©The Archaeological Settlements of Turkey - TAY Project


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1000 m
Central Anatolia
Investigation Method:


Location: The site lies south of the city of Çorum; west-northwest of the Alaca District.
Geography and Environment: Höyük Village has been moved away from the site for touristic purposes. The 13-15 m high; ovoid mound measures 310x275 m. The mound appears to have two cones due to its south and northeast elevations and the defile between these elevations. There is the grave of a saint on the southern elevation. Fresh water springs; called Çigdemlik; lie close to the mound. The surroundıng fertile lands of the mound are located in the valley irrigated by the Horam Özü Stream that joins with Budaközü around Sungurlu and empties into Halys. Although it has no connection with the Alaca District; the site was named Alaca as the only road that went to Höyük Village passed from the Alaca District in 1930-35. This name continues to be used.
Research and Excavation: Alacahöyük became famous from its sphinxes with the help of W.G. Hamilton in 1835; and was visited by many researchers and travelers afterwards. G. Perrot made a plan of the door with the Sphinx Gate in 1861. Chantre (1894); Winckler and Makridi Bey (1907) made small soundings around this door. H.H. von der Osten brought attention to the mound with his maps and drawings. Excavations were conducted by R.O. Arik in 1935 with the encouragements of Atatürk; and were taken over by H.Z. Kosay in 1936. Many excavations were conducted until 1970. The buildings; from the Hittite and Phrygian Period; were restored by M. Akok. Although the scientific excavations began again in 1994; there is nothing published about the Chalcolithic Age levels yet. It takes place in the registered archaeological sites list prepared by Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Stratigraphy: The long years of excavation by Arik; Kosay and Akok revealed 15 building levels from the Chalcolithic Age to the Iron Age that can be categorized in 4 main settlement phases. The third of the 4 main phases is dated to the EBA. The most renown layer of the mound is this third layer housing king tombs with extraordinary grave goods. 4 building levels (5-8) were identified and related to this layer. It is referred to as Copper Age in the Alacahöyük reports. It is noted that the last building level of this age ended with a massive fire [Akok 1979:109]. It ıs suggested that the 13 graves could only appear to relate to the building levels based on their height due to the technological restrictions of excavations during 1935. Scientists have proposed differing perspectives to the subject: graves A; C; F; K & L are related to building levels 6 and 7; A & E to 5 and 6; and B; D; H; R; T2 and S to building level 5 [Hout 1982:57-65]. Alternatively; T. Özgüç tends to date graves F; K; L; E to building level 7; the graves B.M; D; R.M; and H to building level 6; and finally graves M.A; M.C; T.M. to building level 5; mainly basing this on the finds [Özgüç 1948:46; footnote 170]. In the meantime; A. Özyar claims that dating the graves buried into a slope next to the foothill of the EBA mound according to their elevation levels may result in wrong conclusions [Özyar 1999:79-85].
Small Finds: Architecture: The excavations of the EBA focused on the kings' tombs uncovered following the deep sounding during the earlier phases of the Alacahöyük excavations. Despited the limited knowledge of the EBA houses of the town; it is suggested that the houses carry similarities to contemporary Anatolian houses built from mudbrick with mudbrick walls and foundations consisting of at three rows of stones [Amok 1979:108]. The exterior and interior surfaces of the mudbrick walls are plastered. Their roofs are believed to be flat and supported by wooden beams. The structure plan yields buildings situated separately with space in between utilized as a courtyard; passage or workshop. The plans; unfortunately; were not well-organised. Some units consist of distorted rooms built side by side each other. The settlement is bigger than Chalcolithic Aged village. Whether the settlement of this era was surrounded by a wall or not is unknown. The restricted excavation area did not reveal any palace or a presidential residence. During 2005 season excavations a sounding was dug below the workshops; revealing well-constructed EBA stone walls and a pivot stone in a doorway [cat.une.edu.au/page/Alaca%Höyük 4.12.2006; 11:00]. The researches performed in 2005 revealed architectural remains as well as EBA pottery during the excavations in the north of the jewelry workshop. It is found that unlike the samples of the previous period in terms of technology these architectural remains consist of smaller stones and small size rooms. It is found that the buildings above the mound are in northeast-southwest direction; but the EBA rooms of the same building that were only partially revealed lied in east-west direction. Those show similar masonry technic compared to the later period buildings. Three doorways were also found belonging to the rooms which are in the shape of storage rooms. The pivot stone of one of these doorways was found in situ [Çinaroglu-Çelik 2007:309-310]. During the researches in 2007 building remains were found in 3 phases within the EBA cultural layers of Alaca Höyük; and a mineral melting furnace was revealed [http://www.ttk.org.tr/index.php?Page=Sayfa&No=191; 2.6.2008; 11.30]. Only a small portion of the building remains were preserved inside building level 1, but the an architectural integrity could not be identified. The building remains found in building level 2 suggest a structure group that consisted of 2 rooms. The diameter of the kiln found in building level 3 is 120 cm and the floor of the structure was covered with stones and plastered with a thick plaster. Large beam remains were found immediately next to the kiln. The kiln floor has an inclination from north to south [Çinaroglu-Çelik 2009:92-93]. 