Untitled Document

Steadman, S. R. And McMahon, G. (eds.) 2011. The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Anatolia.

This extensive volume from the Oxford Handbook of Archaeology series covers vital topics and academic discussions while offering one of the most substantial overviews of Anatolian archaeology, covering nearly the whole of the region, from eastern, southeast, central Anatolia and Marmara and Thrace, and encompassing a broad timeframe (10,000 to 323 BC). It is clear that the sites considered here have been chosen very carefully, and their analysis aims to shed new light on the many problematic issues facing Anatolian archaeology.

The book is divided into five parts, with the first four addressing themes and specific topics and the final section looking at key sites from the region. Despite this clear structure there is some confusion as to the content of each section. For example, while the first part is organised chronologically, starting with the Neolithic and ending at the Iron Age, section five starts with the Neolithic approaches by M. Özdoğan for Thrace before jumping to another article by Sagona discussing eastern Turkey. The volume may have benefitted from a more straightforward structure, perhaps addressing the core research questions systematically by period and region.

Part One begins with the “The Land and Peoples of Anatolia through Ancient eyes” by G. McMahon, who approaches ethnicity and the languages of Anatolia via the observations of Homer and Herodotus. This article once more provides evidence for the ethnic and linguistic diversity of the region. The second article is titled “A History of the Pre-classical Archaeology of Anatolia” by Roger Matthews. His research considers the development of prehistoric Archaeology in Turkey since the Ottoman period. To this end he investigates significant projects across key sites of the region, looking at archaeological work carried out under the Ottomans and the early Republic, emphasising why archaeology was important in establishing a Turkish state. Furthermore, the author criticises the western tendency to underestimate the value of archaeological work carried out by Turkish institutions. Matthews clearly demonstrates the variety and quality of home-grown archaeological research, giving hundreds of examples of excavations, surveys and publications carried out every year. Such endeavours show that Turkey can no longer be considered a ‘third world country’ and the study of its past should avoid classical colonialist approaches. The third and final article of this section is “Anatolian Chronology and Terminology” by Jak Yakar, which provides substantial data from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. It is a particularly significant contribution to the volume because it seeks to cover some newly excavated sites.

Part Two is perhaps the most coherent section of the book, providing regional development patterns for each period from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. The first article, “The Neolithic on the Plateau” by Mihriban Özbaşaran, begins by giving an overview of the general geographical structure of central Anatolia, before discussing archaeological investigations undertaken and the chronology of the region. Özbağaran also takes a comparative approach and considers sites one-by-one, providing information on their general characteristics. “The Neolithic in Southeastern Anatolia” by Rosenberg and Özdoğan begins by arguing the terms PPNA and PPNB are not applicable for the Anatolian Neolithic. Instead they use and suggest “early and late Aceramic Neolithic”. The authors compare most of the sites in southeast Turkey, examining their architectural remains and sequences in order to understand the Neolithic customs of the region. They first suggest that the economy of Early Acaremic, in southeast Anatolia, was based on hunting and gathering with an egalitarian social system. However, one needs to consider the custom practices (particularly mortuary) of these early societies before making such a statement. We do not see the same treatment given to every single person or group in these early societies. For instance, the location and treatment of some of Çayanü burials, which are found in the “skull building”, differ from burials placed outside of the structure. This may indicate a status or class differentiation within society. Such evidence makes it hard to maintain that these societies were “egalitarian”.

Following this general overview the remainder of the section focuses on the Chalcolithic of the Anatolian Plateau. Ulf-Dietrich Schoop offers a broad outline of the general characteristics of the period, focusing on central Anatolia, Lake District, Marmara region and Aegean Anatolia where systematic research has been carried out for over several years. The second article, by Rana Özba, re-considers the Chalcolithic in Southeast Turkey. She begins by providing a general geography of the area before analysing each region in turn from the 6th to the 4th millennia BC, taking into account numerous key sites. The third article on this theme is “The Chalcolithic of Eastern Anatolia” by Giulio Palumbi. The author provides brief information on geography, history of archaeological work that has been done, and terminological and chronological framework of the region, before specifically focusing on the problematic of the “periodization” of Chalcolithic in the region.

