Çatalhöyük image collection released on Searchworks

Photo of an excavation

A current effort is underway to archive archaeological research documentation from Çatalhöyük -- a 9000 year old neolithic settlement in the central plains of Turkey widely recognized as one of the most important archaeological sites in the world -- in the Stanford Digital Repository. We have just achieved our first major milestone and released the image collection of about 144,000 images on Searchworks.

Çatalhöyük was first discovered in the late 1950s and excavated by James Mellaart between 1961 and 1965. It quickly became famous internationally due to the large size and dense occupation of the settlement, as well as the spectacular wall paintings and other art that was uncovered inside the houses. It is amongst the very earliest urban settlements ever discovered and thus opens a crucial window onto an era that is arguably the most significant social shift in human history: the transition from hunter-gathering to sedentary farming societies. 


Between 1993 and 2017 the Çatalhöyük Research Project, an international team of archaeologists led by Ian Hodder, currently Dunlevie Family Professor of Anthropology at Stanford, carried out new excavations and research, in order to shed more light on the people that inhabited the site. Methodologically, research at Çatalhöyük has pioneered a reflexive approach to archaeological practice, known as Post-Processual Archaeology, in which information is permanently open to reinterpretation by both scholars and public. As early as 1996 it became one of the first major excavations to make its records available via the Web and to invite public comment. In recognition of its uniqueness Çatalhöyük was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012.


One outcome of this methodological approach is an extensive collection of digital documentation of the site, generated by a large international team of researchers during the 25 years of the project’s duration. The Çatalhöyük digital archive consists of formal textual and numeric records from the project’s central database as well as specialist databases and spreadsheets, free text documents like diaries, reports, book chapters and volumes, multimedia, including audio, video, still images and 3D models, as well as a comprehensive collection of spatial data, amounting to a total of about 5TB. 


The images were exported from the project’s image server, transferred to the DLSS infrastructure and ingested. At the same time we generated thousands of druids, mapped the existing metadata to MODS, and created the XML data for each image. Most of this had to be handled in batch mode, complemented by numerous hours of manual processing. The  Çatalhöyük image collection is among the largest collections accessioned into SDR so far. It also has been the basis for some experimental work applying computer vision for image classification.


A huge thank you for their support and guidance through this process to Hannah Frost, Arcadia Falcone, Ben Albritton, Regina Roberts, and Andrew Berger.



Claudia Engel

Claudia A. Engel

Academic Technology Specialist and Lecturer, Department of Anthropology