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Hattusha: The Hittite Capital

Brief Description

The archaeological site of Hattusha, former capital of the Hittite Empire, is notable for its urban organization, the types of construction that have been preserved (temples, royal residences, fortifications), the rich ornamentation of the Lions' Gate and the Royal Gate, and the ensemble of rock art at Yazilikaya. The city enjoyed considerable influence in Anatolia and northern Syria in the 2nd millennium B.C.

Dark Lords of Hattusha and Ancient Mysteries
Hattusha, or Boğazköy, lies in northern Central Anatolia, just at the north edge of the ancient region of Cappadocia. Within a dry continental climatic zone, we see scant steppe-vegetation; over some large areas there is scarcely a tree in sight. The winters are long and cold; the summers relatively short, but hot. This was not always the case, however; in earlier times the climate was more moist, with lesser extremes in temperature.
The first "settling in" around Boğazköy took place in the 6th millennium BC during the Chalcolithic period, when small widely scattered hamlets appeared most particularly on mountain slopes and rocky outcroppings. Such a small settlement on the heights of the Büyükkaya ridge represents the earliest known inhabitancy within the Hattusha city limits. A contemporary settlement has also been found near Yarikkaya, some two kilometers NE of Hattusha.
During the Middle Bronze Age the Hattian occupation grew into a city of such significance that a Karum was established here in the 19th and 18th centuries BC - a trading post of Assyrian merchants who had come from Assur (in the middle Tigris valley, now a part of northern Iraq) to procure natural resources such as copper, silver, gold and precious stones. Long caravans of donkeys transported these materials to Mesopotamia.During these first centuries of the 2nd millennium BC there appears to have been frequent strife in Central Anatolia between the local Hattian rulers and the immigrant Hittite groups who were anxious to consolidate their power. The ruins excavated demonstrate that the city of Hattush was burned down in a great conflagration around 1700 BC. The destruction of the city was even inscribed in cuneiform; a King Anitta of Kushar reports that he has defeated King Piyushti of Hattush and destroyed his city. "At night I took the city by force; I have sown weeds in its place. Should any king after me attempt to resettle Hattush," he wrote, "may the Weathergod of Heaven strike him down." Anitta chose the city of Kanesh/Nesha, some 160 km to the southeast and already quite influential as the center of the Assyrian trade colonies, as his capital.

We do not know how long Anitta's curse on the city of Hattush was respected, but the advantages of the site and the many springs there were certainly enough to have attracted settlers relatively soon. By the second half of the 17th century BC the temptation had obviously become overwhelming, for a Hittite king had indeed chosen the site as his residence and capital. The Hattian Hattush was now the Hittite Hattusha.

Unfortunately very little is known about the origins of the Hittites. Their language belongs to the Indo-European family, and it is assumed that they immigrated into Central Anatolia via the Caucasus sometime during the second half of the 3rd millennium BC. To ascribe any date to their arrival is difficult, particularly because there is evidence neither of violent invasion nor of massive population shift.
The Great King Hattushili I built an empire through the military campaigns he directed at sites in Central Anatolia and further south over the Taurus Mountains into northern Syria. His successor Murshili continued his efforts to the south in hopes of vanquishing the city-states in Syria and gaining control of the trade routes to Mesopotamia. Aleppo fell into the hands of the Hittites, and the army pressed onward as far as Babylon (as the crow flies, 1,200 km from Hattusha!), where it toppled the dynasty of Hammurabi. A period of unrest followed the murder of Murshili, and in these troubled times the lands south of the Taurus as well as distant regions in the south and east of Anatolia were soon snatched from Hittite control by the Hurrian Kingdom of the Mittanni.



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