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Çatalhöyük Living Archive

The Çatalhöyük Living Archive is a Stanford University digital humanities project, now in a pilot phase, aimed at making the data and interpretive works from that 20+ year archaeological project more accessible for ongoing and future scholarship. Çatalhöyük is a late-Neolithic settlement site on the Anatolian Plateau of south-central Turkey (occupied approx. 7500 BC to 5700 BC). A Stanford University Libraries (SUL) Digital Humanities Grant brought the collaborative research design and development services of SUL's Karl Grossner and Elijah Meeks to Professor Ian Hodder, director of Çatalhöyük since 1993, and Claudia Engel, SUL Academic Technology Specialist. A web site exploring innovative functionality under development will go public in Spring, 2014. The existing Çatalhöyük web site remains active and is a great source of background information and data.

 Partial view of North Area, 2013   

(a) Partial view of North Area, 2013; (b) Replica of a wall painting: leopard skin and geometric design, or the world's first map?; (c) Bucrania home decor

The evolving design of the Çatalhöyük Living Archive includes these elements:

  • Linked Open Data. Çatalhöyük data has always been open under a Creative Commons License. We are making it part of the Linked Open Data (LOD) cloud by publishing significant portions of the tabular data, now in a relational database, in RDF/OWL format. The data will be made accessible via a RESTful API and a SPARQL endpoint. A pilot project with Open Context's Eric and Sarah Kansa will use the British Museum Materials Thesaurus to link Çatalhöyük data with that of other archaeological projects.
  • Interactive Search. The graph data model of RDF/OWL allows us to more readily present summary and detail displays of finds, features, and samples excavated from spaces, buildings, and areas. A map, two timelines (deposition and excavation time scales), and interactive visualizations will be joined with a traditional search form, enabling researchers to navigate the data store visually in novel ways. We need to enable answering questions like:
    • What finds and features come from the northwest regions of buildings, and is there variation by area or period?
    • What stone or clay objects have been found near burials, during which depostion phases, and what interpretive categories are they in?
  • Research Workspace. Authorized users will be able to store annotatations to data records, export search results, save and share queries, and ultimately, propose new or alternate interpretive classifications.
  • The Language of Çatalhöyük. A significant volume of analytical results and their interpretation have appeared in textual material such as excavation diaries, technical reports, journal articles, and books. In this early phase we will link text from 20 years of technical reports to the buildings, spaces, and areas they concern, and experimentally visualize the dynamic topic content of those texts and diary entries.
  • Interactive Scholarly Works. The RDF/OWL graph structure can better support not only Interactive Search, but interactive scholarly works that model some subset of the data to develop and present theoretical constructs and findings. Our first stab at this for Çatalhöyük will model and visualize examples of increasing entanglement as developed by Hodder (2012; 2011) - the co-dependence and dependencies between people and things, things and things, and people and people.

Some preliminary work products in progress:


(a) spatial-temporal browsing to units, features and finds within buildings; (b) network of individuals, in teams, and technical articles from archive reports

We are working to make sure these early pilot development efforts can be sustained and elaborated over the next few years, leading to a fully realized Çatalhöyük Living Archive that remains accessible and useful to scholars and the general public long after excavation activity ends.


Works cited

Hodder, I. (2012). Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things. Wiley-Blackwell:West Sussex, UK

Hodder, I. (2011). Human-thing entanglement: towards an integrated archaeological perspective. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, (17)1:154-177

Image1 caption: 
Clay stamp seal (sometimes referred to as the bear stamp seal). Found in 2005 (11652.X1; South, Building 44 & 56)