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Anatolian Civilizations  :: The Prehistoric Period 

Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Ages: It is not enough to describe the age of Anatolia by saying Anatolia is as old as history, since history starts with the discovery of writing. As it was, civilization started in Anatolia 600,000 years before writing first appeared on the scene.

After a long period of gradual evolution, human beings developed into Homo Sapiens and he came to dominate the world with his superior intelligence. He first struggled against nature, and then against the savage beasts in his environment. He learned to make flint blades from polished stones and turn them into weapons to protect himself while securing food by hunting and foraging. Just as they have been excavated in several other places around the world, we can also find numerous examples of the first stone tools made by primitive people that lived in Anatolia.

The epoch in which human beings hunted prey and defended themselves with stone weapons is referred to as the Paleolithic or Stone Age (600000-10000 B.C.). Excavations have revealed the presence of primitive life in Anatolia where we may also see the creativeness of these incredulous beings that stemmed from the development of intelligence. As we have found the presence of primitive man in Anatolia, this land had been continuously populated and many cultures had been created ever since first footfall of these primitive humans.

We can see man’s development continuing past the Paleolithic Age, which has been divided into three sections, Upper, Middle and Lower, into the Mesolithic Age (10000-8000 B.C.).

The Neolithic or Late Stone Age proceeded (8000-5500 B.C.) the Paleolithic. Following the end of the final Ice Age, man began to move away from being merely hunters or gatherers and took up sowing and harvesting crops from the earth and began settlement life. These people had learned how to make utensils and crafted them into pleasant shapes and painted them in order to make their utilization more enjoyable.

Excavation sites in Diyarbakir, Cayonu and Malatya, Caferhoyuk, which represent the pre-ceramic period in Anatolia, show that Anatolian man had passed over to a producer lifestyle during this age. As we can clearly see from Late Stone Age or Neolithic Age artifacts found in Catalhoyuk, near Konya in Central Anatolia, it took mankind hundreds of thousands of years of development to arrive at this position.

Culture had advanced so far in Catalhoyuk that it is impossible to come across any resemblance in the Near East or Aegean regions. In looking at the female figurines found at Catalhoyuk and Hacilar, we see that the gods of that period were considered to have taken human form. We may follow the continuation of Catalhoyuk Neolithic culture at Hacilar Hoyuk, near Burdur. Also, Yumuktepe in Mersin and Gozlukule in Tarsus were important centers for the spreading of Neolithic culture throughout Anatolia. Following the Stone Age culture came the Metal Age, otherwise known as the Chalcolithic Age (5500-3000 B.C.). Man had discovered metal in the Stone Age, but he was not able to process it and could not benefit from it in daily life. It is in this age, that man discovered copper and in processing it, put it to use. Artifacts from the Chalcolithic Age may be seen in Hacilar, near Burdur. While following the customs and traditions of the Neolithic Age, people felt the need to surround their villages and towns with walls, as they were now living in communities and had the desire to extend their lands and govern other groups. Again, we may see that they worshipped communally by structures thought to be religious structures in Alisar and Alacahoyuk. The other centers of the Chalcolithic Age in Anatolia are: Canhasan in Karaman, Beycesultan in Denizli and in Southern Anatolia Yumuktepe in Mersin and Gozlukule in Tarsus. Following this we begin to see traces of the Early Bronze Age in Anatolia between 3000-2000 B.C. This period heralds the discovery of various metals and the extensive use of copper, silver and gold. By blending gold with silver to form an alloy known as electrum and blending copper with tin, they formed bronze, a stronger alloy in which the period is named. This age is divided into three parts; Early, Middle and Late Bronze Age and was also the age prior to the Hittites. By now, small principalities had been formed around fortified towns. Excavations at Alacahoyuk site were begun under the orders of Ataturk, and revealed first the Chalcolithic level, followed by early Bronze Age settlements. The 13 royal burial graves found here revealed some of the finest artifacts of the period, including golden crowns, golden buckles, jewellery and drinking vessels. Other remains of the period include the burial mounds of Ahlatlibel near Ankara and Horoztepe near Tokat. In the graves dating back to 2300 B.C., in addition to the golden ornamental articles, a large amount of bronze sun discs were also recovered.