3 connected rooms with stone founded adobe walls are excavated in 2009 in the Culture Layer III in the South of Trench II. The North wall of the Temple-Palace has destructed the South walls of these rooms. Two intact and one partially destructed, 3 niches are unearthed on North walls of these rooms between the adobe walls. The niches are approximately 40 by 50 cm in size and plastered on the internal surfaces and bases. A depas and tankard from EBA III is captured in front of these niches. Depases are parallel with Troy II (a-b) layers. Besides these depases calycles with or without handle which can be classified as sacrificial elements, as well as pots, spouted mugs, bowls, stamps, and idols are among the captured findings in this field. Base of a furnace covered with thick plaster is encountered on the ground level of the room in the Southwest of the field. The age of this area is determined as Early 3rd Millennium. Two more walls are excavated that are constructed in East-West direction and connected to the remains of the wall which reached below the lower level of the building with niches. Two round silos with white plastered floor, one with stone bonded wall in the East are located during the studies in this field [Çinaroglu-Çelik 2011: 186]. During the 2011 and 2012 studies, Room 10 and 11 were exposed in the north of Trench H4 24. The wall of Room 10 was built with a single row of stone, while the wall belonging to Room 11 was erected double row of stones. The east corners of both room remained under rubble and have been damaged. A Syrian bottle and EBA pots and idols were found in the area (the section damaged by well 9) that is located in the same altitude with Room 11. During the leveling studies conducted in the same area, unburned wooden remains extending in the east-west direction were encountered. In addition, unconnected wall fragments were found. Together with wooden remains, quite coarse EBA potsherds were recovered. Among them, there are Chalcolithic sherds as well. The excavations carried out in the south of Trench H4 (5) yielded unconnected wall fragments, which are located on top of each other and belong to different building levels, and floor remains. In this area, 3 rounded siloi were exposed. These siloi have white plastered floors. The potsherds recovered from the floors are dated to EBA. The leveling studies carried out in the same area yielded a great number of floors. The potsherds found on the floors belong to EBA as well [Çinaroglu et al. 2014]. In Trench J4 (2), the first phase found in 2013 consists of an independent room, floor fragments and oven remains. Below this phase, 12 siloi that were built on top of each other were exposed belonging to EBA the building level 2. The floors of these siloi in circular plan are white plastered. None of these siloi are intact. Stones are found inside them. It is possible that they are with stone bonded wall. In EBA 3, an independent wall and a round building located in the south of this wall were exposed. The floor of the building is white plastered. In the same phase, wooden remains in high density were found inside the rectangular planned building. As a result of the studies, three different building levels belonging to EBA were determined in Trench J4 (2) [Çinaroglu-Çelik 2015:182-184]. Pottery: In this period of Alacahöyük; the handmade; grit or straw tempered; thin pasted; burnished ware with red or black exterior surfaces specific to the Central Anatolia are dominant. The ware resembles the "Karaz ware" of Eastern Anatolia. Some were decorated with relief and excision/groove. Forms of fruit-stands; spouted pitchers and side spouted jars are common. Graves in particular revealed in-situ and intact vessels. Painted sherds contemporary with the first level of Alisar were recovered from the last building level [Özgüç 1947:164]. The researches of 2005 revealed EBA pottery 50 cm below the 2nd millennium layer dating to 3rd millennium BC during the excavations in the north of the jewelry workshop. Those are mainly black; brown and reddish brown burnished EBA pottery items [Çinaroglu-Çelik 2007:309]. During researches in 2006 amorph pottery examples were found that belong to the EBA; right below the Hittitian Building of 2nd Millennium. The traces of the collapsed wooden roof remains may were observed after these. This wooden building element was removed intact for performing dendochronological research [http://www.ttk.org.tr/index.php?Page=Sayfa&No=191; 