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 Location: Bogazkőy, Turkey.  Grid Reference: 40.02° N, 34.62° E .

 

      Hattusa (Bogazkőy): (Hittite Capital).

Hsttusa: Click on Image for Larger View.For a long time it was rumoured that there were four great civilisations in ancient times: Egypt, Assyria, Mesopotamia and another which remained unidentified until relatively recently. Each of these civilisations had its own 'Great King', a title bestowed only upon the greatest of great. The re-discovery of the city of Hattusa and a script referring to the 'Great King' of the Hittites has led to confirmation that they were the fourth, great civilisation of ancient times.

However, it was the 'Hatti' not the Hittites that first built Hattusa, existing in their own right as a superpower until the Hittite invasion in the mid eighteenth century BC. Hattusa was used as the Hittite capital for another 500 years during which time they conquered vast swathes of the middle east and Anatolia before they effectively disappeared from the history books in an extremely short period of time, a few short decades towards the latter part of the second millennium BC, as evidenced in the burnt and empty ruins of their capital Hattusa and other prominent Hittite cities lying in the arid centre of Anatolia.

(Map with Layout of Hattusa)

 

   Hattusa: (Hattush, Hattus, Hattusas)

The Hittite Empire is mentioned over and over in the Bible as one of the most powerful empires in ancient times and they are even credited with the original founders of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 16:1). Scholars used to question the accuracy of the Bible saying that such a big Hittite Empire was only hearsay since it was nowhere to be found. This was until the discovery showing the centre of this great civilization, Hattusa – which was then followed by unearthing the treaty of Kadesh in Egypt establishing the Hittite capital, Hattusa and Heliopolis. Other important proofs such as remnants, tablets, documents, and successful excavations soon revealed the truth about the existence of this great empire

When the first European travelers of the early 19th century found the strange and monumental ruins near Bogazkőy, in central Turkey, they were puzzled as to the identity of their mysterious builders, which also appeared to possess a hieroglyphic writing unlike any other known from antiquity. It was only towards the end of the 19th century that the ruins of Bogazkőy were finally identified with those of Hattusa, the ancient capital of the Hittites

 

Chronology of Hattusa:

The earliest traces of settlement on the site are from the sixth millennium BC. (1)

The Hatti were an aboriginal people in central Anatolia who first appear in the area around the River Kizil Irmak. They spoke a language called Hattic and did not seem to have a written language of their own, using Cuneiform Script for Trade dealings. Controlling a significant number of city states and small kingdoms, they had established trade with Sumer by the year 2,700 BC. (2)

In 2,500 BC the Hatti established their capital at the city of Hattusa on land that had been occupied much earlier, and referred to the site as Hattush.  They held lands securely in the surrounding areas, administering laws and regulating trade in a number of neighbouring states.

Between circa 2,334-2,279 BC the great Sargon of Akkad invaded the region and, in 2,330 sacked the city of Ur. He then turned his attention to Hattusa but failed.

Hattic Art flourished around 2,200 BC and, by 2,000 BC, their civilization was at its height with trading colonies established by the Assyrians at Hattusa and the city of Kanesh.

A carbonized layer apparent in excavations attests to the burning and ruin of the city of Hattusa around 1,700 BC. The responsible party appears to have been King Anitta from Kussara, who took credit for the act and erected an inscribed curse for good measure:

At night I took the city by force; I have sown weeds in its place. Should any king after me attempt to resettle Hattush, may the Weathergod of Heaven strike him down.

Hattusas was not the only city to be destroyed by fire at this time, as other cities of Central Anatolia appeared to have met the same fate: Alaça Hoyuk, some 25 Km to the North, also perished in a fiery catastrophe; Hittite palaces at Masat and Fraktin, as well as the fortified citadel of Karaogan, near present day Ankara, were also burnt to the ground in catastrophic fires. (3)

The mid-eighteenth century BC invasion of the Hittites, and the destruction of the great city of Hattusa was followed by systematic assimilated into the culture of their conquerors. In 1,650 BC the Hittites, under their warrior-king Hattusili, defeated the last of the Hatti resistance and rose to complete dominance of the area. The Hatti region of Anatolia, however, was still known as the 'Land of the Hatti' until 630 BC, such references found in the writings of both the Egyptians and the Assyrians. The artistic renderings of the time depict the common people with longer noses and markedly different facial features than those of their leaders, clearly demonstrating the Hittite lords and their Hattic vassals. (2)

In 1,279 BC, Ramses II reigned over Egypt, his empire met with that of the Hittites near the ancient city of Kadesh close to the borders of present day Syria and the Lebanon. It was here the 'greatest battle the world had ever known' until that time, the Battle of Kadesh occurred. History recorded the victory of Ramses II, but the library in the ruins of Hattusa uncovered the peace treaty signed between the two great kings, which showed that the Hittites had imposed their forces over the Egyptians pushing the frontier of their empire hundreds of kilometres south into today's Israel, thus becoming the greatest empire of the ancient world. Later a permanent peace treaty was concluded between Ramses II and the Hittite King Hattusilis III.

