Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


4 April 2011

Articulate bodies: Forms and figures at Çatalhöyük

Carolyn Nakamura & Lynn Meskell In S. Nanoglou & L. Meskell (eds), The Materiality of Representation, Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 16.3 (September 2009): 205-230.


This paper examines the materializing practices of bodies at the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük. We focus on the clay and stone figurine corpus (over 1,800 total, with over 1,000 of those being diagnostic), but also consider other media such as wall paintings and sculptured features, as well as the skeletal evidence. This paper is the first attempt to analyze particular bodily characteristics in the Çatalhöyük figurine repertoire from a perspective that investigates, rather than assumes, a priori the representational priorities of their makers. Within a wide range of anthropomorphic and abbreviated figurines, we find that specific areas such as the stomach and buttocks were often clearly delineated and emphasized, whereas demarcation of primary sexual characteristics was typically downplayed. These traits and their material “prominence” might underscore specific bodily areas that have generally been overlooked as potential sites of articulation and attention. Our work challenges older assumptions that figurines were always engaged in projects of either deification or self-making. Instead, we suggest that these body types might mediate other kinds of social concerns and practices.

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