Revelations From Çatalhöyük: A 9,000-year-old Community With Modern Urban Problems

Revelations From Çatalhöyük: A 9,000-year-old Community With Modern Urban Problems

Some 9,000 years ago, residents of one of the world's first large farming communities were also among the first humans to experience some of the perils of modern urban living.

Scientists studying the ancient ruins of Çatalhöyük, in modern Turkey, found that its inhabitants - 3,500 to 8,000 people at its peak - experienced overcrowding, infectious diseases, violence and environmental problems.

Birthplace of Urban Living

In a paper published June 17, 2019 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , an international team of bioarchaeologists report new findings built on 25 years of study of human remains unearthed at Çatalhöyük.

The results paint a picture of what it was like for humans to move from a nomadic hunting and gathering lifestyle to a more sedentary life built around agriculture , said Clark Spencer Larsen, lead author of the study, and professor of anthropology at The Ohio State University.

"Çatalhöyük was one of the first proto-urban communities in the world and the residents experienced what happens when you put many people together in a small area for an extended time," Larsen said.

"It set the stage for where we are today and the challenges we face in urban living."

The new report findings built on 25 years of study of human remains unearthed at Çatalhöyük. Scott Haddow / Ohio State University

Çatalhöyük, in what is now south-central Turkey, was inhabited from about 7100 to 5950 BC. First excavated in 1958, the site measures 13 hectares (about 32 acres) with nearly 21 meters of deposits spanning 1,150 years of continuous occupation.

Larsen, who began fieldwork at the site in 2004, was one of the leaders of the team that studied human remains as part of the larger Çatalhöyük Research Project, directed by Ian Hodder of Stanford University. A co-author of the PNAS paper, Christopher Knüsel of Université de Bordeaux in France, was co-leader of the bioarchaeology team with Larsen.

Fieldwork at Çatalhöyük ended in 2017 and the PNAS paper represents the culmination of the bioarchaeology work at the site, Larsen said.

  • Ancient Feces Reveal Parasites Plagued 9,000-Year-Old City of Catalhoyuk
  • Men and women held equal status in ancient city of Catalhoyuk
  • The Posthumous Disgrace of the Dark Master of Archaeological Hoaxes

Excavation around building 43. ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

An Urban Development With Urban Problems

Çatalhöyük began as a small settlement about 7100 BC, likely consisting of a few mud-brick houses in what researchers call the Early period. It grew to its peak in the Middle period of 6700 to 6500 BC, before the population declined rapidly in the Late period. Çatalhöyük was abandoned about 5950 BC.

Farming was always a major part of life in the community. The researchers analyzed a chemical signature in the bones - called stable carbon isotope ratios - to determine that residents ate a diet heavy on wheat, barley and rye, along with a range of non-domesticated plants.

Stable nitrogen isotope ratios were used to document protein in their diets, which came from sheep, goats and non-domesticated animals. Domesticated cattle were introduced in the Late period, but sheep were always the most important domesticated animal in their diets.

"They were farming and keeping animals as soon as they set up the community, but they were intensifying their efforts as the population expanded," Larsen said.

The grain-heavy diet meant that some residents soon developed tooth decay - one of the so-called "diseases of civilization," Larsen said. Results showed that about 10 to 13 percent of teeth of adults found at the site showed evidence of dental cavities.

Changes over time in the shape of leg bone cross-sections showed that community members in the Late period of Çatalhöyük walked significantly more than early residents. That suggests residents had to move farming and grazing further from the community as time went on, Larsen said.

"We believe that environmental degradation and climate change forced community members to move further away from the settlement to farm and to find supplies like firewood," he said. "That contributed to the ultimate demise of Çatalhöyük."

Other research suggests that the climate in the Middle East became drier during the course of Çatalhöyük's history, which made farming more difficult.

Çatalhöyük after the first excavations by James Melaart and his team. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Dirt and Disease of Overcrowding

Findings from the new study suggest that residents suffered from a high infection rate, most likely due to crowding and poor hygiene. Up to one-third of remains from the Early period show evidence of infections on their bones.

During its peak in population, houses were built like apartments with no space between them - residents came and left through ladders to the roofs of the houses.

Excavations showed that interior walls and floors were re-plastered many times with clay. And while the residents kept their floors mostly debris-free, analysis of house walls and floors showed traces of animal and human fecal matter.

"They are living in very crowded conditions, with trash pits and animal pens right next to some of their homes. So there is a whole host of sanitation issues that could contribute to the spread of infectious diseases," Larsen said.

Neighbors From Hell

The crowded conditions in Çatalhöyük may have also contributed to high levels of violence between residents, according to the researchers.

In a sample of 93 skulls from Çatalhöyük, more than one-fourth - 25 individuals -- showed evidence of healed fractures. And 12 of them had been victimized more than once, with two to five injuries over a period of time. The shape of the lesions suggested that blows to the head from hard, round objects caused them - and clay balls of the right size and shape were also found at the site.

More than half of the victims were women (13 women, 10 men). And most of the injuries were on the top or back of their heads, suggesting the victims were not facing their assailants when struck.

"We found an increase in cranial injuries during the Middle period, when the population was largest and most dense," Larsen said.

"An argument could be made that overcrowding led to elevated stress and conflict within the community."

Neolithic Burial in South Area Çatalhöyük. ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

Home Burials

Most people were buried in pits that had been dug into the floors of houses , and researchers believe they were interred under the homes in which they lived. That led to an unexpected finding: Most members of a household were not biologically related.

Researchers discovered this when they found that the teeth of individuals buried under the same house weren't as similar as would be expected if they were kin.

"The morphology of teeth are highly genetically controlled," Larsen said. "People who are related show similar variations in the crowns of their teeth and we didn't find that in people buried in the same houses."

More research is needed to determine the relations of people who lived together in Çatalhöyük, he said. "It is still kind of a mystery."

Overall, Larsen said the significance of Çatalhöyük is that it was one of the first Neolithic "mega-sites" in the world built around agriculture.

"We can learn about the immediate origins of our lives today, how we are organized into communities. Many of the challenges we have today are the same ones they had in Çatalhöyük - only magnified."

Other co-authors on the PNAS paper came from Université de Bordeaux, Koç University in Turkey, University of Nevada Reno, University of Zürich-Irchel, University of Liverpool, Johns Hopkins University, University of Arizona, University of Kent and Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada.

Among the funders supporting the project were the John Templeton Foundation, National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation.

The book by Michael Balter, The Goddess and the Bull, is the first full-length work about Catalhoyuk written for a general audience since 1967, and as such should be referenced with the article. It was published in January 2005. Whoever removed it is not acting in the spirit of Wikipedia, which invites contributors to add and improve content. Books that are relevant to the article, especially those that are highly relevant, are not "plugs."

I suppose this reference is now technically legit although it wasn't when you started inserting it in September 2004. You should be aware of Wikipedia's policy that references need to be verifiable. If you put it back in this article under a Further Reading heading, I will not remove it. However I do not think it is appropriate to be added to Ian Hodder, James Mellaart or Post processualism as you have been doing, as those topics are not covered in depth by this book, especially the last. adamsan 17:14, 6 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I have no desire to do anything that is inconsistent with Wikipedia rules. However, when I first inserted this book, at a time very soon before its publication, someone else added the ISBN number for it, which I take as being verifiable. And unless you have read the book, how would you know that Mellaart, PP, and Ian Hodder are not treated in depth? In fact, they are. The first three chapters deal with Mellaart's dig at Catalhoyuk. This book includes the ONLY detailed biographies of Mellaart and Hodder in print, and the only detailed account of who was involved in the rise of PP and how they went about developing their ideas. As for proper formatting, I am not sure how to do this. In the interests of helping Wikipedia users, perhaps you can help me with this? I would also like to know whether you are an official Wikipedia person or simply another user. Your description says you are an archaeologist and smartarse. I can be reached at [email protected] for further discussion of this, my name is Michael Balter, and I am not hiding behind an IP address--that is obviously my server that inserts this.

OK there are several points to be addressed here. Firstly, self-promotion is frowned upon in Wikipeda - see Wikipedia:Autobiography which covers not only vanity pages but also references to one's own works. As your book appears to have been well-reviewed on a couple of web sites I have found, it is sensible to allow this convention to slide in this case. Your references should follow standard bibliographic conventions however and are detailed at Wikipedia:Cite_sources. Describing your work as "a comprehensive study of X" does not conform to the Neutral Point of View that Wikipedia strives to maintain and it should not be described in this way, especially given that it was you who wrote it. I disagree with your claim that the book is the only one to deal with the rise of post-processualism as I have several other contenders sitting on my bookshelf at this moment. Does your book genuinely go into lifelong biographical depth on the two men? If so I withdraw my objection to your reference. To answer you question I am simply another user, as we all are, although some users receive limited further powers to better administrate the system. Please understand that anonymous users who make a limited number of very specific edits to numerous pages are likely to have their motives treated with scepticism by others. I would welcome any edits you wished to make to the articles themselves which would demonstrate that you are not simply using the Wikipedia for free publicity. adamsan 18:49, 6 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Okay, we are now getting onto a reasonable level of discussion about this. Firstly, I will study the proper referencing conventions and make sure that the reference to the book conforms to them. Second, I did not claim that my book was the only one to deal with the rise of post-processual archaeology, but that it deals in a way no other work does with the detailed personalities and events that lead to this movement--including, most importantly, the personal development of Ian Hodder, based on six years of interviews with him. The book is also based on detailed interviews with most of the original graduate student group, including Henrietta Moore, Chris Tilley, Michael Parker Pearson, etc. Most of the other works you mention are likely on my shelf as well, including the works of Bruce Trigger who was also interviewed at length for this book. And yes, the book does provide lengthy biographical details of Mellaart and Hodder that are available nowhere else. If you go on the Simonsays link that is given on my web site,, you can read the entire first chapter of the book about Mellaart--the first of three such chapters. I repeat my offer, made on the Mellaart page, to send you a copy of the book so you can be satisfied on this point, since as far as I can tell you are the main person who has objected to my additions. As for Hodder, his biography, personally and intellectually, covers two full chapters, and continues as he arrives at Catalhoyuk. In fact, the book was prepared with the full cooperation over many years of Hodder, Mellaart, and most members of the Catalhoyuk excavation team. I appreciate your vigilance in protecting Wikipedia from self-serving users, and support this. But it just happens in this case that my book, as confirmed by jacket blurbs from major archaeologists including Colin Renfrew, Bruce Trigger, and others who have read the book, is a real contribution to the history of Catalhoyuk and the people who have dug there, and as such should be brought to the attention of Wikipedia users interested in these subjects. Finally, I have in fact earlier made small changes to the original entries, including correcting the start date for the start of excavations in 1993. I had no desire to weigh in heavily and make big changes in the articles, because someone had obviously gone to a lot of work to write them and I respected that. However, I could add a great deal to the Mellaart and Hodder entries in particular, and would be happy to do so if I could be assured that it would not be erased!

Splendid I'm glad we have reached an accord. I will not remove any of your book references in the above articles provided that they follow the guidelines outlined previously. Do consider taking out a user name if you plan on any further additions it is by no means compulsory but does mean that your edits will have greater credibility along with other benefits. Thank you for your kind offer of a copy of the book but I will probably end up buying one (when it comes out in paperback of course, I'm not made of money!). adamsan 20:09, 6 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Okay, and enjoy the book when you do get it. MBalter

I read Mr. Balter's book from cover to cover and, for the most part, enjoyed it. However, he's not an archaeologist, he's a magazine writer. The Goddess and the Bull is a fascinating study of the lives of the 100+ members of Ian Hodder's excavation team -- including their childhoods, marriages, divorces and affairs in many cases. He covers the Dorak Affair comprehensively and in an interesting way. He provides revealing information on who's funding Hodder's excavation. He does delve into post processualism and other aspects of archaeological theory and method. He goes into the behind-the-scenes social interactions between the excvation team members. However, there's very little in the book about the interpretation of the finds at Catalhoyuk. Mr. Balter's book is not to be considered the equivalent of a site report by any means, nor is it to be considered serious archaeology. The title is entirely misleading: there's almost nothing in the book about the religion of the Catalhoyukians. There is, however, quite a bit of subtle and not-so-subtle ridicule of female deity. Athana 22:12, 10 December 2005 (UTC)

Following , the pronunciation appears to be [ʧɑtɑl højyk]. Anyone who actually know Turkish, please correct me if I'm wrong.

This is the only time I've seen the Turkish pronunciation given correctly. I actually know Turkish. The transcription system used here is the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), a long-recognized standard for showing pronunciations of different languages. - Johanna Cybeleia

I added more detail/information to the article from sources by archaeologist Hodder. Comments welcome. WBardwin 04:26, 10 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Since the "seated woman" figure (from Catalhoyuk, etc.), is striking, and there are examples numbering more than one ( 1 ), maybe some knowledgeable folks could enter 2,3,4 Paragraphs on some speculation and hypotheses on this "figure". I think there are some similar, and maybe older 'Neolithic'-type ( ? ), from Russia, the Western steppes of Russia ? Is that a poor guess? Anyway, I think the "seated woman" is profound, in its "Strength of Display", to coin a term. . Michael McAnnis,YumaAZ. Sep 10,2005

Removed McAnnis' (User:Mmcannis) speculations regarding smooth plaster walls (insect/arachnid control?//smoke cleaning?) from the body of the article for discussion. WBardwin 23:16, 18 September 2005 (UTC)

Michael: Unfortunately, from what I can gather, the current excavators at Catalhoyuk fail to speak about this figurine in any great detail – or any other of the rich figurine collection from the site. All they do is go into great detail about what the figurines are not (they are not deities).

