FULBRIGHT SEMINARS ABROAD PROGRAM:
Central Anatolia Cradle of Early Civilization
A Visit to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations
ANNE W. RYE
Tarrant County College
Central Anatolia: Cradle of Early Civilization
A Visit to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations
Centered in the Asia Minor peninsula is a high volcanic plateau extending between Cappadocia and the Konya plain to the south and the high ground near the Black Sea to the north. Situated at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, this land has witnessed a vast array of migration, civilization and commerce. Previously disparaged by historians and archaeologists as simply a passageway between the continents, central Anatolia is now taking its place as a significant treasury of ancient history and civilization.
The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, winner of the European Museum of the Year Award in 1997, contains a treasure trove of artifacts, particularly from the Paleolithic Age through the Iron Age. The museum is housed in two buildings from the Ottoman period and presents its collection in chronological order.
Although no written record exists for prehistoric humans, anthropologists and archaeologists use evidence such as these flint tips, found in the Karain Cave, 30 km northwest of Antalya, to suggest that Anatolia was a Paleolithic population center. Stone and bone tools, small artifacts, teeth and bone fragments, burned and unburned bones have been excavated at levels deep enough to represent all phases of Paleolithic time. Among the artifacts displayed at the museum are hand axes, scrapers, awls, needles and ornaments.
While evidence suggests that Anatolia was densely populated during Paleolithic times, it was the discovery in 1958 of a highly developed Neolithic center known as Catal Hoyuk, 52 km southeast of the city of Konya, which put the spotlight on central Anatolia as a significant archaeological site. Here at the museum can now be seen proof of intensive habitation, dating from 6800 to 5700 BC. Artifacts from Catal Hoyuk include: rectangular houses, wall paintings, clay bulls head emblems, clay and stone figures, brown, black and pottery decorated with simple geometric motifs, necklaces, seals, flint and obsidian tools, bone needles and weapons, and the earliest known surviving textile.
The main feature in the Neolithic section of the museum is a reconstruction of a Catal Hoyuk house. Following a fixed pattern, each rectangular home was located next to another identical structure, all built around a central courtyard. Made of mud brick, each home was entered from above. Hearths, ovens, benches, wall paintings and bulls head emblems decorated these early city dwellings. Under the floors of these homes excavators found burial sites including fertility statuettes and other burial gifts which suggests that the people of Catal Hoyuk had some belief in an afterlife. Estimates are that as many as 5,000 Neolithic people lived at this site at one time.
By the 6th millennium BC, people living in this area had begun to use copper, build houses with stone foundations and produce handmade painted pottery, like this terracotta vessel decorated with simple, reddish-brown, geometric motifs. Trade among the various villages, based on artifact discoveries, had begun, so outside influences, both eastern and western, affected the developing culture. Bodies were now found buried in jars or in stone sarcophagi with gifts of pottery, ornaments and weapons.
|EARLY BRONZE AGE:
By the late 4th millennium, people in Central Anatolia were making bronze, like this stag statuette found at Alaca Hoyuk near Bogazkoy. One theory suggests that statuettes like this stag represent a cult deity that had developed in Early Bronze Age Anatolia. The civilization, which developed in the Alaca Hoyuk area, is referred to as "Hatti." The advanced stage of metalworking and art indicated by this stag suggests that agriculture was not the only occupation of these people. Living in settlements surrounded by defensive walls, the Hatti people built roofed burial tombs to house their dead. Sacrificed animals were left on the roofs of these tombs. Inside the tombs were goods made of gold, silver, bronze, amber, agate, iron and terracotta. Figures of bulls, deer, solar-discs and female fertility statuettes were also found in these burial tombs.
Objects found at Alaca Hoyuk are considered by some experts to be comparable to those found at a similar settlement in northwestern Anatolia, the famous city of Troy.
|MIDDLE BRONZE AGE (COLONY PERIOD): (1950-1750 BC)
By the second millennium BC, the Assyrian state in northern Mesopotamia had secured a well-established trade network that reached into Central Anatolia. As the Mesopotamian influence penetrated Asia Minor, the Assyrian language and cuneiform writing style made possible the first written history in Anatolia. The Assyrian merchants who came to trade lived with the local people in Anatolia. Their clay tablets, like the one shown here, mostly concerned trade matters but also give historians some insight into the society of the time.
Terracotta pottery with spouts, multiple handles and relief decorations, ritual vessels shaped like boats and animals, figurines of lead, ivory, rock crystal and agate, and bronze daggers with cuneiform inscriptions reflect the mixing of Hittite, Hatti and Assyrian styles.
|OLD HITTITE/HITTITE IMPERIAL PERIODS: (1750-1200 BC)
Concurrently with the appearance of writing and wheel-produced pottery in Anatolia, another large group of immigrants arrived on the plateau. The Hattic civilization, along with other local principalities, fell to these Indo-European invaders known to history as the Hittites. The assimilation of Hatti and other Anatolian Bronze Age cultures, plus the eastern influences from the Assyrian trade relationships, added to the language and culture brought with the invaders from northwestern Europe and
produced what is known as Hittite civilization. Now Anatolian artifacts would have added features: antelopes, pigs, eagles, cats, snails, and sharply pointed boots. Ring seals with hieroglyphic writing combined with cuneiform script to make them easy to read, came into use. Ivory objects appear for the first time, especially of the Hittite fertility goddess, known as Kubaba. Hattusa, originally a Hattic settlement, became the Hittite capital of an empire which was, at the time, rivaled only by Egypt and Babylon.
