Alacahöyük is the site of an important Neolithic and Hittite settlement located in central Turkey in the Çorum province, northeast of the ancient Hittite capital city of Hattusa. The mound (Turkish höyük) dates back to the Chalcolithic period (4500 BC) and was the centre of the flourishing Hattianculture during the Bronze Age. It was later occupied by the Hittites who used the city as their first capital before moving over to Hattusa.
Alacahöyük was discovered in 1835 by the English voyager W.G. Hamilton. The first excavations started in 1861 by French archaeologist George Perrot but more extensive work was initiated by the Turkish Historical Association in 1935 and continued until 1948. Since 1997, the excavations have been carried out by Ankara University under the direction of Prof. Dr. Aykut Çınaroğlu.
The excavations revealed fifteen layers of settlement buried under the soil dating back to 5500 BC to 600 BC. The richest and most important layer belongs to the Early Bronze Age. Many treasures have been excavated from the thirteen Hattian royal tombs dating to the 3rd millennium BC. Among these artefacts were bronze sculptures of bulls or deer, ceremonial symbols and sun disks. These artifacts are housed today in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.
However most of the standing remains at Alacahöyük, such as the “Sphinx Gate”, date from the Hittite period that followed the Hattians (1460-1200 BC). At that time the city was surrounded by a mud brick wall with a stone base. The “Sphinx Gate”, fortified with towers, was the main gate of the city. It was flanked by two sphinx protomes with, in its inner parts, a relief depicting a double-eagle holding rabbits in its claws. These sphinxes were the protectors of the city.
The lower parts of the towers were decorated with orthostat reliefs depicting a religious ceremony including a king and a queen praying to a bull before an altar, a lion hunt, animals being sacrificed as well as jugglers and acrobats. These depictions represented an entire ritual set of cult, libation, hunting and entertainment that included a religious ceremony in honour of the Storm God. The original reliefs are on display in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.
A dam dated to 1,240 BC has also survived 1.5 kilmetres to the southeast of Alacahöyük (see image here). It was one of numerous dams built against droughts on the order of King Tudhaliya IV in the name of the goddess Hebat. The dam holds about 15,000 cubic meters of water and is the oldest and the largest known dam in Anatolia. The Alacahöyük dam is still being used today to irrigate fields in the region.
Bronze Sun Disk (ceremonial standard), they were the cult objects found in the royal tombs of pre-Hittite (Hatti) times.
Deer bronze statuette with silver inlay used in rituals.
Bronze sun disk encircled with bull and deer figures, the sacred animals of the Hattians.