Universiteit Leiden

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Lezing | Faculty Lecture

James & Arlette Mellaart: The journey to Çatalhöyük

dinsdag 11 mei 2021
Alan Mellaart recently published a book about the lives of his parents.

About the lecture

James Mellaart was a pioneering archaeologist who made some of the greatest discoveries about Turkey’s prehistoric past, changing our understanding of the Neolithic forever. His excavation in the 1960s of the huge Neolithic mound site of Çatalhöyük brought revolutionary evidence of a complex prehistoric settlement, revealing previously undreamt of art and culture, and making him famous. However, there was far more to the man than his archaeology – his troubled childhood, fierce identity, love for Turkish culture, as well as the controversies by which he was dogged, meant that his life was filled with adventure and exoticism.

This presentation explores the lives of James and his wife Arlette, their family histories and historical Istanbul – with the social whirl of a summer palace on the Bosphorus as the romantic backdrop to their ground-breaking work. Previously unseen archive materials, including Mellaart’s personal notebooks and accounts of his life, give new perspective on one of the most talented and controversial characters in the history of archaeology.    

To the lecture venue in Zoom

About Alan Mellaart

Alan Mellaart was born in Istanbul in 1955 where his parents were resident, and as a child attended all his father’s archaeological excavations in Turkey including Çatalhöyük 1961-65. He was educated at Cokethorpe Boarding School, near Oxford and went to Durham University, Hatfield College, where he studied joint honours in Modern Middle Eastern Studies. He attended Kellogg Business School. He worked for Spinney’s 1948 Ltd in Saudi Arabia, and was then with the Wellcome Foundation, Tetra Pak and Egin Zehnder International before establishing his own executive search firm in 2005. He has recently published ‘James Mellaart, the journey to Çatalhöyük’ on which the 2021 BBC documentary ‘Raiders of the Lost Past: the world’s first city’ has since been based. He is married to Leyla and has two sons.  

About Emma L. Baysal

Emma Baysal received her PhD from the University of Liverpool in 2010 and is now Associate Professor of Prehistory at Ankara University in Turkey. Her specialist area is the Neolithic and her research focuses on the history of personal ornamentation, focussing on the technological, social and economic role of beads, bracelets and other artefacts from the Palaeolithic to the Bronze Age. She carries out research at many archaeological sites in Turkey and has been awarded a British Academy Newton Advanced Fellowship for international development. She is the editor of ‘James Mellaart, the Journey to Çatalhöyük’.

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