The first peace treaty in History (of which we possess both copies) was signed between the Hittite King Muwattali II and Ramses II of Egypt after the battle of Kadesh in Syria.

A few short decades later the Hittites disappeared for unexplained reasons, until a discovery was made by modern archaeologists in their excavations at Hattusa. A series of indecipherable hieroglyphs were discovered in an underground area, after much research they were finally translated as telling how the winner of the Battle of Kadesh and the great king launched themselves into a fratricidal war. Hattusa was destroyed. The archaeologist discovered the palace and temples had been burnt down, but not in war, they concluded the city had been abandoned, the population taking with them everything that could be carried. The city had been evacuated. Where they went is a mystery, but in any case the Hittites disappeared forever from history during the 'Bronze Age Collapse' c. 1,200 -1,150 BC.

 

 

The City Wall:

Based on the discovery (right) in the city of Hattusa itself, a small section of the great wall was rebuilt using ancient techniques.

The original wall at over 6km long, would have surrounded the city entirely giving it an impressive view on approach and raising the status of the city to its rightful place as capital of the Hittite empire. The enormity of the task faced by the Hittite master builders becomes obvious when one considers that the reconstruction represents only one percent of the ancient 6.6 km long outer fortifications. (The sum of all elements in the city walls of Hattusa totals more than nine km's.) Some 2,700 tons of loam, 100 tons of straw, and 1,500 tons of water were needed for the mud-brick mixture alone. Around 1, 750 tons of earth then had to be moved to provide access ramps for construction, and a great number of logs brought in for the construction of the upper rooms in the towers. All the more remarkable when it is taken into account that mud-brick construction is limited from June to September. A total of 64,000 bricks (Size: 45 x 45 x 10 cm, weight: 34 kg each) were produced for this section alone. (5)

The reconstructed section of wall at Hattusa.

 

Yerkapi: 'The Gate of the Earth'.

One of the most remarkable monuments of the “Upper city”, is a large oblong pyramid some 250 by 70 meters wide and 30 meters high at the southern end of the citadel. A kind of rampart was built on top of this platform, consisting of a single line of walls with several towers and two gateways decorated by sphinxes.

(Photo Credits: A. D. Riddle).

This huge enigmatic structure is usually called a “fortress” or a “rampart” but it is at very least, a pyramid shaped structure (without defensive features). A large stairways leads up to the summit and a long thin tunnel pierces it from side to side over a length of 69 meters leading into the middle of the complex. The two entrances, a small tunnel below and the 'Sphinx gateway' at the top are more suggestive of a different means of access into the city, with one functional direct route below, and the other perhaps more for 'public' access, adorned with symbolism and ceremony.

   

The entrance to the citadel (left), and an image of the tunnel leading through to the complex (right).

 

 

The Gateway of Sphinx's

One of the images most commonly associated with Hittites is the sphinx, combining a lion's body with an eagle's wings and a human head and chest. At Hattusa, as at several other prominent Hittite Cities, they were placed on either side of the main entrance. At the top of the Yerkapi platform is the 'Gateway of Sphinxes'. Unfortunately (or fortunately), two of the sphinxes were taken for restoration to Germany in 1917. The better preserved sphinx was returned to Istanbul in 1924, and was placed on display in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, whereas the other remained in Germany, and had been on display at the Pergamon Museum since 1934 (see left). Previously, Turkey had made numerous requests for its return. In 2011, threats by Turkish Ministry of Culture to impose restrictions on German archaeologists working in Turkey finally persuaded Germany to return the sphinx. The Istanbul sphinx was also brought back to its place of origin and the pair was reunited in Boğazköy Museum outside the Hattusa ruin.

Alaca Huyuk Sphinx Gate.

Images: Original Sphinx from Hattusa (left), Sphinx Gate, at nearby Alaca Huyuk.

(Sphinx Homepage)

 

 

Construction Techniques:

There are several similarities in the masonry work of the Mycenaean's. The lowest levels of the foundation blocks of the great walls show a highly skilled masonry style, often referred to a 'Cyclopean'. The Hittites rebuilt the great city, but whoever laid the original foundations left behind their familiar fingerprints in the masonry, still standing today.

