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Brief history of Hattusha (Hattusa-Hattusas/Boğazköy)



The first "settling in" around Boğazköy took place in the 6th millennium BC during the Chalcolithic period, when small widely scattered hamlets appeared most particularly on mountain slopes and rocky outcroppings.

Late in the 3rd millenium BC, towards the end of the Early Bronze Age, a Hattian settlement developed, marking the beginning of continuous occupation at the site. The Hattians, native Anatolians, called their town Hattush.

During the Middle Bronze Age the Hattian occupation grew into a city of such significance that a Karum was established here in the 19th and 18th centuries BC - a trading post of Assyrian merchants who had come from Assur. With their caravans of donkeys they transported goods to and from Mesopotamia, and along their route they also dealt in local Anatolian products, thus stimulating a certain "globalization". It was these Assyrian traders who first introduced writing to Anatolia.

The ruins excavated demonstrate that the city of Hattush was burned down in a great conflagration around 1700 BC. Responsible was King Anitta from Kussar, who also put a curse on the site. But already by the second half of the 17th century BC the temptation to settle here again had obviously become overwhelming, for a Hittite king had indeed chosen the site as his residence and capital. The Hattian Hattush was now the Hittite Hattusha, and the king took the name of Hattushili, or "one from Hattusha." This is the beginning of the story of the Hittite capital and the Hittite Royals - until now, 27 kings are known by their names.

The Old Hittite city comprised an area of almost 1 square kilometer; it was protected by a massive fortification wall. On the high ridge of Büyükkale was the residence of the Great King, and the city lay on the slope below to the northwest, reaching to the valley below. Perhaps as early as the 14th century BC great effort was spent on the development of the Upper City. This area south of the Old City was included into the city limits through the erection of a new 3.3-km long defense wall with several monumental gates, thus bringing the size of the city to 182 hectares. Within the wall a great many large structures were built, among them many temples - houses for "the Thousand Gods of the Hatti Land".


The Hittites, Predecessors and Successors

Historical Setting of Hattusha/Boğazköy


  1. The Landscape

  2. Before the Hittites: the autochthonous Anatolians (6th - 3rd millennia BC)

  3. Hattusha and the Assyrian Trade Colonies (ca. 2000 - 1700 BC)

  4. The Period of the Old and Middle Hittite Kingdoms (ca. 1650/1600 - 1400/1350 BC)

  5. The Period of the Hittite Empire (ca. 1400/1350 - 1180 BC)

  6. The End of the Capital City Hattusha (ca. 1200/1180 BC)

  7. The Iron Age: "the Dark Ages" and the Period of the Phrygians and Persians (ca. 1180 - 334 BC)

  8. The Hellenistic/Galatian and Roman/Byzantine Periods (ca. 334 BC - 1071 AD)

  9. Turkish Settlement at Boğazköy

I. The Landscape

Hattusha, or Boğazköy, lies in northern Central Anatolia, just at the north edge of the ancient region of Cappadocia. Within a dry continental climatic zone, we see scant steppe-vegetation; over some large areas there is scarcely a tree in sight. The winters are long and cold; the summers relatively short, but hot. This was not always the case, however; in earlier times the climate was more moist, with lesser extremes in temperature. Bordering the central steppe of Cappadocia (to the south of Yozgat) were more temperate regions-most particularly to the north-with dense vegetation and forests. The denser plant cover prevented erosion and raised the level of the ground water, which again benefited the vegetation. Conditions were more suitable for agriculture and husbandry than today, and the woods sheltered a large variety of wild game.

Very few traces from the Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods-when man was still a wandering hunter and gatherer-have been discovered in northern Anatolia. Even from the Neolithic period, when man had begun to settle down to a livelihood of raising his own crops and animals, there is not much more evidence of his populating this region. The early farming societies apparently did not find the wooded, mountainous landscape to their liking. The open meadows and milder climates to the south must have been more attractive, for that is where the first developed farming communities sprang up; of these, &#x00G7;atal Hüyük near Cumra in the Konya Plain is perhaps the best known.

II. Before the Hittites: the autochthonous Anatolians (6th -3rd millennia BC)

The first "settling in" around Boğazköy took place in the 6th millennium BC during the Chalcolithic period, when small widely scattered hamlets appeared most particularly on mountain slopes and rocky outcroppings. Such a small settlement on the heights of the Büyükkaya ridge represents the earliest known inhabitancy within the Hattusha city limits. A contemporary settlement has also been found near Yarıkkaya, some two kilometers NE of Hattusha.

