Çatalhöyük Update #2: Works in-progress and fun with Play-Doh

I've now been at Çatalhöyük for two and a half weeks and have a couple of illustration projects on the go. Screen shot of my experimental houses cutaway in progress.

The first is a cutaway view of 4 Çatalhöyük experimental buildings which will be built this summer for site visitors to explore. We already have one experimental house, built in the early 2000s. Three of the new buildings will be based on ones excavated by James Mellaart in the 1960s and the forth will be a composite of different features found both in the Mellaart and current excavations. I actually completed a version of this illustration last summer but there have been some changes to the building plans. I am updating the illustration to reflect them. It's been quite challenging to pour over Mellaart's publications and photos, trying to gather enough detail to create a scaled isometric reconstruction of the buildings.

An in-progress reconstruction  of aurochs feasting.

I've also been working on a reconstruction of a large feast taking place off-site. The image depicts a group of people (90+) feasting on a recently killed aurochs. They're located in the KOPAL area, an area excavated in 1999 just to the north of the mound. It's a complicated image with lots of people and data to cram in and a tight deadline. I was having a bit of trouble envisioning the partially butchered aurochs that I'm placing in the background so I resorted to stealing Play-Doh from one of the kids on site and making a couple of models. (Don't worry, I returned the Play-Doh after).

Modelling aurochs butchery with Play-Doh.

I'll post the final versions of these illustrations when they are finished. I should also have some artifact illustrations to share soon. The excavations are gathering steam and a lot of new material is coming off the mound.

Look Over Here!

I am currently working with Dr. Rosemary Joyce (U.C. Berkeley) to produce a series of archaeological illustrations for a few of her upcoming publications. Dr. Joyce's research "is concerned with questions about the ways prehispanic inhabitants of Central America employed material things in actively negotiating their place in society. She is especially interested in the use of representational imagery to create and reinforce gendered identities, especially in Classic Maya monumental art and glyphic texts, and Formative period monumental and small-scale images" (Joyce). I'm illustrating some of this representational imagery, namely figurines. So far I have completed a series of graphite drawings highlighting the textile details on figurines from Playa de los Muertos, a Middle Formative site in Honduras. Below are some of these ilustrations. 3.8a_and_b_small

I think these images are a good example of how illustration can augment text and direct the viewer's eye to the relevant details of an object or idea. Through discussion with Dr. Joyce, I decided to execute the illustrations in graphite and use different rendering techniques to show the viewer where to look.


By rendering the textiles in continuous tone and only indicating the rest of the figurine with line, I help highlight the details being discussed and remove superfluous information. A photograph of the whole figurine would not have directed the eye so effectively.

Headdress detail on a figurine.

A Confession and Resolution

sketching (This was supposed to be a New Year's resolution but somehow it's now April and the year is not so fresh anymore. BUT it was my birthday in late March so it's a new year for me. Birthday resolutions are a thing, right?)

First the confession: I don't like sketching. The archetypal artist always has a sketchbook on hand, ready to capture any passing idea, face, or scene that catches their eye. Me, not so much. I like planning everything out before hand, carefully transferring my layout to a clean piece of paper, and then methodically rendering the final piece with great detail. I find sketching intimidating, there's this big blank piece of paper you have to fill in on the fly with no measuring or framework. And even worse, all your efforts are bound together in a book whether they turn out or not. You can always tear pages out I suppose, but those rough little page stubs are still there, mocking you. Yeah, I don't like sketching.

This is not a good thing, mind you. I know all the benefits to sketching. Drawing is part muscle memory and the more you practice, the better the connection between your hand and eyes become. It also helps you work through ideas and discover new things. I want to like sketching, I really do. There are all sorts of inspirational sketchers out there. I took a whole class on field sketching during my Science Illustration Program at CSUMB, taught by Jenny Keller. Jenny keeps beautiful sketch books which she displays as artwork in their own right. She's also written a chapter on the benefits of field sketching in the book Field Notes on Science and Nature. One of my program classmates, Kristin Link, has gone on to be a successful artist and illustrator in Alaska with a focus on sketching. And sometimes for inspiration/ego-crushing, I look at James Gurney's blog, where he posts pages from his sketchbook.

