Shahina Farid

Although most people associate the famous Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in central Turkey with James Mellaart and Ian Hodder, there is one person who is arguably the most important in the history of excavations at this World Heritage Site:  Shahina Farid. Shahina was born in London to parents who migrated from Pakistan, and attended school in Camden. Her first exposure to archaeology was a school visit to the Tutankhamun exhibition at the British Museum, and by age 15 she had already decided she was going to be an archaeologist, and then spent time volunteering on local excavations. She studied archaeology at the University of Liverpool, but her true passion was to be out in the field, and following graduation she spent several years as a professional in commercial archaeology in London and on projects in Turkey, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Many would agree that she is the best field archaeologist in the business.

Shahina was invited to join the Çatalhöyük project as field director in the 1990s, where she worked for almost 20 years.  Although she does not consider herself an academic, her expertise has been a driving force behind the iconic excavation and her impact on the wider discipline cannot be overstated. Her work in constructing the Çatalhöyük stratigraphic sequence is the cornerstone of countless archaeological and scientific studies, reflected in her publication record of over 40 articles and reports, and without her input, the famous Hodder “reflexive methodology” would only be a theory.

Managing the communication and interaction of an international team of over 200 researchers and students is no mean feat, and despite her firm, no nonsense attitude to work in the field, Shahina has also been a mentor to a generation of archaeologists who have worked at the site, and an inspiration to all. She left Çatalhöyük in 2012, but will always be thought of as the Lady of the Höyük. She now works for English Heritage on the Scientific Dating Team. But we’re sure she’ll be getting the trowel back out before too long…

Post submitted by Lisa-Marie Shillito ( @ArchaeologyLisa)

edited by Brenna

Photos: Çatalhöyük Research Project / Jason Quinlan

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