Archaeology of the Making of a Bronze Age Capital City: Boğazköy/Hattusha through Time
安德烈亚斯·沙赫纳 Andreas Sebastian Schachner
(德国考古研究院 German Archaeological Institute)
With the finding by the Frenchman Ch. Texier of the ruins of an extended ancient city situated near the Central Anatolian village Boğazköy in 1834, the adventure of exploring one of the largest cities of the Ancient Orient began. The reliefs of the nearby open-air rock sanctuary of Yazılıkaya, which were always visible, pointed out the uniqueness of these monuments through their iconography and style. However, it was not until the first large-scale and systematic excavations, which were conducted jointly by the Ottoman Museum in Istanbul and the German Orient Society from 1906 to 1912, that the site was identified as the Late Bronze Age Hattusha, the capital of the Hittite Empire. This identification made it clear for the first time that an ancient oriental high culture could also develop outside the river regions of Mesopotamia, Egypt or the Indus Valley, under the relatively unfavorable geographical conditions of the Anatolian highlands (Fig. 1); a discovery which represents an essential paradigm shift in the archaeology of the ancient Near East.
Since 1931, the archaeological research at this site has been carried out continuously by the German Archaeological Institute, directed by Kurt Bittel (1931-1939, 1952-1977), Peter Neve (1978-1993), Jürgen Seeher (1994-2005) and Andreas Schachner (2006-present). The discovery of more than 30.000 fragments of cuneiform tablets that were almost entirely written in the Indo-European Hittite language (a discovery made by Bedrich Hrozny in 1915) led to the establishment of an independent branch of ancient oriental studies, Hittitology. Thanks to more than a century of closely interlinked research, fascinating insights into the history, social structure, material culture and religion of one of the most important superpowers of the Late Bronze Age in the Near East are possible. The combination of spectacular results from excavation and historical and linguistic research has brought a completely forgotten culture back into human memory, and led to Boğazköy/Hattusha being listed on the UNESCO world cultural heritage list since 1986. The archives of cuneiform texts found here are inscribed on the documentary heritage list, Memory of the World Register of UNESCO since 2001. Boğazköy is thus the only place represented on both of these important heritage lists.
Until the 1970s, research concentrated largely on the old city (Lower City) of the metropolis. In addition to the heavily fortified royal citadel (Büyükkale) (Fig. 2), the main focus was on the Great Temple (Fig. 3) and residential buildings in the Lower Town as well as the oldest fortifications. It became clear how the city gradually developed into the capital of a major empire after its foundation in the late 3rd millennium BC. The relocation of the work by P. Neve to the Upper City (1978–1993) and the extensive uncovering of more than 30 temples in a topographically defined part of the city significantly changed the image of the city, despite later corrections in dating. Today, thanks to the work of J. Seeher (1994-2005), we know that as early as the mid-16th century BC the Upper City was largely designed according to criteria of public representation and power representation. At the same time, the works of J. Seeher made an essential contribution to the understanding of the economic supply of the metropolis by providing evidence of various artificial water reservoirs as well as several monumental grain silos.
The underground granaries were constructed and controlled by the central institutions of the state. They made it possible to store large quantities of grain over long periods of time under vacuum-like conditions, thus bridging regularly occurring crop failures. The grain stored here served less to supply the population than to feed livestock and as seed for restarting the agricultural cycle. The artificial water reservoirs, of which at least nine can be found in the city alone, had a similar function (Fig. 4). They were dug into the slopes in such a way that at their bottom water-impermeable layers occurred but that on their back they intersect the groundwater levels rising and falling in the annual cycle, so that during the winter months the water was led into the ponds. This long-standing water could hardly be used for consumption by the population, but it ensured the supply of large herds of animals and made water-intensive handicraft enterprises possible.
These outstanding engineering achievements, which can be observed in a similar form in numerous Hittite cities in Anatolia, laid the foundations for the transformation of the Hittite royalty with local influence in the 17th and early 16th centuries BC into a great empire of supra-regional importance in the course of the later 16th to 13th centuries BC. Parallel to these technical innovations, social novelties such as the adoption of the Syro-Mesopotamian cuneiform script for the Hittite language, the homogenization of religion, and the creation of an iconographically and stylistically uniform art as a medium for conveying the ideology of the central state led to a more efficient organization and control of society as a whole (Fig. 5).
