The Hittites, one of the great Bronze Age civilizations of the Mideast, are less well known than other great ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Sumarians, Persians and Egyptians but no less deserving of our attention. For a long time, the Hittites were only known to historians as an obscure tribe mentioned in the Bible. In 1834, when archeologist Charles Texier stumbled upon the ruins of Hattusha (modern-day Boghazkoy/Bogazköy), his discovery went unrecognized. The Hittites were an Anatolian people who established an empire at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia around 1750 BC. This empire reached its height during the mid-14th century BC under Suppiluliuma I, when it encompassed an area that included most of Asia Minor as well as parts of the northern Levant and Upper Mesopotamia. After about 1180 BC, the empire came to an end during the Bronze Age collapse. The two main periods of Hittite history are customarily referred to as the Old Kingdom (1700-1500 BC) and the New Kingdom, or Empire (1400-1180 BC). The less well-documented interlude of about a hundred years is sometimes referred to as the Middle Kingdom. The early Hittites, whose prior whereabouts are thought to be in the southern Ukraine, borrowed heavily from the pre-existing Anatoloian Hattian and Hurrian cultures, and also from that of the Assyrian colonisers—in particular, the cuneiform writing and the use of cylindrical seals. The Boğazköy Museum is located 82 km southwest from Corum, in the district of Bogazkale. The museum, displaying excavation finds from the Hittite capital of Hattusha, opened on September 12 1966 and was completely refurnished in 2011.
In the southeast of Turkey, about 28 miles south of Sanliurfa (once called Edessa), lies the city of Harran. The ancient city of Harran was located on the west bank of the Balikh River, a tributary of the Euphrates, in Northern Mesopotamia. The river has long since dried up, although it still has water semiannually in Syria. Harran’s location was a major crossroad for primary trade routes from Mesopotamia to the west and the northwest. The city was an important trade center in ancient times. It appears to be named after its geographic function. Harran is derived from the Sumerian or Akkadian harranu which means road or caravan. The Bible refers to Harran as Paddan-aram which is Aramean for highway. The city of Harran was believed to have been founded around 2000 BCE as a merchant outpost of Ur. The Bible records that Abraham stayed in Harran after leaving Ur, which some claim was actually Edessa (modern Sanliurfa). Beginning about 2000 BCE, Harran’s name was mentioned in a variety of historical accounts as one of the most prominent cities of Northern Mesopotamia. However, very scarce information regarding the earliest period of its history has survived. A number of excavations have revealed early Bronze Age materials that support the existence of Harran during this period. The name of Harran first begins to be mentioned in the Mari Archives (around 1760 BCE). Some documents detail practices such as adoption and inheritance similar to those found in the Genesis accounts. Reports in the royal letters from the city of Mari on the middle Euphrates indicate that the area around the Balikh river was occupied in the 19th century BCE by semi-nomadic tribes, who were especially active in the region near Harran. According to the letter correspondence between the Assyrian King Shamsi-Adad I (1812-1797 BCE) and his son Ishme-Adad, Harran was also once a vassal kingdom of Assyria, the farthest outreach of the Assyrian Empire.
We decided to visit the Istanbul Archaeology Museums on the grounds of the Topkapı Palace outer gardens. Inside, they have a breathtaking collection of glazed brick reliefs from ancient Babylon. Many major museums around the world have lion reliefs from the processional way but in Istanbul they have bulls and “dragons from the actual gate. The Ishtar Gate, named after a Mesopotamian goddess of love and war, was one of eight gateways that provided entry to the inner city of Babylon during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (reign 605-562 BC). It was decorated with glazed blue bricks that depicted alternating rows of bulls and dragons. A processional way went through this gateway and was decorated, in part, with reliefs of lions. Every spring a procession that included the king, members of his court, priests and statues of the gods traveled to the “Akitu” temple to celebrate the New Year’s festival. The Processional Way was paved with red and yellow stones inscribed with a prayer from Nebuchadnezzar to Marduk and flanked by soaring walls of enameled tiles decorated with lions and flowers.
This cuneiform map of the Babylonian world is an archeological treasure on a par with the Rosetta Stone and the code of Hammurabi. The Babylonian World Map, also known as Imago Mundi is usually dated to the 6th century BCE and is the one of the oldest known world maps and certainly the most famous. We saw this when we were at the British Museum for the Olympics and I thought I would do some posts on famous ancient maps. An inscription on the Babylonian World Map indicates that it was a copy of a previous map and the locations featured on the map indicate that the original could not have been created earlier than the 9th century BCE. The back of the tablet is covered with cuneiform mainly describing Seven Islands or regions which are depicted in the form of equal triangles rising beyond the circle of the Earthly Ocean.
Boundary markers for property are a very old concept. They are mentioned in the Bible: Proverbs 22:28 “Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.” The Residence Act of July 16, 1790, as amended March 3, 1791, authorized President George Washington to select a 100-square-mile site for the national capital on the Potomac River. He selected the site and placed 40 stone markers at one mile intervals, marking the extent of the capital city. The stones are now the oldest federal monuments in the United States.