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The Nature of the Beast: Curating Animals and Ancestors at Çatalhöyük

Lynn Meskell
World Archaeology
Vol. 40, No. 3, Tradition (Sep., 2008), pp. 373-389
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40388219
Page Count: 17
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The Nature of the Beast: Curating Animals and Ancestors at Çatalhöyük
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Abstract

Taking 'tradition' as the process of 'handing down', which encompasses the ideas of duration, continuity, practice and ritual, this paper examines the Neolithic lifeworld at Çatalhöyük with particular attention to the figurine corpus and plastered installations. Specifically, I focus on two material preoccupations that have intense signification across various media, are repeated in different scales and occur over many generations at Çatalhöyük. The first is termed headedness or a particular tension surrounding heads, head removal and circulation, and the post-cranial body, that applies both to humans and animals. The second is the desire for embedding and re-fleshing the remains of animals and ancestors. I argue that both themes are connected to desires about permanence, restoration and ultimately improving upon the fragilities of fleshed matter through a focused curation of the skeletal elements. Both of these material concerns had salience across domains from living bodies to aesthetic renderings, traversed both animal and human worlds, connected generations together, occurred at different scales and had resonance beyond the site to wider Neolithic traditions.

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