Çatalhöyük (chätäalˈhöyükˈ) [key] or Çatalhüyük –hü–, Neolithic settlement on the Konya Plain in S Turkey that flourished c.6500–c.5800 B.C. The site, first excavated (1961–65) by British archaeologist James Mellaart, occupies 32 acres (12.8 hectares) and is divided into 12 horizons (levels of development). Perhaps the largest Neolithic settlement known, the community had as many as 8,000 inhabitants and has been studied intensively for clues to early religious and social development. Layer upon layer of painted murals, consisting of animal and geometric images painted on plaster, decorate the walls of the site's houses. Çatalhöyük was first thought to have depended on agriculture and a developing practice of cattle raising, but British archaeologist Ian Hodder, who has excavated there since 1993, has suggested that its development predates agriculture and that the site was most likely settled for religious and artistic rather than economic reasons, i.e., because of its closeness to the clays used to create its plaster-based murals.