging art of metalworking would have linked both fire and vulcanism, still in its infancy during the seventh millennium BC. Not only would copper and lead smelting have become a sacred occupation in its own right, but also blacksmiths would have been classed as fire priests under the dominion of the genii of the fiery domains. The significance of fire, and in particular of volcanic fire, becomes clearer - it signifies the magical power by which the blacksmith could change rock into metal objects such as jewellery, tools and weapons.
The invention of the kiln - a furnace in which intense but controllable temperatures could be attained without the risk of contaminating products with dust or ashes - made possible an even greater technological advance: the Age of Metals. Not only did this ancient culture practice one of the earliest forms of primitive agriculture and metalworking, but it also appeared to have possessed advanced technical skills totally inexplicable to archaeologists. Mellaart admitted that it marked the climax of an immensely long ancestry that reached back into Palaeolithic times, well before the end of the last Ice Age, which had been over in Europe and Asia for around two thousand years.
The Catal Huyuk culture came to a sudden demise around 5600 BC, having left behind no less than thirteen different levels of occupation. What happened to these people is still unknown. Some founded a new site beyond a local river, which thrived for around seven hundred years, while others would have taken up residence at the nearby settlement of Hacilar, near the town of Burdur. It was here that James Mellaart had previously uncovered extensive evidence of a later, though more basic Neolithic community, which had occupied the site between 5700 and 5000 BC.