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Holistic Approaches to Palaeohydrology: Reconstructing and Modelling the Neolithic River Çarşamba and the Riverscape of Çatalhöyük, Turkey

Wainwright, J. and Ayala, G. (2021) 'Holistic Approaches to Palaeohydrology: Reconstructing and Modelling the Neolithic River Çarşamba and the Riverscape of Çatalhöyük, Turkey.', The Holocene .


Alluvial landscapes have long been considered optimal locations for Neolithic settlement because of the availability of water and nutrientbearing silts. However, the dynamics of these landscapes have often been underestimated in relation to the interactions of precipitation, temperature and vegetation at catchment scale, along with flow and geomorphic processes in the channel and adjacent areas. In this paper we employ a multi-method approach to model the alluvial landscape around Çatalhöyük in central Turkey to develop a more nuanced understanding of the potential interactions between the Neolithic population and its environment. Starting from detailed sedimentological reconstructions of the area surrounding the site, we use climate and vegetation proxies to estimate past climate scenarios. Four temperature and five precipitation scenarios and two vegetation endmember scenarios were constructed for the Neolithic. These scenarios are coupled with a stochastic weather generator to simulate past flows using the HEC-HMS rainfall-runoff model. Impacts and extents of past flooding are then estimated using bankfull flow estimates from the modelled time series. The model results suggest that crops at Çatalhöyük were less vulnerable to flooding than has previously been supposed, with flooding spread more evenly through the year and with relatively unerosive flows. Spatial variability suggests a range of wet and dry conditions would have been available at different times of the year near the site. Interannual and decadal variability was important and so resilience against drought is also a significant consideration and so subsistence patterns must have been resilient to this variability to enable the settlement to continue for over a millennium. This interpretation of the riverscape of Neolithic Çatalhöyük as a mosaic of wet and dry conditions is compatible with the range of plant and animal remains excavated from the site.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Date accepted:04 August 2021
Date deposited:18 August 2021
Date of first online publication:14 September 2021
Date first made open access:18 August 2021

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