For a long time, the decades-long works conveyed the image of a supposedly linearly developing city. Only recently has it become clear that the history of the city is marked by several profound historical turning points and breaks. The foundation of the first settlement as a complex city ex nihilo in the late 3rd millennium BC, appears in the light of recent research in other areas of Anatolia, but especially in Kültepe, as part of the expansion of an exchange system between Anatolia, Syria and Mesopotamia. In this network, Hattush, as the city was originally called, occupies a strategically important, geographically defined junction, which to this day enables the connection between the north and the center of Anatolia. It is therefore not surprising that in the 19th and 18th centuries BC Assyrian merchants settled here, as in various other cities in Central Anatolia, and founded a “colony” that was part of a trade network that had its core in today’s Iraq. Although known for a long time, in the last two years for the first time a building of this period was uncovered, which is to be attributed to the royal administration and permits due to its extensive deposits an insight into the economic power of the rulers (Fig. 6). A very rare example of a diplomatic cuneiform text moreover shows the political development of power of the rulers of Hattush.
The transition from the time of the Assyrian trade colonies (c. 1950-1730/20 BC) to the Hittite period was not, as had long been assumed, marked by a hiatus of about 80 years. Instead our findings show that the settlement continued to exist in a significant size despite the archaeologically visible destruction by Anitta (around 1728 BC). The Hittite dynasty, which seized power around the middle of the 17th century with Hattushili I, therefore did not settle in an abandoned ruin but in a functioning town. Nevertheless, the beginning of a new political age is clearly visible from an archaeological point of view. Whereas everyday material culture developed linearly, new excavations and re-evaluations of older findings have shown that the Hittite rulers began very early to reshape the old town according to their ideas and socio-cultural necessities. This is particularly visible in the implementation of indigenous Anatolian monumental architecture, which is obviously different in structure and use compared to that of the Assyrian Trade Colonies period. The most impressive examples of this development during the late 17th and 16th centuries are the royal castle and the Great Temple (see Fig. 2 and 3). At the same time, the already mentioned water and grain reservoirs laid completely new economic foundations, which to a certain extent compensated for the uncertain geographical conditions in Central Anatolia.
With the construction of the Upper City (from c. 1530 BC) Hattusha not only reached a size corresponding to the contemporary capitals of Mesopotamia and Egypt, but also a corresponding representative design and effect (Fig. 7). The more than 30 temples formed a self-contained district that likely served to guarantee the ritual presence of the great king of “the empire of the 1000 gods”, as the Hittites called themselves. In addition, buildings on high rocky plateaus apparently played an important role, as these probably served the ancestor worship of the deceased and deified kings as indicated by textual evidence. But, their establishment, care and regular sacrifices were at the same time an important part of the legitimation of the ruling kings.
For the general visitor, in antiquity as well as today, the uniqueness of the city’s design is particularly evident in its gates, i.e. in the places which allow the connection between inside and outside, and therefore had a certain mystical function in all cultures of the Ancient Near East. The monumental gates of the fortifications of the upper town are not only decorated or protected by high reliefs of lions or a god, but their passages are also parabolic in shape, which is unique in the Old World (Fig. 8).
The south of the city is dominated by the c. 250m long, c. 70-80m deep and up to 40m high, artificially filled rampart of Yerkapı, over which the fortification runs (see Fig. 7). At its center a pedestrian gate is located, which is decorated with four sphinxes. Similar to the city gates, Yerkapı represents the power and ideology of Hittite culture through its unique architecture. The structure was deliberately erected on the highest point of the city, in order to be visible from a distance of up to 20 km and thus unfold its effect and ideological meaning.
This peak of the urban development, in which the city probably covered an area of almost 190 hectares, lasted until the mid, maybe late 14th century BC. It was assumed by modern scholarship for a long time that the decline only began in the 2nd half of the 13th century BC, but then led to an abrupt collapse. Most recent excavations provide evidence of a much longer and much more complex development which is still not fully understood. A large building that we have uncovered in the lower town in the last two years could have been destroyed by an earthquake according to evidence of damage patterns to the walls (see Fig. 6), probably in the course of the 14th century BC. There is also evidence of a massive earthquake in some of the monumental buildings, so this may be a first piece in the puzzle of the collapse of the Hittite Empire. However, the research is still ongoing.
The known archaeological, textual-historical and geographical references condense in the course of the 13th century BC to a complex bundle of reasons and events, at the end of which (around 1180 BC) the collapse of the Hittite Empire stands. Domestic political unrest, a gradual worsening of climatic conditions, population shifts within Anatolia and migratory movements in the eastern Mediterranean in general are only some of the possible causes which, in a complex and still not fully understood interplay, led to the sudden collapse of the fragile equilibrium which the Hittite state was able to maintain for more than 450 years. It is remarkable that the Hittite culture in Central Anatolia left practically no traces in the material culture of the subsequent Iron Age, from which one can conclude that it could hardly influence the long-term cultural-geographical foundations of Central Anatolia.