Volume Editor Sharon R. Steadman describes the geographical structure of the EBA and its boundaries in Anatolia, briefly mentioning “urbanization and centralization”. Steadman also provides an overview of the debate on the ethnic structures and languages of the Anatolia during the EBA. Lastly, she suggests that the EBA was a “transitional” period from late Chalcolithic. “The early Bronze Age in Southeastern Anatolia” by A. Tuba Okse describes the geographical boundaries of the region through site names, before reconsidering the chronology of the EBA through comparison of significant site sequences. The importance of this article lies in the fact Okse takes into account newly excavated sites in the region. However, as she points out, some of these sites are poorly published making further interpretation difficult. Catherine Marro re-evaluates the EBA in the Eastern zone, discussing socio-economic and political structures of the period and finally suggests that although Transcaucasian culture can be seen in the region it looks like it was not the only one.

Discussing The Middle Bronze Age, Cecile Michel examines perhaps one of the most interesting periods of Anatolia - the Assyrian Trade Colony Period - considering its largest city-state Kültepe. Michel considers both archaeological assemblages and cuneiform text in order to make plausible interpretations. She continues with an examination of the political and social structures of the Kaneş by considering status differentiations and ethnicity. Finally, she links the end of this period to results of political struggles between Anatolian states. The second article on “Southeastern and Eastern Anatolia in the Middle Bronze Age” begins by outlining the general geography of the area and showing every single Middle Bronze Age site which has been documented. The authors then discuss the structure of the city-states and their dispersal in the region with a particular focus on the areas importance as a cultural interaction zone, finally pointing out that although many “city-states” collapsed in Northern Mesopotamia, there is clear continuity in Anatolia from early Bronze Age to Middle Bronze Age.

Three articles on The Late Bronze Age begin with Trevor Bryce discussing Western Anatolia through Hittite texts, the Arzawa Lands and the development of states and social organization. Jürgen Seeher, who has worked for a long time at Hattuşa (capital city of the Hittite empire) raises many important issues around the Hittites during the second millennium BC. Marie-Henriette Gates examines the southern and southeastern zone during the Late Bronze Age with a focus on the cities and towns of this period.

Kealhofer and Grave offer a general overview of the central Anatolia during the first millennium with a discussion of geography, chronology, and material culture of the main sites during this period. Timothy Matney concentrates on Southeastern Anatolia during the Iron Age, focusing on many sites which have been examined during rescue excavations following dam projects in the region. Lori Khatchadourian’s analysis of eastern Anatolia during the first millennium compares this region with the Armenian plateau and south Caucases, emphasising the impact of the Urartu Kingdom. Alan M. Greaves then discusses Greek culture in western Anatolia during the first millennium BC.

Part III, which considers “Philological and Historical Topics”, is perhaps the most interesting section of the book. Most nation states have approached early civilizations and their languages from a nationalistic perspective. In the early years of the Turkish Republic, Atatürk established Archaeology, Hittites and Sumerian departments in Ankara University in order to provide a link between Turks and the early civilizations of Anatolia. Unfortunately authors in this chapter do not discuss this nationalistic agenda and mostly focus on the structure and diffusion of the Hittite, Luwian and Phrygians in Anatolia. Richard H. Beal focuses on the socio-political structure and organization of the Hittite society, G. Kenneth Sams outlines the general socio-political structure of Anatolia during the first millennium, while Ömür Harmanşah provides a visual perspective on Anatolia by considering the meaning and impact of monumental architecture on societies.

Part IV is divided by “Thematic and Specific Topics”, with the first six articles analysing inter-regional cultural interactions. Mehmet Özdoğan re-evaluates the debate over whether eastern Thrace was a bridge between Anatolia and the Balkans by providing a regional overview from Neolithic to Iron Age. He suggests that during the Neolithic, Thrace may have been “peripheral” to Anatolia and Near East, but was a central area for European cultures. Antonio Sagona considers the contact zone of eastern Turkey, looking at the interaction between Anatolian cultures and Transcaucasia from Neolithic to Middle Bronze Age. Although he outlines that Transcaucasian cultures built their own identity he also suggest that according to material cultures of the sites there was a high level of interaction between Anatolia and Transcaucasia. H. Craig Melchert debates the migration of Indo-Europeans to Anatolia. He suggests that although it is hard to define the route of the Indo-Europeans they were present in Anatolia by 15000 BC. Peter Jablonka approaches the famous site of Troy within its ‘regional and international context’. He first outlines the history of research undertaken here, then stratigraphic levels, and finally Troy as a strategic location between the Aegean and Anatolia. Karen Radner considers archaeological evidence and textual sources for Assyrians and Urartians in eastern and Southeastern Anatolia. She discusses the relationship between these two empires during the first millennium BC stating that although there was always war and conflict there was also significant cultural interaction. Kenneth W. Harl discusses the existence of Greeks in Anatolia. He begins by outlining the emergence of Greek civilization in the land of Anatolia and development of the first city-states in the region, giving brief insights into Greeks during the first millennium BC until Alexander the Great.