In the following millennia settlement in this wooded landscape of northern Anatolia increased very slowly. It was first in the 3rd millennium BC-during the Early Bronze Age-that coherent zones of habitation, settlements that actively traded with one another, developed and founded the basis for advancement in society. Small settlements grew into political and religious centers, wielding their influence over larger and larger dominions. The discovery and development of the mineral sources in northern Anatolia is believed to have been one of the stimulating factors. One thriving center was located at Alaca Höyük, only 25 km from Hattusha/Boğazköy. The astoundingly rich chamber tombs (known as the Royal Graves) discovered at Alaca Höyük yielded elegantly fashioned weapons, jewelry, and sculpture, as well as implements and vessels of gold, silver, electron, bronze-and even iron-from a period as early as 2400-2200 BC. The inhabitants of the site were Hatti, the natives of north and Central Anatolia and the predecessors of the Hittites in this region.

Soon there was a Hattian settlement at Boğazköy as well, and this habitation, founded towards the end of the Early Bronze Age, marked the beginning of continuous occupation at the site. Remnants of the Hattian settlement have been located under the fill of the Hittite Lower City. During this period there was also occupation on the high ridges of Büyükkaya and Büyükkale, with evidence even of fortification walls.

III. Hattusha and Assyrian Colony Period (ca. 2000-1700 v. Chr.)

During the Middle Bronze Age the Hattian occupation grew into a city of such significance that a Karum was established here in the 19th and 18th centuries BC - a trading post of Assyrian merchants who had come from Assur (in the middle Tigris valley, now a part of northern Iraq) to procure natural resources such as copper, silver, gold and precious stones. Long caravans of donkeys transported these materials to Mesopotamia, where they loaded Mesopotamian goods for exchange-including tin, garments and fabric-and set out on the return journey. Along their route the Assyrian merchants also dealt in local Anatolian products; the whole of eastern Anatolia was enmeshed in the net of their routes, knotted together by their trade colonies. In Central Anatolia they established such colonies at several centers of Hattian rule. The Assyrian traders and their families lived in separate residential quarters; they enjoyed the protection of their Hattian lords and paid taxes in return. The center of their network was located in Kanesh/Nesha (at the site of Kültepe near Kayseri).

It was these Assyrian traders who first introduced writing to Anatolia, for business could hardly be transacted without documentation. Purchases and sales, orders, credits, and exchanges were all recorded in Akkadian cuneiform writing on clay tablets. On these tablets the name of the city was written as well; Boğazköy was still-or already, we had better say-Hattush.

During this era, known as the Karum period, fortifications were laid out on Büyükkale. It would seem that the rulers of Hattush resided there; the rest of the Hattian settlement stretched from the slope below Büyükkale to the area where the Great Temple of the Hittites was later erected. The Karum of the Assyrian traders lay just to the north. Both the settlement and the Karum must also have been fortified against enemy attacks.

During these first centuries of the 2nd millennium BC there appears to have been frequent strife in Central Anatolia between the local Hattian rulers and the immigrant Hittite groups who were anxious to consolidate their power. The ruins excavated demonstrate that the city of Hattush was burned down in a great conflagration around 1700 BC. The destruction of the city was even inscribed in cuneiform; a King Anitta of Kushar reports that he has defeated King Piyushti of Hattush and destroyed his city. "At night I took the city by force; I have sown weeds in its place. Should any king after me attempt to resettle Hattush," he wrote, "may the Weathergod of Heaven strike him down." Anitta chose the city of Kanesh/Nesha, some 160 km to the southeast and already quite influential as the center of the Assyrian trade colonies, as his capital.

We do not know how long Anitta's curse on the city of Hattush was respected, but the advantages of the site and the many springs there were certainly enough to have attracted settlers relatively soon. By the second half of the 17th century BC the temptation had obviously become overwhelming, for a Hittite king had indeed chosen the site as his residence and capital. The Hattian Hattush was now the Hittite Hattusha.

IV. The Period of the Old and Middle Hittite Kingdoms (ca. 1650/1600 - 1400/1350 BC)

Unfortunately very little is known about the origins of the Hittites. Their language belongs to the Indo-European family, and it is assumed that they immigrated into Central Anatolia via the Caucasus sometime during the second half of the 3rd millennium BC. To ascribe any date to their arrival is difficult, particularly because there is evidence neither of violent invasion nor of massive population shift. They must have moved into Anatolia little by little, in small groups that mingled to some extent with the autochthonous Hattian population. Other Indo-Europeans were also drifting into Anatolia at around this time: the Luvians into the south and west, and the Palaians into the north and northwest.

