James Mellaart FBA (14 November 1925 – 29 July 2012) was a British
archaeologist and author who is noted for his discovery of the
Neolithic settlement of
Çatalhöyük in Turkey. He was expelled from
Turkey when he was suspected of involvement with the antiquities black
market. He was also involved in a string of controversies, including
the so-called mother goddess controversy in Anatolia, which
eventually led to his being banned from excavations in
Turkey in the
Mellaart was born in 1925 in London. He lectured at the University of
Istanbul and was an assistant director of the British Institute of
Ankara (BIAA). In 1951 Mellaart began to direct
excavations on the sites in
Turkey with the assistance of his
Turkish-born wife Arlette, who was the secretary of BIAA. He helped to
identify the "champagne-glass" pottery of western
Anatolia in the Late
Bronze Age, which in 1954 led to the discovery of
Beycesultan. After that expedition's completion in 1959, he helped to
publish its results. In 1964 he began to lecture in Anatolian
archaeology in Ankara. After his death it was discovered that he had
forged many of his "finds", including murals and inscriptions.
2 Theories about early Anatolia
3 Dorak affair
8 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
When Mellaart excavated the
Çatalhöyük site in 1961, his team found
more than 150 rooms and buildings, some decorated with murals, plaster
reliefs, and sculptures. The site has since been seen as important as
it has helped in the study of the social and cultural dynamics of one
of the earliest and largest permanently occupied farming settlements
in the Near East.
According to one of Mellaart's theories,
Çatalhöyük was a prominent
place of mother goddess worship. However, many other archaeologists
did not agree with him, and the dispute created a controversy.
Mellaart was even accused of making up at least some of the
mythological stories he presented as genuine. The furor caused the
Turkish government to close up the site. The site was unattended for
the next 30 years until excavations were begun anew in the 1990s.
The city as a whole covers roughly 32.5 acres (130,000 m²),
and housed 5,000–8,000 people, whereas the norm for the time
was around one tenth of this size. The site stirred great excitement
when Mellaart announced it and has since caused much head scratching.
In fact, more recent work has turned up comparable features at other
Neolithic sites in the Near East, and this has benefited many
people in their understanding of the site so that many of its one-time
mysteries are no longer real issues.
Theories about early Anatolia
According to Mellaart, the earliest Indo-Europeans in northwest
Anatolia were the horse-riders who came to this region from the north
and founded Demircihöyük in Eskişehir Province, Turkey, in ancient
Phrygia, c. 3000 BCE. They were ancestors of the Luwians who inhabited
Troy II, and spread widely in the Anatolian peninsula. It was
Mellaart who first introduced the term "Luwian" to archaeological
discourse in the 1950s. According to Christoph Bachhuber, current
surveys and excavations tend to support many of Mellaart’s
observations on changes in material culture at a regional scale.
Mellaart cited the distribution of a new type of wheel-made pottery,
Red Slip Wares, as some of the best evidence for his theory. According
to Mellaart, the proto-Luwian migrations to
Anatolia came in several
distinct waves over many centuries. The current trend is to see such
migrations as mostly peaceful, rather than military conquests.
Mellaart focused on the archaeologically observable destruction events
Troy II (ca. 2600–2400 BCE). For him, they were associated with
the arrival of Indo-Europeans from the eastern Balkans.
Main article: Dorak affair
In 1965 Mellaart gave a report of a new rich find from Dorak to Seton
Lloyd of the British Institute. Mellaart said that he had seen the
treasures in 1958 in the
Izmir home of a young woman whom he met on a
train. She sat in front of him in the train car, wearing a gold
bracelet which drew his attention. She told him that she had more at
home, so he came over and saw the collection. She did not allow him to
take photographs, but did let him make drawings of them. He gave the
story to The Illustrated
London News, and then Turkish authorities
demanded to know why they had not been informed. He said that the
young woman, named Anna Papastrati, asked him to keep it secret. He
asked the Institution to sponsor publications of the story, but they
refused with no real evidence. When looking for Papastrati's home, it
turned out that the street address did not exist in Izmir, and her
name was not found. The only document that can be traced to her is a
typed letter that after examination appears to have been done by
Mellaart's wife Arlette. In consequence, Turkish officials expelled
Mellaart for suspected antiquities smuggling. He was later allowed to
return but later banned completely.
As of 2005, Mellaart had retired from teaching and lived in North
London with his wife and grandson. He died on 29 July 2012.
Mellaart forged documents throughout his career. 
In 2018 Mellaart's son and the Swiss-German geoarchaeologist Eberhard
Zangger published an investigation according to which Mellaart had
fabricated extensive forgeries in support of his theses.
Çatalhöyük after the first excavations
James Mellaart excavating a mural in Çatalhöyük
Çatalhöyük excavated by
James Mellaart showing neolithic
hunters attacking an aurochs (Bos primigenius)
Detail of the mural showing the hind part of the aurochs, a deer and
Reconstruction of neolithic mural from Çatalhöyük
Copy of a
Çatalhöyük mural showing a boar and a deer surrounded by
Female deity figurine
Neolithic mirrors of obsidian from Çatalhöyük
"Anatolian Chronology in the Early and Middle Bronze Age" ;
Anatolian Studies VII, 1957
"Early Cultures of the South Anatolian Plateau. The Late Chalcolithic
and Early Bronze Ages in the Konya Plain"; Anatolian Studies XIII,
Neolithic Town in Anatolia, London, 1967
Excavatians at Hacilar, vols. I–II, Edinburgh, 1970
The Goddess from Anatolia, 1989 (with Udo Hirsch and Belkıs
Religion in prehistory
Slow Train to Izmir
^ Mallett, Maria. "The Goddess from Anatolia".
James Mellaart (1981), "
Anatolia and the Indo-Europeans", Journal of
Indo-European Studies 9, 135–149
^ Christoph Bachhuber (2013),
James Mellaart and the Luwians: A
^ Christoph Bachhuber (2013),
James Mellaart and the Luwians: A
^ It could also be, it was speculated, that Mellaart was reluctant to
tell his wife that he spent a week at the woman's home.
^ Mazur, Suzan (4 October 2005). "Dorak Diggers Weigh In On Anna &
Royal Treasure". Scoop. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
^ "James Mellaart" The Telegraph 03 Aug 2012
James Mellaart 14 November 1925 - 29 July 2012" Antiquity Journal
Archaeologist 'Discovered' His Own Fakes at 9,000-Year-Old
Archaeologist Faked Ancient Discoveries at 9,000-Year-Old
Site in Europe and Elsewhere
Balter, Michael. The Goddess and the Bull: Çatalhöyük: An
Archaeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilization. New York: Free
Press, 2004 (hardcover, ISBN 0-7432-4360-9); Walnut Creek, CA:
Left Coast Press, 2006 (paperback, ISBN 1-59874-069-5).
Pearson, Kenneth; Connor, Patricia. The Dorak Affair. London: Michael
Joseph. 1967; New York: Atheneum, 1968.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to James Mellaart.
Mazur, Susan. "The Dorak Affair's Final Chapter", at Scoop.co.nz,
October 10, 2005.
The Blog of Matt Salusbury, "The Dorak Affair, an archaeological
mystery," a February 8, 2010 post
ISNI: 0000 0001 2148 0531
BNF: cb12746140f (data)