Article: “Brick Sizes and Architectural Regularities at Neolithic Çatalhöyük”

Barański M. Z. (2019), Brick Sizes and Architectural Regularities at Neolithic Çatalhöyük, in Hodder I. (ed.), Consciousness, Creativity and Self at the Dawn of Settled Life. Cambridge University Press.


Central Anatolian Çatalhöyük (ca. 7100–5950 cal. BCE) is a rare example of a well-preserved Neolithic settlement that is considered one of the key sites for understanding changes in prehistoric ways of life, from the domestication of cattle and the adoption of a settled way of living, to the invention of pottery and metallurgy, and the appearance of long-distance trade. It is also an optimal site for the study of mudbrick architecture because of its continual habitation sequence, as well as the extensive exposure of architectural remains. This deeply stratified sequence, with houses built one upon another, provides a unique opportunity to document temporal changes both within and between the houses through all the main occupational phases spanning in total over 1,100 years. This chapter is an attempt to investigate whether the changes in Çatalhöyük’s construction techniques of walls and foundations, as well as the changes in mudbrick dimensions, could have been associated with a cognitive shift, namely higher levels of consciousness and greater innovation. Consequently, it will discuss possible reasons for moving towards new strategies or systems. In addition, this chapter will consider when, if at all, higher levels of consciousness and creativity can be observed. As consciousness is clearly embedded in mudbrick manufacture and house building, I will consider whether it was of practical or discursive character. I intend to examine whether the inhabitants of Neolithic Çatalhöyük, who possessed certain building knowledge and skills, were able to give an account of relevant architectural activities and explicitly express them with the use of an abstract system. In this regard, mudbrick sizes and bonds are examined to identify general directions of change in architecture at Çatalhöyük. The analysis also provides insights into a standardization process that seems to have characterized at least the final phases of settlement occupation. Two directly succeeding buildings – B.74 and B.95 – from these Late Neolithic phases are examined in detail in order to identify whether standardized units of measurements were used in mudbrick manufacture.

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