The Hittites retained the name Hatti as the designation for their land. Their language, however, they called Neshian after the former capital of Kanish/Nesha, mentioned above. The first king in Hattusha/Boğazköy came-like Anitta-from Kushar, a city still awaiting rediscovery. Nonetheless he took the name of Hattushili, or "one from Hattusha." During his reign cuneiform writing was introduced once again; it had fallen out of use with the breakdown of the Assyrian trade network. Writing developed into a tradition, leaving behind a veritable information bank in the archives of clay tablets; these include official Hittite correspondence and contracts, as well as legal codes, procedures for cult ceremony, oracular prophecies and literature of the ancient Near East. Although the 30,000 or so clay tablets recovered from 1906 onwards in the archives of Hattusha form the main corpus, archives have since appeared at other Hittite centers in Anatolia: Tabigga/Maşat Höyük (Tokat province), Shapinuwa/Ortaköy (&#x00G7;orum province) and Sarissa/Kuşaklı (Sivas province).

The Great King Hattushili I built an empire through the military campaigns he directed at sites in Central Anatolia and further south over the Taurus Mountains into northern Syria. His successor Murshili continued his efforts to the south in hopes of vanquishing the city-states in Syria and gaining control of the trade routes to Mesopotamia. Aleppo fell into the hands of the Hittites, and the army pressed onward as far as Babylon (as the crow flies, 1,200 km from Hattusha!), where it toppled the dynasty of Hammurabi. A period of unrest followed the murder of Murshili, and in these troubled times the lands south of the Taurus as well as distant regions in the south and east of Anatolia were soon snatched from Hittite control by the Hurrian Kingdom of the Mittanni.

It would make too long a diversion to follow all the waning and waxing of Hittite power over the following decades of Anatolian history. The armies remained active in many regions and advanced again to Aleppo in the north of Syria. Only too often would the conquered cities and states, adopted as tax-paying vassals, soon become unfaithful. Meanwhile, the attacks of marauding Kashkan tribes living in the mountains of north-Central Anatolia had become a direct threat to the Hittite capital. One cuneiform text from around 1400 BC during the reign of the Great King Tudhaliya III reports that ". . . Hattusha, the city, was burned to the ground and only ( . . . ( the Heshti-House of ( . . . ( remained standing." By the end of this period the domain under direct Hittite control had shrunk once more to limits within the Central Anatolia plateau and the city found itself in a period of deep crisis.

The Old Hittite city comprised the same area as that of its Hattian predecessor; on the high ridge of Büyükkale was the residence of the Great King, and the city lay on the slope below to the northwest, reaching to the valley below and protected to the west by a massive fortification wall. It would appear that the northern section of the settlement and the rocky crest of Büyükkaya were also relatively soon enclosed by fortifications and incorporated into the city. The enclosed city would then have boasted dimensions of approximately 0.9 x 1.2 km, and there may well have been further residential quarters just outside the city walls.

V. The Period of the Hittite Empire (ca. 1400/1350 - 1180 BC)

With the Great King Shupiluliuma I coming into power, the Hittites again had a ruler who was able to lead their sadly weakened and diminished realm to a new magnitude. They finally managed to rupture the power of the Mitanni empire, the mighty opponent in the Tigris and Euphrates basin (today the southeast of Turkey and the northern parts of Syria and Iraq). With Hittite territory now bordering directly on the northernmost province of Pharaonic Egypt, there was soon strife between these two great powers. They came face to face in the famous Battle of Khadesh on the Orontes (near Homs in Syria) in ca.1274 BC, the army of the Great King Muwattalli II pitched against that of the Pharaoh Ramses II. The battle ended in a draw, and in the development of a relationship between the two lands that led within a few years to a peace treaty which staunchly endured throughout the rest of the Hittite Empire period. (In the New York Headquarters of the United Nations an enlarged copy of a clay tablet from Hattusha setting out the conditions of the agreement hangs on the wall as an example of one of the earliest international peace treaties in the world.)

