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Thread: Bioarchaeology of Neolithic Çatalhöyük reveals fundamental transitions

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    Bioarchaeology of Neolithic Çatalhöyük reveals fundamental transitions

    Bioarchaeology of Neolithic Çatalhöyük reveals fundamental transitions in health, mobility, and lifestyle in early farmers

    Clark Spencer Larsen, Christopher J. Knüsel, Scott D. Haddow, Marin A. Pilloud, Marco Milella, Joshua W. Sadvari, Jessica Pearson, Christopher B. Ruff, Evan M. Garofalo, Emmy Bocaege, Barbara J. Betz, Irene Dori, and Bonnie Glencross
    PNAS first published June 17, 2019

    Bioarchaeological investigation of human remains from Neolithic Çatalhöyük, Turkey, contributes to a growing body of data documenting population dynamics, health, and lifestyle of early farmers in Holocene settings in the Near East and globally. The extensive archaeological context of foodways, material culture, housing, environment, ecology, population structure and size, social interaction, and community living informs interpretation of the bioarchaeological record representing nearly 1,200 continuous years of community life. This record presents biological outcomes and comprehensive understanding of the challenges associated with dependence on domesticated plants and animals, the labor involved in acquiring food and other resources, impacts of settled community life on health and well-being, and evolving lifeways to the present day.

    The transition from a human diet based exclusively on wild plants and animals to one involving dependence on domesticated plants and animals beginning 10,000 to 11,000 y ago in Southwest Asia set into motion a series of profound health, lifestyle, social, and economic changes affecting human populations throughout most of the world. However, the social, cultural, behavioral, and other factors surrounding health and lifestyle associated with the foraging-to-farming transition are vague, owing to an incomplete or poorly understood contextual archaeological record of living conditions. Bioarchaeological investigation of the extraordinary record of human remains and their context from Neolithic Çatalhöyük (7100–5950 cal BCE), a massive archaeological site in south-central Anatolia (Turkey), provides important perspectives on population dynamics, health outcomes, behavioral adaptations, interpersonal conflict, and a record of community resilience over the life of this single early farming settlement having the attributes of a protocity. Study of Çatalhöyük human biology reveals increasing costs to members of the settlement, including elevated exposure to disease and labor demands in response to community dependence on and production of domesticated plant carbohydrates, growing population size and density fueled by elevated fertility, and increasing stresses due to heightened workload and greater mobility required for caprine herding and other resource acquisition activities over the nearly 12 centuries of settlement occupation. These changes in life conditions foreshadow developments that would take place worldwide over the millennia following the abandonment of Neolithic Çatalhöyük, including health challenges, adaptive patterns, physical activity, and emerging social behaviors involving interpersonal violence.

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