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.
I saw the beautiful Standard of Ur, seen above, when we visited the British Museum last summer. It is about 4,500 years old and was probably constructed in the form of a hollow wooden box with scenes of war and peace represented on each side through elaborately inlaid mosaics of Lapis Lazuli and shell. The standard of Ur shows the first unambiguous depictions of chariots in war. There has been some debate on whether a Sumerian chariot was actually used in combat. Many scholars believe that it was merely a “battle taxi”, used to convey a commander to a strategic part of the battlefield where he could lead his troops, in the same way that a modern general uses a jeep or helicopter to reach the front lines. Some scholars also believe the chariots were used to carry noblemen to the battle, where they would dismount and then fight on foot. The Standard of Ur along with the Vulture stele are the first depictions of war in history. The Standard of Ur dispels any question that chariots were used directly in combat. They were likely heavy and slow to start but undoubtedly were truly intimidating in combat, with an ability to scatter the enemy lines.