Excavations began this week in the South and North Areas of the main mound at Çatalhöyük. For the human remains team it means plenty of incoming burials. One of the first burials we worked on this year was actually discovered at the end of the 2003 season by the team from UC Berkeley. Unfortunately they didn’t have time to excavate it completely so it was carefully covered and backfilled. Now, after nearly ten years, we have finally returned to complete the excavations of this area in order to link the stratigraphic sequence with more recently excavated areas of the site. As is often the case at Çatalhöyük, the interment of this individual disturbed a number of earlier burials under the house floor. Dislodged bones from previous burials are often placed alongside the body of the new inhumation. In the picture above, a number of disarticulated bones including a femur (upper leg), radius (lower arm bone) and ilium (hip bone) can be seen to the left of the flexed skeleton. The burial was fully exposed, photographed and planned yesterday and will be lifted and analysed tomorrow.
Further skeletal remains are emerging from just below the surface of the mound where the archaeologists are preparing to open up new excavation areas. Many of these eroded burials appear to date to the Roman and Byzantine Periods, but some of them also appear to be Neolithic. Unfortunately these remains are in very poor condition due to their proximity to the modern surface of the mound.
When we’re not dealing with burials from the current excavation season, we are busy in the lab trying to catch up with the recording of skeletal remains recovered during the 2011 season. Once the bones have been lifted from the earth and brought to the human remains lab they are cleaned, inventoried and analysed for age, sex and pathological lesions. One individual, an older adult male found in Building 77, suffered from a severe infection of the jaw which likely resulted from an abcess of the mandibular first molar. Abcesses of the jaw are common among the Neolithic population at Çatalhöyük, especially among older individuals, but this is one of the more severe cases we’ve observed.