During the reign of Muvattalli, Hattusha lost its role as the capital for a short while when the King moved his residency to Tarhuntasha, a city in the southwest-another site still awaiting discovery. It was not long before his successor, Murshili III, returned to Hattusha only to be quickly deposed by his uncle Hattushili III. It was under this ruler and his son Tudhaliya IV. that the city went through another time of revival; many of the structures visible today stem from this period. Great effort was spent apparently on the development of the Upper City, the area south of the Old City, which had been included into the city limits perhaps as early as the 14th century BC. The erection of a new 3.3-km long defense wall along the heights to the south of the city had brought the enclosed area from 78 to 180 hectare. Within the wall a great many large structures were built, among them many temples. In addition, the Royal Citadel was completely renovated into a large palace with colonnaded stoas, residences, and storage facilities as well as an audience- or reception hall. Tudhaliya IV is credited with having brought the rock sanctuary at Yazılıkaya to its ultimate arrangement. Hattusha was, after all, not only the political center of the Hittite state, but the religious center of the land as well-residence of "the Thousand Gods of the Hatti-Land".

The end, however, was not far off. Unfortunately, aside from some biographies of their leaders, the Hittites left practically no historical texts; what we know of the final decline has been pieced together, a mosaic of bits and pieces of information: succession to the throne was contested, there were years of poor harvests, and the state was weakened by enemy attacks. Toward the end of the 13th century BC, precautionary measures taken in the city reflect the threat of attack from outside; additional fortifications and breach walls were erected, and the grain supplies were barricaded within a separate citadel on Büyükkaya. Many temples in the Upper City had been allowed to fall into ruins, and among these a residential area sprang up, apparently to house those seeking refuge within the city walls.

Thus the great empire came to an end, bringing with it the close of the Bronze Age in Central Anatolia. It was indeed a time of unrest throughout the whole of the Mediterranean region, the era when the coastal populations were suffering piratical attacks at the hands of the so-called Sea Peoples. Entire populations were migrating from one place to another, and in Central Anatolia there was no one to take over the empire structured by the Hittites; the scant population left in the region retreated into a pastoral, perhaps even a partially nomadic way of life.

VI. The End of the Capital City Hattusha (ca. 1200/1180 BC)

With the decline of its great empire, the capital lost its influence and thereby also its role as a political, economic and religious center. Little by little its residents drifted away and certainly the last known Hittite king, the Great King Shupiluliuma II, son of Tudhaliya IV, did not remain in Hattusha to the bitter end. He may well have moved his court elsewhere, thus sealing the fate of the city.

Various complexes of the Empire period-the royal palace, certain temples, and stretches of the fortification walls among them-reveal signs of a fiery destruction. At least part of this devastation can only be attributed to the hands of an enemy. When the invaders entered the city, however, they must have found it nearly deserted, for the rooms destroyed by the fire had already been virtually cleared of their contents. Only what was worthless or stationary had been left behind. To the former category belong the records, the documents on file in the clay tablet archives; to the second, furnishings such as the huge storage vessels in the temple magazines.

Until very recently we were dependent entirely on speculation as to who was responsible for the final desertion of the Hittite city. No trace whatever had been found of invaders who took over the site and settled here. It was assumed that the Kashkans, the restless northern neighbors of the Hittites, had dealt the dying city the fatal blow. Finally in 1996 the small settlement of a foreign population was discovered on the ridge of Büyükkaya. These people, who were by no means Hittites, settled down here after the desertion of the city. With them begins the Iron Age history of the site.

VII. The Iron Age: "the Dark Ages" and the Period of the Phrygians and Persians (ca. 1180 - 334 BC)

The first phase of the Iron Age in Central Anatolia was often spoken of as the Dark Ages because there were almost no traces testifying to inhabitancy over the first 300 years following the demise of the Hittite Empire. Recently, however, settlements-including that on Büyükkaya in the northeast of the city Hattusha/Boğazköy-have been introduced to the literature. The inhabitants of these settlements lacked much of what the Hittites had taken for granted. They shaped their pottery by hand, for example, without aid of the potter's wheel, which had enabled mass production of pottery in the Hittite community. Their primitive dwellings had nothing in common with the architecture of the Hittites, and writing was unknown to them. With a material culture resembling that of their Early and Middle Bronze Age ancestors, they obviously represent native (northern) Anatolian inhabitants who moved in to settle in the former heartland of the Hittites after the fall of the empire. There is thus no reason they could not have been the Kashkans mentioned above. They came to Hattusha not as conquerers, but as squatters; there were certainly many things useful to them to be found in the ruins.

