WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Overcrowding. Violence. Infectious diseases. Environmental degradation. It may sound like the worst modern mega-city.
A researcher digs out the ruins of Catalhoyuk, a prehistoric settlement in southern Turkey that was inhabited from 9,100 to 7,950 years ago. This photo was taken on 17 June 2019 from Istanbul in Turkey. Scott Haddow / Handout via REUTERS
But these are exactly the problems people had when millennia ago when the first major settlements were founded when people began to exchange a nomadic hunter-gatherer existence for an agrarian lifestyle, scientists said on Monday, based on prehistoric findings location in southern Turkey.
The researchers studied 742 human skeletons that were excavated in the prehistoric ruins of Catalhoyuk, which were inhabited from 9,100 to 7,950 years ago in a crucial time of human evolution, to find out how life in one of the earliest major settlements of the archaeological Records looked. At the height there lived 3,500 to 8,000 people, the researchers called it a "protostadt".
The residents had a high rate of infection, which was evident in teeth and bones and was probably due to overcrowded conditions in the midst of challenges to proper hygiene, the researchers said. Overcrowding may have contributed to interpersonal violence. Many skulls had healed cracks on the top or back of the skull, some with multiple injuries.
The shape of these injuries indicates that they may have been caused by hard clay bullets found at Catalhoyuk, which researchers suggest are being used as projectile weapons. Behaviors have deep roots in human history, "Clark said Spencer Larsen, Ohio State University's biological anthropologist, who led the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"The people living in this community faced challenges in living in settlements that dealt with basic issues: what to eat, who produces food, how food is distributed, what are the social norms for the division of labor, the challenges of infection and infectious diseases in environments with limited sanitation, the strategy of interpersonal relationships, which in some cases involve hostility, "added Larsen.
When the world of the last Ice Age emerged with warmer conditions conducive to the domestication of plants, the population shifted in many places from foraging to agriculture, which began 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.
People raised grain, including wheat, barley and rye, and raised sheep, goats and finally cattle. Some houses were decorated with murals, others with stone figures of animals and corpulent women.
The inhabitants of Catalonia lived in mudbrick structures comparable to flats and went in and out of ladders that linked the living areas of the houses with the roofs. After
death the inhabitants were buried in pits in the floors of the houses.
Catalhoyuk, 13 acres in size, has been continuously occupied for 1,150 years and appears to have been a largely egalitarian community. It was eventually abandoned, perhaps because of environmental degradation by the human population and a dry climate that made farming difficult there, the researchers said.
Reporting by Will Dunham; Edited by Sandra Maler