I’m hoping this latest 2005 find will convince them that they can’t just ignore this fascinating set of artifacts. James Mellaart, who found the seated, feline-flanked figure, thought she was a deity giving birth to a child. He thought she was being supported by the flanking animals. According to Balter, Ian Hodder says this figurine isn’t a deity because she was found in a grain bin Mellaart on the other hand suggests that her grain-bin find-location simply signifies her magical ability to protect the grain – in my view a perfectly reasonable suggestion. Athana 23:27, 10 December 2005 (UTC)

Thanks for some imput. MichaelMcAnnis,here in YumaAZ. I just entered on the Cylinder seal page, a cult, "liquid-offering" vessel 12 In. high, with a non-descript(female?) holding back dual lions, by the butt of their tails. (A "cylinder seal impression" is across the cornice, or cavetto of this 'building, cult, clay' item.) It is obvious to me that the iconography of the "lion" was used in so many ways, for example as Kingship. Anyway the receptacle is from the Reference cited. Thanx againAthana.MMcAnnisMmcannis 17:01, 7 January 2006 (UTC)

Just wanted to let you know that I added the section on religion. Athana 18:22, 10 December 2005 (UTC)

BCE is fine for esoteric, academic journals (though I intend to do whatever I can to reverse this PC idiocy even there). BCE is entirely unnecessary here, will only confuse the uniformed who are the bulk of the users here. (Revert if you want, I choose to make my point on this article because the topic has been a twenty year fascination for me).

  • "Both the BCE/CE era names and the BC/AD era names are acceptable"
  • "When either of two styles are acceptable it is inappropriate for a Wikipedia editor to change from one style to another unless there is some substantial reason for the change."
  • "Revert warring over optional styles is unacceptable if the article is colour rather than color, it would be wrong to switch simply to change styles"

As Catahoyuk had a population comparable to medieval London, I have to ask, what is our definition of "village", "town", "city" -- and "civilization"?

Is architectural, social, and productive egalitarianism incompatible with civilization? Do we have the mindset of the 19th Century reactionary, that without the Monarchy and the Church, civilization itself will cease to exist?

It's ironic that the most leftist of archaeologists are the most fervent

about maintaining Sumeria and Egypt, with their slave systems, as the first "civilizations" with "cities", and maintaining early post-glacial egalitarian cultures, some of which are turning out to be startlingly sophisticated, as more "primitive".

Well, if you're not satisfied with a definition (or definitions) you can find in dictionaries, try, as an introduction, The Goddess and the Bull by Michael Balter, he mentiones some scientific debates on the subject.--Barbatus 22:55, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

But in this article, just describing 10,000 people living in a conurbanization as a "village" (and note Mellaart calls it a "town") -- without delving into this question, seems to be an oversight. Catalhoyuk radically stretches the pre-existing concept of a "neolithic village" (which can include a circle of teepees) -- and is in fact proving to be a challenge to our ideas of "city" and "civilization". Catalhoyuk is not just another "village" -- it's something new -- a "multistory megavillage" if you must -- and this incrediblly inportant characteristic of the society is being ignored by the article.

I see this issue has been addressed now in the article in a fairly good way. However given that non-technical English defines habitation centers primarily by size, this sentence -- "However, it is more properly described as a large village rather than a true town, city or civilization" -- could be made more informative and neutral.

It could clarify that in the current technical usage of most archaeologists (not the expert Mellaart though), that the term "city" is reserved for urbanizations with hierarchy and division of labor.

Oxford American English Dictionary:

village - "A group of houses and associated buildings, larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town, situated in a rural area."

town - "An urban area that has a name, defined boundaries, and local government, and that is larger than a village and generally smaller than a city."

Just to add another voice to this debate, I quote John Reader in his book Cities (2004, pp. 16-17):

"Çatal Hüyük is still often described as 'the world's first city', but the results of renewed excavations at the site indicated that it was more of an overgrown village than a city -- or a town -- even though many modern urban centres have far smaller populations. Ths point is that for archaeologists and historians the most meaningful difference between a village and a city has nothing to do with size it is instead a measure of social and economic differentiation within the communities. In this scheme of things, a place occupied exclusively by people who had left the land to become full-time craftsmen, merchants, priests and civil servants was a city, while anywhere occupied principally by farmers was a village. By and large, only farmers lived in villages, while 'a key defining feature of a town or city is that farmers don't live in them'.

"At Çatal Hüyük there was no evidence of full-time craftsmen, merchants, priests and civil servants living off the surplus of a rural hinterland. Each family produced its own food, and also made pottery (and other items) for themselves as required. There was no temple, or public buildings which could be interpreted as centres of communal activity instead, each house was a discrete entity, and each group of two to four houses shared their own shrine. Nor was there anything to indicate that the society at Çatal Hüyük was hierarchical, with lower and upper classes dominated by individuals of authority no, the community consisted entirely of extended families gtrouped together in clusters of four or five houses, who carried on their daily activities more of less autonomously. Overall, social and economic arrangements at Çatal Hüyük appear to have been remarkably homogeneous and egalitarian.

"So Çatal Hüyük was something of a hybrid -- large enough to be a town and possessing all the ingredients needed to become a city, but retaining the social organisation and features of a village."

The current term for this type of settlement and the one used in wikipedia is proto-city describing a phase in urban history when a settlements achieved a large population but without the economic and cultural differentiation of a city according to the "definition" of a city by those who study urban history--Gurdjieff (talk) 16:41, 27 January 2009 (UTC)

If I'm not mistaken, the new take on Catalhoyuk society/religion (Michael Balter, The Goddess and the Bull) is that it was not matriarchal, and that the seated goddess figure isn't as important as has been previously assumed.

I personally find the logic in this revisionism utterly lacking (male elements but nothing to show male supremacy) -- but the Wikipedia article is currently not reporting the situation accurately at all.

(Again, if I'm not tragically confused, as all too often).

The first paragraph of the Religion section gives us the traditional interpretation.

The following paragraphs quote: “…may force us to change our views of the nature of Catalhoyuk society…” -- but don't mention what might be changing!

The section leaves the matriarchal figure as the sole mentioned religious focus of the society -- and in fact describes even a greater abundance of them being dug up.

Where's the discussion of the revisionist patriarchalism?

I think I agree with the above unsigned comments. Hodder's argument--that signs of egalitarianism rule out a matriarchal society--assumes that a matriarchal society would show signs of stratification that are opposite to patriarchal systems. However, in my mind, a matriarchal system could very much be egalitarian. Just because patriarchies favour men (in terms of social stratification) doesn't mean matriarchies would favour women. They would just be run by women. Considering that women were gatherers and therefore likely the first agriculturalists, it seems reasonable that they might begin a sedentary farm life as the leaders and managers of farm food as well as the creators of deities that relate to the harvest --Flurryofcrispycoffee (talk) 08:49, 20 November 2014 (UTC)

I recently read both the book by Balter (not very helpful as far as CH goes) and Ian Hodder's Leopard's Tale. Also a chapter on CH in (I believe) After the Ice, fairly recently published.

It completely changed my ideas about CH, and I have since been wondering if the CH inhabitants were, er, insane. Get this:

  • they lived in crowded conditions on top of a mud heap in the middle of marshes (which do not tend to be healthy environments for humans to start with)
  • their houses were so full of smoke that all the older folks had soot deposits on lungs
  • the area around them flooded every year, and the archeologists say they must have walked 7 kilometers to any fields they may have had (how does that make sense?)
  • they tossed their excrement and garbage from the roofs into spaces between houses the stench, supplemented by the corpses under the floor, must have been intense
  • they led a toilsome existence, constantly plastering, building and rebuilding, moving ovens, stairs, etc etc, digging up the dead, beheading some, putting weasel excrement on others.
  • they had to access houses from the top, unlike in pueblos, and had to crawl on all fours thru tiny doorways (wasn't that a tad tough on the older folk?)
  • the "art" on their house walls included vultures pecking at headless corpses, and human breasts rendered in clay that had vulture skulls built in, poking their beaks thru the nipples Sigmund Freud would have a field day with these folks!

These people, to all apparent evidence, were egalitarian and therefore completely free to walk away from this depressing, miserable, laborious existence. Yet they stayed. What the heck.

How about some discussion here of all this weird weird stuff?! V.B. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:33, 26 December 2007 (UTC)

I suspect this may have been some kind of ancient gulag or near-gulag being presented as an egalitarian "worker's paradise" by believers in Marxist (and/or Marxist-feminist) fairy-tales, with the people being kept enslaved by their own inherited ideology/religion and/or perhaps by a ruling elite that lived a long way away in a less unhealthy environment, along with a high risk of starvation and sex-starvation for anybody who fled (as a few probably did). But these Talk Pages are for improving our article, not for discussing the topic. So unless somebody (probably somebody else, as I'm probably not sufficiently interested) can come up with Reliable Sources that support any of our above speculations, this discussion would have to be abandoned (or continued somewhere else, which I won't be doing).Tlhslobus (talk) 04:13, 22 January 2016 (UTC) That said, my above comment may just reflect my own bias, and many of their 'problems' may only seem like problems to us - they were probably 'nose-blind' to the stench, the marshes may have been useful for defence, the miserable conditions were presumably less miserable than the likely alternatives (and/or were thought to be so by the inhabitants), some of these 'problems' are also found in other ancient cities and also in parts of the Third World today, and so on (though as usual this can only be included in the article if backed by reliable sources).Tlhslobus (talk) 04:33, 22 January 2016 (UTC) There also seems to be a bit of a contradiction between the claim in our text that it was a classless egalitarian society and Hodder's quoted statement ". If one's social status was of high importance in Çatalhöyük, the body and head were separated after death. . ", which suggests it had hierarchies, but that we just don't understand the details. One may also add that failure (so far) to find palaces or temples doesn't prove there weren't any, especially if there are ideological, funding, or careerist ('I don' want to have to publicly eat my words') reasons for not wanting to look for buildings that would make the place far less interesting, as it would no longer be a unique egalitarian society. And of course the alleged 'goddess' figurine appears seated on some kind of throne - both goddesses and thrones are hardly egalitarian concepts, even if there may well be no RS to say so. Tlhslobus (talk) 05:08, 22 January 2016 (UTC)

The point about the elderly couldn't be true because of their life span combined with those living conditions would make it improbable of having any elderly living.

The term 'elderly' wasn't used before your post. Some 'older people' will always survive since everybody can't die at exactly the same age, even if they need not be 'elderly', especially by our standards.Tlhslobus (talk) 03:57, 22 January 2016 (UTC)

The real co-ordinate are: 37° 39' 55.94 N, 32° 49' 34.68 E (which moves it about 6.5 KM to the east - and to the correct spot)!

the amount and formatting of the images relative to the text size ruined the layout of the article so I shifted them to a gallery until the text increases, or someone can do a better job on the layout. I fixed most of the dates, distances, titles, and other formatting to match the MoS.

This article needs 1 svg maps of the site 2 a chronology of the layers as a bulleted list 3 content on the relationship of the site to other neolithic cultures 4 an svg illustration of a typical house with labels --Gurdjieff (talk) 16:37, 27 January 2009 (UTC)

How come Hasandağı volcano 140 km at the east has been mentioned, but the Karadağ volcane some 25 km at the south east has been omitted ? Nedim Ardoğa (talk) 11:02, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

Has anyone but me compared this site to a slum that simply preceded conurbations? —Pawyilee (talk) 14:18, 24 November 2013 (UTC)

See my suggestion that it may have been a gulag or near-gulag in my reply in the above section ("I am still reeling in disgust and disbelief") - but unfortunately you and I don't count as reliable sources so our speculations can't go into the article unless backed by reliable sources.Tlhslobus (talk) 04:20, 22 January 2016 (UTC)

Has anyone read of any horses at that time, as bones or pictures, or figurines?? Or further, anywhere in Anatolia in the 7th millennium BC?? HJJHolm (talk) 07:21, 26 April 2014 (UTC)

The 5th paragraph of the Culture section begins with the sentence, "Apart of ritual life, the people of Çatalhöyük buried their dead within the village." I'm not sure how to read "apart" here. Should this be "A part" (also meaning "a component") or is it actually intended to be "Apart" (also meaning "separate from" in which case the inclusion of the following "of" is an error). I'm thinking it is supposed to be "A part" but I thought I would double check here on the Talk page in case I was missing a different intention by the composer of the sentence. — al-Shimoni (talk) 20:50, 3 June 2015 (UTC)

Added with [1], change to "As a part"? Doug Weller (talk) 08:13, 4 June 2015 (UTC)

I had read that Catal Huyuk was a metal-working centre, and was arguably where metal-working began, involved in working copper, and that this was what made it notable. The text mentions it is Chalcolithic, meaning Copper Age, and has metallurgy in the infobox, but otherwise says nothing about metal-working. Why not? (Even if somehow it is no longer seen as a metal-working centre, we should probably say that it used to be seen as such by at least some sources, but no longer is for reasons X, Y, and Z, and we might then also want to remove metallurgy and Chalcolithic from the text and infobox). Tlhslobus (talk) 03:44, 22 January 2016 (UTC)

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Seems like a we need to add a Controversies section, and remove discussion of the murals, at least, from the Culture section. Famous Archaeologist Faked Ancient Discoveries at 9,000-Year-Old Site in Europe and Elsewhere. Dinoguy2 (talk) 11:33, 15 March 2018 (UTC)

Yikes. Well that is certainly a kick in the teeth, and it's already spread throughout a number of reliable sources, so I think it bears mentioning. I am not sure we need to remove all discussion of murals, however. The current discussion is fairly broad and cursory, and I am not seeing any allegation that Mellaart faked ALL the murals. (As an original research side note, the murals I have seen that are allegedly his compositions look. improbable, shall we say?) So I think we're best off with mentioning the issue and perhaps a word of warning. Thanks. Dumuzid (talk) 12:29, 15 March 2018 (UTC) And removing any images from articles that aren't photographs but his compositions. Doug Weller talk 12:34, 15 March 2018 (UTC) I think we should be cautious. Zangger notes that it is very hard to untangle the actual finds from the fabrications because they are intertwined. We don't want to do this as OR. I think we should keep the coverage as is untill we see how the archeological establishment reacts. Ian Hodder has yet to even comment apparently.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 13:17, 15 March 2018 (UTC) True, we can wait before removing images or even saying anything. I'd also like to see what Hodder says, he is after all the man! I still think that at some time, unless the drawings can be verified as not hoaxes we should take what I would think would then be the cautious move of removing them. Doug Weller talk 13:22, 15 March 2018 (UTC) I basically agree with all of the foregoing, however, I think the issue is near a critical mass of reliable sources, such that it merits a mention even if we don't alter the article otherwise. I certainly think major changes should wait for more informed comment. Just my thoughts. Cheers all. Dumuzid (talk) 15:14, 15 March 2018 (UTC)

It's out of date in any case, but seems like a lot of wiki real estate for this.

