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The Goddess and the Bull: Catalhoyuk--An Archaeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilization New edition Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Catal Hoyuk is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, yet the current excavator, Ian Hodder, has published next to nothing about it -- even though he's been excavating there since 1993 and is getting funded handsomely by some of the largest multinational corporations going. So it was with great interest and excitement that I off-loaded my precious cash for a copy of this book -- one that promised not only info about the lives of the ancient people who lived at this early Neolithic site, but also about the stately, powerful, obviously other-worldly, and mysterious ancient female figurines and other art found there.
What a let-down. Not only does Balter not tell anything about the people being excavated at Catal Hoyuk -- who they might have been, how they might have lived their lives -- he barely mentions the female figurines. Despite his title -- which I think he knew would sell the book -- he barely mentions any goddess or goddesses (except to ridicule people who think Catal Hoyukians might have "believed in" or had anything to do with such an outlandish notion as female divinity). As the anthropologist Pat Shipman wrote recently, this book is "about neither a goddess nor a bull.... Indeed, *The Goddess and the Bull* is not really about the archaological site of Catalhoyuk either..." (Nature, Vol. 435, 19 May 2005: pp. 278-79).
If you want the life histories of some of the 100 or so people helping excavate this site, however, by all means, plunk down your dollars and grab a copy.
The story begins with James Mellaart's discovery of the mound at Catalhoyuk and the stunning realization that it was Neolithic (New Stone Age) from top to bottom--to use Mellaart's phrase, no "filthy Roman muck" cluttered this site. Balter describes the excavation of the site in the 1960s, the excitement about the discovery of "Goddess" figurines, Mellaart's expulsion from Turkey in the aftermath of the mysterious Dorak Affair, and the long hiatus between Mellaart's departure in 1965 and the arrival of Ian Hodding's team in 1993. The narrative offers many insights about the debates among "processual" and "post-processual" archaeologists, as well as the backgrounds of the many interesting people who choose to live and dig at Catalhoyuk year after year.
But the stars of the book are Catalhoyuk and its people. What do we know about these villagers, those generations that occupied the site for nearly 1,000 years? Did they worship bulls or goddesses? Were their cattle domesticated or wild or something in between? Why did they bury their dead beneath the floors of their houses? Why did they bury and sometimes burn their houses, only to build new structures on top of the old, over and over again? And why did they choose to live together in such large numbers in the middle of what was then a marsh?Read more ›
The book serves well to provide a degree of transparency to the Çatalhöyük excavations that I've never seen before. Many of the excavators are put under a microscope, just as one of the specialists, Wendy Matthews, does to fragments of the houses they excavate. Indeed, this may be a useful metaphor: in understanding the meaning of the houses unearthed, we need to understand how it was constructed; to understand the conclusions reached by the Çatalhöyük team, we need to know the makeup of the crew.
I n an email I sent earlier today to the author, I commented that the book "feels similar to an adventure novel along the lines of a Clarke novel, except that it
is all real." I hold to this. The book as a whole is an exciting read, and it's rather a relief to sometimes read about an archaeological project without having to stop and reflect deeply every two pages. This is not to say that the book doesn't stimulate the mind. It is, however, written so as not to be a burden.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A big disappointment that left me wanting my money back. I bought this book expecting to learn about the people who built and lived in Catalhoyuk, not the personalities of the... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Diana in Chicago
I love archeology and I am always curious about how archeological teams work together to create the magic that unveils the life of the past. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Ipek
I wanted to know how the bull was related to the goddess. What this book gave me was the inside scoop on our quest to discover our ancient history, especially in Catal Huyuk. Read morePublished on March 10, 2013 by Nell Langford, Ph.D.
I was so excited to read about this site in detail, but was extremely disappointed by this book. The author thought it was more important to record the birthdate and personal... Read morePublished on September 12, 2012 by Maija Jespersen
I was disappointed by this book. I expected it to be about the findings at neolithic site Catal Huyuk and various interpretations of them. Read morePublished on October 19, 2009 by Philip Lewis
The mound of Catalhoyuk in southern Turkey is one of the great neolithic sites, and major excavations have been going on for decades. Read morePublished on November 11, 2008 by henry claman
What would it have been like to live there? A high plain, holding a marshland framed by distant hills. Read morePublished on April 18, 2008 by Stephen A. Haines
Written by a periodist who has been in the whole investigation, it explores the way of living of people about 9000 years ago, revealing new great discoveres thanks to well... Read morePublished on January 12, 2008 by Miguel Ruiz Cuesta
I very much enjoyed Balter's book. I've been doing archaeology for 25 years and teaching methods and theory for almost 15 years. Read morePublished on March 23, 2007 by Scott MacEachern