The resolution: I will keep a sketch book and sketch in it at least once a week (hopefully building up to a daily sketching habit). While sketching I'll keep this quote from David Allen Sibley in mind, found in the Foreward to John Muir Laws' The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds:

Drawing is often misunderstood. Non-artists tend to focus on the end result, and think that the primary purpose of drawing is to produce pretty pictures. For one thing, as this book points out, that's a stress-inducing way to think about the practice of drawing, since by that measure most of your drawings will be failures. More importantly, it misses the deeper and longer-lasting rewards of drawing - the knowledge and understanding that come from the process.

I'll start posting some of my sketches here once I get my confidence up a bit. Be on the lookout!

In Progress: Female Adornment at Çatalhöyük

female_layout_revised_2 This is the preliminary drawing for Female Adornment at Çatalhöyük, the companion piece to Male Adornment at Çatalhöyük, which I've been working on with Milena Vasic, a Phd student currently working on this subject. You can read about it and our decision process in this post. As discussed in the Male Adornment post, there is limited evidence for clothing at Çatalhöyük. This is especially true for females. There are only one or two representations of females in the Çatalhöyük wall paintings (excavated by Mellaart) and they are silhouettes with no clothing depicted. The only data for female adornment come from figurines and jewelry items such as beads.

One female figurine from the 1960's Mellaart excavations has indications of clothing (the figurine in the upper left of the drawing). The figurine has some sort of spotted top and skirt with possibly fringed edges incised into the clay. In this illustration I've dressed the woman's full-body-view in my interpretation of this outfit. Researchers at Çatalhöyük have interpreted depictions of spotted clothing as leopard skin or imitation leopard skin. Only one leopard bone has ever been identified on site making it unlikely that they had ready access to the real deal (you can read more about leopards on site in The Leopard's Tale by Ian Hodder). I've drawn the top as goat's skin with hair intact and painted with spots. The bottom has been cut to create a fringe. The skirt is also made of leather and fringed, but scraped clean of hair.

Most of the other female figurines recovered both from the Mellaart and the current Hodder excavations lack any sort of adornment. Exceptions are some figurines depicting either a hairstyle or head dress (such as the one in the lower right of the drawing, excavated by Mellaart). The woman in both the full-body-view and the upper-body-view wears one of many possible interpretations of this hairstyle or head dress. Here I've drawn it as a wide, flat, up-swept bun, probably one of the more conservative ways to interpret the figurines. In other illustrations I've shown it as in a similar fashion, but with the sides of the head shaved (see image below).

Building 55 Storage Room. Notice the hairstyles with shaved sides.

A more structured hairstyle with some sort of internal support that is either left in or removed after construction has also been suggested (The Hopi squash blossom whorl for unmarried women is an ethnographic example of this. You can see photos of this hairstyle being constructed at this link). You can also see a variety of other interpretations in John Swogger's illustrations.

The figurine in the upper right of the drawing (excavated by Mellaart), which was painted with red pigment in a "x" pattern, hints at the possibility of body painting. Stamp seals found on site might be one way patterns were applied to the body, though they have not been found with obvious pigment on them or in any sort of primary context. I've added the red "x"s to the woman's full-figure-view.

I've also included evidence from beads and textiles in this illustration. Both views of the woman wear the bracelet found in the plaster skull burial. This bracelet includes the only leopard bone found on site. The woman in full-body-view is wearing a necklace found in Burial 15924. The dress in the upper-body-view is based on 5 incised torques found with a female burial in Building 50. The torques, carved from boar tusks, were distributed down the front of the skeleton's chest, indicating they were perhaps sewn to some perishable material. I've drawn them stitched to a leather dress. I've also added a woven belt. Textiles are extremely rare at Çatalhöyük because of their organic nature and no secondary evidence for their production has been found. But small pieces have been recovered and therefore were probably part of adornment in some way. I've chosen to include a woven belt because narrow strips of cloth are the easiest to weave and the technology to do so is some of the simplest.

I'm currently painting the final version of Male Adornment at Çatalhöyük and Female Adornment at Çatalhöyük is up next. I'll post both here when I'm finished.

In Progress: Adornment at Çatalhöyük

Male Adornment Preliminary Drawing If a good fairy or mad scientist suddenly appeared in a puff of smoke and offered you the ability to time travel, where and when would you go?

