James Mellaart was still a young man when he came to Turkey and there
married a Turkish lady. His main occupation was archaeology. Around the
year 1955 a vivid market for pretty prehistoric ceramic figurines flowered
in the country, and Mellaart got active to find out the origin of the
figurines. He finally located them near the village of Hacilar at lake
Burdur. He bought as many of those statuettes as he could get hold of
and in 1957 began excavating himself at the site. He thus unearthed a
Neolithic and copper age settlement until 1960. Very few colleagues saw
the excavated site, but they saw a number of beautiful drawings and photographs
including good descriptions of the artifacts. At the end of the campaign,
Mellaart covered the whole settlement again in order to protect the site
from erosion. Nowadays nothing gives a hint to the excavation as I could
personally discover when I visited the fields in 1966, guided by a local
farmer who knew the exact location.
Yet figurines of the Hacilar type are still on sale there. I myself could
buy a small head of a pig, "6000 years old" which has a long
snout that suggests by its form the Neolithic art. Many of those figurines
are now distributed through all the archaeological museums of the world
testifying to the art and craftsmanship of the Anatolian Neolithic age.
In 1965 Peter Ucko in London started examining some of those ceramics
and concluded from stylistic arguments that they must be forgeries. Six
years later, in August 1971, British scientists published the outcome
of their own examinations by way of thermoluminescence analysis: Of 66
Hacilar figurines held in museums 48 were beyond doubt modern falsifications.
First question was: Had Mellaart himself unearthed any figurines?
At least he had alleged it, and with such a statement Mellaart was definitely
finished as an archaeologist. And the Hacilar culture had to be cancelled
Now comes a surprise. Some years later this same professional Mellaart
excavated another Neolithic settlement in Anatolia, famous Çatal
Hüyük, where he found even more beautiful art pieces as well
as wall paintings suggesting a centre of a high civilisation as old as
Hacilar, at least 6000 years. But this underground settlement cannot be
visited, either; we only have the marvellous figures and ceramics in the
Museum of Ankara and distributed to a great number of institutions.
By restoring his reputation with this second discovery Mellaart has proved
that he is an able archaeologist, and that Neolithic Anatolia was well
worth its praise.
If there hadn't been the Dorak affair which cast more doubt on his honesty.
He himself told the story in two different versions; I resume the meagre
facts from Dora Jane Hamblin (1973), who used Pearson und Connor (1968)
In 1958, one year after he had started excavating Hacilar, Mellaart dwelled
for some time in Izmir (on the west coast of Anatolia) and there produced
drawings of a royal treasure of Jortan culture, as whose origin he named
the village Dorak in the vicinity of Troy. His drawings and scientific
description were published in well known Illustrated London News (Nov.
28th, 1959) on several pages.
There we are confronted with a throne bearing Egyptian hieroglyphs pertaining
to Pharaoh Sahure ("2400 BC"). This then is by far the oldest
written record in the whole of Anatolia. To the treasure belong precious
items such as rich golden jewellery, a chalice of obsidian, a silver dagger,
figurines and even textile fragments. It is described as the inventory
of a royal burial of the Jortan culture. The accompanying drawings are
of excellent quality; Mellaart is a master of this art. Unluckily there
exist no photographs of the findings, and the objects did not materialize
anywhere. Nor is the site of the excavation known to anybody.
It is only Mellaart's word which we have to trust.
If an archaeologist cannot discover a treasure he has to forge it, or
- easier and better - just draw it.