The site was first brought to worldwide attention by James Mellaart's excavations between 1961 and 1965, which revealed that Anatolia was the centre of an advanced culture in the Neolithic period. It then lay idle until October 1, 1993, and is currently being examined under the leadership of Ian Hodder from the University of Cambridge.
The settlement was described by Mellaart as the earliest city in the world. However, most recently it has been described as an overgrown village rather than a true town or city. The settlement seems to have consisted entirely of housing and open areas for dumping rubbish, without obvious public buildings or signs of division of labour.
The population of the eastern mound has been estimated at up to 10,000 people, but was probably much less for most of the time of occupation. The inhabitants lived in mud-brick houses which were crammed together in a labyrinth-like arrangement. Some may have been accessible only by holes in the ceiling and reached by a ladder. Remains of many people have been found to be buried in pits beneath the floors. The houses were renewed over time by partial demolition and rebuilding -- twelve levels of settlement have been uncovered -- which was how the mound became built up. Although no temples have been found, the graves and vivid murals and figurines found throughout the settlement suggest that the people of Çatalhöyük may have had some sort of religion. They appear to have been living egalitarian lives with no apparent social classes, as no houses with distinct features (belonging to a king or priest, for example) have been found so far.
A major industry was the construction of obsidian tools which were traded with other settlements in the area.