Seems to me that it should be more like just a couple sentences and a link at the end of the Archaeology section.Ploversegg (talk) 03:22, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

I agree. It's not encyclopedic and as you say out of date. Doug Weller talk 18:20, 26 August 2018 (UTC)

Looking up references, footnote 26 about the textile fragments lists "Jenkins p. 39-47", but there is no mention anywhere else that I can see of what that refers to, no earlier citation and no listing in the Further Reading.

Am I missing something or did a reference get lost? Artemis-Arethusa (talk) 22:41, 4 February 2020 (UTC)

I believe that refers to Emma Jenkins, an academic in England, but I have no idea whether she wrote a book or chapter, nor which one is being cited. I would remove the cite, as it's only for a caption, unless it is contradicted in the body of the article.--Quisqualis (talk) 04:23, 5 February 2020 (UTC)

Does this contradict the model image, which shows little windows on the sides?

An overgrown village?

Permanent settlements developed independently in several parts of the world, including the Near East, China, and the Americas. The oldest village known, just outside present-day Jericho in Palestine, may have sprung up around a shrine used by roving bands of hunter-gatherers. By 10,500 years ago it had evolved into a small farming village. Yet many more millennia passed before the first undisputed cities—such as Uruk, in Mesopotamia—were established, about 5500 years ago. And although the expansion of these first settlements roughly coincided with the rise of farming, whether agriculture directly fueled their growth—as Childe proposed—is now hotly debated by archaeologists. Indeed, one of the great attractions of Çatalhöyük is that its multilayered remains—which are remarkably well preserved for a site so old—might help answer this critical question.

“Çatalhöyük is the dig of the new millennium,” says Colin Renfrew, also of Cambridge University. Mark Patton, at the University of Greenwich in London, says that “people are watching very closely” as the excavations unfold—a vigilance made easier by the dig's detailed Web site ( Çatalhöyük watchers will need to be patient, however. In contrast to Mellaart, who excavated more than 200 buildings over four seasons, the new team is excavating only one or two houses each year. “We are going very slowly,” says team member Naomi Hamilton of Edinburgh University in the U.K. “We have learned a huge amount about a few buildings, instead of a moderate amount about 200.”

Because of its unusual size, Mellaart often referred to Çatalhöyük as a “Neolithic city,” and the notion that the settlement was an early metropolis is often repeated in media accounts of the ongoing excavations. But the new dig has already reinforced a suspicion long held by many archaeologists: Çatalhöyük is not a city, nor even a town, even though many modern towns cannot boast its substantial population. “Çatalhöyük may be the largest Neolithic settlement in the Near East, but it's still just an overgrown village,” says Guillermo Algaze of the University of California, San Diego. Which only makes the site all the more perplexing: Why did the people cram their houses together rather than spread them out across the landscape?

For archaeologists, the difference between a village and a city is not just a matter of size but hinges on the social and economic relationships within a population. Thus the earliest cities in Mesopotamia—such as Uruk—were made possible by agricultural surpluses that allowed some people to quit farming and become full-time artisans, priests, or members of other professions. Meanwhile, the farmers who provided food for these urban centers continued to live in outlying villages. “A key defining feature of a town or city is that farmers don't live in them,” says Patton.

But the new excavations at Çatalhöyük have uncovered little evidence for division of labor. Although the layout of the houses follows a very similar plan, Hodder's team has found signs that the inhabitants did their own construction work rather than relying upon Neolithic building contractors. Microscopic studies of plaster and mud bricks from different houses done by Wendy Matthews, a micromorphologist at the British Institute of Archaeology in Ankara, show great variation in the mix of soils and plants used to form them—the opposite of what would be expected if they had been fashioned by specialist builders using standard techniques.

And although Mellaart believed that the production of the beautiful obsidian objects found at Çatalhöyük—such as finely worked blades and the earliest known mirrors—was carried out in specialist workshops, the new team has found what Hodder calls “masses of evidence” from microscopic residues of obsidian flakes on floors and around hearths that a lot of obsidian work was carried out in the individual dwellings. Nor has the new dig revealed another important feature of cities: public architecture, such as temples and other public buildings, which Uruk and other early urban centers had in abundance.

But Mellaart, who retired some years ago from the Institute of Archaeology in London, does not necessarily agree. He told Science that because he only dug about 4% of the settlement—and Hodder's team has so far excavated considerably less than that—it is too early to tell whether large communal buildings might be hidden in another part of the mound. Other observers, including Algaze, raise similar cautions. But Hodder says a detailed study of the entire mound suggests that there are no temples or other monuments waiting to be discovered. Using standard archaeological survey techniques—including meticulous scraping of the topsoil and searching for local variations in Earth's magnetic field that might be caused by buried structures—the team failed to find any structures other than the myriad small, mud-brick dwellings.

Based on this and other evidence about what was going on in the houses—including the pattern of burials under the plastered floors—Hodder has tentatively concluded that the basic social units at Çatalhöyük were extended families grouped together in clusters of four or five houses, which carried on their daily activities more or less autonomously. “It is hard to imagine that 10,000 people, minimally 2000 families, were going out and doing their own thing, but that is what we see.”


Haddow and his colleagues say this is the first documented case of human teeth artificially modified by grinding and drilling to turn them into decorative objects.

While previous research has shown the use of animal teeth as decorative objects, adult teeth might have a special cultural significance among the inhabitants of Çatalhöyük.

This summer, another team of researchers documented how dental issues were common in Çatalhöyük, which was inhabited between 7100 BC and 5500 BC.

The group of researchers believe their samples are the earliest example of artificially modified human teeth in the region

The local population were sheep herders and lived on a grain-heavy diet that led to a high prevalence of dental problems.

10 to 13 percent of the adult remains had dental cavities, something researchers which archaeologists attribute to grain-based diets.

Previous research has shown that dental issues were common in the city, caused by a grain-heavy diet that might have lent teeth extra symbolic value

At its peak, Çatalhöyük had a population of around 8,000 people, who lived ‘in very crowded conditions, with trash pits and animal pens right next to some of their homes,’ according to Clark Spencer Larsen, an anthropologist from Ohio State University.

‘So there is a whole host of sanitation issues that could contribute to the spread of infectious diseases.’

Based on differences in bone samples, researchers suggest that over time the city residents were forced to go farther outside the city to find grazing land, new plots of land for farming, and firewood.

Çatalhöyük is one of the earliest examples of dense urban living, with more than 8,000 residents living in tightly packed quarters

With crowding and resources slowly growing scarce, the population showed signs of internal strife.

‘We found an increase in cranial injuries during the Middle period, when the population was largest and most dense,’ Larsen said.

‘An argument could be made that overcrowding led to elevated stress and conflict within the community.’

Çatalhöyük was ultimately abandoned around 5950 BC, after climate change and depleted resources made it an inhospitable

When the climate began warming in the region over the course of several hundred years, the city began losing population as crop yields and resources grew scarce before it was ultimately abandoned in 5950 BC.

‘Çatalhöyük was one of the first proto-urban communities in the world and the residents experienced what happens when you put many people together in a small area for an extended time,’ Larsen said.

‘It set the stage for where we are today and the challenges we face in urban living.’


Çatalhöyükis one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.

Established around 7,000 BC, it was home to 5,000 people living in mud brick and plaster houses.

Their buildings were crammed so tightly together, the inhabitants clambered over the roofs and used ladders to get into their homes.

The town dwellers were early farmers who had domesticated a handful of plants and kept wild cattle for meat and milk.

Unlike later towns, there is no obvious hierarchy - no homes for priests or leaders, no temples and no public spaces leading some researchers believe it was an equalitarian society.

The city survived for around 2,000 years but new research shows that a combination of disease, violence, and eventually climate change eventually lead to its demise.

Eventually the desertification of the surrounding region lead the city's inhabitants to venture outward in search of a more habitable place to live.

Entanglement and Social Change

The entanglement of Çatalhöyük’s residents with their mudbrick houses reveals how impossible it would have been for them to change basic architectural materials or construction technology. They were far too invested in their current practices and material dependencies to abandon them.

Entanglement thus provides a framework for understanding how people undergo societal changes—or alternatively, how and why they attempt to prevent change from happening. Hodder’s thesis is that the entanglements of humans and things create a historical trajectory that influences the success or failure of specific social and cultural traits. Because of the entrapment caused by one or more entanglements, people are generally unable to adopt a new material or technology, or cannot realize its benefits, unless it fits into an existing technology and labor regime.

From Cooking Balls to Cooking Pots

A good example of this latter scenario from Hodder’s case study is the gradual shift from clay cooking balls to cooking pots. [23]

Archaeologists uncovered massive numbers of clay balls from the lower, earlier levels of occupation (Figure 2.17). Many of them were likely used to cook food, as this is a common technology found at equivalent time periods elsewhere in the world.

Figure 2.17 A stash of clay balls excavated at Çatalhöyűk. [Çatalhöyűk Image Collection File #061401_080517 (1963), shared under a CC-BY-NC 4.0 International License.]

The cook would heat the balls in the house’s hearth and then transfer them, probably with stick-tongs, to containers. These were likely clay-lined baskets that held water, bits of meat (usually sheep or goat), and other foods. However, the balls quickly lost their heat in the water and had to be put back on the hearth. Imagine the cook in every family carefully monitoring the movement of several balls back and forth from fire to basket for each cooked meal, making this a tedious and labor-intensive daily task.

The early balls were made of the same fiber-tempered backswamp clays as the mudbricks. And the same paste was used to make the earliest clay vessels, appearing around 7000 BCE. However, this fiber-tempered pottery was unsuitable for cooking, so these early pots probably functioned to serve food or drink. As such they did not directly modify the entanglement with cooking balls.

Nevertheless, the use of clays was changing. Digging for the siltier backswamp clays exposed underlying sandy clays. These clays did not require the addition of organic temper, and they were more efficient at heat-transfer than the fiber-tempered pastes. [24] By about 6600 BCE, the clay balls started to diminish in frequency as larger, thinner, sandier clay pots appeared. These typically show exterior smudging, which indicates they were placed directly on a hearth as cookpots (Figure 2.18).

Figure 2.18 This vessel excavated from a later occupation level at Çatalhöyűk shows the marks of having been put over a fire for cooking. [Catalhoyuk Image Collection File #20020801_mal_041 (2002), shared under a CC-BY-NC 4.0 International License.]

Cookpot Consequences

Cooking food in a pot frees the cook from having to constantly reheat the clay balls to do other tasks. This change in cooking technology modified the scheduling of labor for domestic activities. It would have transformed gender relations and the division of labor within the household, assuming that women and girls were in charge of food preparation. Ceramic cooking vessels also required more skill, investment of labor, and new resources, including non-local clays and fuel for firing pottery (see Sassaman, “Ceramics”).

Thus, one form of the entanglement of clay gradually replaced another over several centuries, with profound reverberations for Çatalhöyük society. It was at this same period of transition that the settlement reached its greatest extent and was most densely packed with houses, now made of the larger, sandier mudbricks. [25]


Neolithic age Edit

The area surrounding Ephesus was already inhabited during the Neolithic Age (about 6000 BC), as was revealed by excavations at the nearby höyük (artificial mounds known as tells) of Arvalya and Cukurici. [11] [12]

Bronze Age Edit

Excavations in recent years have unearthed settlements from the early Bronze Age at Ayasuluk Hill. According to Hittite sources, the capital of the Kingdom of Arzawa (another independent state in Western and Southern Anatolia/Asia Minor [13] ) was Apasa (or Abasa). Some scholars suggest that this is the later Greek Ephesus. [5] [14] [15] [16] In 1954, a burial ground from the Mycenaean era (1500–1400 BC) with ceramic pots was discovered close to the ruins of the basilica of St. John. [17] This was the period of the Mycenaean expansion, when the Achaioi (as they were called by Homer) settled in Asia Minor during the 14th and 13th centuries BC. The names Apasa and Ephesus appear to be cognate, [18] and recently found inscriptions seem to pinpoint the places in the Hittite record. [19] [20]

Period of Greek migrations Edit

Ephesus was founded as an Attic-Ionian colony in the 10th century BC on a hill (now known as the Ayasuluk Hill), three kilometers (1.9 miles) from the centre of ancient Ephesus (as attested by excavations at the Seljuk castle during the 1990s). The mythical founder of the city was a prince of Athens named Androklos, who had to leave his country after the death of his father, King Kodros. According to the legend, he founded Ephesus on the place where the oracle of Delphi became reality ("A fish and a boar will show you the way"). Androklos drove away most of the native Carian and Lelegian inhabitants of the city and united his people with the remainder. He was a successful warrior, and as a king he was able to join the twelve cities of Ionia together into the Ionian League. During his reign the city began to prosper. He died in a battle against the Carians when he came to the aid of Priene, another city of the Ionian League. [21] Androklos and his dog are depicted on the Hadrian temple frieze, dating from the 2nd century. Later, Greek historians such as Pausanias, Strabo and Herodotos and the poet Kallinos reassigned the city's mythological foundation to Ephos, queen of the Amazons.

