Why did the Catalhoyuk people make doors in the roof?

Catalhoyuk home witha door in the roof
Catalhoyuk was a  large Neolithic proto city settlement in southern Anatolia. It is a remarkable example  which existed from approximately 7500 BC to 5700 BC. The city was abandoned for unknown reasons before the Bronze age commenced. It is one of the few of the earliest known cities in the world.

The inhabitants lived in mud-brick houses that were crammed together in an agglutinative manner. No footpaths or streets were used between the dwellings, which were clustered in a honeycomb-like maze. Most were accessed by holes in the ceiling, with doors reached by ladders and stairs. The rooftops were effectively streets. The ceiling openings also served as the only source of ventilation, allowing smoke from the houses' open hearths and ovens to escape. Houses had plaster interiors characterized by squared-off timber ladders or steep stairs. Each main room served for cooking and daily activities. The main rooms contained raised platforms that may have been used for a range of domestic activities. Side rooms were used as storage, and were accessed through low openings from main rooms. Although no identifiable temples have been found, the graves, murals, and figurines suggest that the people of Catalhoyuk had a religion rich in symbols. Rooms with concentrations of these items may have been temples. The inhabitants were worshipers of the mother goddess. In upper levels of the site, it becomes apparent that the people gaining skills in agriculture and the domestication of animals and fruit were harvested from trees in the surrounding hills. However, hunting continued to be a major source of food for the community. Pottery and tools appear to have been major industries Tools were probably both used and also traded. This is where the oldest pottery known from Anatolia has been found. The oldest pottery was fired, unpainted and unglazed and had a very simple bag shaped form.

A question that shall trouble a modern observer about this civilization is the use of a home with a very difficult door opening in the roof rather than on the side that is far more convenient, safer from the elements and intruders and easier to construct. What could be the reason for such an opening?

One possibility is that these dwelling were made by a people who lived in pits dug inside the earth prior to making such homes. In pit homes, precisely this type of roof openings are required. The question then arises – are there any examples of pit dwelling from around the time? The answer is yes and this takes us to the Pre Harappan civilization in North-west India. Bhirrana is a small village located in in the Indian state of Haryana. It belongs to the Indus Valley Civilisation dating from around 7500 BC too.  The site is situated about 220 km to the northwest of New Delhi.

The Bhirrana excavations have revealed the remains of the Harappan culture right from its nascent stage, i.e. Hakra Wares Culture to a full-fledged Mature Harappan city. Prior to the excavation of Bhirrana, no Hakra Wares culture, predating the Early Harappan had been exposed in any Indian site. For the first time, the remains of this culture have been exposed at Bhirrana. This culture is characterised by structures in the form of subterranean dwelling pits, cut into the natural soil. The walls and floor of these pits were plastered with the yellowish alluvium of the Saraswati valley. The artefacts of this period comprised a copper bangle, a copper arrowhead, bangles of terracotta, beads of carnelian, lapis lazuli, bone point, stone saddle etc.. The pottery is very rich and like their Anatolian contemporaries these early pre Harappans too were worshipers of Mother Goddess. A connection between and a common root of both these ancient people is very possible.

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Catal_H%C3%BCy%C3%BCk_Restoration_B.jpg


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