Anatolian Civilizations Blog

Hattusa: Hittite Capital

Hattusa is an ancient site located near modern day Boğazkale in Çorum, Turkey. Hattusa was discovered by Charles Texier (1802- 1871) in 1834, and after the discovery of a clay tablet with Babylonian cuneiform writing, was visited by Hugo Winckler (1863- 1913) and Theodoros Makridi Bey in 1905. In 1906-12, they excavated numerous clay tablets there and recognized the site as the site of the Hittite capital. Archaeological excavations in Hattusa have been going on since 1931.

This ancient site once served as the capital of the Great Hittite Empire, one of the superpowers of the ancient world. Hattusa was inhabited as early as the 3rd millennium BC, and in the 18th century BC was a walled city where Assyrian merchants had their establishments. The site was made the capital of the Hittite Empire by Hattusili I around 1.650 BC.

The Lion Gate, Hattusa, Turkey.

The Lion Gate, Hattusa, Turkey. Photographer: Ziegler175 via Wikimedia Commons.

This gate is situated at the south-west of the city fortifications. It is flanked by two towers and has an inner and an outer doorway, both parabola-shaped and once furnished with pairs of wooden doors that opened to the interior of the monument.

The foreparts of two lions are carved from the huge stone blocks on either side of the outer entrance. The open mouth and staring eyes, the latter being originally inlaid with different materials, have a protective function, and they are well known motives in Hittite and Mesopotamian architecture. Above and to the left of the broken head of the lion on the left side (as seen from the outside) are several hieroglyphic signs, most of which are easily detected around noon. The upper blocks of the facade of the left tower are unsmoothed, showing that the gate, although in use, never received the final touch.

Reconstruction of Lion Gate

Reconstruction of Lion Gate, Hattusa.

The Hittites were an Ancient Anatolian people, who established an empire covering Anatolia, northern Levant, and Upper Mesopotamia and the population of Asia Minor with the oldest known Indo-European language. They founded the kingdom of Hatti in central Anatolia in the first half of the 2nd millennium BC, which continued until about 1.200 BC.

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  • The Hittite Sun Disk or Hittite Sun Course is an ancient Anatolian symbol dating back to the 20th century BC. The symbol belongs to the Hattis from the pre-Hittite period. The Sun Disk was used in ceremonies by Hattians about 4.250 years ago from today.
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Hattusa exerted a dominant influence upon the civilizations in the thirteenth century BC in Anatolia and northern Syria. The palaces, temples, trading quarters, and necropolis of this political and religious metropolis provide a comprehensive picture of a capital city and bear unique testimony to the vanished Hittite civilization.

The city’s fortifications, along with the Lion Gate, the royal Gate, and the Yazilikaya rupestrian ensemble with its sculptured friezes, represent unique artistic achievements as monuments.

yazilikaya hattusa

Twelve Hittite gods of the Underworld in the nearby Yazilikaya, a sanctuary of Hattusa. Photographer: Murat Özsoy 1958 via Wikimedia Commons.

Inside the walls, the city is built on two levels. To the northwest is the lower town with its great temple, dedicated to the god of storms and the goddess of the Sun, Arinna. Thousands of cuneiform tablets were found in this area.

The remains of Hattusa are now accessible as an open-air archaeological museum (the center of a national historical park). The site has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The cuneiform archives are on the UNESCO Memory of the World list.

The Sword God in Chamber B at the Hittite Rock Sanctuary of Yazilikaya, Hattusas, Bogazkale, Turkey.

The Sword God in Chamber B at the Hittite Rock Sanctuary of Yazilikaya, Hattusas, Bogazkale, Turkey. Photographer: Murat Özsoy 1958 via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Featured Image: Yazilikaya, Twelve Hittite gods of the Underworld via Kultur Portali.

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