Çatalhöyük – Neolithic Anatolian Vulture Priestess – Circa 6000 BCE

<<< Garment is under construction. Pictures posted when complete >>>

I am making an authentic vulture priestess outfit. Here is the design and the rational behind it. Keep in mind that such people should exist within the game. I don’t expect this level of detail, but animal costumes are important for animism.

(Yes, I drew this… Yes, I know it has issues lol)

Arms: 10 feathers
Back: 64 Feathers, 4 rows of 16. Tail made from 10 feathers
Head: 4 feathers
Waist: 8 feathers, waist cord, loincloth

Black Pigment: Wood Ash
Red Pigment: Red ocher
Cordage: Hand spun flax (by me!)
Loincloth: Oiled goat leather

[I am writing up a full paper for this project, but this is the first light draft. It’s plenty detailed for a forum post, however]

Between approximately 7500 BCE and 5500 BCE, the proto-city of Catalhöyük (pronounced “cha-tall-ho-yook”) flourished in what is now south central Turkey, on the Konya plain. At its height, it may have had a population of as many as 10,000 people. To date, very little evidence exists to suggest any major centralized form of government or any particular difference between the way men and women were treated, a relatively peaceful existence for perhaps two thousand years.

The proto-city was composed of hundreds of multi-story mud-brick cubic houses, entered through their roofs via ladders. Waterways running between the two elevated land areas forming the city supplied fish, mollusks, reeds and water, while extensive farming provided flax and wheat for the large, growing population. To date, Catalhöyük is one of the best preserved Neolithic sites in the world offering visitors a look at an ancient proto-city from our past.

Among the better preserved artifacts of Catalhöyük are a series of painted murals and ceramic figurines providing a limited but interesting view into the life of these ancient people. Many animals, what appear to be religious symbology, and even depictions of hunting can be found in these artifacts. Three animals which stand out as being both prominently displayed and potentially religious in nature are the bull, the leopard and the vulture. These animals are depicted on many artifacts providing a wealth of information for the amateur reconstructive archaeologist. It was using these items as reference points for both inferential and comparative analysis that a reasonable depiction of a vulture priestess could be compiled.

Why a Priestess?
Male figurines are uncommon at Catalhöyük. It may be that their culture simply did not favor the depiction of males, the method used to depict males did not lend itself well to preservation (e.g. wooden figurines), or perhaps only women presided as religious figures (as seen in many animistic cultures).

Which Vulture?
Whichever vulture was revered by the people of Catalhöyük should both have been common and reasonably similar to the depictions of vultures in the artwork found. The Cinereous vulture and the Egyptian vulture are both common to the area. The depictions of the vultures are reasonably iconographic having aspects common to many large birds, but the characteristic vulture like beak and the large wingspan clearly depicted vulture. Unlike the Cinereous vulture, the Egyptian vulture has a pronounced plume of feathers emanating from its head in such a way that it reasonably matches the depictions in Catalhöyük.

Feather Color
The Egyptian vulture has several color variations, but the largest feathers are reasonably black. While any size feather may have been used, it is reasonable to suppose the largest feathers would have been used to provide the closest scale when worn by a human. The largest feathers on Egyptian vulture are black with occasional earthen tones. The lighter colored skin of the priestess or dancer directly contrasting the dark feathers is a reasonable facsimile to the actual coloration of adult Egyptian vultures. Adolescent Egyptian vultures would be nearly completely black. In the case that the priestess or dancer were an adolescent, one might suppose that their entire body would be painted black to match the adolescent bird. There is no way to know if such a priestess or dancer would have been adolescent or adult, but a comparative look at recorded cultures both past and present who practice animism shows us that adults are typically the holders of clerical positions, thus we can reasonably suppose an adult practitioner with black flight feathers and the lighter brown skin of a Catalhöyük inhabitant.

Body Paint
Red colorant from ocher and black pigment from burned ash have been found on many murals at Catalhöyük, often in a sort of triangle or chevron pattern, their colors contrasting. Given striking nature of these colors as well as the reference to both blood, red, and black winged form of the vulture, black, as well as the prominence of such designs throughout Catalhöyük, it seems reasonable to use these colors as a sort of accent coloring. Stripes across the body are commonplace throughout depictions of people in the Neolithic, and may simply have been born as a method of dehumanizing otherwise naked skin for the purposes of animism. The reduction of anthropomorphism is important when one is attempting to convey a physical role as the invocation or at least representation of an animal.
The usage of line art in the form of roughly vertical black lines emanating from various parts of the body is a direct reference to the depiction of feathers displayed on the murals depicting vultures. The usage of these lines on the extremities is corollary to the analogy of the arms and legs as representative of the vultures wings and talents, respectively. The central circular pattern on the abdomen is again representative of the common depiction of the vulture in Catalhöyük.

Feather Placement
the placement of the feathers along the arms is a direct analogy to wings. The rationale for having only a few feathers derives from the nature of how the feathers are accessed. If the vulture carried the religious significance its depictions suggest, then the active either killing such a bird to obtain a large number feathers or desecrating the body of such a fallen animal may have been considered abhorrent. Whereas, a feather fallen of its own accord could be seen as a gift. The amount of time required to gather all of the feathers needed to make a single outfit may have been several years. As a result, a very conservative usage of feathers seems pragmatic.

The reason for the feather cape and tail feather apparatus is a direct appropriation of the animistic concept of wearing the skin of the animal you wish to become. Artwork at Catalhöyük clearly depicts hunters carrying and even wearing the skins of leopards, possibly to gain the abilities of the leopards. While it could be argued that the pictures depict men wearing the hides as loin cloths or tearing them in their hands, versus donning the outfits over their bodies, one must also consider the context in which they are depicted. The leopard skin people appear to be hunting people, something rather cumbersome while wearing a skin in the warm summers of the Konya plain. While it is certainly possible feathers might simply have been held in the hands and not worn as a costume, it seems reasonable that a priestess would have found a greater perceived connection when donning an entire outfit, rather than simply holding a feather. Animism typically involves the practitioner believing either that they are communing with or perhaps becoming the creature more spirit they invoke.

Commonplace clothing is often not depicted in primitive artwork, rather being assumed. While this might lead figurine in the mural or the ceramic figurine to appear nude, this may not always be true. In the case of religious symbols, to include deities and spirits, the figure does appear to be commonly nude, clothes perhaps not being important to a divinity. However, in the case of figures who appear to be representative of real people, waist cord and occasionally more complex clothing designs can be seen. While it is therefore impossible to know whether or not a vulture priestess would have worn clothing beyond her decorations or not, it is probably reasonable to presume at least a simple loincloth was born. Vulture worship was probably not linked with fertility, but rather death and the beyond. During the cold season, such rituals were probably held within buildings where it was warm, and during the warm seasons they might’ve been held outside were on top of buildings. Either way, a simple loincloth was added as a reasonable guess.

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