From Goddesses to Zoomorphs: Figuring Out Figurines at Çatalhöyük

Author(s): Lindsay Der

Year: 2017


The infamous seated goddess, flanked by two leopards, is perhaps the most sensationalized figurine to have been unearthed at Çatalhöyük, prompting narratives of prehistoric cults and religion. Yet research conducted since its discovery by James Mellaart has shown that zoomorphic, rather than anthropomorphic, types are predominant in the figurine assemblage. In this paper, I trace the history of changing recording systems, analytical methodologies, and interpretations of figurines at Çatalhöyük. These new approaches have not only reconfigured our understanding of ritual and symbolism, but also revealed spatial and temporal continuity and variation across the settlement. In particular, research carried out on the figurines in the last five years, has illuminated the emphatic role of animals in the everyday lives and experiences of the Neolithic residents of the site. The figurines, along with other animal materializations, can thus reveal new insights into the complexion of human-animal relations and ontological geographies at Çatalhöyük. Furthermore, these studies help to contextualize the site within broader patterns of phenomena related to symbolism, ritual, and social change at the origins of agriculture in the Middle East.

Cite this Record

From Goddesses to Zoomorphs: Figuring Out Figurines at Çatalhöyük. Lindsay Der. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431484)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16614