Çatalhöyük – Communicating archaeological excavations to local people and visitors

General information

Domain: Archaeology (Neolithic site)
Title: Çatalhöyük - Excavations of a Neolithic Anatolian Höyük
Launch: 1993
Country: Turkey
Website: http://www.catalhoyuk.com

Project focus

The international Çatalhöyük research project excavates the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey and communicates its significance to the local people and visitors. Çatalhöyük was one of the first large settlements in Anatolia (founded around 7400 B.C.) with exceptional architecture, wall paintings and other art inside the houses. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012.

The extensive excavations since 1993 under the direction of Ian Hodder have been accompanied by regular public presentation and community projects to promote local awareness of the site. These activities include workshops with school children and teachers, summer schools and a yearly festival. Along with the on-site exhibition and visiting programme, social media have been used to communicate the site and on-going excavations to the interested public.

The ultimate aim of the Çatalhöyük research project is to leave behind a well-planned heritage site that enhances the visitors’ knowledge in several ways, including a conservation laboratory, a museum, and a model house to enable visitors experience Neolithic homes without damaging the ancient structures.



The Çatalhöyük research project brings together research, heritage management and sponsor organisations that carry out, communicate and support the on-going excavations. The project works under the auspices of the British Institute at Ankara, with permission and support of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The international team includes the Turkish Cultural Foundation and research groups from Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and Poland. The local work of the team of about 120 researchers is accompanied by many activities aimed at informing and involving visitors and locals, in particular young people.

Financing / funding

The Çatalhöyük research project receives private and public funding from several Turkish and international sources. Its main sponsors are Yapı Kredi and The Boeing Company, others include Hedef Alliance, Konya Çimento, Konya Şeker and Shell Turkey. Funding for the project in 2012/13 has also been received from the following institutions: British Institute at Ankara, University College London, National Geographic Society, Stanford University, State University of New York at Buffalo, Templeton Foundation, Polish Heritage Council and University of Poznan.

Content & IPR / licensing

The content presented online centers on the documentation of the on-going excavations, including short articles and detailed reports, photographs, imagery and videos. Most of the content has been made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license. A book about his experiences at the site has also been written by one of the local guards.

Technologies used / innovative features

The Çatalhöyük research project uses a wide range of activities and media to communicate the on-going archaeological work to the local people and visitors. An on-site visitor center presents small temporary exhibits, visitors can also explore parts of the site, and view replicas of artifacts and wall paintings in an “experimental house”. Special attention is given to engaging local stakeholders. For example, children and teachers have been invited to participate in workshops where they can learn about the site and excavation work as well as take part in craft exercises.

In addition to making rich information freely available on the website, the project communicates the on-going work through social media (Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter). Since 2010, laser and 3D technologies have been deployed to geo-reference the various excavations and digitally record them by creating detailed 3D models. For the future, it is planned using virtual reality technologies to present the site, objects and wall paintings in novel ways.

Target users

The communication of the Çatalhöyük site addresses residents and other stakeholders in the region as well as domestic and international visitors. The local people, children in particular, are important to reach since many know only little about the heritage site. Therefore, a core goal of the outreach activities of the project is to raise the local awareness of the cultural significance of the site.

Lessons learned

Cooperation: This is an international project involving several research groups (about 120 researchers in any one summer excavation campaign), heritage management institutions, and private and public sponsors that carry out, communicate and support the on-going excavations. The involvement of the local people, in particular, the younger generation merits to be highlighted.

Content: The content presented online centers on the documentation of the on-going excavations and most of it is made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

Technologies used / innovative features: The project uses various technologies for documenting and presenting the on-going excavations. In recent years novel data capture and 3D technologies have been deployed. The regular communication of the excavation work through messages, images and videos on social media allows anybody interested to follow the on-going activities.

Sources and links