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Blue and Green at Çatalhöyük: Why not used on Wall Paintings?

Çamurcuoğlu, Duygu; Siddall, Ruth; (2020) Blue and Green at Çatalhöyük: Why not used on Wall Paintings? Presented at: Archaeological Institute of America Annual Meeting (ArchaeoCon 2020), Washington, D.C., USA. Green open access

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The world heritage site of Çatalhöyük (c.7400 BC) is a renowned Neolithic site in central Anatolia, Turkey. It was first excavated in the early 1960s by James Mellaart and became internationally famous due to its well-preserved mudbrick architecture, elaborate wall paintings and relief sculptures. The recent excavation project led by Prof. Ian Hodder has now completed (1993-2017) and the studies show that people of Çatalhöyük were highly aware of their natural environment and knew how to develop various material technologies according to their needs. One of the most important material technologies at Çatalhöyük is the use of colour in order to create a variety of designs on the wall paintings. The research shows that the basic Prehistoric palette, mainly consisting of mineral based pigments (i.e. haematite, goethite and cinnabar), was used and easily available around the site. Carbon (bone) black was obtained by charring/grinding bones and the calcium carbonate rich marl has provided the white background. However, the people of Çatalhöyük were also aware of two ‘very important’ colours which have not been identified in any contexts prior to the Neolithic. Green and blue pigments are often found in burials as grave goods but interestingly no evidence of their use was discovered on the wall paintings. Analysis revealed that they were copper-based green, malachite (Cu2(CO3)(OH)2) and the related compound blue azurite (Cu3(CO3)2(OH)2). This is the first recorded use of these minerals in pigment form in the Anatolia and Near East. Very bright-coloured, angular and subangular particles showed that the pigments were ground finely by hand to eliminate any impurities and achieve brighter tones. The fact that people knew how to modify these minerals for a specific use suggests that they understood the significance between different colours and were able to make choices concerning their use. The decision to not use them on wall-paintings may have been a deliberate one, related to cognitive development and social, ritual and/or practical applications. This paper will aim to investigate the reasons behind not applying these unique colours to walls, including their interaction with other pigments and wall plaster materials.

Type: Conference item (Presentation)
Title: Blue and Green at Çatalhöyük: Why not used on Wall Paintings?
Event: Archaeological Institute of America Annual Meeting (ArchaeoCon 2020)
Location: Washington, D.C., USA
Dates: 04 January 2020
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.archaeological.org/save-the-date-for-a...
Language: English
Keywords: Pigments, Archaeology, Catalhoyuk, Neolithic, Materiality
UCL classification: UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10179369
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