The Greek goddess Artemis and the great Anatolian goddess Kybele were identified together as Artemis of Ephesus. The many-breasted "Lady of Ephesus", identified with Artemis, was venerated in the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the largest building of the ancient world according to Pausanias (4.31.8). Pausanias mentions that the temple was built by Ephesus, son of the river god Caystrus, [22] before the arrival of the Ionians. Of this structure, scarcely a trace remains.

Ancient sources seem to indicate that an older name of the place was Alope (Ancient Greek: Ἀλόπη , romanized: Alópē). [23]

Archaic period Edit

About 650 BC, Ephesus was attacked by the Cimmerians who razed the city, including the temple of Artemis. After the Cimmerians had been driven away, the city was ruled by a series of tyrants. Following a revolt by the people, Ephesus was ruled by a council. The city prospered again under a new rule, producing a number of important historical figures such as the elegiac poet Callinus [24] and the iambic poet Hipponax, the philosopher Heraclitus, the great painter Parrhasius and later the grammarian Zenodotos and physicians Soranus and Rufus.

About 560 BC, Ephesus was conquered by the Lydians under king Croesus, who, though a harsh ruler, treated the inhabitants with respect and even became the main contributor to the reconstruction of the temple of Artemis. [25] His signature has been found on the base of one of the columns of the temple (now on display in the British Museum). Croesus made the populations of the different settlements around Ephesus regroup (synoikismos) in the vicinity of the Temple of Artemis, enlarging the city.

Later in the same century, the Lydians under Croesus invaded Persia. The Ionians refused a peace offer from Cyrus the Great, siding with the Lydians instead. After the Persians defeated Croesus, the Ionians offered to make peace, but Cyrus insisted that they surrender and become part of the empire. [26] They were defeated by the Persian army commander Harpagos in 547 BC. The Persians then incorporated the Greek cities of Asia Minor into the Achaemenid Empire. Those cities were then ruled by satraps.

Ephesus has intrigued archaeologists because for the Archaic Period there is no definite location for the settlement. There are numerous sites to suggest the movement of a settlement between the Bronze Age and the Roman period, but the silting up of the natural harbours as well as the movement of the Kayster River meant that the location never remained the same.

Classical period Edit

Ephesus continued to prosper, but when taxes were raised under Cambyses II and Darius, the Ephesians participated in the Ionian Revolt against Persian rule in the Battle of Ephesus (498 BC), an event which instigated the Greco-Persian wars. In 479 BC, the Ionians, together with Athens, were able to oust the Persians from the shores of Asia Minor. In 478 BC, the Ionian cities with Athens entered into the Delian League against the Persians. Ephesus did not contribute ships but gave financial support.

During the Peloponnesian War, Ephesus was first allied to Athens [ citation needed ] but in a later phase, called the Decelean War, or the Ionian War, sided with Sparta, which also had received the support of the Persians. As a result, rule over the cities of Ionia was ceded again to Persia.

These wars did not greatly affect daily life in Ephesus. The Ephesians were surprisingly modern in their social relations: [ citation needed ] they allowed strangers to integrate and education was valued. In later times, Pliny the Elder mentioned having seen at Ephesus a representation of the goddess Diana by Timarete, the daughter of a painter. [27]

In 356 BC the temple of Artemis was burnt down, according to legend, by a lunatic called Herostratus. The inhabitants of Ephesus at once set about restoring the temple and even planned a larger and grander one than the original.

Hellenistic period Edit

When Alexander the Great defeated the Persian forces at the Battle of Granicus in 334 BC, the Greek cities of Asia Minor were liberated. The pro-Persian tyrant Syrpax and his family were stoned to death, and Alexander was greeted warmly when he entered Ephesus in triumph. When Alexander saw that the temple of Artemis was not yet finished, he proposed to finance it and have his name inscribed on the front. But the inhabitants of Ephesus demurred, claiming that it was not fitting for one god to build a temple to another. After Alexander's death in 323 BC, Ephesus in 290 BC came under the rule of one of Alexander's generals, Lysimachus.

As the river Cayster (Grk. name Κάϋστρος) silted up the old harbour, the resulting marshes caused malaria and many deaths among the inhabitants. Lysimachus forced the people to move from the ancient settlement around the temple of Artemis to the present site two kilometres (1.2 miles) away, when as a last resort the king flooded the old city by blocking the sewers. [28] The new settlement was officially called Arsinoea (Ancient Greek: Ἀρσινόεια [29] or Ἀρσινοΐα [30] ) or Arsinoe (Ἀρσινόη), [31] [32] after the king's second wife, Arsinoe II of Egypt. After Lysimachus had destroyed the nearby cities of Lebedos and Colophon in 292 BC, he relocated their inhabitants to the new city.

Ephesus revolted after the treacherous death of Agathocles, giving the Hellenistic king of Syria and Mesopotamia Seleucus I Nicator an opportunity for removing and killing Lysimachus, his last rival, at the Battle of Corupedium in 281 BC. After the death of Lysimachus the town again was named Ephesus.

Thus Ephesus became part of the Seleucid Empire. After the murder of king Antiochus II Theos and his Egyptian wife, pharaoh Ptolemy III invaded the Seleucid Empire and the Egyptian fleet swept the coast of Asia Minor. Ephesus came under Egyptian rule between 263 and 197 BC.

The Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great tried to regain the Greek cities of Asia Minor and recaptured Ephesus in 196 BC but he then came into conflict with Rome. After a series of battles, he was defeated by Scipio Asiaticus at the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BC. As a result of the subsequent Treaty of Apamea, Ephesus came under the rule of Eumenes II, the Attalid king of Pergamon, (ruled 197–159 BC). When his grandson Attalus III died in 133 BC without male children of his own, he left his kingdom to the Roman Republic, on condition that the city of Pergamon be kept free and autonomous.

Roman period (129 BC–395 AD) Edit

Ephesus, as part of the kingdom of Pergamon, became a subject of the Roman Republic in 129 BC after the revolt of Eumenes III was suppressed.

The city felt Roman influence at once taxes rose considerably, and the treasures of the city were systematically plundered. Hence in 88 BC Ephesus welcomed Archelaus, a general of Mithridates, king of Pontus, when he conquered Asia (the Roman name for western Asia Minor). From Ephesus, Mithridates ordered every Roman citizen in the province to be killed which led to the Asiatic Vespers, the slaughter of 80,000 Roman citizens in Asia, or any person who spoke with a Latin accent. Many had lived in Ephesus, and statues and monument of Roman citizens in Ephesus were also destroyed. But when they saw how badly the people of Chios had been treated by Zenobius, a general of Mithridates, they refused entry to his army. Zenobius was invited into the city to visit Philopoemen, the father of Monime, the favourite wife of Mithridates, and the overseer of Ephesus. As the people expected nothing good of him, they threw him into prison and murdered him. Mithridates took revenge and inflicted terrible punishments. However, the Greek cities were given freedom and several substantial rights. Ephesus became, for a short time, self-governing. When Mithridates was defeated in the First Mithridatic War by the Roman consul Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Ephesus came back under Roman rule in 86 BC. Sulla imposed a huge indemnity, along with five years of back taxes, which left Asian cities heavily in debt for a long time to come. [33]

King Ptolemy XII Auletes of Egypt retired to Ephesus in 57 BC, passing his time in the sanctuary of the temple of Artemis when the Roman Senate failed to restore him to his throne. [34]

Mark Antony was welcomed by Ephesus for periods when he was proconsul [35] and in 33 BC with Cleopatra when he gathered his fleet of 800 ships before the battle of Actium with Octavius. [36]

When Augustus became emperor in 27 BC, the most important change was when he made Ephesus the capital of proconsular Asia (which covered western Asia Minor) instead of Pergamum. Ephesus then entered an era of prosperity, becoming both the seat of the governor and a major centre of commerce. According to Strabo, it was second in importance and size only to Rome. [37]

The city and temple were destroyed by the Goths in 263 AD. This marked the decline of the city's splendour. However emperor Constantine the Great rebuilt much of the city and erected new public baths.

The Roman population Edit

Until recently the population of Ephesus in Roman times was estimated to number up to 225,000 people by Broughton. [38] [39] More recent scholarship regards these estimates as unrealistic. Such a large estimate would require population densities seen in only a few ancient cities, or extensive settlement outside the city walls. This would have been impossible at Ephesus because of the mountain ranges, coastline and quarries which surrounded the city. [40]

The wall of Lysimachus has been estimated to enclose an area of 415 hectares (1,030 acres). Not all of this area was inhabited due to public buildings and spaces in the centre and the steep slope of the Bülbül Dağı mountain, which was enclosed by the wall. Ludwig Burchner estimated this area with the walls at 1000.5 acres. Jerome Murphy-O'Connor uses an estimate of 345 hectares for the inhabited land or 835 acres (Murphey cites Ludwig Burchner). He cites Josiah Russell using 832 acres and Old Jerusalem in 1918 as the yardstick estimated the population at 51,068 at 14.85 persons per thousand square meters. Using 51 persons per thousand square meters he arrives at a population between 138,000 and 172,500. [41] J. W. Hanson estimated the inhabited space to be smaller at 224 hectares (550 acres). He argues that population densities of 150 or 250 people per hectare (100 per acre) are more realistic which gives a range of 33,600 to 56,000 inhabitants. Even with these much lower population estimates, Ephesus was one of the largest cities of Roman Asia Minor, ranking it as the largest city after Sardis and Alexandria Troas. [42] By contrast Rome within the walls encompassed 1500 hectares = 3,600 acres with a population estimated to between 750,000 and one million (over 1000 built-up acres were left outside the Aurelian Wall whose construction was begun in 274 and finished in 279) or 208 to 277 inhabitants per acres including open and public spaces.

Byzantine era (395–1308) Edit

Ephesus remained the most important city of the Byzantine Empire in Asia after Constantinople in the 5th and 6th centuries. [43] Emperor Flavius Arcadius raised the level of the street between the theatre and the harbour. The basilica of St. John was built during the reign of emperor Justinian I in the 6th century.

The city was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614 AD.

The importance of the city as a commercial centre declined as the harbour was slowly silted up by the river (today, Küçük Menderes) despite repeated dredging during the city's history. [44] (Today, the harbour is 5 kilometres inland). The loss of its harbour caused Ephesus to lose its access to the Aegean Sea, which was important for trade. People started leaving the lowland of the city for the surrounding hills. The ruins of the temples were used as building blocks for new homes. Marble sculptures were ground to powder to make lime for plaster.

Sackings by the Arabs first in the year 654–655 by caliph Muawiyah I, and later in 700 and 716 hastened the decline further.

When the Seljuk Turks conquered Ephesus in 1090, [45] it was a small village. The Byzantines resumed control in 1097 and changed the name of the town to Hagios Theologos. They kept control of the region until 1308. Crusaders passing through were surprised that there was only a small village, called Ayasalouk, where they had expected a bustling city with a large seaport. Even the temple of Artemis was completely forgotten by the local population. The Crusaders of the Second Crusade fought the Seljuks just outside the town in December 1147.

Pre-Ottoman era (1304–1390) Edit

The town surrendered, on 24 October 1304, to Sasa Bey, a Turkish warlord of the Menteşoğulları principality. Nevertheless, contrary to the terms of the surrender the Turks pillaged the church of Saint John and deported most of the local population to Thyrea, Greece when a revolt seemed probable. During these events many of the remaining inhabitants were massacred. [46]

Shortly afterwards, Ephesus was ceded to the Aydinid principality that stationed a powerful navy in the harbour of Ayasuluğ (the present-day Selçuk, next to Ephesus). Ayasoluk became an important harbour, from which piratical raids to the surrounding Christian regions were organised, both official by the state and private. [47]

The town knew again a short period of prosperity during the 14th century under these new Seljuk rulers. They added important architectural works such as the İsa Bey Mosque, caravansaries and Turkish bathhouses (hamam).

Ottoman era Edit

Ephesians were incorporated as vassals into the Ottoman Empire for the first time in 1390. The Central Asian warlord Tamerlane defeated the Ottomans in Anatolia in 1402, and the Ottoman sultan Bayezid I died in captivity. The region was restored to the Anatolian beyliks. After a period of unrest, the region was again incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1425.

Ephesus was completely abandoned by the 15th century. Nearby Ayasuluğ was renamed Selçuk in 1914.

