“Official” and “practical” kin: Inferring social and community structure from dental phenotype at Neolithic Çatalhöyük, Turkey



The Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük, Turkey (7400–5600 cal BC) is widely acknowledged for its role in the study of early farming communities. To better understand the social and community structure of this setting, an intracemetery biological distance analysis was conducted. Metric and nonmetric observations were recorded in both deciduous and permanent dentitions (n = 266) to explore phenotypic patterning of individuals interred within individual buildings. Specifically, this study tests the hypothesis that individuals within houses and house groupings represent family units and the social structure of Çatalhöyük was largely biological-kin based. Multivariate and univariate statistical procedures were applied to phenotypic dental data. Results indicate that inclusion for interment within a house was only minimally related to biological affinity. Moreover, the site does not appear to be organized into larger, biologically related neighborhoods of houses. These findings suggest that Çatalhöyük may not have been a kin-based society, largely because membership within a house cemetery was not solely defined on the basis of biological affinity, such as in a family group. Rather, it appears that social structure was centered on the house as the unifying social principle. The choice for interment location may have transcended biological lines thereby creating an alternate and more fluid definition of “kin.” These findings can be used to understand the transition to settled life and biological patterning in this Neolithic community. Am J Phys Anthropol 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.