Alacahöyük

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 Hattian culture during the Bronze Age. It was later occupied by the Hittites who used the city as their first capital before moving over to Hattusa.

Coordinates: 40° 14′ 4″ N, 34° 41′ 44″ E

Alacahoyuk

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.

28429305752_e3ee373ee2_bHowever 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. 

Model of Alacahöyük.
Model of Alacahöyük.

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.

PORTFOLIO

Overview of Alacahöyük.
Overview of Alacahöyük.
The Sphinx Gate, built in the 14th century BC, has a 10m width. The exterior faces of the large post blocks flanking the gate entrance were adorned with two-metre tall sphinx protomes.
Reconstruction drawing of the Sphinx Gate of Alacahöyük.
Reconstruction drawing of the Sphinx Gate of Alacahöyük.
The inner face of the eastern sphinx protome decorated with a double-headed eagle engraved as a low relief, over the eagle, legs of a goddess walking towards the city can be seen.
The inner face of the eastern sphinx protome decorated with a double-headed eagle holding rabbits in its claws engraved as a low relief. Over the eagle, legs of a goddess walking towards the city can be seen.
The Sphinx Gate, 14th century BC.
The internal and external facades of the towers located in front of the Sphinx Gate were ornamented with relief-decorated orthostates. It is the only Hittite Imperial Period gate structure whose entrance is flanked by orthostat reliefs.
The external facade of the west tower located in front of the Sphinx Gate ornamented with relief-decorated orthostats (original reliefs in Museum of Anatolian Civilizations).
The external facade of the western tower located in front of the Sphinx Gate ornamented with relief-decorated orthostates depicting a religious ceremony in honour of the Storm God (original reliefs in Museum of Anatolian Civilizations).
The external facade of the eastern tower located in front of the Sphinx Gate ornamented with relief-decorated orthostats (original reliefs in Museum of Anatolian Civilizations).
The external facade of the eastern tower located in front of the Sphinx Gate ornamented with relief-decorated orthostates depicting a religious ceremony in honour of the Storm God (original reliefs in Museum of Anatolian Civilizations).
The foundations of the Temple located to the north of the Sphinx Gate, it covered an area of 5000 square metres & consisted of galleries flanking a paved-stone courtyard, long narrow corridors & a large square hall as well as rooms of various size.
The foundations of the Temple located to the north of the Sphinx Gate. It covered an area of 5000 square metres and consisted of galleries flanking a paved-stone courtyard, long narrow corridors and a large square hall as well as rooms of various size.
The area to the south west of the Temple characterised by massive buildings, private houses with front yards and block structures. Narrow but regularly planned streets and small squares delineate the structures.
The area to the south west of the Temple characterised by massive buildings, private houses with front yards and block structures. Narrow but regularly planned streets and small squares delineated the structures.
Subterranean silos built to store great amounts of grains without contact with air, wheat and barley were the most important grains produced in the Hittite lands.
Subterranean silos built to store great amounts of grains without contact with air. Wheat and barley were the most important grains produced in the Hittite lands.
The Postern Gate consisting of two towers, two doors and an entrance, posterns are gate structures with vaulted tunnel-like passages constructed beneath the city walls.
The Postern Gate consisting of two towers, two doors and an entrance. The foundations of the gate structures were built of large blocks of calcareous rocks while their inner core was filled with soil.
The Postern Gate consisting of two towers, two doors and an entrance, posterns are gate structures with vaulted tunnel-like passages constructed beneath the city walls.
The postern gates were structures with vaulted tunnel-like passages constructed beneath the city walls.
The area of Royal Tombs built in the Early Bronze Age, 2500-2000 BC.
The area of the Royal Tombs built in the Early Bronze Age (2500-2000 BC). They had a major role in our understanding of the indigenous Hattian Civilization. Six out of thirteen intramural tombs have been reconstructed to their original appearance.
The interior of the one of the Royal Tombs built in the Early Bronze Age, grave goods consisted of jewellery made of gold and silver as well as weapons, metal & terracotta vessels, sun-disks and bull & deer statuettes.
The interior of the one of the Royal Tombs built in the Early Bronze Age. Grave goods consisted of jewellery made of gold and silver, weapons, metal and terracotta vessels, as well as sun-disks and bull & deer statuettes.
Reconstruction drawing of a Hattian funeral ceremony.
Reconstruction drawing of a Hattian burial ceremony.
Cyclopean stone wall.
Cyclopean stone wall.
Alacahöyük.
Alacahöyük.
The main drainage channel running toward the Sphinx Gate, water drained through a terracotta pipe into the drainage channel.
The main drainage channel running toward the Sphinx Gate. Water drained through a terracotta pipe into the drainage channel.
A close-up of one of the sphinx protomes.
A close-up of one of the sphinx protomes.

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3 thoughts on “Alacahöyük

  1. Excellent as always.
    The dam is a nice place to visit and is close by (although the road is not very good). Amazing to think it is still in use today.
    I am curious where you found the model of the city.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, this is one of the richest time periods in all ancient history and most interesting. The amount on info is stagering. The writing and power clashes are fun to try to wrap your head around. 18th to 19th dynasty egypt to semetic power to hittite empire and all the powers scattered in between so so great to see excellent pictures they really help get a broader view of what it was like back then.

    Liked by 1 person

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