Çatalhöyük Geophysics


A view of the East Mound and North Shelter at Catalhoyuk

Project Background

In July 2010, in collaboration with L – P: Archaeology, the University of Southampton, and the  Çatalhöyük Research Project I got the great privilege of surveying along the East Mound at the site of Çatalhöyük, Turkey. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the site, in short, it’s an amazing Neolithic tell site in central Turkey most famous for dense living spaces and it’s spectacular preservation of wall paintings and art dating from 7,500 B.C.

The site has been reopened to archaeological investigation since 1993 by an international team of archaeologists led by Prof. Ian Hodder. More information on the amazing excavation can be found here at Catalhoyuk’s website .

Previous Geophysical Surveys

fluxgate gradiometer survey was first conducted on the East mound in 1993 by Colin A. Shell, and proved useful in mapping burnt structures which were later targeted for excavation. A ground-penetrating radar survey was also conducted in 2000 by Don Johnson and Dr. Clark A. Dobbs of Archaeological Geophysics Consulting in conjunction with limited resistivity and fluxgate gradiometer surveys. An emphasis was made on very long radar transects across the East mound, along with targeted high resolution transects within the excavated houses and plaster walls in the BACH excavation area. A variety of antennas were used however, most anomalies remained somewhat difficult to interpret as they experienced the usual issues encountered when surveying with GPR over uneven surfaces containing features lacking distinct compositional differences (like the various layers of reused and demolished habitation surfaces contained within each of the buried living spaces within in the excavation).

Fluxgate Gradiometer Survey July 2010 Catalhoyuk

Fluxgate Gradiometer Survey July 2010 Catalhoyuk

Current Pilot Study

As part of the ongoing research being conducted currently, the Archaeological Prospection Services of Southampton and L – P: Archaeology were invited to conduct a pilot geophysical study on the East mound to determine the potential for geophysics for mapping buried structures on the tell site. As part of the pilot study, two geophysical methods were used including ground-penetrating radar and fluxgate gradiometry. It was determined that given the recent advancements of geophysical survey technologies particularly within the discipline of archaeological prospection, the site would provide an excellent arena for not only geophysical research but also potentially yield interesting advancements in the overall understanding of the layout of buried, unexcavated structures within the tell.

To date the gradiometer survey has covered ca. 1.5ha of the East mound at a 0.5m x 0.25m survey interval using a Bartington 601 dual-sensor fluxgate gradiometer. As the gradiometer survey is being overseen by Kristian Strutt of APSS, I won’t go into too much detail, but the survey was very successful in not only mapping the previously known burnt structures on the East mound, but also potentially identifying additional linear features near the excavation areas.  Preliminary results can be seen here.

A small, overlapping 60m x 40m area was surveyed with ground-penetrating radar (GPR) at 0.25m x 0.02m intervals, using a 500MHz Sensors and Software Noggin plus antenna. The survey area was located in front of the Northern Shelter along the northern side of the East mound.  Preliminary results have proven useful in identifying linear, possibly structural remains extending from the excavated structures exposed within the North Shelter. A timeslice at an estimated 85cm below ground surface can be seen here.

GPR Catalhoyuk

Preliminary GPR results from Catalhoyuk, at estimated 85cm below ground surface.

I’ve also uploaded an animation of the GPR timeslices. There’s still some clear striping caused by mosaicking noise, but if you slow the animation and scroll through the images you will hopefully see some linear features coming through. More on the interpretation to come soon!

That being said, there’s still a lot of work to be done on the GPR data set in terms of topographic correction (as the survey was on the sloping side of the tell site) and removal of “noise” caused by surface vegetation, but thankfully it has been determined that there’s much incentive for additional GPR survey at Çatalhöyük. It is our intention to start applying recent advancements in 3D GIS in archaeology and integrated geophysics to the Çatalhöyük geophysical data set, and I will hopefully be posting soon on any forthcoming results we have with the project. It is definitely my hope that given the pilot results we will continue to be involved on site and extend the survey to include the entirety of the East and West Mound. After all, who knows what we might unearth?!

Acknowledgements: Grant Cox and Eleonora Gandolfi also assisted with the 2010 field survey. Without their hard work the season wouldn’t have been possible, so thanks very much to them both!


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