Boğazköy is one of the few places in Central Anatolia where the settlement of the Iron Age, after a profound cultural regression, immediately follows that of the Hittite period. Thus, it becomes clear that the characteristic painted ceramics of the Iron Age originated in Anatolia, contrary to earlier assumptions. Various local developments can be observed which have merged into a general style and iconography since the 10th/9th century BC at the latest. Even if the Iron Age settlement in Boğazköy, whose name we unfortunately do not know, developed only slowly, it become an urban center in which hierarchical power structures are evident in the 8th century BC by a monumental building and the adjoining fortifications. In the 7th and 6th century BC the construction of the so-called Southern Castle indicates a further step of the development of Iron Age societies.
The material culture of this period is characterized by a indigenous development, which hardly shows any influence of the cultures in the wider surroundings, maybe due to the geographical remoteness of the place. This pattern was only broken up by the integration of the region into the Roman Empire. Through the work of the last years a decisive gap in the settlement history was filled. At first a Roman military camp was founded in the course of the 1st century AD, probably against the same geopolitical background of control over the communication routes as the first city´s foundation in the late 3rd millennium BC. This camp was replaced in the course of the 2nd century AD by an elaborately designed villa and bathing complex, which was supplemented by a large water basin with a banquet room decorated with murals of the highest quality (Fig. 9). Although this complex was partly used until the late 4th century AD, its archaeological visible conversions and extensions prove the use of these buildings within a local cultural framework.
For unknown reasons the settlement breaks off in the late 4th century AD, to revive in the 10th – 11th century AD in Byzantine times through a small, but archaeologically uniquely well preserved village in the former Hittite upper town. In this selection of place, the frequent shift of settlement priorities in Anatolian settlement history becomes tangible, which was probably at least partly due to an increased need for security. This village was abandoned in the course of the Turkish migration into Anatolia, which is why it was so well preserved. It was not until the 16th century AD that the village Boğazköy (since 1982 Boğazkale) was founded; this time again in the valley.
Against the background of the longue duree, the geographical conditions have remained relatively unchanged. This eventful settlement history makes it possible to define for each period the defining parameters of the respective cultural development by comparing given constants and innovations. In this way, it becomes clear to what extent and under what conditions anthropogenic action was able to shape socio-cultural development and where the limits of human socio-cultural action were mainly set by the natural environment.
Preserving the Past for the Future
Parallel to the excavations, the restoration of the unearthed remains of this UNESCO world heritage site plays a central role in the work of the German Archaeological Institute. The aim of these efforts is to make it possible to experience the site in all its chronological facets, embedded in a largely intact natural environment. P. Neve has developed a work-flow ideally suited to the harsh local weather conditions, thanks to which Hattusha can now be actively experienced as an open-air museum (see Fig. 7). In addition to a restoration that protected the excavated buildings and make their ground plans visible at the same time, visitors can see installations of replica monumental Hittite stone sculptures (see Fig. 8), actually stored in various museums in Turkey. The reconstruction of a section of the Hittite city walls, which is largely true to the original, pursues the same goal: to enable visitors to experience the Bronze Age city (Fig. 10).
Andreas Schachner (born 1967) is a senior research associate at the German Archaeological Institute´s Istanbul Section and an adjunct Professor for Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Würzburg, Germany. After having participated in various excavations in Turkey and Uzbekistan during his education (PhD in 1999) he conducted two independent research projects in Southeastern Turkey while working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Near Eastern Archaeology of Munich University. Since 2006 he directs the German Archaeological Institute´s Boğazköy Excavations focusing not only on the Hittite remains but taking the settlement history as whole into account. The research in Hattusha is characterized by an interdisciplinary approach that combines humanities and methods of various natural sciences and attaches particular importance to the application of archaeometric research. Beside his excavation responsibilities Andreas Schachner´s research interests cover a wide range of mainly Bronze and Iron Age topics reaching from the Anatolian Highlands to the Caucasus, Syria and Mesopotamia, but also the history of archaeology in the Near East as well as issues of heritage conservation and management. His numerous publications deal not only with his fieldwork but contribute to theoretical and methodological aspects of the Ancient Near Eastern art, archaeometric analysis of materials as well as various aspects of the relationship between humans and their geographical environment in Antiquity.