The Goddess and the Bull: Catalhoyuk - An Archaeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilization

The Goddess and the Bull: Catalhoyuk - An Archaeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilization

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By (author) Michael Balter

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Paperback $23.82
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
  • Format: Other book format | 416 pages
  • Dimensions: 155mm x 221mm x 36mm | 612g
  • Publication date: 8 January 2005
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0743243609
  • ISBN 13: 9780743243605
  • Illustrations note: Illustrations, maps

Product description

THE GODDESS AND THE BULL details the dramatic quest by archaeologists to unearth the buried secrets of human cultural evolution in the largest and best preserved prehistoric settlement ever to be discovered: the 9,500-year-old village of Catalhoyuk in Turkey. Here lie the origins of modern society - the dawn of art, architecture, religion, family, and even the first tangible evidence of human self-awareness, the world's oldest mirrors. Michael Balter, the excavation's official biographer, takes readers behind the scenes, providing unprecedented access to the remarkable site and its history of scandal and thrilling scientific discovery. He features colourful characters like James Mellaart, the man who discovered the site only to lose it in the wake of a scandal, and Ian Hodder, a path-breaking archaeological rebel who reopened excavations in the early 1990s and who continues to probe the site today. Along the way, Balter describes the cutting-edge advances in archaelogical science that have allowed the team at Catalhoyuk to examine and illuminate the central questions of human existence.

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Review quote

Ian Tattersall, Curator, Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History& #199; atalh& #246; y& #252; k is not only an archaeological site of tremendous importance, it is one with a dramatic history -- both ancient and modern -- that Balter tells with verve and an abundance of personal detail. His book is foremost about a site that offers unique insights into the origins of our own civilization; but at the same time it is an evocative portrayal of the process of archaeology itself.

Editorial reviews

Science magazine writer Balter gives a tour of the physical and symbolic remains of prehistoric atalhoyuk, a 9,500-year-old town on the Anatolian plains. In 1958, British archaeologist James Mellaart began poking about on a tell in south-central Turkey, searching for evidence about the spread of the Neolithic Revolution. What he found was one of those archaeological wonders that boggles the mind and sets archaeological theory on its ear: an enormous town sitting on the very cusp of the Neolithic in terms of art, architecture, religion, and family structure. Filled with critical examples of how people lived and expressed themselves at a pivotal moment in human development, atalhoyuk would prove to be a testing ground for archaeological practice. Ian Hodder, who oversaw the site after Mellaart was asked to leave when an important artifact disappeared, shared some controversial notions with his predecessor. Both believed artifacts could help them make cultural interpretations of the symbolic world of ancient people; they went beyond strictly adaptive and functional readings of materials. Balter, the excavation's official biographer, is a fine storyteller and reporter. He gives a succinct history of the various schools of archaeology (and various tendencies within the schools), making the case for ideology, religion, and psychology as bases for interpretation as opposed to only technology, economy, and demographics. While the author is no sensationalist, it's impossible not to feel a shiver when he describes atalhoyuk's trove of artwork: the obsidian mirrors, the wall paintings of leopards, bulls, vultures, and goddesses (the last suggesting a matriarchal society). Many questions about atalhoyuk remain unanswered. Why did the community build its town on a malarial marsh? What external forces constrained them? What environmental riches did they tap? A canny narrative history of a wondrous archaeological site, full of personality and personalities, and ripe with thoughtful conjectures. (Kirkus Reviews)