City gates decorated with life-sized reliefs of deities, sphinxes and lions, and walls filled with orthostats proudly chronicling Hittite greatness are evidence of Hittite engineering talent. Gods had large almond-shaped eyes with joined eyebrows and smiling lips; bodies were portrayed frontally with heads and feet shown in profile.
Vessels in the shape of animals, such as these bull-shaped terracotta vessels, were made with great care, probably because they were used for religious rituals. The twin bulls, representing the Storm God, are unique examples of Hittite art. During the Hittite ascendancy, the first surviving written treaty, the Treaty of Kades, was negotiated to end a war between the Hittites and the Egyptians (ca.1270 BC).
LATE BRONZE/EARLY IRON AGE:
The Hittite Empire ended around 1200 BC due to a feuding nobility, an over-reliance on the power of war chariots, and the continuous influx of mysterious groups of people known to history as the "Sea People." Between 1200 BC and the coming of the Persians in 546 BC, Central Anatolia was divided into various small states. One group of these immigrants was the Indo-European Phrygians. According to Herodotus, the Phrygians came from Macedonia and came to dominate the central part of the plateau. To the east were the Urartians; the Lydians held power in the west; the southeast came under the control of a group of states known jointly as the Neo-Hittite kingdoms.
The Phrygians chose Gordion as their capital. Here they built a fortified city and surrounded it with burial mounds (tumuli) of various sizes. The largest of the tumuli, nearly 300 m in diameter and 50 m in height and known as the "royal tomb," was excavated in 1957. Deep inside the mound, excavators found a rectangular chamber or "megaron," built of juniper and cedar timbers, a replica of which may be seen currently in the museum. The space around the chamber was filled with pebbles and rubble, and then a stone wall surrounded the entire chamber. A gabled roof, supported by massive wooden beams, was added after the dead body and grave gifts were in place. Stones covered this roof, and finally clay and soil were piled on top to form the burial mound. Dating to 700 BC, this megaron may be the oldest standing wooden structure in the world. Based on the elaborateness of the grave gifts, including wooden furniture, bronze and pottery vessels, textiles and presumably food, experts speculate that this was the tomb of a Phrygian king, possibly Midas of the famous legend. It is ironic, based on this legend, that no gold was found in any of the Phrygian tombs. One authority explains this by noting that it was not a custom among the Phrygians to present golden gifts at funerals. The skeleton found on a wooden couch in one corner of this megaron was 52" tall and over 60 years of age.
Artifacts from Gordion in the museum include bronze cauldrons with decorative rims, furniture with inlaid geometric motifs and ivory statuettes. The most prominent figure is that of Cybele, the Phrygian mother goddess. Also of note are the Hittite, Urartian, and Assyrian influences in the Phrygian relics especially the lions, horses, bulls and sphinxes which ornament the Phrygian reliefs and indicate the close interplay among the Anatolian city states. Some experts hypothesize that Phrygian art also influenced Etruscan art in Italy as evidenced by the artifacts recovered at Etruscan sites. Because the Ionian city-states were beginning to emerge during this time, Greek influence also can be seen in Phrygian arts and crafts. Thus Phrygian civilization, in the center of the Anatolian plateau, became a blend of eastern and western forms.
|The remnants of the Hittite people who migrated to the southeast
as a result of the pressure from the Sea Peoples are now known as the Neo-Hittites.
Defensive walls around central cities with palaces located in the center characterized
these city-states. The gates and palaces were covered with decorated stone blocks known as
orthostats. The museum central gallery is filled with large reliefs including this example
of a war chariot in a scene imitating Assyrian style. Huge lion sculptures and a limestone
statue of King Tarhunza dominate the gallery. Both Hittite and Assyrian features can be
observed in the reliefs, along with Hittite hieroglyphic writing.
When the Cimmerian attacks caused the Phrygian state to collapse in 676 BC, another group, the Lydians, an established power in western Anatolia with their capital at Sardis, moved in and brought western Aegean influences with them. Under their control, Central Anatolia developed as a Lydian trade center with a royal road stretching from Ephesus to the western border of the Persian lands. The wealth of the Lydian state increased steadily, including the 7th century BC practice of minting coins for the first time in history.
After Lydia was vanquished by the Persians in 546 BC, Central Anatolia was incorporated into the Persian kingdom of Cyrus the Great, and thus the art of this period is often referred to as "Greco-Persian." Alexander the Great ended Persian domination in 330 BC. According to legend, Alexander wintered at Gordion and there severed the "Gordion Knot" with his sword to fulfill the prophesy that whoever loosened the knot would become the ruler of the world. Until it became a Roman province in 17 AD, Central Anatolia, mainly under the rule of the Pergamon kingdom, enjoyed some degree of freedom and local rule.
Neither the Romans, nor their successors, the Byzantine rulers, attempted to incorporate this area into their culture. Their interest in the area was mainly commercial: keep the roads and trade routes open and protected from intermittent Arab and Persian raids. Under the Roman and Byzantine empires Central Anatolia still was able to preserve its own traditions and cultures.
(All the images used in this web site are from the Catalog of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations and are intended to give the reader a small taste of the collection to be found in the museum.)
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