Explore the BBC
Radio 4
Radio 4 Tickets
Radio 4 Help

About the BBC

Contact Us


Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

BBC Radio 4 - 92 to 94 FM and 198 Long WaveListen to Digital Radio, Digital TV and OnlineListen on Digital Radio, Digital TV and Online

Go to the Listen Again page

Why was one of the world’s first cities built in the middle of a swamp?

Tuesday 11.00-11.30am 12 November 2002

Aubrey Manning presents a new series of
archaeological mysteries from around the world.

Aubrey Manning stands on top of the Neolithic mound at Çatal Hüyük
Aubrey Manning stands on top of the Neolithic mound at Çatal Hüyük. It rises 80 metres above the irrigated Konya plain surrounding it. 9,000 years ago the plain would have been marshlands that flooded in winter.

*** See the slideshow of pictures from Çatal Hüyük ***
2. Çatal Hüyük - The First City?

On the wide, flat South Anatolian Plain, near the Turkish city of Konya, there is a broad mound, about 80 metres high. Excavations in the 1960s revealed its importance as one of the first cities the world had known. Nine thousand years ago, Çatal Hüyük was home to up to ten thousand people. The whole mound is made up of the remains of mud brick houses, one on top of another. Many are adorned with painted plaster and the horned skulls of cattle. The settlement occupied a key stage in history, when people were first settling down, domesticating cattle and driving the agricultural revolution.

Shahina Farid and Aubrey Manning
Left: Excavation manager Shahina Farid tells Aubrey about the sophisticated mud brick work in this 9,000 year old house. Right: Shahina points out the pits excavated in the floor of the house where human burials were found. At the right of the picture are the remains of a hearth or oven and the marks where steps led down from the entrance hole in the roof above.

But it doesn’t quite add up. There seem to be no signs of hierarchy; no high-status homes, public buildings or even public open spaces. The small houses were so tightly packed together that entry was through the roof! Above all, Çatal Hüyük was in the middle of a swamp and dry pasture and wheat fields must have been 12 kilometres away or more. Aubrey Manning visits the site to try to solve these mysteries.

Aubrey Manning and Shahina Farid
Shahina Farid and Aubrey Manning observe the construction of a large new structure that will cover some of the most important excavations on the Neolithic mound of Çatal Hüyük. This will protect the soft mud brick, shelter the archaeologists and allow the public to watch them at work.

Reconstructions of ancient Neolithic houses at Çatal Hüyük
Left: Aubrey Manning with architect David Small in a modern reconstruction of one of the ancient Neolithic houses at Çatal Hüyük. They are sitting on one of the raised platforms that may have been used for sleeping or sitting and under which human bodies were buried. The wall paintings, possibly of vultures picking the heads off humans, are similar to ones excavated on the site. Right: An entrance has been made in the wall for visitors. In the original houses the only access would have been down the ladder from the roof. The hatch also served as a chimney for the oven below.

Listen again to the programme Listen again to the programme
Listen Live
Audio Help
Leading Edge
Creswell Cave Art
Lost Village: Wharram Percy
The Land of Punt
Great Orme Head
Tri Radial Cairns
Ancient Egyptian illnesses
The Lynford Neanderthals
Meadowcroft Rock Shelter
The Amesbury Archer
The First City?
Taming the Horse
Latest Programme
Science, Nature & Environment Programmes
Current Programmes
Archived Programmes
Science, Nature & Environment Programmes
Current Programmes
Archived Programmes

News & Current Affairs | Arts & Drama | Comedy & Quizzes | Science | Religion & Ethics | History | Factual

Back to top

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy