Thousands of years before the pyramids were built in Egypt and the Trojan War was fought, a great civilization arose on the Anatolian plains. The Goddess and the Bull details the dramatic quest by archaeologists to unearth the buried secrets of human cultural evolution at this huge, spectacularly well-preserved 9,500-year-old village in Turkey.
Here lie the origins of modern society -- the dawn of art, architecture, religion, family -- even the first tangible evidence of human self-awareness, the world's oldest mirrors. Some archaeologists have claimed that the Mother Goddess was first worshipped at Çatalhöyük, which is now a site of pilgrimage for Goddess worshippers from all over the world. The excavations here have yielded the seeds of the Neolithic Revolution, when prehistoric humans first abandoned the hunter-gatherer life they had known for millions of years, invented farming, and began living in houses and communities.
Michael Balter, the excavation's official biographer, brings readers behind the scenes, providing the first inside look at the remarkable site and its history of scandal and thrilling scientific discovery. He tells the very human story of two colorful men: British archaeologist James Mellaart, who discovered Çatalhöyük in 1958 only to be banned from working at the site forever after a fabulous ancient treasure disappeared without a trace; and Ian Hodder, a pathbreaking archaeological rebel who reinvented the way archaeology is practiced and reopened the excavation after it had lain dormant for three decades. Today Hodder leads an international team of more than one hundred archaeologists who continue to probe the site's secrets.
Balter reveals the true story behind modern archaeology -- the thrill of history-making scientific discovery as well as the crushing disappointments, the community and friendship, the love affairs, and the often bitter rivalries between warring camps of archaeologists.
Along the way, Balter describes the cutting-edge advances in archaeological science that have allowed the team at Çatalhöyük to illuminate the central questions of human existence.
Brian Fagan, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara
Michael Balter takes us on a fascinating journey through the excavations at one of the world's great archaeological sites. He provides an engrossing chronicle of one of the world's earliest farming villages and of the personalities and thoughts of the archaeologists engaged in the research -- the human side of archaeology.
Bruce Trigger, James McGill Professor, Department of Anthropology, McGill University, Montreal
A superb biography of a super archaeological site! Balter also demonstrates how this work is radically transforming what all archaeologists think and do. His carefully researched and compellingly written narrative, which makes readers feel as if they are there, will be read with pleasure and interest by professional archaeologists and all who are interested in archaeology. Balter's skillful weaving together of archaeological findings, the personalities and ambitions of a broad cast of archaeologists, and the evolution of archaeological thought makes this book a classic.
Ian Tattersall, Curator, Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History
Çatalhöyük is not only an archaeological site of tremendous importance, it is one with a dramatic history -- both ancient and modern -- that Balter tells with verve and an abundance of personal detail. His book is foremost about a site that offers unique insights into the origins of our own civilization; but at the same time it is an evocative portrayal of the process of archaeology itself.
Colin Renfrew, Professor Emeritus, University of Cambridge
An engagingly personal account of one of the most ambitious excavation projects currently in progress, undertaken at one of the world's great archaeological sites; a revealing narrative of people and ideas at the working face of archaeology.
Heather Pringle, author of The Mummy Congress
Erudite and meticulously researched, The Goddess and the Bull takes us behind the scenes of archaeology on the world stage, revealing the pitched political battles, the sometimes battered egos, and the stubborn quest for knowledge at one of the world's most important archaeological sites, Çatalhöyük.