The second section of Part IV, “From Pastoralists to Empires: Critical Issues”, consists of seven articles. Perhaps the most interesting research here is that put forward by Bleda Düring on the Middle Chalcolithic. Düring has published this period in more detail in “The Prehistory of Asia Minor” (2011). Here he re-evaluates the Chalcolithic as a whole, then considers settlement patterns, bringing new perspectives and interpretations to the material. He argues that the old approach to the Chalcolithic is no longer valid. Most scholars have argued that the economy of Chalcolithic settlements and societies was based on farming. In contrast, Düring suggests that along with farming, people were still hunting and gathering and eating wild foods and animals during the fifth millennium BC. Rothman discusses the cultural effect of the expansion of Uruk in the region mostly in southeast Anatolia and Mesopotamia during the fourth millennium BC. Jason Ur takes a different approach, examining the landscape and natural environment based on surface surveys carried out in the region. James D. Muhly remarks that Anatolia was important in terms of Metal and Metallurgy by taking into account most of the sources and metal artefacts of the sites during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age. Cladia Glatz re-considers the Hittite state in terms of its socio-political organization and structure of the empire by considering archaeological evidence. Lastly, Theo Van Den Hout re-evaluates the Hittite empire by taking base textual evidences and mostly focusing on the administrative structure by following written tablets.

Part V considers eleven key sites from across Anatolia. Although contributors to this section have published related sites elsewhere, here we are given the latest data and interpretations Schimdt takes a comparative approach to Göbekli Tepe, outlining simultaneous sites in the region with similar artefacts and symbols. He then gives a detailed overview of the architectural structure of the site and makes interpretations on the base of symbols depicted on pillars. He points out that Göbekli Tepe was a feasting place, used as a Temple by hunter- gatherers. However, he does not discuss the question; who were these people and who built such a complex? If one considers that a “certain group of people” existed one could also argue that there was social class differentiation in PPN period in the hunter-gatherer societies, which seems implausible. While I would agree that Göbekli Tepe was a Temple not settlement and was used for feasting purposes, I would suggest we are dealing here with a PPN people who were already settled in the region. These early settlements, such as Hallan Çemi, Körtik Tepe, Çayönü, Jefr el Ahmar are not so far away from Göbekli Tepe. Archaeological evidence of some of these sites indicate that people were simultaneously hunter-gatherers and farmers.

Ian Hodder addresses the importance and distinctiveness of Çatalhöyük in contrast to other Neolithic settlements such as Aşıklı Höyük, Boncuklu Höyük and Göbekli Tepe. He particularly emphasizes the consistency of art and building density at Çatalhöyük which cannot be seen in any other Neolithic sites in the region. Hodder compares the results of recent excavations by the Çatalhöyük Research Project and Mellart, who undertook excavations in 1960’s. He then goes on to consider the elaborate buildings which include a high level of art and significant numbers of burials. Hodder named these “History Houses”, suggesting that ancestors were buried under the floor to create social memory.

The third key site offered is Ilıpınar, a Neolithic settlement which is located in the Eastern Marmara region. Although this area has not been sufficiently researched yet, the excavation of Ilıpınar along with Menteşe Höyük, Barçın Höyük and Aktopraklık, which are very close to each other, have provided substantial data to help our understanding of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic of the region. In this article Jacob Roodenberg outlines the general characteristics of the Ilıpınar such as architectural structure and sequences etc. He argues that the Anatolian Neolithic was taken to Europe as there are similar cultural aspects between Marmara region and the European zone.

Arslantepe has been researched and excavated for almost half-a-century and here Marcella Frangipane gives an overview of the site which emphasizes the development of social complexity and its regional importance. The remainder of this section considers a variety of key sites from across the region, including Titriş Höyük in Southeast Turkey, significant sites of the Hittite Empire (Boğazköy-Hattuşa, Ortaköy-Sapinuwa, Alaca Höyük, Kuşakli-Sarissa, Maşat Höyük-Tapikka), Gordion, capital of the Phrygians, Kaman-Kalehöyük and the Sardis-Capital of the West.

