Wow! Such a thrill to hear Ian Hodder being interviewed on Margaret Throsby’s midday radio show, and then to hear of his latest theories on the progress of human settlement into communities, at a public meeting at The University of Sydney. He talked first of the latest finds at Catal Hoyuk, a site on the Konya plateau in Turkey, where he has been working for a while, a site first brought to world attention by James Mellaart, while I was an undergrad Archaeology student. Here around 6000 people lived clustered together in houses where access was through the roof. The houses have main rooms with shrines decorated with wild bull horns and carved wild animals and brilliant wall paintings depicting the teasing of wild animals (as in a bull fights): a rich culture that was preoccupied by the wild animals that had abounded in their environment, but which were now probably the subject of special hunts and trophy taking. We are talking around 7000BCE.
Then he talked about Gobekili Tepe further south in Turkey. Here we find extraordinary stone beehive- like structures with huge carved standing stones embedded in the walls and standing in the centre. These are decorated with carved or incised wild animals similar to the kind found at Catal Hoyuk. This site is 2000 years older, so wild animals were more plentiful and maybe more powerful as totems or as rites of passage subjects.
Hodder’s theory is that it was the obsession with wild animals, the mastery of them and the construction of associated objects and rituals, that brought people together into communities, not so much the other activities that were occurring at the same time, like domesticating animals, and developing grains that could be harvested. These things were happening concurrently, but not driving the formation of settled communities. I never thought such a profound change in thinking could happen in my lifetime.