Nine thousand years ago on the plains of central Turkey, a group of Neolithic people settled at the edge of a river. The town they built there--now known as Çatalhöyük ("chah-tahl-HU-yook")--grew to about 8,000 people and 2,000 houses. Crammed within 26 acres, roughly the size of 24 football fields, the later town contained no streets; people had to move about on the roofs. When they entered the houses down a stairway from the roof, they descended into a domestic space that was full of painting and sculpture--primarily depicting bulls, deer, leopards, vultures and human figures.
These late Stone Age settlers had finely polished stone tools, and they had domesticated cereals and sheep. In addition, they hunted wild cattle, pigs and horses and made use of many wild plants. The site is not the earliest agricultural settlement, but its large size at an early date and its elaborate art mean that it has always played a part in discussions about early farmers and their way of life.