Most of the authors included here have worked in the field for a considerable period. However, many important sites have been excluded. It is important to recognise that, in the last two decades, Anatolian archaeology has expanded in terms of new excavations, new discoveries, and systematic works and publications. Although the editors point out that “we have chosen these sites due to their long term and ongoing excavations” the book would have benefited from including other sites such as Körtik Tepe (Özkaya and San 2007), which has become very significant for understanding the archaeological context of Neolithic Anatolia. Also worthy of inclusion are Ulucak Höyük (Çilingiroglu and Çilingiroglu 2007), Ege Gübre (Sağlamtimur 2007), Yesilova Höyük (Derin 2007) in the Aegean Anatolia; Neolithic site AktopraklIk (Karul 2007) in the eastern Marmara region, and Neolithic site Aşıklı Höyük (Esin and Harmankaya 2007) for central Anatolia. For the Bronze Age, Liman Tepe, Bakla Tepe and Panaz Tepe (Şahoğlu 2008) are also key sites for the region. Excavations have been carried out for one or two decades at most of these sites, and including them in the volume would have helped provide a more comprehensive understanding of the early Anatolia.


Çilingiroğlu, A and Çilingiroğlu, Ç 2007 ‘Ulucak’. In M Özdoğan and N Başgelen, eds., Anadolu’da Uygarlığın Doğuşu Avrupaya Yayılımı Türkiye’de Neolitik Dönem, Yeni Kazılar, Yeni Bulgular. Istanbul, Turkey: Arkeoloji ve Sanat Yayınları, pp. 361-372.

Derin, Z 2007 ‘Yeşilova Höyüğü’. In M Özdoğan and N Başgelen, eds., Anadolu’da Uygarlığın Doğuşu Avrupaya Yayılımı Türkiye’de Neolitik Dönem, Yeni Kazılar, Yeni Bulgular. Istanbul, Turkey: Arkeoloji ve Sanat Yayınları, pp. 377-384.

Düring, B 2011 The Prehistory of Asia Minor From Complex Hunter-Gatherers to Early Urban Societies. New York, Cambridge University Press.

Esin, U, and Harmankaya, S 2007 ‘Aşıklı Höyük’. In: M Özdoğan and N Başgelen, eds., Anadolu’da Uygarlığın Doğuşu Avrupaya Yayılımı Türkiye’de Neolitik Dönem, Yeni Kazılar, Yeni Bulgular. Istanbul, Turkey: Arkeoloji ve Sanat Yayınları, pp. 255-272.

Karul, N 2007 ‘Aktopraklık: Kuzeybatı Anadolu’da Gelişkin Bir Köy’. In M Özdoğan and N Başgelen, eds., Anadolu’da Uygarlığın Doğuşu Avrupaya Yayılımı Türkiye’de Neolitik Dönem, Yeni Kazılar, Yeni Bulgular. Istanbul, Turkey: Arkeoloji ve Sanat Yayınları, pp. 387-392.

Özkaya, V, and San, O 2007 ‘Körtik Tepe: Bulgular Işığında Kültürel Doku Üzerine ilk Gözlemler’. In M. Özdoğan and N. Başgelen, eds., Anadolu’da Uygarlığın Doğuşu Avrupaya Yayılımı Türkiye’de Neolitik Dönem, Yeni Kazılar, Yeni Bulgular. Istanbul, Turkey: Arkeoloji ve Sanat Yayınları, pp. 21-36.

Sağlamtimur, H 2007 ‘Ege Gübre Neolitik Yerleşimi’. In M Özdoğan and N Başgelen, eds., Anadolu’da Uygarlığın Doğuşu Avrupaya Yayılımı Türkiye’de Neolitik Dönem, Yeni Kazılar, Yeni Bulgular. Istanbul, Turkey: Arkeoloji ve Sanat Yayınları, pp. 373-376.

Şahoğlu, V 2008 ‘Liman Tepe and Bakla Tepe: New evidence fort he relations between the Izmir region, the Cyclades, and the Greek mainland during the late fourth and third millennia BC’. In: H Erkanal, H Hauptmann, V Şahoğlu, and R Tuncel, eds., The Aegean in the Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age. Ankara, Turkey: Ankara Üniversitesi Basımevi, pp. 483-501.