Why the Residents of the First Neolithic City Killed Each Other

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Why the Residents of the First Neolithic City Killed Each Other


Çatalhöyük, one of the earliest known cities, was located southeast of Konya in south-central Turkey. Over 9,000 years ago, the Neolithic city was home to an estimated 3,500 to 8,000 people. It was first excavated by archaeologists in 1958. A recent study revealed what it was like to live in this city, as the residents faced several problems like overcrowding, interpersonal violence, and sanitation issues.

According to Gizmodo, a design, technology, science and science fiction website, Çatalhöyük quickly grew from a small community of farmers who lived in mud-brick houses. Between 6700 and 6500 BCE, the population in the community massively increased. The archaeologists examined the skeletal remains of 742 human individuals dating back to between 7100 and 5950 BCE. They discovered that these people ate lots of wheat, barley, rye, some wild plants, sheep, goats, and some wild animals. 


Photo by: Çatalhöyük Research Project/Jason Quinlan


The researchers found that life in Çatalhöyük was rough. For instance, many people had sanitary issues and diseases. Over 13 percent of the adult skeletons had dental cavities while one-third of the remains exhibited signs of infectious diseases. However, overcrowding was the major reason for elevated stress and conflict within the community. According to Live Science, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, our culture and history, the scientists discovered "a compelling record of elevated levels of interpersonal violence.”

The researchers discovered that the number of injuries increased when the population of the city boomed. Of the 95 examined skulls, about 25 percent showed healed injuries made by small spherical projectiles, probably a clay ball flung by a slingshot. They also found out that the majority of the victims were women who had been struck from behind. About 12 skulls were found to have been fractured more than once. These suggest that residents of the city were killing each other due to overcrowding. 

Photo by: Scott Haddow