Ephesus was an important centre for Early Christianity from the AD 50s. From AD 52–54, the apostle Paul lived in Ephesus, working with the congregation and apparently organizing missionary activity into the hinterlands. [48] Initially, according to the Acts of the Apostles, Paul attended the Jewish synagogue in Ephesus, but after three months he became frustrated with the stubbornness or hardness of heart of some of the Jews, and moved his base to the school of Tyrannus. [49] The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary reminds readers that the unbelief of "some" (Greek: τινες ) implies that "others, probably a large number, believed" [50] and therefore there must have been a community of Jewish Christians in Ephesus. Paul introduced about twelve men to the 'baptism with the Holy Spirit' who had previously only experienced the baptism of John the Baptist. [51] Later a silversmith named Demetrios stirred up a mob against Paul, saying that he was endangering the livelihood of those making silver Artemis shrines. [52] Demetrios in connexion with the temple of Artemis mentions some object (perhaps an image or a stone) "fallen from Zeus". Between 53 and 57 AD Paul wrote the letter 1 Corinthians from Ephesus (possibly from the 'Paul tower' near the harbour, where he was imprisoned for a short time). Later, Paul wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians while he was in prison in Rome (around 62 AD).

Roman Asia was associated with John, [53] one of the chief apostles, and the Gospel of John might have been written in Ephesus, c 90–100. [54] Ephesus was one of the seven cities addressed in the Book of Revelation, indicating that the church at Ephesus was strong.

According to Eusebius of Caesarea, Saint Timothy was the first bishop of Ephesus. [55]

Polycrates of Ephesus (Greek: Πολυκράτης ) was a bishop at the Church of Ephesus in the 2nd century. He is best known for his letter addressed to the Pope Victor I, Bishop of Rome, defending the Quartodeciman position in the Easter controversy.

In the early 2nd century AD, the church at Ephesus was still important enough to be addressed by a letter written by Bishop Ignatius of Antioch to the Ephesians which begins with "Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus, in Asia, deservedly most happy, being blessed in the greatness and fullness of God the Father, and predestinated before the beginning of time, that it should be always for an enduring and unchangeable glory" (Letter to the Ephesians). The church at Ephesus had given their support for Ignatius, who was taken to Rome for execution.

A legend, which was first mentioned by Epiphanius of Salamis in the 4th century AD, purported that the Virgin Mary may have spent the last years of her life in Ephesus. The Ephesians derived the argument from John's presence in the city, and Jesus’ instructions to John to take care of his mother, Mary, after his death. Epiphanius, however, was keen to point out that, while the Bible says John was leaving for Asia, it does not say specifically that Mary went with him. He later stated that she was buried in Jerusalem. [56] Since the 19th century, The House of the Virgin Mary, about 7 km (4 mi) from Selçuk, has been considered to have been the last home of Mary, mother of Jesus in the Roman Catholic tradition, based on the visions of Augustinian sister the Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824). It is a popular place of Catholic pilgrimage which has been visited by three recent popes.

The Church of Mary near the harbour of Ephesus was the setting for the Third Ecumenical Council in 431, which resulted in the condemnation of Nestorius. A Second Council of Ephesus was held in 449, but its controversial acts were never approved by the Catholics. It came to be called the Robber Council of Ephesus or Robber Synod of Latrocinium by its opponents.

Ephesus is one of the largest Roman archaeological sites in the eastern Mediterranean. The visible ruins still give some idea of the city's original splendour, and the names associated with the ruins are evocative of its former life. The theatre dominates the view down Harbour Street, which leads to the silted-up harbour.

The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, once stood 418' by 239' with over 100 marble pillars each 56' high. The temple earned the city the title "Servant of the Goddess". [57] Pliny tells us that the magnificent structure took 120 years to build but is now represented only by one inconspicuous column, revealed during an archaeological excavation by the British Museum in the 1870s. Some fragments of the frieze (which are insufficient to suggest the form of the original) and other small finds were removed – some to London and some to the İstanbul Archaeology Museums.

The Library of Celsus, the façade of which has been carefully reconstructed from original pieces, was originally built c. 125 AD in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, an Ancient Greek [58] [59] [60] who served as governor of Roman Asia (105–107) in the Roman Empire. Celsus paid for the construction of the library with his own personal wealth [61] and is buried in a sarcophagus beneath it. [62] The library was mostly built by his son Gaius Julius Aquila [63] and once held nearly 12,000 scrolls. Designed with an exaggerated entrance — so as to enhance its perceived size, speculate many historians — the building faces east so that the reading rooms could make best use of the morning light.

The interior of the library measured roughly 180 square metres (2,000 square feet) and may have contained as many as 12,000 scrolls. [64] By the year 400 C.E. the library was no longer in use after being damaged in 262 C.E. The facade was reconstructed during 1970 to 1978 using fragments found on site or copies of fragments that were previously removed to museums. [65]

At an estimated 25,000 seating capacity, the theatre is believed to be the largest in the ancient world. [8] This open-air theatre was used initially for drama, but during later Roman times gladiatorial combats were also held on its stage the first archaeological evidence of a gladiator graveyard was found in May 2007. [66]

There were two agoras, one for commercial and one for state business. [67] [68]

Ephesus also had several major bath complexes, built at various times while the city was under Roman rule.

The city had one of the most advanced aqueduct systems in the ancient world, with at least six aqueducts of various sizes supplying different areas of the city. [69] [70] They fed a number of water mills, one of which has been identified as a sawmill for marble.

The Odeon was a small roofed theatre [71] constructed by Publius Vedius Antoninus and his wife around 150 AD. It was a small salon for plays and concerts, seating about 1,500 people. There were 22 stairs in the theatre. The upper part of the theatre was decorated with red granite pillars in the Corinthian style. The entrances were at both sides of the stage and reached by a few steps. [72]

The Temple of Hadrian dates from the 2nd century but underwent repairs in the 4th century and has been reerected from the surviving architectural fragments. The reliefs in the upper sections are casts, the originals now being exhibited in the Ephesus Archaeological Museum. A number of figures are depicted in the reliefs, including the emperor Theodosius I with his wife and eldest son. [73] The temple was depicted on the reverse of the Turkish 20 million lira banknote of 2001–2005 [74] and of the 20 new lira banknote of 2005–2009. [75]

The Temple of the Sebastoi (sometimes called the Temple of Domitian), dedicated to the Flavian dynasty, was one of the largest temples in the city. It was erected on a pseudodipteral plan with 8 × 13 columns. The temple and its statue are some of the few remains connected with Domitian. [73]

The Tomb/Fountain of Pollio was erected in 97 AD in honour of C. Sextilius Pollio, who constructed the Marnas aqueduct, by Offilius Proculus. It has a concave façade. [72] [73]

A part of the site, Basilica of St. John, was built in the 6th century AD, under emperor Justinian I, over the supposed site of the apostle's tomb. It is now surrounded by Selçuk.

Ephesus is believed to be the city of the Seven Sleepers. The story of the Seven Sleepers, who are considered saints by Catholics and Orthodox Christians and whose story is also mentioned in the Qur'an, [76] tells that they were persecuted because of their monotheistic belief in God and that they slept in a cave near Ephesus for three centuries.

The history of archaeological research in Ephesus stretches back to 1863, when British architect John Turtle Wood, sponsored by the British Museum, began to search for the Artemision. In 1869 he discovered the pavement of the temple, but since further expected discoveries were not made the excavations stopped in 1874. In 1895 German archaeologist Otto Benndorf, financed by a 10,000 guilder donation made by Austrian Karl Mautner Ritter von Markhof, resumed excavations. In 1898 Benndorf founded the Austrian Archaeological Institute, which plays a leading role in Ephesus today. [77]

Finds from the site are exhibited notably in the Ephesos Museum in Vienna, the Ephesus Archaeological Museum in Selçuk and in the British Museum.

In October 2016, Turkey halted the works of the archeologists, which had been ongoing for more than 100 years, due to tensions between Austria and Turkey. In May 2018, Turkey allowed Austrian archeologists to resume their excavations. [78]

Post-Meece Reassertions of the Mural’s Mapness

Since 2006, a number of authors have affirmed Mellaart’s interpretation. At least one made no reference to Meece’s work, probably because the Çatalhöyük mural was only tangential and because the published work is not updated significantly from the original, 2007 presentation (Rochberg 2012, 9–11). But others have cited Meece’s essay and have dismissed her arguments. They have done so because they remain committed to the conviction that maps are only direct products of the observation of landscape.

Two such essays appeared in a special, anniversary issue of The Cartographic Journal in 2013 that asked a number of leading academic and professional cartographers to reflect on the field. Two of the several respondents, neither with any background in map history, chose to consider the origins of the field. In the first of these two essays, Danny Dorling mentioned Meece’s argument but did not cite her essay. He left the interpretation of the upper register open—it could be a volcano, it could be a leopard skin—but he was absolutely clear about the significance of the lower register:

but we know that this map—revealed on a 9000-year-old plaster wall—served a purpose greater than simply being a remarkably accurate depiction of the buildings around it, for many thousands of years having been buried and ruined.

The original image is augmented by two modern-day plans drawn directly below it. These show how the city without streets might have looked had anyone then been able to fly and how it was laid out in plan form. We presume that people got to their homes by walking over the roofs of others’ property. Also almost certainly property will have had a different meaning then. There were no countries, as we know them now, and the idea of given generic names to masses of water, the entire lengths of river networks, and maybe of towns and cities will have all been inventions of thought that have come long since Çatalhöyük was first built, along with both the idea of streets and, in some cases, a very long time later: sewers. (Dorling 2013, 152)

From his blithe acceptance that the mural presents a town plan, Dorling makes a series of assertions that are manifestly false yet which seem quite valid from the perspective of modern cartography.

• If the lower register is a map, the map is not “remarkably accurate”: even Mellaart’s assistants were unable to match the mural’s squares to a particular portion of the site (Meece 2006, 9). Rather, the statement is one of visual impression, yet another instance when commentators have mistaken graphic precision for accuracy in both geometry and topographical content.

• Again, if a map, then it is a map akin to the archaeologists’ plan that omits the roofs that that would have obscured the interiors of the buildings thus, the mural cannot show what the town “might have looked like had anyone then been able to fly.” The presumption that the planimetric perspective is the natural consequence of the view from above is a crucial element in the ideal’s pictorial preconception.

• By shifting from the mapping of the town to regional and perhaps world mapping, Dorling revealed the conviction that cartography is the making of maps of any part of the world at any scale, that the same processes govern the mapping of regions as the mapping of places and towns.

Dorling (2017, 551) later rehearsed the same arguments: “The map shows how this ancient people thought that their city and that part of the world was organized.”

The second essay from the 2013 issue of the Cartographic Journal is explicit in its rejection of Meece’s arguments or, at best, in its qualification of them (“true, although” “credible, yet …”). But the reasons for these qualifications were all strictly impressionistic and were grounded in presumptions of the nature of maps. Keith Clarke falls back on naive resemblance: the upper register looks like a twin-peaked mountain, is therefore the mountain, so that the map might have been in situ “for generations” to serve as “spatial memory, telling generations where to go to trade for obsidian” however, this interpretation fails to take into account the manner in which the townspeople regularly whitewashed their walls and Clarke’s own (incorrect) description of the site as one in which “each family built its own separate house…and each generation demolished the house and rebuilt on top,” both processes that would limit the longevity of the image (Clarke 2013, 139, 138). Clarke ultimately rejects Meece’s argument because she seemed to reject the mental capacity of the Neolithic townspeople:

Perhaps, however, most telling is Meece’s contention that “the process of actually making a map, including reducing a space, constructing analogies between two-dimensional and three-dimensional space, and representing distant features is a significant development of abstract thinking and symbolic representation” (Meece, 2006, p. 17). While Meece acknowledges that “the development of mapmaking was as significant to human life as was the development of literacy” (Meece, 2006, p. 17), clearly she sees mapmaking as beyond the thinking capabilities of Çatalhoyuk’s residents. I not only dispute this assertion, I argue that maps predate Çatalhoyuk itself by thousands of years. (Clarke 2013, 139)

For Clarke, map making is a natural and inevitable outgrowth of the development of a cognitive spatial schema (what is often misleadingly called a “mental map”). His imaginative examples all sound so reasonable—a hunter could make a map of the land across the river for another hunter—because they accord with the fundamental conviction that all map making stems from the individual map maker’s experience with and observation of the landscape. Only from this perspective can an argument that prehistoric peoples did not make maps become a statement that prehistoric peoples could not make maps.

What Clarke missed in his quotation from Meece is that “abstract thinking” and “symbolic representation” are not the same thing. The one is cognitive, the other is social and cultural. The one is common to all cognitively developed adult humans, the other is a function of social needs and cultural conventions. What Meece argued is that social needs likely did not call for a town plan, and cultural conventions would have likely led to a quite different kind of representation than something that sort of looks like a modern archaeological plan.

A third reaction to Meece’s challenge of cartographic orthodoxy came from an archaeologist. Elizabeth Wayland Barber (2010, esp. 343n2) briefly discounted Meece’s argument by overly simplifying it, even as she permitted the possibility that the mural was not intended to be an exact map:

I do not see the “village” as a realistic map of its lanes and houses but as a rectilinear pattern simply denoting “houses,” that is, “us.”

Barber’s real aim was to bolster her general arguments that myth can be long-lived. The fact that geologists had dated the last eruption of Hasan Dağ to about 7550 BCE, or some 1,500 years before the mural was painted on the wall, is thus evidence of the longevity of oral legends and not a flaw in the identification of the upper mural as a volcano.

