John Swogger, the illustrator at Çatalhöyük from 1998 to 2006, has a guest post up at Comics Forum entitled “The Sequential Art of the Past: Archaeology, comics and the dynamics of an emerging genre“. He discusses his and others’ use of comics to transmit archaeological knowledge to a range of audiences. John has been advocating for the use of comics in archaeology for a while now, including at the Visualisation in Archaeology’s 2011 conference, the Society for American Archaeology’s 2012 conference. He’ll also be at next year’s Society for American Archaeology’s conference in Hawaii.
UNESCO (United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has just added Çatalhöyük to its World Heritage List. You can read about the site’s selection here and about UNESCO’s selection criteria here.
My work space at Çatalhöyük
For the next two months I will be sitting at the desk to the left, illustrating artifacts and creating reconstructions for the Çatalhöyük Research Project. Çatalhöyük is a 9000-year-old Neolithic site on the Anatolian plain in Turkey. James Mellaart first excavated the site in the 1960s and excavations continue today under the direction of Dr. Ian Hodder. The site is a large mound composed of about 1000 years of house building and re-building in the same spot. The site has provided evidence on early sedentism, the domestication process, and ritual and religion. This is my tenth season on site, four spent as an archaeobotanist and six as an illustrator.
Illustration of an incised bone point
I usually spend each season doing a variety of things, illustrating any artifacts being sent to the local museum in Konya, creating reconstructions for publications, recording any special features or wall paintings that come up on site, and dealing with requests from excavators and lab teams. Free access to the site, excavators, and specialists is one of the great things about this job. Anytime I’m stumped on how to proceed there’s someone to talk to. I can walk over to the faunal lab, ask a question, and borrow a sheep skull if need be, or run up to site and talk through a building with an excavator.
Reconstruction of Burial 16601 at Çatalhöyük
This summer I’m also playing catch-up. For the past three summers there has been two or three other illustrators on site, (me, Mesa Schumacher and Lyla Pinch-Brock). We’ve been working hard on creating all the illustrations for three new Çatalhöyük volumes. That’s about finished now and everything has been submitted to the publisher but my not-for-the-publication-so-deal-with-later pile has gotten quite large. It’s just me on site this summer so I’m doing lots of inking, double-checking of labels, and in general making sure everything is properly organized. I’m also working with Jason Quinlan, the site photographer, to integrate all the illustrations into the photography database so they are searchable and accessible to all.
I’ll be posting new illustrations and photos of the excavations throughout the summer.