Traces of this "Dark-Age" settlement of the early Iron Age are by no means limited only to the settlement on Büyükkaya; evidence of these people has been found in the Lower City near the House on the Slope, on the rocky platform of Büyükkale and in the area of Temple 7 in the Upper City. At the beginning of the middle Iron Age in the 9th century BC, their presence on Büyükkale developed into a sizable settlement incorporating the whole of the rocky outcropping. By the 8th century, the community had spread out, inhabiting parts of the Lower City and the citadel on Büyükkale. In the early- to mid-7th century the settlers fortified Büyükkale . At the same time, there was a marked decrease in the population settled in the Lower City. Büyükkaya was deserted as well. This may have been a response to invasions of the Cimmerians, who pushed their way from the steppes of Eurasia into Central Anatolia around 700/680 BC, breaking up the Phrygian realm of King Midas. Besides the fortified citadel on Büyükkale, which was very densely built up, the Southern Citadel was established, as well as residential areas above the East Ponds and near Nişantaş.

This middle- and late Iron Age settlement is traditionally termed "Phrygian" because it shares many features in common with sites within the Phrygian nuclear zone in western Anatolia. Similarities include the architecture as well as the material culture. The cult of the Phrygian mother-goddess Cybele is also attested here; a lovely depiction of Cybele was found at the Level-Ia southeast gate at Büyükkale. Potsherds with symbols of Phrygian script scratched upon them supply further proof of connections with the west, as do a few pieces of original East-Greek imported wares. The Central Anatolian and northern Cappadocian settlements had obviously developed close ties with the western regions of Central Anatolia during this period, but any sizable migration of Phrygians into this area is highly unlikely. Unfortunately we do not know the name of the Iron Age settlement here, but we can now rule out the earlier suggestion of Pteria, for that city has since been located at Mount Kerkenes, some 40 km southeast of Hattusha/Boğazköy.

In 585 BC all the Central Anatolian land east of the river Kızılırmak (the Halys of antiquity) fell into the hands of the Persian Medes, and still later, into the hands of the Persian Achaemenids. These "Persian times," however, appear not to have had much effect on the development of settlement here in Hattusha/Boğazköy; tradition carried on as before. Although in the 5th century BC the site seems to have lost significance, it nevertheless remained inhabited.

VIII. The Hellenistic/Galatian and Roman/Byzantine Periods (ca. 334 BC - 1071 AD)

The Asian expedition of Alexander the Great marks the beginnings of the Hellenistic period in Asia Minor. Although at first it had little impact on Central Anatolia, in the first half of the 3rd century BC Celtic Galatian emigrants from central Europe settled here. The site of Tavium near the village Büyük Nefesköy some 20 km south of Boğazköy became the seat of the Trokmer clan, who took the land around Hattusha/Boğazköy under their control. Büyükkale once again became a fortified citadel, and a small village occupied part of what had been the Lower City. The painted pottery characteristic of the Galatians was recovered here, as well as vessels imported from the Hellenistic cities along the west coast.

In 25 BC the lands of the Trokmer came under the administration of the Romans, who built a paved road from Tavium northwards (possibly to Amasya) in the first century AD. The road ran behind the mountain ridge west of Hattusha/Boğazköy and then crossed the valley of the Budaközü stream near the village of Yekbas/Evren a few kilometers north of Boğazkale. Evidence of the Roman presence within the area of the city from this and the following centuries includes scattered building remains, graves, and traces of quarrying.

Although not many remains from the early Byzantine period have been recognized, in middle Byzantine times there was a 10th- through 11th century village in the area of the Upper City, to the north of the Hittite Temple District. (Several small churches and a large cemetery here, as well as various farmsteads have been excavated and partially restored.) The Hittite complex on the rocks of Sarıkale was renovated and enclosed by a fortification wall at this time, most probably to serve as the residence for the local dignitaries. Byzantine remains are found in the Lower City as well. The most noticeable is the apse of a church cut into the rock called Mihraplıkaya ( = rock with a prayer-niche) (General Plan: No.36).

A secure date for the Byzantine settlement is given by the coins recovered there. The latest coins, from the late 11th century, tell us when the settlement was deserted. This date corresponds with the Battle of Malazgırt on the shores of Lake Van in 1071. It was then under the ruler Emperor Romanos IV that the Byzantines lost their control over vast areas of Anatolia to the Seljuk Sultan Alpaslan.

IX. Turkish Settlement at Boğazköy

Over the next few centuries, settlement in the area seems to have been quite sparse. This changed in the 16th century when a group of the Türkmen clan known as the Dülkadiroğlu came from Maraş to resettle here. Their first settlement was at Yekbas, three kilometers to the north; it was towards the end of the 17th century that they moved here and erected the Konak (the residence of the most important) and their village just at the foot of the former Hittite capital. The locality was then known as Boğazköy ( = gorge village), which was later changed to Boğazkale ( = gorge fortress). It is today a local administrative center in the Province of Corum.










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