My first stop would probably be Neolithic Çatalhöyük. I’d love to see what the place and the people really looked like. 9000 years is a long, long time ago and while we can recover broad information on topics like architecture, animal husbandry, agriculture, daily practices, etc., we’ll forever be missing the smaller details. There is no Pompeii effect at work at Çatalhöyük; the site was not preserved due to a cataclysmic event that froze everything in time, but through slow accumulation and the perseverance of certain materials such as stone, mudbrick, bone, and fired clay. This means we know they hunted aurochs (wild predecessors to cattle) and kept domesticated sheep and goat, but we don’t know exactly how they used all the skins they must have collected. We know they made all sorts of things out of carved bone, stone, and clay, but we only have hints of what they made from botanical materials such as wood, flax, and reeds. We know the average height of males and females occupying the site, but we can only make educated guesses about their hair and eye colors. It’s my job to illustrate scenes with all these small harder-to-uncover details filled in.

I could use a good fairy right about now as I am working on some images for Milena Vasic’s chapter on adornment at Çatalhöyük which will be published in an upcoming project volume. Most of the direct evidence for adornment here consists of beads; beads made of stone, clay, shell, and bone. They are sometimes found in burials, clustered around necks, wrists, and ankles, but also singly all over in contexts such as middens and room fill. More rare are bone rings, alabaster armbands, and bone hooks and eyes. Most rare are materials made of soft tissue and plants such as leather, linen textiles, and wooden objects. While we sometimes find residues or small charred scraps of these materials, most of the evidence for them is indirect. For example, objects found in burials that would have been attached to cloth or leather, such as hooks and eyes, indicate that these materials where once present. Depictions of humans in figurines and wall paintings are another line of indirect evidence for cloth and leather, as well as jewelry and hairstyles.

Drawing indirect evidence from figurines and wall paintings has its own set of issues. This evidence is two or three times removed from what the people of Çatalhöyük wore. First, the people of Çatalhöyük had their own style of representation and ideas about what was important to represent. This filters the information we are getting. Second, in the case of wall paintings, James Mellaart recorded these paintings in the 1960s and as he re-drew them he interpreted what he saw, filtering the information again. Finally, I am looking at Mellaart’s drawings of Çatalhöyükians’ drawings of what Çatalhöyükian’s wore and putting my own interpretations on it based on my own experience of the site, other people’s interpretations (see John Swogger's reconstructions), and my own society’s adornment norms.

All these different lines of evidence provide information on what the people of Çatalhöyük were putting on their bodies, but what did those bodies look like? For this kind of evidence I turn to the site’s bioarchaeologists who study the skeletal remains. Dr. Clark Larsen (Ohio State University) and Dr. Christopher Knüsel (University of Exeter) lead the current Human Remains Team. This summer I had a meeting with Dr. Knüsel and Scott Haddow, a Human Remains Team lab supervisor, during which we discussed what we know about the Çatalhöyükians’ phenotype. Based on skeletal analysis, we know their average height and that they were robust with strong facial features such as wide jaws and heavy brows. Unfortunately, no DNA has been successfully retrieved from skeletal remains so we have no information on their nearest living relatives or coloring. Dr. Knüsel has suggested that they may have had olive skin with dark hair and eyes based on common adaptations to similar climates. We can also hypothesize that they would have had well-weathered skin and callused hands and feet from spending so much time outdoors on daily tasks.

So far I have completed a preliminary drawing for male adornment (see above). The bone rings on the man’s left hand are from Feature 212, a male burial in Building 1. His necklace is also from a male burial in  Building 1, Feature 38. The bone hook closing his cloak and the leather pouch with flints are from the male burial Feature 1709 in Building 50. The head dress and loin cloth are drawn from the male figurine on the left (from the Mellaart excavations) and the surrounding painted male figures, which are part of the Hunting Shrine FVI wall paintings (also from the Mellaart excavations). Only one leopard bone has been found on site so it is possible the spotted fabric/leather has been painted to mimic leopard skin.

I'll be completing the final art for this reconstruction, as well as a companion piece on female adornment, this month so check back!

