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In which we see the “preconditions” for writing in early agriculture sites developing along with a social hierarchy and none at an egalitarian early agriculture site

Argument of the chapter:

The people of both ‘Ain Ghazal and Çatalhöyük started as egalitarian hunter/gatherers and became agricultural over time in the way we talked about in the previous chapter.

However, from that starting place the people of ‘Ain Ghazal developed a class hierarchy and used clay tokens for keeping track, whereas, the people of Çatalhöyük remained egalitarian and did not use tokens for keeping track.

From this we can infer:

  • First, the development of proto-writing is associated with developing hierarchy
  • Second, the development of proto-writing was not universal amongst all early agricultural people, and
  • Third, that people presumably made choices based on what they thought was most valuable in their tradition – egalitarianism and autonomy for the people of Çatalhöyük, worship in common and differentiation of social class for the people of ‘Ain Ghazal.


We trace the development of the two sites by comparing them with respect to the following.


‘Ain Ghazal and Çatalhöyük seem to have had similar subsistence patterns – hunting and gathering that gradually became agriculture as per the previous chapter

However, ‘Ain Ghazal shows evidence of specialization and concern with the “free rider” problem in the use of tokens to signify quantities of goods that were traded – oil for meat, grain for oil etc.

Çatalhöyük evidently did have some long distance trade but it was not tracked using tokens.

The treatment of houses:

‘Ain Ghazal developed ritual structures

Çatalhöyük focused on individual family houses

The way each treated the dead:

‘Ain Ghazal shows social differentiation burying some people in the house floor (a place of honor) some outside, and some were thrown out in the trash (unburied)

Çatalhöyük all people are equally well nourished, women, men and children were all buried with honors

How each viewed animals, gods and religion:

‘Ain Ghazal animal figurines that have been “killed”, pregnant female figurines associated with agriculture, public worship and large statuary used to bring people together and build community during religious or celebratory rites.

Çatalhöyük female figurines associated with agriculture but they are not pregnant, murals depicting wild animals and hunting on the walls of houses, animal remains embedded in walls and benches, division of the house into clean (ritual?) areas and dirty areas with no ritual buildings or large statuary suggesting that all ritual was centered on the family in the house.

The chapter establishes that:

  • Economy and/or ecology are not the sole determiners of what choices are made by a culture.
  • When the existing village system is shocked (economically, demographically, or ecologically) it chooses its response based on the history and perception of the people.
  • Different choices lead to different social and religious organization and practices suggested by the organization of buildings and the treatment of the dead.