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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hattusha(Hattusa): The Capital of the Hittites

Modern reconstruction of the Hattusa site in Turkey.

Book Review
Hattusha: The Capital of the Hittites
by Kurt Bittel
Oxford University Press, published 1970

  If you are looking for a comprehensive archaeological/historical description of Hattusha, The Capital of the Hittites, you need look no further, because this book is just about it.  Hattusha was pretty concretely excavated in the period before World War II and after, so it is a site where many photos have been taken and pottery measured. Since 1970 there has been more work done about the language and culture of the Hittites, and obviously this book doesn't draw on that corpus of knowledge.

  Hattusha is located in the northern Anatolian(Turkey) heartland, it is currently a "ruin" though habitation both preceded and succeeded the temporal period where Hattusha was "The Capital of the Hittites."  The chonological period of the Hittite Empire was 1600 B.C. to 1200 B.C.  Prior to Hittite in-habitation, Hattusha was called Hatti and had been inhabited by a pre-Hittite Anatolian ethnic group(Hurrians?), with an Assyrian trading colony embedded in the habitation.  This city was destroyed by a local rival group and lay dormant from some period before being inhabited by the Hittite monarchs.  Hattusha proved to be a devastatingly easy target for local and non-local invaders over the centuries.  In addition to the substantial pre-Hittie sacking and destruction, Bittel identifies at least two separate sackings within the Hittite period, seemingly demonstrating the insecure location on the northern border of the "Ancient Near East."
example of the wall art from Yazilikaya, the pre-eminent rock art in the Hattusha surrounding area.

  The main point from the pre/early Hattusha days is that the Hittites did not come as conquerors of that particular city, they just took it over because it had a good water supply, etc.  It also may have been a location of homage, as the nearby rock art of Yazilikaya would seem to demonstrate.  Yazilikaya is essentially a shrine to a local deity but the deities are Hurrian, not Hittite, so the art either was placed by the Hurrians themselves prior to Hittite arrival or the Hittites were emulating the Hurrian pantheon

Reconstruction of the shrine that would have encased the Yazilikaya shrine site near the Hittite city of Hattusa
  After the final fall of the Empire at the time of the mysterious "Sea People" assaults that engulfed much of the Near East during the 13th century B.C., there was a three hundred year "dark period" after which the residents seem to be members of the Phryigan Emprie/people.  The Phryigans were closer to Greeks in demeanor and culture and it is unclear what "happened" to the Hittites, besides being emulated by a serious of "Neo-Hittite" states in the 9th and 8th century B.C.

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