The Goddess and the Bull: Catalhoyuk: An Archaeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilization Kindle Edition

3.4 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

ISBN-13: 978-0743243605
ISBN-10: 0743243609
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Brian Fagan, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara
Michael Balter takes us on a fascinating journey through the excavations at one of the world's great archaeological sites. He provides an engrossing chronicle of one of the world's earliest farming villages and of the personalities and thoughts of the archaeologists engaged in the research -- the human side of archaeology.

Bruce Trigger, James McGill Professor, Department of Anthropology, McGill University, Montreal
A superb biography of a super archaeological site! Balter also demonstrates how this work is radically transforming what all archaeologists think and do. His carefully researched and compellingly written narrative, which makes readers feel as if they are there, will be read with pleasure and interest by professional archaeologists and all who are interested in archaeology. Balter's skillful weaving together of archaeological findings, the personalities and ambitions of a broad cast of archaeologists, and the evolution of archaeological thought makes this book a classic.

Ian Tattersall, Curator, Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History
Çatalhöyük is not only an archaeological site of tremendous importance, it is one with a dramatic history -- both ancient and modern -- that Balter tells with verve and an abundance of personal detail. His book is foremost about a site that offers unique insights into the origins of our own civilization; but at the same time it is an evocative portrayal of the process of archaeology itself.

Colin Renfrew, Professor Emeritus, University of Cambridge
An engagingly personal account of one of the most ambitious excavation projects currently in progress, undertaken at one of the world's great archaeological sites; a revealing narrative of people and ideas at the working face of archaeology.

Heather Pringle, author of The Mummy Congress
Erudite and meticulously researched, The Goddess and the Bull takes us behind the scenes of archaeology on the world stage, revealing the pitched political battles, the sometimes battered egos, and the stubborn quest for knowledge at one of the world's most important archaeological sites, Çatalhöyük.

From the Inside Flap

Veteran science writer Michael Balter skillfully weaves together many threads in this biography of the excavation one of archaeology’s most legendary prehistoric sites— Çatalhöyük, Turkey.

Product Details

  • File Size: 6524 KB
  • Print Length: 444 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0743243609
  • Publisher: Free Press (June 15, 2010)
  • Publication Date: June 15, 2010
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003T0G32M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,312 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Believe me, if you're interested in the archaeological site of Catal Hoyuk, don't waste your money on this book. It's a monumental disappointment.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had hoped to be able to imagine the life of the ancient Catalhoyuk community. Instead, Balter emphasises the lives and works of the modern Archaeologists. It was a good read, but I learned precious little about what I really wanted to know. There were too many "year book pictures" and too few photos of artifacts. It portrayed the dig as a kind of Archaeology Camp. I am glad they had so much fun, but what did they find out?
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Format: Hardcover
"The Goddess and the Bull" is a fasinating and well written book, enjoyable at many levels. Michael Balter began thinking about Catalhoyuk when Science magazine assigned him to write a story about the excavations back in 1998. He became fascinated by the subject, found reasons to go back to the dig to write follow up articles, and eventually became the excavation's official biographer.

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?
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Format: Hardcover
Michael Balter is a writer for Science magazine, and does a very good job of writing a book which is interesting on many levels. Not only is the book informative, but skillfully written so as to be enjoyable. The book begins with a history of the excavations at Çatalhöyük carried out by James Mellaart in the 1960's. By the fourh chapter, it is discussing the events leading up to the site being reopened by the eminent archaeologist Ian Hodder, who has assembled an all-star team to determine the feasibility of a new archaeological methodology. Part biography, part adventure, it is one of the few works of non-fiction which I have been unable to put down.

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.
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