Michael Balter’s “The Goddess and the Bull”

I recently read Michael Balter’s biography of the Çatalhöyük dig – “The Goddess and the Bull”. I’m as much fascinated by biography as an archaeological genre as I’m troubled by its pitfalls. However, when it’s as well-written as this one, it’s a highly efficient way of reaching people outside of the discipline, and even enlightening some of those within who wouldn’t normally be interested in this kind of site or its methodology.

Ian Hodder’s own book on the project aimed at a wider audience should also be out this year with Thames & Hudson. It’s certain to cause some healthy debates, and critics will undoubtedly ask whether the project’s ‘reflexive field methodology’ has lived up to its promise. The project also has a (relatively) new Creative Commons- licensed website.

Some of the most famous finds from James Mellaart’s dig at Çatalhöyük are in the impressive Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, well worth a visit. I also love Mellaart’s classification of all things Roman as “F.R.M.” – Filthy Roman Muck!
Michael Balter. 2005. The Goddess and the Bull. Çatalhöyük: An Archaeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilization. New York.

Update: The project now also maintains an excavation blog.

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  1. F.R.M. brings to mind something my Italian language instructor used to say about the inscription S.P.Q.R. An Italian herself, she claimed in a spirit of joviality that it really stood for “Sono porci questi Romani”–“They are pigs these Romans”. I never found out if she had inside archeaological information or if she just made that up.

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