The cultural use of pigments in human societies is associated with ritual activities and the creation of social memory. Neolithic Çatalhöyük (Turkey, 7100–5950 cal BC) provides a unique case study for the exploration of links between pigments in burials, demographic data and colourants in contemporary architectural contexts. This study presents the first combined analysis of funerary and architectural evidence of pigment use in Neolithic Anatolia and discusses the possible social processes underlying the observed statistical patterns. Results reveal that pigments were either applied directly to the deceased or included in the grave as a burial association. The most commonly used pigment was red ochre. Cinnabar was mainly applied to males and blue/green pigment was associated with females. A correlation was found between the number of buried individuals and the number of painted layers in the buildings. Mortuary practices seem to have followed specific selection processes independent of sex and age-at-death of the deceased. This study offers new insights about the social factors involved in pigment use in this community, and contributes to the interpretation of funerary practices in Neolithic Anatolia. Specifically, it suggests that visual expression, ritual performance and symbolic associations were elements of shared long-term socio-cultural practices.
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Australian Research Council