 

Different examples (and styles) of cyclopean masonry at Hattusa.

 

The Lion Gate.

   

The parabolic 'Lion gate' as it is today (left) and a digital reconstruction (right).

(Photo Credits (right): H. Schriever)

The 'Lions Gate' bears a strong similarity to the construction techniques seem in Mycenaean Greece. In particular, the 'Lion Gate' at the entrance of Mycenae itself. Pairs of lions are common a feature seen at the entrances of several great cities and complexes throughout the ancient world. They were considered to symbolize protection, and are identified with places of importance.

 

Another enigmatic feature of the temple, which one also finds almost everywhere amidst the ancient ruins of Hattusas, is the large number of perfectly circular drill-holes cut deep into the rock as if by means of some tube drill capable of drilling perfectly clear holes in a stone as hard as granite. There is no conclusive explanation as to the real purpose of this holes. There are hundreds of them found in rocks randomly around the site and they are in some cases so closely fitted together as to almost entirely cover the surface of a stone block. It has been suggested these holes served to hold the bronze pins required to support the wooden frame of buildings, which were then filled with mud-brick. (4)

 

(Ancient Construction Techniques)

 

Hittite Writing:

Archaeologists found the ancient library of Hattusa with thirty thousand cuneiform tablets, archived and classified in perfect order, the greatest ancient library ever discovered. The language however, was totally unknown to the world of archaeology, even though cuneiform was of common use in those times by the Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians in writing their languages.

In the Hattusa archives, native Hurrian was used frequently for a wide range of non-official texts such as those on rituals and even the Epic of Gilgamesh - more so than native Hattian. The Hurrians were migrants to the Upper Euphrates and Habur basin from the Elburz Mountains east across the Taurus Mountains from about 2,300 BCE onwards. For a script, the Hittites used a combination of cuneiform system and hieroglyphs. The cuneiform Hittites texts were written on clay tablets that were discovered during excavations at the end of the 19th century CE. Identification of the language had to wait until 1915 when Czech linguist Bedřich Hrozný, after examining tablets that had been brought to Vienna from the Istanbul Museum, identified the language of the Hittite tablets as Indo-European. He published his findings in a 1917 book titled Die Sprache der Hethiter. In 1951 a comprehensive Hittite grammar was presented in a book titled A Comparative Grammar of the Hittite Language by Edgar H. Sturtevant.

As evidenced by the records discovered, the Hittites had a highly developed literature consisting of stories, religious texts, historical records, legal system and legal documents.
 

 

Hattusa: The Geographic placement.

One of the most striking things about Hattusas is that the site chosen for its construction seems nowhere fit for a large capital, being covered by rugged terrain amidst steep rock formations: to give you an idea of how steep and unsuitable the terrain is, suffice to say that the difference in elevation between the “lower city” and the “upper city” was well in the range of 300 meters!. Hattusas itself sits on top of barren and wind-swept plateau at 1,200 meters above sea level, which enjoys what is possibly the worst weather conditions in central Anatolia. Even in April the site is mostly covered by snow, so why build a capital city there?.

We know that before the Hittites, the 'Hatti' also used the location as their capital city, something which can be recorded back in time to c. 2,700 BC, and that the Hittites rebuilt their capital city over the remains of the original Hatti site so perhaps the question is more: Why did the Hatti choose the site?

At the time of the Hatti civilisation, the centre of the known world at that time was Egypt, and most specifically, the capital at Giza (Heliopolis):

Heliopolis (Egypt): 30.01° N, 31.21° E

 Hattusa: 40.02° N, 34.2° E

Perhaps it is a coincidence that the Capital of the Hatti empire was located at distances of exact units of degrees from the geodetic centre of the world, and perhaps not. We can see that other ancient capitals such as Persopolis, Knossos, Nimrud, Baalbek and Ur were also placed at geometrically significant distances from the Egyptian centre point, and perhaps it is here that one day we will find our true answer.

(More about Prehistoric Geodesy)

 

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References:

1). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hattusa
2). http://www.ancient.eu.com/hatti/
3). L. Robbins, Collapse of the Bronze Age: the story of Greece, Troy, Israel, Egypt and the People of the Sea, iUniverse, (2001)
4). http://unchartedruins.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/the-hittites-mysterious-people-of.html
5). http://www.dainst.org/en/project/hattusa-mudbrick-city-walls?ft=all
 

Further Research:

Excavations at Hattusa: a Project of the German Archaeological Institute.
 

 

 

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