In The Goddess and the Bull, veteran Science magazine reporter Michael Balter takes you inside the trenches of one of the world's most important archaeological excavations and the biggest prehistoric village ever discovered: 9,500 year old Çatalhöyük, in south-central Turkey.

Thousands of years before the pyramids were built in Egypt, a great civilization arose on the Anatolian plains. The Goddess and the Bull details the dramatic quest by archaeologists to unearth the buried secrets of this huge, spectacularly well-preserved early farming settlement.

Here lie the origins of modern society—the dawn of art, architecture, religion, the nuclear family—even the first tangible evidence of human self-awareness, the world’s oldest mirrors. Some archaeologists have claimed that a Mother Goddess was first worshipped at Çatalhöyük, which is now a site of pilgrimage for Goddess worshippers from all over the world. The excavations here have unearthed the seeds of the Neolithic Revolution, when prehistoric humans first abandoned the hunter-gatherer life they had known for millions of years, invented farming, and began living in houses and communities.

Michael Balter, the excavation’s official "biographer," brings readers behind the scenes, providing the first inside look at the remarkable site and its history of scandal and thrilling scientific discovery. He tells the human story of two colorful men: British archaeologist James Mellaart, who discovered Çatalhöyük in 1958 only to be banned from working at the site forever after a fabulous Bronze Age treasure he had found earlier disappeared without a trace; and Ian Hodder, a path-breaking archaeological rebel, who reinvented the way archaeology is practiced and reopened the excavation after it lay dormant for three decades. Today Hodder leads an international team of more than one hundred archeologists who continue to probe the site’s ancient secrets.

Balter pulls the curtain on romantic notions about archaeology to reveal the true story behind modern excavations—the thrill of history-making scientific discovery as well as the crushing disappointments, the community and friendship, the love affairs, and the often bitter rivalries between warring camps of archaeologists.

Along the way, Balter describes the cutting-edge advances in archaeological science that have allowed the team at Çatalhöyük to illuminate the central questions of human existence.