more bull?

I probably shouldn't have been so hard on Balter's book, which I've now finished. It's not his fault that, despite our best efforts, no-one can figure out exactly what was going on in Anatolia nearly ten thousand years ago. It's hard enough to work out what's happening today. And there are nuggets of gold in amongst the inadvertance ... eg the people of Çatalhöyük, while they mostly ate domesticated sheep and goats, and the grains and legumes they cultivated quite some distance from the town they built among the marshes of a drying lake, had a special feeling for wild creatures and wild plants. They seem to have feasted ritually upon wild cattle, they enshrined the seeds of wild grasses in specially made pockets in the backs of goddess figurines. Even more fascinating, they apparently chose the site of their town not because of its proximity to cultivable fields or wild hunting grounds but because the raw material for the plaster they used on their floors and walls was bountiful in the lake bed. They - all 8000 of them - were obsessed with plaster and the reason for that may have been their linked obsession with the murals they painted onto the plastered walls of their houses and the sculptures they set into the floors and walls. And their art ... ? Like that of the great cave painters many millenia before in Western Europe, their subject matter was predominantly wild nature, especially wild animals, not fields of grain or flocks of herd animals. They also were in the habit of burning their houses before building new ones on top of the charred remain of the former dwelling, below the plastered floor of which lay their familiar dead. And, we learn, those plastered floors were swept meticulously clean at the end where the painted murals and sculpted skulls were; while at the other end, the living floors, where the ovens were and the ladders leading out onto the roofs - the only way they could enter and leave the house - were allowed to accumulate much more detritus. But why towns at all? One of the possible answers to this question is to rephrase it as another question: why houses? The house itself, the domus, some think, is the key: people stayed put because of their houses, and the domestication of plants and animals was subsequent to the (self) domestication of humans. Then again, why? Ian Hodder says: "It seems to me that this shift occurs through ritual, communal ritual ... at ... Göbekli Tepe in southeast Turkey ... enormous carved pillars (have been found) back around 9300 BC ... but ... there is no domestic architecture there ... you see similar things at Jericho in the Levant and Çanyönü in southeast Turkey, with its skull cult. The focus is on ceremonial ritual centres." The houses cluster around cathedrals, as it were. But at Çatalhöyük, 2000 years later, the church was in the house, or was the house. In the same way perhaps as it is for many of us today.

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