Most recently, geologists have refined the dating of some of the deposits at the summit of Hasan Dağ, laid when it last erupted, to 6960±640 BCE. This date range could just about encompass the period when Level VII at Çatelhöyük was occupied and the mural made (Schmitt et al. 2014). The possibility of chronological overlap is made all the more likely given that recent archaeological work has refined the dating of Level VII to 6430–6790 BCE (Cessford 2005). The possibility that, were the upper register actually Hasan Dağ in eruption, then the potential chronological overlap rather undercuts Barber's argument and obviates her need to insist that the lower register must be a map.

It is perhaps worth, at this point, to restate a key piece of evidence from Meece's essay, that Hasan Dağ does not have the same profile as the upper register in the mural when seen from Çatelhöyük.

However, the geologists who undertook the redating of the volcano's last eruption also took the essays by Clarke (2013) and Barber (2010) to support their conviction that the mural is indeed a realistic depiction of the town and the volcano. Their findings were accordingly received by lay commentators as proof that the entire mural is, indeed, realistic: the eruption was contemporary to the mural, the upper register is therefore the erupting volcano by an eye-witness (as Mellaart had originally asserted), so the lower register must be a map (Boyce 2014).

The Promise of Mimetic Theory as an Interdisciplinary Paradigm for Christian Scholars

This introduction gives an overview of mimetic theory’s three core ideas as first formulated in the work of René Girard, its general reception in the academy, and its close connection to Christianity. It surveys applications of the theory across the disciplines of the social sciences and humanities (as developed more fully by other articles in this theme issue) and suggests opportunities for further research and collaboration. It also serves as a basic bibliography of Girard’s work and of scholarship on mimetic theory across the disciplines. Curtis Gruenler is Professor of English at Hope College.

New paradigms—sets of ideas, values, and models that enable further under-standing—are rare. Rarer still are paradigms that open new avenues of thought in multiple academic disciplines. Perhaps unique in the recent intellectual landscape is an interdisciplinary paradigm that locates the source of its core principles in Judeo-Christian revelation.

Mimetic theory derives from the work of René Girard, yet Girard often said he was merely bringing theoretical rigor to insights he found in classic texts. 1 He unfolded his theory across a series of books focused first on modern novels, then on Greek tragedy and traditional mythology from around the world, and finally on the Bible. 2 Trained as a historian in his native France, Girard spent his career at American universities and came to attention as part of the wave of French literary theory, which he helped bring to American shores. He received lifetime achieve-ment awards from both the Conference on Christianity and Literature and the Modern Language Association. But mimetic theory is not primarily a theory of literature. Rather, Girard found in some great works of literature insights about human nature rarely articulated elsewhere. As his work developed, it crossed beyond the humanities to anthropology, psychology, and biblical studies. Though mimetic theory’s influence is currently greatest in biblical studies and theology, Girard reads the Bible primarily for what he called its anthropological truth. In the address welcoming Girard to membership in the French Academy (the highest honor for French intellectuals), his friend and fellow Academy member Michel Serres called him “the new Darwin of the human sciences.” 3 Indeed, one of the boldest of Girard’s many bold claims is that the rise of modern scientific thinking itself largely results from the gradual coming to light, mostly through the influence of the Bible and Christian witness, of ideas mimetic theory makes more explicit.

After Girard’s death on November 4, 2015, an outpouring of tributes testi-fied to his international impact across a remarkable array of fields, both within and beyond the academy, as well as in Christian churches and in the lives of individuals. 4 Mimetic theory has attracted a dedicated, interdisciplinary follow-ing of both academics and practitioners and has inspired several organizations around the world. The Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COV&R), which serves as an umbrella group, has organized annual sessions at the meeting of the American Academy of Religion since 1991 as well as its own annual meeting and publications. 5 (Full disclosure: I am the current editor of the quarterly Bulletin of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion.) Those who consider ourselves Girard-ians are happy to welcome more, but the promise of mimetic theory throughout the humanities and social sciences needs and invites the engagement of wider scholarly communities. With this special issue of Christian Scholar’s Review, we hope to introduce the theory and some of its applications across the disciplines to a community for whom it might be especially congenial.

Mimetic Theory 101

Mimetic theory’s three central ideas move in a cumulative and comprehensive sequence from the psychological domain, through the anthropological and sociological to, finally, the historical:

1. The mimetic nature of desire is fundamental to human identity and relations, and mimetic rivalry is the main source of human violence

2. The scapegoat mechanism is the means by which humanity has survived its mimetic violence and is central to the origin of culture.

3. The Judeo-Christian revelation exposes the hidden truth about mimetic violence and the scapegoat mechanism and opens an alternative, peaceful path of mimesis.

Together these theses tell a story of development on both the individual and socio-cultural levels. This radically relational view of human personhood challenges the individualistic, Cartesian, and Romantic assumptions that dominate the humani-ties and social sciences among secular and, too often, Christian intellectuals. A brief summary can only gesture to some of the evidence and arguments given for mimetic theory by Girard and others.

1: Mimetic desire and rivalry. All human desire, beyond the appetites and affections we share with other animals, is imitated from others, almost always unconsciously—hence the term “mimetic” to mark the distinction from conscious imitation. Even the ways we seek to meet our various needs are shaped by the desires we see in others. Yet we tend, for developmental, interpersonal, and ideo-logical reasons that are almost unavoidable, to locate the causes of our desires in something about the objects of our desire and/or in something about our own autonomous subjectivity. Thinkers since Plato and Aristotle have drawn atten-tion to the centrality of imitation in many kinds of learning, but rarely include desire—perhaps because seeing desire as imitative challenges our understanding of human identity, motivation, and relationships. In particular, mimetic desire highlights rivalry as the main cause of human violence. Rivalry, in turn, deepens our blindness to the imitative nature of our own desire by providing a further motive to see it as original, caused by direct response to what we desire.

Rivalry takes many forms. Girard began by distinguishing between what he calls external and internal mediation. In external mediation, the model (or media-tor) of desire inhabits a different social sphere from that of the desiring subject, so that mimesis remains a distant emulation rather than leading to direct competi-tion. Don Quixote cannot come into conflict with his model, the fictional Amadis of Gaul, nor can Sancho Panza challenge his socially superior model, Quixote. 6 But, with internal mediation, when the model inhabits the same social sphere, mimesis becomes rivalry, and rivalry easily intensifies into envy, conflict, and hatred. Think of two colleagues competing for the same promotion, or two friends in love with the same man or woman. Rivalry may be for something less tangible ike prestige, and behind all mimetic desires is desire for the fullness of being that the model is perceived to possess—that is, desire to be the model (“metaphysical desire”). As rivalry escalates, the rivals become increasingly obsessed with each other as obstacles to their common object, and the object itself tends to disappear from their attention. They become, to an outside observer, more and more alike (“mimetic doubles”) even as they insist on their difference and on the originality of their own desires. Girard considered the fullest exploration of mimetic desire and rivalry, outside the Bible, to be the plays of Shakespeare, beginning with The Two Gentlemen of Verona—in which one friend’s imitation of the other’s desire for the same woman is obvious, at least to the audience—and growing in subtlety, violence, and insight through the achievement of reconciliation in the late plays. 7

Mimetic desire as the most prevalent cause of human violence was the focus of Girard’s work, but mimeticism can be bad or good. It leads not just to rivalry, but to learning and love. We are not driven by instinct and appetite but free to choose our models, and most children are blessed with models of generous, lov-ing desire from birth. Dante’s Inferno vividly portrays a gallery of souls caught forever in mimetic rivalry and the resulting addiction and violence, but his Pur-gatorio explores the process of conversion to imitating models of desire for infinite good. 8 His Paradiso depicts communion formed around shared desire for infinite objects like knowledge—a possible model for academic communities. Insights for practical pedagogy follow from recognizing the gravitational pull of rivalry and aiming to become a model of desire for learning but not a rival. 9

2: The scapegoat mechanism. Life begins, for most of us, with the presence of positive models in our parents’ desire for our own well-being, but we soon encounter models of other desires, many of which pull us into rivalry. In the evolution of homo sapiens, the increased mimetic capacity that sets us apart from other animals not only enabled new kinds of cooperation, but also made us prone to more intense violence. Apes and other primates are famously imitative—and, we now know, can be violent—but humans are more so. The behavioral patterns that inhibit or resolve violence among apes, such as dominance structures, are insufficient for us. The contagion of mimetic rivalry erases differences that are the basis of social hierarchy without these and other curbs, rivalry can snowball to a crisis of runaway violence. Archaeological evidence suggests that some early human communities went over the brink to self-destruction.

But evidence of early religion also indicates that many human communities avoided annihilation through the spontaneous discovery of what can be called, in retrospect, the scapegoat mechanism—though calling it the surrogate or single-victim mechanism helps keep in mind the participants’ lack of awareness of what they are doing. As escalating rivalry threatens to swallow the community, one member, marked by some sign of otherness such as a disability, is singled out for blame. Suddenly, mimetically, all other members of the group direct their violence against this one, who is cast out or killed. The practice of stoning recalls the involvement of the whole community, and the pile of stones over the victim is, Girard imagined, the first tomb. Just as suddenly, violence becomes unanimity, which, in the hush that follows, feels like miraculous deliverance by a power from beyond. In order to summon this power again, these communities repeat the act of unanimous killing in what becomes the sacrificial rituals found everywhere in archaic religion. The original victims, to whom are mistakenly attributed both guilt for causing what plagued the community and, retrospectively, power to end it, are remembered instead as gods who both destroy and deliver. Stories about these gods become the mythology that helps perpetuate the practice of eliminating a surrogate victim as a means of using minimal violence, sacred violence, to keep larger violence in check. Thus ritual and mythology, along with prohibitions that also arise to curtail the mimetic causes of violence—three main features of archaic religion—all have their source in spontaneous scapegoating.

From sacrificial religion develops all other forms of culture. 10 Political author-ity and institutions of retributive justice maintain order largely by the same logic of solidarity through exclusion of a guilty, enemy other. They assert their power, not just through physical force, but also through a sacred aura transferred from mythical gods and religious ritual, as well as through their own mythologies of right and wrong, heroism and villainy. Sport, games, theatre, and other kinds of public spectacle have roots in sacred violence and harness mimetic dynamics, often including more or less violent scapegoating. Even economic systems, while affording resolution of mimetic rivalry through expanding markets, also succeed through forms of hidden victimage, perhaps all the more so as they get larger and more complex. Indeed, the earth itself has now become the victim of violence made sacred as “the economy.”

This narrative distills into the most general terms a process that took innumerable particular paths in different cultures and over long spans of time, beginning deep in prehistory and now converging through globalization. The clues available in each culture’s mythology are hard to read because the persecuting community misunderstands its own action and conceals its victims behind a screen of false divinity. With this key to interpretation, however, an abundance of evidence presents itself. One familiar example, from an ancient culture already at a late stage of self-awareness, is the Greek pharmakos, prisoners kept on hand to be expelled or killed in times of crisis. The word is etymologically related to pharmakon meaning both poison and cure. Girard shows how to interpret a wide range of evidence, from modern literature to classical texts to archaeological and anthropological fieldwork, according to a particular hermeneutic alert to traces of hidden victims. Its main source is the Bible.

3. The Judeo-Christian revelation. The stories that shaped culture around the world are told from the perspective of the victors, that is, the persecutors of arbitrarily chosen victims. The Bible tells similar stories, but from the perspective of the victims. Some texts outside the biblical tradition, such as the most enduring Greek tragedies and some Eastern religious scriptures, expose aspects of sacred violence. The Bible, however, tells the story of the true God who takes the victims’ side, ultimately to the point of becoming one. Christ, in showing the way of love, calls his disciples to imitate him and renounce other models of desire, especially those mimetic rivals that he calls stumbling blocks. Indeed, the understanding of human psychology implicit in his teaching comes into clearer focus in the light of mimetic theory. His loving opposition to the authorities of his time provokes their violence, which he suffers in perfect innocence and forgiveness that allows it to be fully seen for what it is. After his Resurrection, his disciples, until then still blinded by their formation in a culture of sacred violence—that is, human culture—are finally able to comprehend in his death the culmination of a revelation long prepared, as told in the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

In this view, Hebrew Scripture, the Christian Old Testament, is seen as record-ing the long process of this truly transcendent, all-loving, non-violent God breaking through sacrificial religion. Almost all of it, especially in the historical books such as Joshua and Judges, is still colored by the projection of human violence onto God. Yet the story of Abraham’s aborted sacrifice of Isaac, for instance, not only recalls the transition from human sacrifice to animal sacrifice, but also anticipates a personal relationship with a God of pure self-giving. This revelation includes a profound mimetic anthropology. The story of the fall in Genesis casts the serpent as instigator of mimetic rivalry between humans and God, closely followed by Cain’s envy of Abel’s offering. After Cain kills his brother, he founds the first city, a pattern repeated, as Augustine notes, when Rome traces its founding to the murder of Remus by Romulus. 11 But whereas Rome’s name honors its fratricidal founder, the Bible gives voice to the innocent victim, whose blood cries from the ground (and who Jesus cites as the first of the prophets—see Martin Kevorkian’s article in this issue). The Ten Commandments resemble the laws of other nations and religions but add, in the final commandment, a diagnosis of the cause of violence prohibited in those that precede it: thou shalt not desire thy neighbor’s wife or possessions. Above all, the Psalms and the prophets reveal that God does not demand any sacrifice other than repenting of violence, taking the side of victims, and giving thanks for God’s good gifts (see, for example, Psalms 22 and 40, Hosea 6:6, and Micah 6:6-8). The prophets’ reinterpretation of Hebrew tradition, brought to fullness in the New Testament, contains the seed of mimetic theory’s rereading of all the cultural narratives in which sacred violence clothes itself. 12

Mimetic theory can be seen as a way of rethinking every discipline of the human sciences in light of biblical revelation—both the humanities and the social sciences—and even the natural sciences in so far as they are a human work. Among many antecedents in this biblical understanding of humanity, Augustine stands out. In his Confessions, mimetic desire is central to how he understands both human evil, as in his depiction of infancy and the famous pear tree episode of book 2, and human freedom, as in his account of his conversion through the influence of models of converted desire including his mother, St. Anthony, the philosopher Victorinus, some unnamed Roman officials, and his vision of the multitudinous children of Lady Continence. His analysis of culture and history in The City of God identifies the difference between the human city and the city of God by contrast-ing rivalrous desire for finite goods with infinite good enjoyed in communion. 13

Like the theory of evolution, mimetic theory works from elegantly simple principles that have great explanatory power. Both, in their fullest extension, are theories of origin: the origin of biological life and its forms in the case of evolution, and the origin of human culture and its forms in the case of mimetic theory. 14 Both can seem reductive in claiming to explain more precisely and on a natural level things also understood to be mysterious and supernatural. Thus both have been seen as being at odds with theology. Yet both theories can also be seen as compatible with a theological view. The anthropological truth of the Bible by no means excludes its theological truth. Unlike Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, whom Paul Ricoeur called the “masters of suspicion,” mimetic theory affirms the value of the Bible as a starting point for thinking about every discipline concerned with knowledge of the human. 15 At the same time, mimetic theory finds a place for insights from these and other masters of secular thought within a more far-reaching hermeneutic of suspicion directed at the original mythology of sacred violence and all the ideologies it has spawned.

