Female lineage issues at the Neolithic Çatalhöyük are addressed in an interdisciplinary study of 131 paleogenomes from Çatalhöyük East Mound (7100-5950 BCE). Preliminary results of the study, which awaits peer reviewing, have been shared via the platform bioRχiv as a pre-print signed by 48 contributors. The team of authors is headed by Middle East Technical University’s Eren Yüncü and includes former Çatalhöyük Project director Ian Hodder.

According to the paper’s abstract, the research question starts with observing the lack of solid evidence of a dominant female role in the Neolithic Near Eastern and Anatolian societies in association with the (widespread yet debatable) idea that early farming there was associated with a ‘Mother Goddess’ cult. To fill the gap, researchers decided to focus on social organization issues, mobility patterns, and gender roles in Neolithic Southwest Asia. As a case study for such issues, they chose the Anatolian settlement of Çatalhöyük, notable for its continuous occupation and seemingly egalitarian social structure.

The research material consists of 131 paleogenomes extracted by people buried across 35 buildings in Çatalhöyük’s East Mound (7100-5950 BCE). These were analyzed and examined in terms of genetic relationships among individuals buried in the same house (co-burials).

What was found was eye-opening as, in contrast to the patrilocal patterns commonly seen in Neolithic Europe, the genetic data from Çatalhöyük did not indicate patrilocal mobility. The team discovered that during the settlement’s Early period, close kinship ties were concentrated within specific buildings and among neighbors. This was similar to the patterns seen in Southwest Asia’s earlier Pre-Pottery Neolithic period.

Over time, however, these patterns changed. By the late 7th millennium BCE, subadults buried in the same building were rarely closely related genetically, even though they had similar diets. Despite this shift, genetic connections within buildings at Çatalhöyük remained predominantly through the maternal line rather than the paternal line.

Additionally, the team noted that female subadults were often given different funerary treatments compared to males, with more grave goods associated with females. Thus, so far, the study shows that while kinship practices evolved, important female roles continued to exist for over a thousand years in this significant Neolithic community in western Eurasia.