Corporate kin-groups, social memory, and "history houses"? A quantitative test of recent reconstructions of social organization and building functions at Çatalhöyük during the PPNB
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It has been argued that the corporate kin-group was the main form of socioeconomic organization at the Turkish site of Çatalhöyük during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB). This hypothesis is linked to a claim of long-term repetitive patterning in the use of household space. Çatalhöyük's corporate kin-groups, it is suggested, would have been maintained by social memory, and social memory would have been created by the repeated rebuilding of houses with the same floor plan and by the burial of important members of the corporate kin-groups under house floors. This hypothesis been taken up by a number of authors in recent years. However, it is not clear how much confidence should be invested in the hypothesis as the use of household space at Çatalhöyük during the PPNB has not been subject to formal evaluation. With this in mind, we carried out a study in which we examined the relationship between continuity in house floor plans and the percentage of houses that contain burials. To assess the co-variation between these variables, we developed a GIS-based method of quantifying house wall continuity, and then subjected the resulting index and a number of other variables, including the percentage of houses that contain burials, to factor analysis. The results of the analyses do not support the hypothesis. The house-wall continuity index and the percentage of houses that contains burials load on different factors, which indicates that they do not co-vary through time. This is contrary to the predictions of the corporate kin-group hypothesis. Thus, claims that during the PPNB Çatalhöyük's occupants formed corporate kin groups that were maintained by social memory and “history houses” should be curtailed and interpretations built on this hypothesis should be viewed with suspicion.
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