If mimetic theory’s orientation toward a natural, scientific level of explanation has led to some resistance among Christian thinkers, its high view of the Bible has caused even greater qualms among secular intellectuals. Too anthropological for some Christians and too Christian for many with a naturalist (or materialist) worldview, mimetic theory nonetheless opens space for dialogue between biblical revelation and the secular approaches to knowledge that dominate the academic disciplines. 16 Leading mimetic theorists include many for whom Christian com-mitment is central as well as some who find it less necessary to the theory’s value. Indeed, these are not exclusive sides or views, but rather places from which people come to a theory that is surprisingly both secular and biblical. 17 Indeed, the theory implies principles for successful dialogue across these and other differences. 18

Because of the central place it accords the Bible, mimetic theory is most well-known and influential in the fields of theology and religion, and thus the articles in this special issue focus on other disciplines. 19 Nonetheless, a brief overview of its reception among theologians will clear the way for sketches of its impact and promise in other fields of the social sciences and humanities.

Mimetic Theory in Theology and Religious Studies

The theological implications of mimetic theory’s anthropological reading of the Bible are most obvious, and most discussed, with regard to the theology of the Atonement. 20 On the level of anthropology, although Christ’s death and resurrection may resemble stories of dying and rising gods that help perpetuate the scapegoat mechanism, mimetic theory affirms Christ’s unique significance as the culmination of God’s action in history to subvert this mechanism from within. Nonetheless, as Rowan Williams writes,

How this maps in detail on to the range of classical Christian theologies of redemption is not a simple matter some formulations already imply just this paradoxical reversal, some embody in emphatic form precisely the mechanism Girard thinks must be exploded, and it is not straightforward to tell which is which. 21

If the shedding of blood for the sake of reconciliation is merely human management of violence through violence, not a theological principle, then the view that divine justice required a retribution that Christ took upon himself in humanity’s place (to summarize baldly the theory often called penal substitu-tion) seems instead to be itself a projection of human violence. Yet to limit the meaning of the cross to a revelation of the truth about human violence and divine non-violence—even if the theory suggests that such revelation could only come from beyond humanity—would seem to justify the charge that a Girardian view of redemption falls into gnostic or Pelagian heresy, that the cross merely gives us knowledge that it is wholly up to us to act on. For theologians influenced by mimetic theory, however, its anthropological reading of the cross by no means excludes a theology of saving grace.

The earliest theological appropriation of mimetic theory, by the Swiss Jesuit theologian Raymund Schwager, also prefigured the ongoing conversation about its theological implications. Girard’s first conception of mimetic theory in the late 1950s accompanied his conversion to the Catholic faith of his childhood, and he attended Mass faithfully for the rest of his life, but he kept the Christian dimensions of the theory at the margins of his publications until Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World. 22 At nearly the same time, Schwager published a comprehensive interpretation of the Bible through the lens of Girard’s earlier work. 23 Schwager had already struck up a correspondence with Girard, and the two went on to become friends. 24 Initially, however, they differed on the question of the sacrificial nature of Christ’s death. In Things Hidden, Girard located the meaning of sacrifice entirely within scapegoating violence and argued for a non-sacrificial reading of the New Testament, to the point of questioning the place of the sacrificial language used to understand the cross in the book of Hebrews. But Schwager eventually convinced Girard to recognize Christ’s self-giving as a true sacrifice, in continuity with that of the prophets persecuted before him, necessary in order to save humanity from its deformation in the violence of sacrificing others. 25 Schwager’s further work incorporated mimetic theory into a larger “research program” known as Dramatic Theology that his collaborators and students at the University of Innsbruck have continued since his death in 2004. 26

Theologians working with mimetic theory have not divided into schools or camps, despite differences of approach and the wide variety of traditions from which they come. 27 Since the doctrine of Atonement is so central to Christian belief and practice, new perspectives opened there have led to rethinking every area of theology and the life of the church. In particular, to see the Bible as revealing the structures of human violence leads, along with the mimetic understanding of human nature, to a new picture of the origins and transmission of original sin, as well as salvation by grace, developed both by Schwager and by leading Girard-ian theologian James Alison. 28 Associating sin with the negative consequences of mimetic desire leads, in turn, to the somewhat controversial question of its possible alternative, “positive, peaceful, creative, loving, or receptive mimesis (to name but the most frequent designations).” 29 o what extent can conversion and the work of grace also be understood mimetically? Whatever the answers to such questions, there is agreement with Girard’s own most practical conclusion: that the path of hope is the imitation of Christ. Several popular theologians, such as Brian McLaren and Richard Rohr, have prominently incorporated mimetic theory into a more synthetic (or, if you prefer, eclectic) theological perspective. 30

Mimetic theory also points to important opportunities for dialogue between Christianity and other world religions, particularly where they share an internal critique of violence and affirm a mystical or spiritual path of renunciation and peace. Judaism’s continuity with Christianity raises the question of how much that mimetic theory finds in the New Testament is already contained in the He-brew Scriptures. All of it, argues Sandor Goodhart, who reconnected to the Juda-ism of his childhood through his studies with Girard: Christ’s unveiling of the violent sacred and a God beyond violence was already available in the prophets’ rereading of Judaism. 31 Several authors have found strong resonances between mimetic theory and Buddhism Girard himself discerned a critique of sacrifice not only in Buddhism but in early Hindu Vedic texts. 32 The question of Islam and mimetic violence has been more controversial, not least because of its inheritance of Judeo-Christian tradition and association with jihadism. 33 One analytical tool that mimetic theory brings to the study of all major religions, including Christianity, is the recognition of inevitable continuations or re-eruptions within them of the sacrificial violence that structures all human institutions, even as believers strive for self-criticism and inner freedom. Conflict between religious groups, meanwhile, stands to be illuminated by the Girardian principle that it is similarities rather than differences, both between and within groups, that drive violence. 34 Much of what mimetic theory brings to theology and religious studies, then, has to do with its relevance to other disciplines as well.

Mimetic Theory in the Social Sciences

Religion is central to social science applications of mimetic theory, not just as a source of insight into desire and violence, but even more as the original social system from which the rest of culture follows. Merely to posit such a universal view, however, puts mimetic theory out of step with dominant social science para-digms. Yet mimetic theory’s purely natural understanding of archaic religion solves a puzzle that Darwinian, evolutionary thinking has found especially difficult. 35 At the same time it raises familiar issues of compatibility between evolutionary explanations of human origins and the Christian doctrine of creation. Nonetheless, mimetic theory’s radically relational view of humanity would seem to accord well with a theology of the human person made in the image of the Trinity. Indeed, one might say that mimetic theory holds the paradox and promise of explaining in a scientific way, and in dialogue with other social science theories, the development of humanity destined for participation in divine, Trinitarian life.

Unlike the dominant, cognitivist views of hominization, mimetic theory is a “strong emergence” approach that sees human nature and culture as irreduc-ible to an accumulation of separate, individual biological or cognitive traits. 36 t posits that the primal, single-victim mechanism, even if repeated spontaneously many times over a long, prehistoric span as it became ritualized, was a threshold experience, restructuring both cognition and social relations through, among other effects, the first use of symbolic signs. 37 Still, this threshold needs to be understood within a larger coevolution of culture and biology, with a great deal of mostly unexplored room for coordination with more gradualist views, such as the work of primatologist and evolutionary psychologist Michael Tomasello on the uniquely human capacities for shared attention and shared intention. 38 he centrality of scapegoating would seem to place mimetic theory on one side of the divide that tends to separate theories of social origin between an emphasis on violent or peaceful processes, but the potential for both positive and negative ef-fects of mimetic desire also crosses this divide. 39 Girard understands distinctively human violence to be “as old as ‘Cain’ but not as old as ‘Adam.’” According to Marcia Pally, this fits the view, confirmed in multiple disciplines, that a long period of human mimetic cooperativity, ritualized in play, preceded the rise of competi-tive aggression and victimary sacrifice that accompanies agricultural settlement. 40

Archaeological evidence provides an opportunity to test mimetic theory’s claims in the arena of competing theories about cultural origins, particularly the place of sacrificial violence. Girard’s last public lecture concerned excavations at 9,000-year-old Çatalhöyük in modern Turkey, one of the oldest known human settlements. Its large size, up to 8,000 people, and dense concentration of wall paintings, sculptures, and other artwork have made it central to the interpreta-tion of other sites, both earlier and later. Girard argued that its evidence supports his theory that sacrificial ritual emerged from spontaneous scapegoating and preceded features of settlement like animal domestication, yet the evidence also inclined him to bend his model to accommodate Walter Burkert’s theory of the importance of ritual animal hunting as a source of sacrifice. Girard’s involvement in the group interpreting Çatalhöyük led to further collaboration between mimetic theorists and archaeologists working both at this site and at nearby Göbekli Tepe, 3,000 years older and generally thought to be some kind of temple site, with little evidence of habitation. This sequence alone supports the Girardian view that religion precedes settlement, reversing the dominant anthropological narrative, because settlement requires the means of managing the proliferation of violence in a larger group that sacrificial ritual provides. Evidence of the rituals practiced there seems thus far to fit with Girard’s interpretation of Çatalhöyük, though much no doubt remains to be done. 41

If the management of ever-incipient rivalry through sacrificial violence shapes all the other forms of social organization that support large-scale human settle-ment, this amplifies the explanatory power of mimetic theory throughout the social and behavioral sciences. Like anthropology, the other social sciences were largely founded on an assumption that individuals act according to motives that, whether conscious (and more or less rational according to the liberal or Marxian strains) or unconscious (the Freudian view), are nonetheless each one’s own. Even when considered as groups, people are seen as collections of individuals with the same motives. The mimetic paradigm proposes instead that unreflective imita-tion always precedes and underlies the selfhood or subjectivity of individuals. Further, mimesis happens not only in the present but over time as people model for others the desires they have imitated—each person, of course, feeling these desires to be their own. Culture, from family and gender dynamics to the arts, transmits accumulated patterns of mimetic desire and rivalry. And the most for-mative, persistent pattern, except perhaps for parental love, is the containment of violence, from that of siblings to that of nations, through increasingly sophisticated institutions that still have the single-victim mechanism at their core. To test such a hypothesis of the present and how we got here requires a mind-boggling inter-pretive shift, which perhaps accounts for the monomania typical of Girardians. As revelatory as it might be, in equal proportion to its apparent reductionism, it is far from complete and needs to be coordinated with established and emerging approaches in each field. Like evolution in the life sciences, or plate tectonics in earth science, its opposition to some approaches comes with potential to connect others together across disciplinary boundaries. As the ground shifts beneath our feet, new possibilities open for understanding what drives us and how to live with each other more peacefully.

