“Clam shells used for food, jewellery and in the wall covering of shelters found at the world famous Çatalhöyük UNESCO archaeological site in Central Turkey between 8-9,000 years ago give a unique insight into the demise of a short lived civilisation”
One of the key archaeological questions at Çatalhöyük is why the site was occupied for such a short amount of time (c. 8,000-9,000 years ago) in human occupation terms. I was invited to join an International team of scientists (from Turkey, Israel, the US and UK) to investigate climate signals from the site, inparticular I was tasked with using the geochemistry of the freshwater clam shells that were found around the site to investigate wettness. It is thought that the clams were collected for food and that the shells were subsequently used as jewellery and in the wall covering of shelters at the site.
We collected dozens of the best preserved clam shells and used a dental drill to take small samples from the shell in a timeline from the juvenile “umbo” part of the shell to the last growth before death (the shell edge). The sample holes represent a few weeks/months of growth within the 1-3 years life span of each shell. We then measured the oxygen and carbon isotope composition of the samples. These data are “wetness indicators” in this environment and the fine scale sampling shows extreme changes in the wetness of the region between winter and summer over the life span of each clam.
|Mass spectrometers within the British Geological Survey used to measure the isotope composition of the clam shells|