In her own words …
Born in Houston, educated at the University of Texas and the University of California at Berkeley, I did not begin writing until I was in my forties.
Before that time I had taught school in Aspen, where I built a little gray house at the foot of Red Mountain and planned to stay forever. As we know, things seldom turn out as we planned. In 1976 I found myself in the graduate school of archaeology at Columbia University, so fascinated by the site of Çatalhöyük that I then sold the house on Red Mountain and moved to England to study with the late James Mellaart, the original excavator of that site.
After writing several non-fiction books about what archaeologists have uncovered at that site and others, I found myself living in another little gray house, this one built in 1890 in Boulder. As I began closing in on eighty years, I gave myself permission to begin writing a fictionalized imagination of how life might actually have been lived in late seventh millennium Çatalhöyük. In many ways it is a different picture from the one offered by Mellaart, for the new excavating techniques which Ian Hodder brought to the site in the late nineties and early 2000s have everywhere overturned our older assumptions about this amazing settlement.
Obituary for Mary Settegast from The Aspen Times
August 24, 2020
Mary Ann Settegast, scholar and author, died peacefully on August 24, 2020, at her home in Boulder, CO. Born in Houston on May 27, 1934, to parents Lester and Sybil Carroll Settegast, Mary attended River Oaks Elementary and Lamar High School and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English.
Mary went on to receive her teaching certificate from the University of Denver. From 1965 to 1969 she taught second grade in the Aspen Public Schools. She then enrolled in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley. Her master’s thesis research brought her back to Aspen to study with educational innovator Sylvia Ashton-Warner at the newly founded Aspen Community School. During this time she also designed and helped build her own modernist house along Hunter Creek.
In 1975 Mary left Aspen to attend Columbia University in New York City, intending to pursue a PhD at the School of Education, Health, and Psychology. After taking an anthropology course from Margaret Mead and attending several archaeology lectures, she transferred to the Department of Art History and Archaeology, where she earned her second master’s degree. Fascinated by the Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement of Çatalhöyük, she moved to England to study with James Mellaart, the original excavator of the site. She traveled widely in Europe and the Middle East, gathering research material for her first book, Plato Prehistorian: 10,000 to 5,000 BC in Myth and Archaeology (1986).
Mary’s ongoing pedagogical interests led her to Waldorf education. She studied eurythmy, an art of movement taught in Waldorf Schools, at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, and at The School of Eurythmy in Spring Valley, NY. Upon completing her training, she moved to Boulder to teach eurythmy and lived there until her death. Her years in Boulder included the publication of three more books: Mona Lisa’s Moustache: Making Sense of a Dissolving World (2001), When Zarathustra Spoke: The Reformation Of Neolithic Culture And Religion (2005), and The Bear, the Bull, and the Child of Light (2019).
Mary’s intellectual curiosity extended beyond education and archaeology. Her far-ranging interests included astrology and Zen Buddhism, of which she was a dedicated practitioner. She enthusiastically engaged in the world of politics. Perhaps above all, she expressed her deep appreciation of beauty through her impeccable stewardship of her home and garden. Nothing pleased Mary more than opening her garden to neighbors and passersby who were often greeted by a tall, elegant woman waving gardening shears from amidst her roses. Mary loved life deeply and lived it fully. Her passion, her reverence, and her laughter are the gifts she bequeaths to all who knew her.
She is survived by her sister Carol Kobb of Houston, nephew Michael Kobb of Belmont, CA, and a community of beloved neighbors and friends. In lieu of flowers or other remembrances, contributions may be sent to Heifer International or Meals on Wheels in Boulder.