Perhaps the strongest scientific support for mimetic theory has come from studies of imitation in neurobiology and infant development. The discovery of mirror neurons, a system in the brain that is activated by the perception of goal-directed action in others, whether one imitates that action or not, provides a likely neurological basis for mimetic desire and links it to the comprehension of all meaningful action. Studies of newborns and infants by Andrew Meltzoff and others have shown that they are able to imitate much earlier than had been suspected by influential psychologists from Freud to Piaget. “Humans imitate before they can use language,” writes Meltzoff “they learn through imitation but don’t need to learn to imitate.” 42 Both Meltzoff and Vittorio Gallese, one of the discoverers of mirror neurons, have explored the consonance between these indings and mimetic theory as a basis for a theory of intersubjectivity and social cognition. 43 Growing understanding of the neurobiology of desire and sociality, such as the function of the neurohormone oxytocin, further affirms the importance of imitation in the development of both positive and negative social dynamics. 44

Many familiar psychological topics invite explanation as results of mimetic desire and rivalry, such as the behavior of people in crowds, where the mimetic pull tends to increase with the size of the crowd, and the notion of the “designated patient” as a sort of scapegoat. Girard and his collaborators in Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World, the psychiatrists Jean-Michel Oughourlian and Guy Lefort, coined the term “interdividual” to label the general psychology that follows from mimetic theory. Oughourlian’s further work, drawing on his experience as professor of clinical psychopathology at the University of Paris, has developed a mimetic, interdividual approach to topics like neurosis and psychosis, hypnosis and possession, and romantic relationships. 45 Meanwhile, what has been called the relational movement in psychoanalysis closely approaches the interdividual view. As Scott Garrels and Joy Bustrum write in a recent overview, which includes implications for practice,

Mimetic theory and contemporary psychoanalysis both offer a radical, intersubjective, complex systems perspective of the ‘self.’ They also articulate compatible presymbolic, or prelinguistic, intersubjective accounts of how we have managed to survive the threat of interminable conflict during the early stages of human life, from developmental and evolutionary perspectives: conflicts that still persist in a variety of forms today. 46

Mimetic theorists have begun to work out resonances with other established theories as well, such as Martha Reineke on feminist theory and trauma theory and Kathryn Frost on attachment theory. 47 As Frost argues in her article below, mimetic theory stands to add a great deal to social psychology’s understanding of conflict and how to respond to it effectively. Despite such promise, however, Mark Anspach’s 2011 statement, that “no experimental studies have yet been undertaken with the express aim of testing claims made by mimetic theory,” remains almost entirely true. 48

Mimetic theory’s understanding of human motives and its account of cultural origins through scapegoating together offer an approach to the domains of sociol-ogy and political science, though, again, one at odds with contemporary social theory. 49 Girard’s final book, Battling to the End, takes the starting point for its wide-ranging historical analysis from Carl von Clausewitz’s insight that reciprocity, not aggression, drives conflict on every level from the duel up to that of nations and tends to escalate to extremes. Despite their apparent differences, nations—such as France and Germany in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—can act as mimetic doubles perceived differences are more an effect of rivalry than a cause. The mimetic axiom that violence is driven not by differences but by similarities of desire offers insight into globally influential polarizations since World War II between the West and the Soviet Union, between Israel and Palestine (or the supposed “clash of civilizations” between the West and the Islamic world), and between the United States and Asian nations. 50 Questioning classical political sci-ence’s assumption that desires are rational might make violence seem even more intractable. But if it is accurate, if the autonomy of being able to reflect on the reasons that motivate one is not a given but a hard-won achievement, prospects open for more effective peacemaking focused not on satisfaction but on reflection, honesty, and forgiveness. Further, if the stable orders the world has known have depended on some sort of scapegoating or stand-off, we can expect peace to look less like stability than continued, creative improvisation. These points perhaps identify some common threads among many possible applications of mimetic theory to politics, political theory, and peacemaking. 51

Mimetic theory’s alternative to the model of the rational actor challenges the dominant paradigm of economics as well, at least as much as does the behavioral economics for which the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has honored Daniel Kahneman, Robert J. Shiller, and Richard Thaler. Advertisers have long understood the power of showing attractive models of desire rather than making rational arguments. André Orléan proposes a mimetic theory of value as a social force rather than the neoclassical theory based on utility. 52 Modern, global markets may help ease rivalry by providing a surplus of goods, but Paul Dumouchel argues that scarcity is a social institution by which modern economies have replaced the sacred and taken the central role—in a world where reciprocal obligations of solidarity have faded—of limiting contagious violence by organizing motives around a perceived self-interest that is indifferent to the poverty of others. 53 Similarly, Jean-Pierre Dupuy suggests that what we now call “the economy,” by usurping the place of politics, diminishes the capacity of communities to choose their own future. 54

These arguments about modern economics and politics build on a wider understanding of secular modernity as a long-term result of the Gospel’s exposure of the scapegoat mechanism. 55 Influential thinkers from Max Weber to Charles Taylor have contended that secular modernity does not result simply from a decline in religious faith but is, in a deeper sense, a product of Christianity. Mimetic theory sharpens this view by distinguishing primitive religion, formed around the violent sacred, from the internal critique of sacred violence, fulfilled in Christ, that calls individuals out of the persecuting crowd and into a community of faith in a God beyond violence. The history of Christian churches shows simultaneously the emergence of a new way of being through imitating the forgiving victim and, in the same churches and believers, a return to structures of authority and order that have at their core a righteousness based on exclusion. In the modern period, this tension moves outside the churches as well, and centuries of growing witness to the essential innocence of the victims of organized violence leads to an overall decline of sacred authority, first in religious institutions and then, after sacred transcendence shifts to so-called secular institutions such as nation states, political ideologies, and the economy, there too, resulting in the increasing rootlessness and disenchantment of modern “individuals.”

Of course this is the broadest possible summary of a complex story and a perspective that needs to be integrated with others, but the consequences of Christianity’s exposure of scapegoating bring some features of modernity into focus. 56 A rather recent one is the moral prestige that now goes with victimhood, to the point that political adversaries now compete to represent themselves as victims. More alarming are the results of the failure of the sacred as a means of limiting the escalation of violence once unanimity about the guilt of victims becomes less and less possible. It is in this sense that Girard interpreted Jesus saying, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt. 10:34). Attempts to generate and justify peace through violence become more desperate, leading in modernity to apoca-lyptic extremes like total war, genocide, and terrorism. Meanwhile, as Dumouchel argues, the ethic of universal charity, originating in Judeo-Christianity and now expressed in such secular ideals as human rights, further erodes old solidarities like family and nation, leaving little but the economy as a means of managing the potential for rivalry between increasingly atomized persons. 57 lthough mod-erns remain as interdividual as ever, the decay of sacred forms of belonging has given rise to what we identify as distinctively modern selfhood: the divinized, idolized self of the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and various modernisms. Yet this decay also opens the possibility of a self formed in imitation of Christ and love of others. Reaching farther back to the beginning of the modern period, and corresponding to modern selfhood in ways that have yet to be explored from a mimetic perspective, the rise of modern science follows from the dismantling of the sacred, mythological apparatus of causality that, for instance, explained a hail storm by the presence of a witch. 58 The scientific self (and community) can either divinize itself over against the old forms of transcendence or strive for the objectivity of a self oriented toward love of others.

Mimetic Theory in the Humanities

Many of mimetic theory’s insights are to be found in major philosophers and have been seen as consonant with some current schools of thought such as hermeneutics and phenomenology. Yet its strongly relational view of the self puts it in tension with Western philosophy’s tendency to prize rational autonomy. And its suspicion that reigning concepts have concealed roots in a sacred exclusion of the other align it to some degree with post-Nietzschean critiques.

Plato and Aristotle are both alert to the fundamental importance of mimesis, especially in the arts. In Plato, this is also related to concern about desire, both its dangers and, perhaps, its redemptive potential when directed, following the model of Socrates, toward truly transcendent, metaphysical things. 59 Modern rationalist and Romantic philosophers (Hobbes, Spinoza, Rousseau, Kant, Scheler) discuss imitation as a cause of competition and destructive passions. 60 Yet the existentialists Sartre and, especially, Kierkegaard come closer to mimetic theory’s rethinking of human nature through our orientation toward others. 61 Eugene Webb has acutely placed Girard in a lineage of what he calls philosophers of consciousness. 62

Girard credited Nietzsche with recognizing the significance of Christianity’s siding with the powerless and the victims, but Nietzsche took the side of power. Mimetic theory incorporates Nietzschean deconstruction in the sense that it shows how culture, at every level, continues the work of mythology: construct-ing representations as truth that conceal and justify sacred violence originating in the scapegoat mechanism. 63 To what extent are binaries such as good and evil founded on the expulsion of an other? Philosophy begins in the expulsion of myths and often continues by intellectual violence, particularly, as Paulo Diego Bubbio argues, by ongoing rivalry with religion. Yet, as the Bible reveals the truth about sacred violence by rewriting stories of victimage from the perspec-tive of the victims, so too can philosophy recuperate the post-Kantian legacy of perspectivism by seeking and articulating a conversion to taking the victim’s part. Hermeneutics, Bubbio suggests, holds particular promise as a theory and practice born in the interpretation of the Bible and occupied with the difficulties of the search for truth. 64 Others hear a strong resonance between mimetic theory and the phenomenology of Emmanuel Levinas, with its choice for ethics before metaphysics and its infinite obligation to the other as evoked by the face. 65 Jean-Luc Marion has acknowledged Girard’s work as a starting point for his Christian phenomenology. 66

Literature remains a home discipline for mimetic theory because stories are the main way we think about ourselves as relational. Girard’s own work does not so much offer a theory of literature as find in many literary works a wealth of insight into what it attempts to theorize. Thus there is an ever-expanding Girard-ian canon, anchored in the works analyzed by Girard himself, in which Sophocles and Euripides, Dante and Shakespeare, Cervantes, Dostoevsky, and Proust hold a privileged place. Others have added Virgil, Langland, Chaucer, and too many modern authors to start listing—though here it may be appropriate to mention J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and J. K. Rowling. 67 At the same time, mimetic theory can offer an overarching meta-theory that integrates many recently influential literary theories within a renewed sense of literature’s value for truth-seeking, imagination, and the conversion of desire. 68 Indeed, the story told in literary theory textbooks reads like another secular rediscovery of the Bible’s exposure of sacred violence through what the theologian James Alison calls the intelligence of the victim. 69 Post-structuralist critique (Derrida, Foucault, Althusser, etc.) deepens suspicion of privileged discourse and is answered, in a sense, by identity-oriented approaches focused on marginalized groups: feminism and queer theory post-colonial, race, and cultural studies disability studies even ecocriticism as a response to increas-ing victimization of the natural world. 70 Meanwhile, the importance of the mirror neuron system links mimetic theory to the emerging cognitive science of how we understand figurative language and how deep reading cultivates empathy. 71 Extending from a mimetic reading of literature, João Cezar de Castro Rocha has pioneered a broader cultural history of Latin America through his idea of a “poet-ics of emulation.” 72

Opportunities and Challenges

In a Christian institutional context, mimetic theory can strengthen a sense of common purpose across disciplines. Its understanding of humanity in natural terms complements the theology of creation, fall, and salvation that provides the intellectual matrix of Christian higher learning. The theological view affirms the order and beauty of the universe and the gifts of human reason and love, lost in Eden and regained in principle in Christ. To this, mimetic theory’s biblical anthropology adds an account of human violence and blindness as emergent features of human relations and of reason and love as also founded in our mimetic nature but perfectly modeled and radically instituted in Christ as a foretaste of the eschato-logical kingdom of God. This anthropology reaffirms, from within, the processes of inquiry that have long guided the academic disciplines—empirical scientific method, charitable interpretive understanding, and open dialogue—and orients them toward a vision of peace even as humanity faces the further unveiling and unleashing of its own violence. All research and teaching in the human sciences can participate in the process of undoing the mythologies of sacred violence and illuminating paths to peace. Besides application to specific instances of peacemak-ing, mimetic theory can guide collaboration between disciplines in addressing every grand challenge: environmental sustainability, immigration, global health, the social effects of technology, diversity and inclusion, to name a few obvious and urgent ones.

Mimetic theory’s relational view of human nature challenges usual concep-tions of individual agency in favor of a systemic view of emergent effects at both the individual and social level. At the same time, however, it points to a fulfillment of individual agency and freedom by participation in the self-giving, non-violent, loving life of Christ and relations among the Trinity that pervade the cosmos as its deepest principle of order. Within the theoretical landscape of the humanities and social sciences, mimetic theory both recognizes the constructedness of any sense of reality and affirms the reality of the relations from which those constructs emerge. Its analysis of the central function of scapegoating in any stable human order, including academic, urges constant openness to the perspective of the excluded other, the intelligence of the victim. As a paradigm, mimetic theory is as vulnerable as any other to maintaining itself by exclusion, perhaps even more so because of its ambition. More important than the paradigm, then, is a practice of dialogue formed around shared desire for truth and seeking to be mindful of the other, the absent third, it would most likely exclude. 73

Yet, as those who treasure together “the wisdom of God in all its rich variety” (Eph. 3:10), Christian scholars have a special opportunity to give themselves to the enjoyment of truth together—to be models for each other, for our students, and for the world of a hospitable love of learning and to participate in the community of learners whom Christ calls not servants but, astonishingly, “friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15, NRSV). We can dedicate ourselves anew to what I call inclusive friendships of learning. If, as mimetic theory and the social sciences suggest, knowledge is re-lationally constructed, friendship is the traditional name for the kind of relation-ship that constructs knowledge truly. Because knowledge is infinite, desire for it helps us transcend the pull of rivalry and practice the positive mimesis—shared desire for common good—that is the core of friendship and citizenship. Although friendship has its own pull toward solidarity through exclusion, its capacity to grow by including others, especially those we are most liable to exclude, power-fully reverses the scapegoating pattern. To make inclusive friendships of learning central to the mission of higher education would reenergize our communities of learning, our formation of healthy individuals, and our commitment to justice and the larger social good.


Çatalhöyük has captured the imagination of the public and researchers for decades. The charm of the site is due in no small part to the work of the many illustrators who’ve visualised the archaeological record. These illustrators include Grace Huxtable, commissioned by James Mellaart in the 1960s to prepare now iconic pictures of Çatalhöyük’s buildings. In the 1990s, John Swogger joined the Project, elaborating the style and breadth of the site’s illustrative portfolio.

Today, Kathryn Killackey leads the illustration team at Çatalhöyük, developing visual materials for both non-specialist and specialist audiences.

Illustration by Kathryn Killackey. Reconstruction of village life at Çatalhöyük. Illustration by John Swogger. Reconstruction of the north and west walls of a Çatalhöyük building. Illustration by Grace Huxtable.

Watch the video: Çatalhöyük