2.6.2008; 11.30]. As a result of the researches in 2007 the EBA building elements revealed one teapot with a whisket handle; one beak-shaped spouted jug; one bowl; one very small bowl; three single-handle small pitchers; one single-handle small bowl; two jugs; two single handle bowls; one bowl with pedestal; one jar; one small cup; one spouted jug; one toy idol; two idols; one idol seal; two bull figurines and one bowl [http://www.ttk.org.tr/index.php?Page=Sayfa&No=191; 2.6.2008; 11.30]. The beak-shaped spouted juglet with a single handle and the small cup are black pasted and burnished [Çinaroglu-Çelik 2009:93]. Calycles with or without handle which can be classified as sacrificial elements, as well as pots, spouted mugs, bowls, stamps, and idols are among the captured findings in Culture Layer II in 2009. [Çinaroglu-Çelik 2011:186]. During the 2010 studies, a single-handled mug with fingernail-impressed decoration dated to EBA was found on the south of the wall D2. In the area between the wall D4 and the Temple-Palace, two handmade bowls were recovered [Çinaroglu-Çelik 2012:287]. A miniature bowl with pierced lug was found on the floor exposed in Trench J4 (2) in 2013. The potsherds found at this elevation consist of wheel-made wares [Çinaroglu-Çelik 2015:182-183]. Clay: There are various types of seals indicating the presence of an intense trading system. In 2006 a terra cotta toy idol was found [Çinaroglu-Çelik 2008:529]. In 2013, spindle whorls with decoration and bead were found in Trench J4 (2) in 2013. The decorations on these spindle whorls are similar to those found in the kings' graves. Stamp seals were found in this trench as well. These seals bear geometric motifs. In addition, seals in the form of paw (cat) were recovered. The building level 2 of EBA yielded a group of animal figurines and idols [Çinaroglu-Çelik 2015:182-183]. Metal: A lot of metallic finds were recovered from both the kings' tombs and civil buildings. Three metal objects were collected which were next to the metal melting furnace found in the building level three encountered during 2007 excavations [Çinaroglu-Çelik 2009:93]. Human Remains: A premature infant's skeleton was found under a three-room structure inside the settlement. According to Özgüç this is an old tradition [Özgüç 1947:164]. Although it can be proposed that the public cemetery of the EBA town is extramural; an intensive survey and a complete excavation of the site are necessary in order to make a concrete analysis and conclusion. The remains on the top constitute an obstacle. King Tombs: A crescent-like slope area; ca. 200 squaremeters in size; on the south-southeast was first used as a public settlement during the EBA II era; and then as a cemetery of the dynasty in the last quarter of the third millennium: It has been proposed that this stands on a theater/crescent-like depressed area. The 13 graves were not built for the public; but for the rulers or noble class buried alongside a variety of grave goods. The cemetery; the burial place of many generations; proves Alacahöyük was a significant religious center. Most of the graves were built one on top of one another. Özgüç states that some former mudbrick rooms were preferred for digging graves as well. They are simple rectangular chamber graves with one compartment built by stone walls and loam mortar dug into the soil reaching a maximum of 75 - 100 cm in depth. While the walls are not built neatly; their sizes range from 8.0-5.0x2.8-1.7 m; averaging 4.5x3.0 m. The interior is arranged like a bedroom [Akok 1979:109]. The floors are usually clay; though rarely of compressed pebbles and soil (e.g. M.A.; M.C.). Under the deceased of grave T.M. the floor is paved with big flat stones. Despite no observation of a standard layout; the lateral walls are oriented in an east-west direction. The exterior and interior surfaces of the chamber graves are not plastered. The flat roofs are built of clayed soil as civil architectural examples which have walls with wooden beams covered with reeds: the roof center is supported by pillars to prevent collapsing. Likewise; the walls are supported with beams [Özgüç 1948:42]. Despite being built for one single adult; some graves carry more (e.g. T.M.). It is suggested that they were not buried simultaneously. In some areas; graves were built back to back. This type of construction can be seen at grave M.C. in three phases [Özgüç 1948:43]. Burials of the ruling class; for example the priest-king; ruler/president; queen; prince; and princess; were buried in the center or near the sides in hocker position (contracted); leaning on their right side; their heads always facing west. There is consistency with the method in which the dead were buried. Grave goods: Daily-used; valuable; and some ritual grave goods are found in the graves; placed neatly. Weapons were left near the waists of the men. The presence of weapons and valuable goods within the women's graves may well indicate the high-status of the women; such as a queen. The presence of fibulas that attach to clothings concludes that the dead were buried clothed; a thesis supported by the recovery of decorative ornaments sewn to clothings. Grave H revealed that burials of high-status individuals; such as the ruler