Envisioning Çatalhöyük

Going to the Society for American Archaeology's 2013 annual meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii? If you are, and can tear yourself away from the beach, you should check out the "Envisioning Çatalhöyük" poster session.  The session takes place Thursday morning, April 4th, starting at 8 am. It is organized by Josh Sadvari (Ohio State University), James Stuart Taylor (The University of York), and me (Killackey Illustration and Design). The session abstract:

"Over the last 20 years, the Çatalhöyük Research Project in Turkey has developed into a large-scale, interdisciplinary research endeavor featuring hundreds of different excavators and specialists from around the world who connect with, conceptualize, and envision the site in different ways.  In association with the ‘Assembling Çatalhöyük’ paper symposium, this poster session will showcase, in a visual format, the work of those excavators and specialists who are tasked with re-assembling this Neolithic community and the lives of its past inhabitants through the site’s physical deconstruction.  The sheer size of the project and the varied theoretical perspectives of its many researchers stimulate the building of both conflict and consensus as diverse datasets are analyzed and interpreted.  Key among the factors required for resolving such conflicts and constructing cogent narratives is collaboration among different excavation and specialist teams.  Collaborative efforts that facilitate our ability to envision Çatalhöyük’s past as well as its future, including methods developed for recording and preserving data, practices employed in the conservation of the site itself, analyses based on the convergence of a variety of specialist datasets, and techniques utilized for visualizing and disseminating information to the wider archaeological and public communities, are the focus of this symposium."

I'm presenting one poster, "Drawings and Dialogues: Illustrating Landscape at Çatalhöyük" and my illustrations are part of another poster presented by Milena Vasic (Free University of Berlin), "Adornment at Çatalhöyük". Here are the abstracts.

Drawings and Dialogues: Illustrating Landscape at Çatalhöyük:

"This poster presents the process of illustrating the landscape surrounding the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük. The reconstruction is the result of the site’s illustrator, geoarchaeologist, and archaeobotanists collaborating from 2010 to 2012. Most people only see an archaeological reconstruction in its final form, presented in a publication or in a museum display. While a completed reconstruction serves a role in visually transmitting ideas to academic and public audiences, the process of visualizing can be just as valuable. The reconstruction starts as a partially formed image in the mind of the archaeologist and through a series of drawings and dialogues becomes increasingly solid and detailed. This process provides a space in which to explore and test hypotheses, helping to flesh out ideas, uncover contradictions, and identify gaps in knowledge. At the same time, the illustration process is one of elimination, the whittling down of alternative hypothesizes and making concrete one of many options. By presenting the entire process here, the viewer can see the series of decisions that lead to this final image of Çatalhöyük’s Neolithic landscape."

Adornment at Çatalhöyük:

"Increased material exploitation is a phenomenon seen during the Near Eastern Neolithic, including the Neolithic occupation of Çatalhöyük. The intensified production and use of items of personal adornment are some of the manifestations of various shifts witnessed during this period, indicative of the increased concern with external display and individual and communal identities. The aim of this poster is to reconstruct the external display of Çatalhöyük inhabitants by looking at the evidence for adornment across different media. Mellaart`s excavations and the current Çatalhöyük Research Project yielded more than 25,000 beads made of shell, stone, copper, wood, bone, and clay, as well as other ornaments such as pins, collars, and armbands. Furthermore, textiles and traces of leather pouches have been found in several burials, as well as pigments that may have been used for colouring the textiles and for body painting. Additionally, some of the wall paintings and figurines depict hairstyles and attire. Not only does Çatalhöyük contain an abundance of ornaments and their representation, but there are also a number of inhumations containing these items in primary contexts, making this assemblage an ideal dataset for studying Neolithic external display. This data is summarized here through infographics and reconstruction illustrations."

The complete list of "Envisioning Çatalhöyük" poster presenters:

Grant Cox and Graeme Earl; Lindsay Der; Lisa Guerre; Scott Haddow, Christopher Knüsel, Joshua Sadvari, Nicolò Dell’Unto and Maurizio Forte; Justine Issavi, Maurizio Forte, Nicolo Dell’Unto and Nicola Lercari; Kathryn Killackey; Ashley Lingle; Camilla Mazzucato; Allison Mickel; Sharmini Pitter, Nerissa Russell, Ian Hodder and Richard P. Evershed; James Taylor; Milena Vasic and Kathryn Killackey.

You can see the SAA's 2013 Annual Meeting preliminary program here.


John Swogger, the illustrator at Çatalhöyük from 1998 to 2006, has a guest post up at Comics Forum entitled "The Sequential Art of the Past: Archaeology, comics and the dynamics of an emerging genre".  He discusses his and others' use of comics to transmit archaeological knowledge to a range of audiences. John has been advocating for the use of comics in archaeology for a while now, including at the Visualisation in Archaeology's 2011 conference, the Society for American Archaeology's 2012 conference. He'll also be at next year's Society for American Archaeology's conference in Hawaii. - Kathryn