NewsTHE FIRST CITIES

Why Settle Down? The Mystery of Communities

Science  20 Nov 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5393, pp. 1442
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5393.1442

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Summary

ÇATALHÖYÜK, TURKEY-- This 9000-year-old settlement in Anatolia was once hailed as the earliest city, with a population of 10,000, shared institutions, a division of labor, and a reliance on agriculture. But a meticulous new excavation of the site, being conducted by a team including on-site specialists in human and animal remains, fossil plants, pottery, and stone tools, is challenging the long-held assumption that the first settlements and the transition to agriculture were part of a single process dubbed the "Neolithic Revolution" (see p. 1446). By using the techniques of a relatively new field called micromorphology, which puts archaeological remains under the microscope to provide the maximum amount of information about how people lived and died, it now appears that the people of this high-density settlement, and other early communities, still depended heavily on hunting and gathering and may have settled down for some still-mysterious cultural purpose.