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The inhabitants of the ancient city of Çatalhöyük, located in modern-day Turkey, had some strange burial practices that have left archaeologists perplexed, Gizmodo reported.
Inhabited from 7100 to 5950 BCE, Çatalhöyük is considered one of the oldest cities in the world. Just like today’s urban areas, it was plagued by overcrowding, violence, disease, poor sanitation and decay.
Hosting up to 8,000 citizens at its peak, the ancient remains are an important archaeological site for clues about Neolithic Anatolians.
In a new study, a research team discovered that the ancient people used colorful pigments for building decorations and burial practices. Their findings showed that Çatalhöyük’s inhabitants used different pigments on their dead that were either applied directly to the deceased or included in the grave.
Red ochre was the most common colorant found on both adults and children, but the team also discovered instances where that particular pigments were used for men and women.
They also found that the number of graves in a structure corresponded to the number of layers of paintings on the structure’s walls. They suggested that there could be a connection between the individuals buried and the color used.
Another finding revealed that the ancient people exhumed the bones and skulls of the deceased and circulated them among the community, before burying them again.
Co-author Marco Milella admitted that it’s not clear why residents of Çatalhöyük had such strange practices but added that the study “helps us to better understand the symbolic world of this Neolithic society, and about the relationship between the living and the dead.”