At Horoztepe, located in the principality of Tokat, where the modern day cemetery was dug up, an Early Bronze Age cemetery was also excavated. Numerous artifacts of the same type were uncovered, making it easier to identify the period. Among the findings in the graveyard dating back to 2300 B.C. were metallic fruit dishes, spouted jugs, mirrors, sun discs and musical instruments, such as castanets. On the other hand, molded sculpture works such as the Horoztepe figurine of a mother breast-feeding a child and the Hasanoglan figurine display interesting features of this period.

The prominent Eastern Anatolia centers of this Age were Aslantepe, Pulur and Nursintepe. The most important center in Western Anatolia was Troy. In addition to these sites, the other major Anatolian centers were Beycesultan, Semahoyuk, Alisar, Kultepe, Ikiztepe in Samsun, Mahmatlar in Amasya, Kurucay, Kusura and Demircihoyuk. To whom did all of the artifacts uncovered at Alacahoyuk, Horoztepe and the other centers belong to? They were the masterpieces of a tribe called Hatti, the name given also to the local people of Anatolia. When the Hittites arrived in Anatolia around 2000 B.C. after crossing over the Caucasian Mountains, they found the native Hatti already settled there, and were gradually absorbed into their culture.

The bronze sun symbol, one of the most outstanding cult images of the period, consisted of a central solar figure surrounded by radial lobes, said to represent the planets. This symbol shows the Hatti’s sophisticated astrological knowledge. Even though the Hatti succumbed to the more powerful Hittites, many of their cults and social structures lived on during the Hittite period. Even the name of the capital city, Hattushash came from the word Hatti, and during the Hittite period Anatolia was called "the land of the Hatti."

Previously seen in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods, the central figure of a bull stag framed with symbols and decorated with discs was the sign of Hatti hegemony. These very finely wrought symbols were used during religious ceremonies and were carried on the ends of long poles by priests during processions. When these poles were shaken, rhythmic sounds emanating from the rings set upon the discs either regulated the tempo or else were a signal to commence or terminate the procession.

The royal graves found at Alacahoyuk were rectangular shaped and covered with wooden beams. Bones found on top of the beams were of sacrificial animals and were an indication that the dead had undergone a large ceremony. The dead were buried with their knees bent, and next to them were placed funerary objects, such as golden crowns, belts, necklaces, earrings, silver combs and mirrors, cups and jugs and many other similar articles for everyday use. Fine diadems and sacred bells symbolizing the universe and the stars complete the image of a sophisticated early culture.

30 km north of Alacahoyuk lies Pazarli, where a mound revealed levels from the Late Bronze age, the Hittite period and the Phrygian era, while excavations conducted by the Ankara Anatolian Civilizations Museum five km from Alacahoyuk at Eskiyapar have revealed ornamental artifacts from gold, electrum and silver and thus have enriched findings from the Late Bronze Age.

A number of settlements from this period existed at Alisar, Kalinkaya, Kalehisar, further north at Mahmatlar, Horoztepe, near Ankara at Karaoglan, Karayavsan, Ahlatlibel. These settlements indicate to us that the Late Bronze Age was centered in this region.

Towards the end of the Late Bronze Age in Anatolia, at the beginning of the second millennium, there existed several other small local kingdoms, including those of Kanesh, Hattushash, Zalpa and Kushaurra, which all traded with Assyria. Sometimes these kingdoms held good relations and other times they were on bad terms with each other. Today, a palace determined to have belonged to a King Warshama has been uncovered at the Kultepe excavation site, located near Kayseri.

Kanesh was a commercial center inhabited by Assyrian traders and it was from here that perfume, tin and clothing arriving in caravans of 200-250 donkeys from Assyria were distributed to Anatolian towns such as Alacahoyuk, Alisar, Bogazkoy and Acemhoyuk. In exchange for goods, the Assyrian merchants traded for gold, coins or silver.

The local prince under whose hegemony they traded and the Assyrians themselves became very prosperous over a period of 100 to 150 years, while the local people were unable to pay their debts due to the high interest rates demanded by the Assyrians. Finally, the discontented populace overthrew the local prince and expelled the Assyrians, thus ending what was known as the Assyrian Colonial Trading Period.

The King Warshama’s palace at Kanesh was burnt down, hence the hill of ashes near Kayseri (Kultepe) explains this collapse.


Above text and pictures are from the book titled "Ancient Civilizations and Treasures of Turkey".

You can purchase "Ancient Civilizations and Treasures of Turkey" book and other Turkey related books from Explore Turkey Bookstore.



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