Saturday, April 30, 2016


Catalhoyuk map and volcano wall
mural, from the Internet.

As readers of RockArtBlog know, I sometimes expand the subject of my writings to ancient wall murals and/or carvings. While perhaps not strictly rock art per se, as an art historian these subjects are so closely related to the field as to render them eligible of inclusion. I cannot see enough difference between a painting on a natural rock wall (a cliff) and a painting on a constructed rock wall to not include them all. Having written recently about a possible record of a volcanic eruption in Chauvet/Pont d'Ard cave in France (Feb. 27, 2016), and also about the question of possible maps found in rock art (March 12, 2016), I now have the great pleasure of writing about a map that apparently records a volcanic eruption preserved in a wall mural at Çatalhöyük, in western Anatolia, Turkey. 

An artist's rendering of
Catalhoyuk, Wikipedia.

"Çatalhöyük (Turkish pronunciation: [tʃaˈtaɫhøjyc]; also Çatal Höyük and Çatal Hüyük; from Turkish çatal "fork" + höyük "mound") was a very large Neolithic and Chalcolithic proto-city settlement in southern Anatolia, which existed from approximately 7500 BC to 5700 BC, and flourished around 7000 BC. It is the largest and best-preserved Neolithic site found to date. In July 2012, it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site." (Wikipedia)
"Çatalhöyük is located overlooking the Konya Plain, southeast of the present-day city of Konya (ancient Iconium) in Turkey, approximately 140 km (87 mi) from the twin-coned volcano of Mount Hasan. The eastern settlement forms a mound which would have risen about 20 m (66 ft) above the plain at the time of the latest Neolithic occupation. There is also a smaller settlement mound to the west and a Byzantine settlement a few hundred meters to the east. The prehistoric mound settlements were abandoned before the Bronze Age. A channel of the Çarşamba river once flowed between the two mounds, and the settlement was built on alluvial clay which may have been favorable for early agriculture." (Wikipedia)

Mount Hasan, Anatolia, 
Turkey. Wikipedia.
So 9,500 years ago this agricultural settlement was situated on a plain with the two cones of the volcano visible on the horizon.
"Mount Hasan (Turkish: Hasan Dağı) is an inactive stratovolcano in Aksaray province,
Turkey. With an elevation of 3,268 m (10,722 ft), it ranks as the second highest mountain of central Anatolia. A caldera 4-5 kilometres wide formed near the current summit around 7500 BC, in an eruption recorded in Neolithic paintings." (Wikipedia)

Catalhoyuk wall mural as discovered.

The Çatalhöyük Mural as preserved
in the Museum of Anatolian
Civilizations. From the Internet.

"The eruption is portrayed in a mural painted on the wall of one of the rooms excavated at Catalhoyuk. “The lower register of the mural contains about 80 square-shaped patterns tightly arranged like cells in a honeycomb, and its upper register depicts an object that its discoverers initially identified either as a rendering of a mountain with two peaks with the cell-like patterns representing a plan view of a village with a general layout of the houses similar to that of Çatalhöyük and other nearby Neolithic settlements, or a leopard skin with its extremities cut off,” a team of scientists led by Dr Axel Schmitt from the University of California Los Angeles wrote in the PLoS ONE paper." ( 2014)

An artist's rendering of the
Catalhoyuk mural, Wikipedia.

“In the ‘map’ interpretation, the volcano and its violent eruption are posited to have been significant for the inhabitants of Çatalhöyük because they procured obsidian in the vicinity of Mount Hasan.”" ( 2014) As far as I am concerned they did not even need the obsidian to be concerned. Having a major volcanic eruption within view of your village would be a hugely impressive event that might be subject to recording pictorially on a wall. Proponents of the leopard skin interpretation need to explain the apparent spray coming from the top peak, as well as what the leopard skin is lying on. What is that surface made up of black squares? While this is another one that will never be known for sure, it is certainly fascinating, and I am going with the volcano interpretation for now.

2014    Catalhoyuk 'Map' Mural May Depict Volcanic Eruption 8,900 Years Ago,, Jan. 13, 2014.

Schmitt, Alex, et al.
2014    Identifying the Volcanic Eruption Depicted in a Neolithic Painting at Catalhoyuk, Central Anatolia, Turkey, PLOS, January 8, 2014, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084711.


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