and his women; were wrapped with leather and felt. Spouted pitchers presumably containing beverages were placed across the burial. Metal finds such as gold; silver; and bronze recovered; particularly from tombs; indicate the practice of extraordinary metallurgy techniques applied applied during the last period of the third millennium BC. Besides the daily-used items; sun discoids; bronze animal statues of deer and bull and religious idols with unknown meaning; were found. Some of the sun discoids are in the shape of a cage while the others are mixed with figures of animals such as bull and deer. Although no evidence is available; it is believed that they were cast by melting wax technique. There are examples of silver inlay decorations on bronze objects unlike the techniques of preceding periods. One of the silver idols has golden breasts and boots. Among others; the one holding a cup in his hands is believed to depict the smaller gods sanctifying the ritual or people offering holy beverages to the gods. The Burial Ceremony: It is suggested that the ceremony was like a feast: sistrums were placed in the dead's cart to make noises during the displacement and the castanets clicked together to sound rhythmically suggesting non-silent rituals. The bull heads and feet constantly encountered on the graves during the excavations give some clues about the rituals. The meat of animals (such as bulls; cows; sheep; goats; and pigs) sacrificed after the ceremony were eaten; and then their heads and feet were carefully placed on top of the graves as an offering to the dead. 10 ox feet were found on grave L as well as sheep and goat feet next to this grave. It is not clarified whether a dog's skeleton found in a grave capped by a stone was a sacrifice or a beloved pet of the dead. The suggestion; supported by H.Z. Kosay alone; that graves were set on fire to sanctify the after post-burial ceremony is based on traces of charred timbers covering the graves and layers of ashes found in the graves. The presence of luxurious gifts; beverage holders; food vessels and animal sacrifices assume a belief of the afterlife. Idols used to assist the gods accepting the dead were left into graves. 13 graves yielded only five pairs of golden figurines and three idols. Such suggestions are based on the material evidence surviving to date. Wooden remains; on the other hand; are unknown. Based on the location of the Sphynx Gate southeast of the cemetery during the Hittite period; it is suggested that the main road of the EBA settlement was going through this gate as well [Özyar 1999:80]. The passage to the EBA cemetery was probably in the same direction. The EBA gate could not be uncovered due to remains belonging to the Hittite period.
Interpretation and Dating: The significance of Alacahöyük for Turkish archaeology and its role in the development of Turkish archaeology is indisputable. The golden and silver finds revealed during the excavations in 1936-39 made Anatolia the center of the attention; and archaeology became an important science in Turkey. Many differing and varying proposals have been proposed by scientists despite the insufficiency of documentative dating of the kings' tombs. The inscriptions revealed at the kings' tombs of Alacahöyük indicate that Indo-European societies; the prominent figures of the Hatti Period; dominated the local people at the end of the third millennium BC and imposed their culture on them. Those late comers; probably from Caucasia; brought their religious beliefs and traditions with them. The discoid; deer and bull statues do not exist in the pre-EBA III cultures. The chamber graves are unfamiliar as well. The absence of any cist graves or mud brick graves in the location is further evidence of an foreign society. Apart from the kings; tombs; the remains suggest the continuity of the local Hatti tradition. The lack of a detailed investigation of the area; the cemetery belonging to those communities continues to be unexplored. Alacahöyük is dated temporarily to the end of EBA III as a whole. Considering the unearthed architectural remains inside the dense layer which went through a blaze alongside the EBA pottery found during the excavations that took place north of the Hittitian jewelry workshop performed in the scope of 2005 researches; it is understood that the EBA building went through a serious fire and destructed [Çinaroglu-Çelik 2007:309]. Many terra cotta vessels; terra cotta idols and most important of all a mineral melting furnace and three iron artifacts below the furnace were found during the researches in 2007. These finds proved that the three iron daggers with golden handles revealed inside the EBA Kings' burials were made in Alaca Höyük [http://www.ttk.org.tr/index.php?Page=Sayfa&No=191; 2.6.2008; 11.30]. The black pasted and burnished vessels found in 2007, were encountered before inside EBA settlements such as Kastamonu-Kinik, Masat Höyük, Karaoglan, Ahlatlibel, Kavak-Kaledorugu, Dündartepe culture level II which are located north of Central Anatolia and in Central Anatolia. Similar specimens were found during previous excavations of Alaca Höyük and were dated to EBA building level 5 [Çinaroglu-Çelik 2009:93].

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