From: The Daily Mail
By David Derbyshire
Amazing artefacts: Many of the figurines resemble animals like sheep and goats
They were carved out of stone and squeezed out of clay 9,000 years ago, at the very dawn of civilisation. Now archaeologists say these astonishing Stone Age statues could have been the world’s first educational toys.
Nearly 2,000 figures have been unearthed at Catalhoyuk in Turkey – the world’s oldest known town – over the last few decades. The most recent were found just last week. Made by Neolithic]] farmers thousands of years before the creation of the pyramids or Stonehenge, they depict tiny cattle, crude sheep and flabby people.
In the 1960s, some researchers claimed the more rotund figures were of a mysterious large breasted and big bellied “mother goddess”, prompting a feminist tourism industry that thrives today. But modern day experts disagree. They say the “mother goddess” figures – which were buried among the rubbish of the Stone Age town – are unlikely to be have been religious icons.
Many of the figures thought to have been women in the 1960s, are just as likely to be men.
Archaeologist Prof Lynn Meskell, of Stanford University, said: “The majority are cattle or sheep and goats. They could be representatives of animals they were dealing with – and they could have been teaching aides. “All were found in the trash – and they were not in niches or platforms or placed in burials.”
Out of the 2,000 figurines dug up at the site, less than five per cent are female, she told the British science Festival in Surrey University, Guildford. “These are things that were made and used on a daily basis,” she said. “People carried them around and discarded them.”
Catalhoyuk is 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. Cattle horns were incorporated into the walls of their homes.
The town contains the oldest murals – paintings on plastered walls. Unlike later towns, there is no obvious hierarchy – no homes for priests or leaders, no temples and no public spaces. The dead were buried in spaces under homes, rather than in cemeteries. Some researchers believe it was an equalitarian society.
The town survived for around 2,000 years. It is not known what happened to its inhabitants, but they may have been killed by invaders or driven away by the loss of nearby farmland.
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