Private Pantries and Celebrated Surplus: Storing and Sharing Food at Neolithic Catalhoyuk, Central Anatolia

By Bogaard, Amy; Charles, Michael et al. | Antiquity, September 2009 | Go to article overview

Private Pantries and Celebrated Surplus: Storing and Sharing Food at Neolithic Catalhoyuk, Central Anatolia


Bogaard, Amy, Charles, Michael, Twiss, Katheryn C., Fairbairn, Andrew, Yalman, Nurcan, Filipovic, Dragana, Demirergi, G. Arzu, Ertug, Fusun, Russell, Nerissa, Henecke, Jennifer, Antiquity


Introduction

Food storage practice has often played a key role in accounts of early farming. In a seminal paper, Flannery (1972) identified household storage as the defining characteristic of early agricultural villages; through private storage, households formally took on the risks and rewards of producing for their own use (see also Rollefson 1997; Flannery 2002; Banning 2003). This generalised understanding anticipates the emergence of modular farming households with their own storage space in different parts of the world, but it does not account for fundamental differences in the nature of the two dietary mainstays, plants and animals.

For practical reasons, plant- and animal-derived foods tend to be stored differently. In the absence of refrigeration, animals, especially large ones (e.g. cattle-size), are commonly shared beyond the co-residential household (e.g. Schneider 1957; Binford 1978; Ertug-Yaras 1997: 355; Hayden 2003; Halstead 2007). By contrast, the particulate nature and long shelf-life of seeds, nuts, dried fruits and other plant parts suits them to piecemeal consumption and individualised storage (e,g, Lee 1973; Kramer 1982: 100; Imamura 1996: 104; Ertug-Yaras 1997: 89-92). We suggest that the combination of plant storage and animal sharing was a fundamental strategy for negotiating the conflicting social and economic demands of sedentism in south-west Asia and elsewhere, and one that was variously reinterpreted and formalised as populations shifted towards farming and herding (cf. Byrd 1994; Kuijt & Goring-Morris 2002; Banning 2003; Kuijt 2004).

Across the south-west Asian agricultural transition, it is possible to discern continuity in plant storage/animal sharing alongside increasing formalisation of storage (Table 1, Figure 1). A good baseline is Hallan Cemi, a sedentary hunting-gathering site in eastern Anatolia, where display of an aurochs skull and arrangement of wild sheep crania may reflect animal sharing, while concentrations of almonds suggest small-scale plant storage and/or consumption (Rosenberg et al. 1995; Rosenberg & Redding 2000). In the contemporaneous southern Levantine Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), as cultivation became integral to food production strategies, rarely-preserved direct evidence confirms significant plant storage at the household level: House 11 at Gilgal I contained baskets of seeds/grains including likely cultivated oats and barley (Noy 1989; Weiss et al. 2006). However, storage appears to have been variably scaled and formalised. Built features (bins, raised floor 'granaries') potentially dedicated to plant storage were irregularly scattered both inside and outside dwellings, and not all houses had them; enigmatic structures found at Jericho, Jerf el Ahmar and Mureybet mayor may not have served for 'communal' storage (Stordeur et al. 2001; Kuijt & GoringMorris 2002: 373; Twiss 2008; Kuijt & Finlayson 2009). Evidence for direct storage of meat is lacking, but storage in the form of social sharing is suggested by display of aurochs crania at Mureybet and Jerf el Ahmar (Cauvin 1994: 46; Helmer et al. 2004: 151; Twiss 2008).

Greater formalisation of household storage is evident in the proliferation of built storage features (day bins, 'silos') as reliance on agriculture intensified during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) (e.g. Kuijt & Goring-Morris 2002). Increasingly 'private' storage is evident as well, with southern Levantine bins migrating from Middle PPNB transitional porch- or anteroom-like spaces to the inner recesses of Late PPNB compartmentalised houses (Wright 2000). Bin contents are generally not preserved, but occasional charred plant stores confirm this trend. At 'Ain Ghazal, lentils, peas and barley were stored in a corner near the door of Middle PPNB House 12, whereas lentils and peas in the Late PPNB Terraced House are associated with its collapsed upper storey (Rollefson & Simmons 1986: 152, Figure 9; Rollefson 1997: 291), Meanwhile, evidence for animal sharing is extensive: at least eight aurochsen were packed into a single, capped pit at Kfar HaHoresh, Other features potentially symbolising meat-sharing include deposits such as four goat crania and one Bos skull in a building at Ghwair I (Simmons & Najjar 2006; Goring-Morris & Horwitz 2007). …

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