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Hattusha: the Hittite Capital*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Lion Gate in the south-west
State Party  Turkey
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iii, iv
Reference 377
Region** Europe and North America
Coordinates 40°01′11″N 34°36′55″E / 40.01972°N 34.61528°E / 40.01972; 34.61528Coordinates: 40°01′11″N 34°36′55″E / 40.01972°N 34.61528°E / 40.01972; 34.61528
Inscription history
Inscription 1986  (10th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Hattusa (URUa-at-tu-ša 𒌷𒄩𒀜𒌅𒊭; attuša, near modern Boğazkale (formerly Boğazköy), Turkey) was the capital of the Hittite Empire in the late Bronze Age. The region is set in the great loop of the Kızıl River (Marashantiya in Hittite sources and Halys in Classical Antiquity) in central Anatolia.

Hattusa was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1986.


The surroundings

The landscape surrounding the city included rich agricultural fields, hill lands for pasture, as well as woods. Smaller woods are still found outside the city but in ancient times they were far more widespread. This meant the inhabitants had an excellent supply for timber when building their houses and other structures. The fields provided the people with a subsistence crop of wheat, barley and lentils. Linen was also harvested, but their primary source for clothing was wool from sheep. They also hunted deer in the forest, but this was probably only a luxury reserved for the nobility. The source for meat was domesticated animals. There were several other settlements in the vicinity, such as the rock shrine at Yazılıkaya and the town at Alacahöyük. Since the rivers in the area are too small and unsuitable for major ships, all transport to and from Hattusa had to go by land.

Early history of the city

Twelve Hittite Gods of the Underworld in the nearby Yazılıkaya, a sanctuary of Hattusa

Before 2000 BC, a settlement of the apparently indigenous Hatti people was established on sites that had been occupied even earlier.[1] The earliest traces of settlement on the site are from the sixth millennium BC. In the 19th and 18th centuries BC, merchants from Assur in Assyria established a trading post here, setting up in their own separate quarter of the city. The center of their trade network was located in Kanesh (Neša) (modern Kültepe). Business dealings required record-keeping: the trade network from Assur introduced writing to Hattusa, in the form of cuneiform.

A carbonized layer apparent in excavations attests to the burning and ruin of the city of Hattusa around 1700 BC. The responsible party appears to have been King Anitta from Kussara (a city possibly to be identified with Alişar), who took credit for the act and erected an inscribed curse for good measure:

Yenicekale, between the Lion Gate and the outer 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, may the Weathergod of Heaven strike him down.

The Hittite imperial city

Only a generation later, a Hittite-speaking king had chosen the site as his residence and capital. The Hittite Language had been gaining speakers at Hattic's expense for some time. The Hattic "Hattus" now became Hittite "Hattusa", and the king took the name of Hattusili I, the "one from Hattusa". Hattusili marked the beginning of a non-Hattic-speaking "Hittite" state, and of a royal line of Hittite Great Kings — 27 of whom are now known by name.

After the Kaskas arrived to the kingdom's north, they twice attacked the city to the point where the kings had to move the royal seat to another city. Under Tudhaliya I, the Hittites moved north to Sapinuwa, returning later. Under Muwatalli II, they moved south to Tarhuntassa but assigned Hattusili III as governor over Hattusa. Mursili III returned the seat to Hattusa, where the kings remained until the end of the Hittite kingdom in the 12th century BC.

At its peak, the city covered 1.8 km² and comprised an inner and outer portion, both surrounded by a massive and still visible course of walls erected during the reign of Suppiluliuma I (circa 1344–1322 BC (short chronology)). The inner city covered an area of some 0.8 km² and was occupied by a citadel with large administrative buildings and temples.

The Great Temple in the inner city

To the south lay an outer city of about 1 km², with elaborate gateways decorated with reliefs showing warriors, lions, and sphinxes. Four temples were located here, each set around a porticoed courtyard, together with secular buildings and residential structures. Outside the walls are cemeteries, most of which contain cremation burials. Modern estimates put the population of the city between 40,000 and 50,000 at the peak; In the early period the inner city housed a third that number. The dwelling houses which were built with timber and mud bricks have vanished from the site, leaving only the stone-built walls of temples and palaces.

The city was destroyed, together with the Hittite state itself, around 1200 BC, as part of the Bronze Age collapse. The site was subsequently abandoned until 800 BC, when a modest Phrygian settlement appeared in the area.

The Yerkapi rampart in the south

Discovery of the city

Ernest Chantre opened some trial trenches at the village then called Boğazköy, in 1893-94.[2] Since 1906, the German Oriental Society has been excavating at Hattusa (with breaks during the two World Wars and the Depression, 1913-31 and 1940-51). Archaeological work is still carried out by the German Archaeological Institute (Deutsches Archäologische Institut). Hugo Winckler and Theodor Makridi Bey conducted the first excavations 1906, 1907, and 1911–13, which were resumed in 1931 under Kurt Bittel, followed by Peter Neve (site director 1963, general director 1978–94).[3] One of the most important discoveries at the site has been the cuneiform royal archives of clay tablets, consisting of official correspondence and contracts, as well as legal codes, procedures for cult ceremony, oracular prophecies and literature of the ancient Near East. One particularly important tablet, currently on display at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, details the terms of a peace settlement reached years after the Battle of Kadesh between the Hittites and the Egyptians under Ramesses II, in 1259 or 1258 BC. A copy is on display in the United Nations in New York City as an example of the earliest known international peace treaties.

Although the 30,000 or so clay tablets recovered from Hattusa form the main corpus of Hittite literature, archives have since appeared at other centers in Anatolia, such as Tabigga (Maşat Höyük) and at Sapinuwa (Ortaköy). They are now divided between the archaeological museums of Ankara and Istanbul.

The sphinx

A sphinx from Hattusa was taken for restoration out of Turkey to Germany in 1917 and has not been returned. It was recently at the centre of a Turkish move to apply restrictions on German archaeologists working in the country. It is currently on display in Berlin's Pergamon Museum.[4]

See also


  1. ^ The Excavations at Hattusha: "A Brief History"
  2. ^ " The Excavations at Hattusha - a project of the German Institute of Archaeology": Discovery
  3. ^ Jürgen Seeher, "Forty Years in the Capital of the Hittites: Peter Neve Retires from His Position as Director of the Ḫattuša-Boğazköy Excavations" The Biblical Archaeologist 58.2, "Anatolian Archaeology: A Tribute to Peter Neve" (June 1995), pp. 63-67.
  4. ^ Article: "Turkey targets German archaeologists in sphinx row". Reuters. 2007-08-02. Article:.   Article: "Almanya ile arkeolojik kriz" (in Turkish). Hürriyet. 2007-08-04. Article:.  

External links


  • Peter Neve: Hattusa - Stadt der Götter und Tempel. Neue Ausgrabungen in der Hauptstadt der Hethiter. Ph. von Zabern, Mainz 1996. (2. erw. Aufl.) ISBN 3-8053-1478-7
  • W. Dörfler u.a.: Untersuchungen zur Kulturgeschichte und Agrarökonomie im Einzugsbereich hethitischer Städte. MDOG Berlin 132, 2000, 367-381. ISSN 0342-118X


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