©The Archaeological Settlements of Turkey - TAY Project

Kültepe / Karahöyük

For site maps and drawings please click on the picture...


For photographs please click on the photo...

Kültepe / Karahöyük
1017 m
Central Anatolia
Investigation Method:


Location: It lies immediate south of the Karaev or Karahöyük/Karhöyük (recent name; Kültepe) Village of the Merkez District; about 20-21 km northeast of the Kayseri Province. It is recorded as Kültepe in the archaeological literature as it looks ash-coloured from a distance; but it is locally known as Karahöyük. Therefore; it is better to cite it with the both names given as Kültepe-Karahöyük. It should also be preferred in order not to confuse it with the other mounds called Kültepe in Anatolia.
Geography and Environment: It is located on a slightly depressed area in the northeast of the Kayseri Plain on a plateau road connecting Kayseri to Sivas. Dish-shaped plain; probably; played an important role in choosing this site for occupation. Wells were used by inhabitants because of the water table is very near the surface. The nearest water resource is a fresh water spring; 600 m far. The mound; in the form of a round hill; measures 20 m in height and 450x550 m in dimensions; except the karum area [Özgüç 1950:11]. It has been severely damaged due to several reasons since the end of 19th century. This damage was stopped only by the excavations conducted by T. Özgüç. The area is being protected by wire fences.
Research and Excavation: It was introduced in 1882 by the tablet finds of the Colony Period by T.G. Pinches; and excavated between 1893 and 1894 under E. Chantre to bring those tablets to light followed by H. Winckler and then H. Grothe in 1906. When B. Hrozny achieved to find the tablets; even tough in smaller quantities; in 1925 by means of small soundings and a trench of 52x32 m in the karum area; the mound attracted the attention to the Anatolian archaeology. The elevation on the uphill was also opened partly during the excavation which was followed by the works of Turkish archaeologists under T. Özgüç from 1948. Studies of T. Özgüç was mainly concerned with the karum area during the first years; and then continued by the excavation of the mound section. Excavations lasted until recent years contributed partly to the understanding of the EBA settlements other than settlements of Colony Period. It takes place in the registered archaeological sites list prepared by Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The excavations are being led by F. Kulakoglu since 2006.
Stratigraphy: Excavations have laid that the site had been inhabited from the beginning of the third millennium BC to the Roman Period. The most significant settlement of the mound is the city settlement seen in the inscriptions by its name (Kanish) known during Assyrian Colony Period [Özgüç 1999:4]. Stratification of the mound and karum settlement is as follows (past to recent): Building level 18 (mound): EBA I Building levels 17-14: EBA II Building levels 13-11: EBA III Building levels 10-9/Karum 3-4: Intermediate period (transition) from EBA III to MBA Building level 8/Karum 2: Assyrian Colony Period Building level 7/Karum 1b: Assyrian Colony Period Building level 6-5/Karum 1a: Assyrian Colony and Hittites Periods Building level 4-3: Iron Age Building level 2-1: Hellenistic and Roman Periods
Small Finds: Architecture (ascending order): As only a small part was excavated; architectural characterizations of EBA I-II phases have not been defined yet in detail. Presences of graves belonging to these phases are reported. EBA III level of the Kültepe-Karahöyük settlement yielded three layers; identified as building levels 13; 12 and 11; all housing remains of monumental constructions. When they are inspected in ascending order; it is revealed that construction of the building level 13 underwent a fire. This construction has not been completely uncovered yet. A big trench in the squares N-R/36-38 of the hill has revealed a construction in the building level 12; identified as a temple complex by T. Özgüç [Özgüç 1964:35; plan 1; fig.1]. Although the temple in the center of this complex demolished by fire is interpreted to have a megaron plan; excavation couldn't reveal how the construction lying on its west ends up. Therefore; this plan is still questionable. Other rooms like silo; bedrooms were probably located on the northern section of the hall. There are two bed-like benches placed oppositely in the entrance (?) room in the west. Eastern and middle rooms on the north measure 6x4.7 m in dimensions while the western room measures 4.5x2 m. All rooms are opened to the temple in the center. Temple houses a big hearth where the sacred fire was lit and there are four spaces for columns around this hearth. Columns carrying the roof are suggested to be wooden. There is a sitting bench at the foot of the eastern wall. Doorsteps and traces of door frames are still visible. Floor of the small rooms yielded idols in alabaster specific to Kültepe only; terra cotta figurines; imported vessels known as Cilicia ware and two handled cups [Özgüç 1964:pl.III/1-2; X/1]. Presence of red washed; painted and cross decorated bowls and double handled vases [Özgüç 1964:pl.X/3] exposes that the building belonged to an important ruler/priest involved intensely in trade. Southern construction is adjacent to this complex; but is like a free-standing auxiliary building. It was constructed by mudbrick walls rising on stone foundations. Mudbrick walls are thick plastered and white painted. It has been partly damaged by both the building level 11 and the constructions of Hittite Period besides a massive fire it underwent. Building level 11 has two sub-phases; building level 11b yielded a monumental construction of ca. 22.5 x 24 m in a square plan; again in the squares N-R/ 36-38 [Özgüç 1986:fig.III.3/1-2]. Foundations were made of small stones and the walls were erected by big 12 cm thick mudbricks. Thickness of the northern and western walls are 90 cm while the eastern and southern walls go up to 120 cm. Intermediate walls are thinner. Northern wall of the big room in the centre of the construction is 3 m thick. It is uncertain why such a thick wall was needed here. Probably it has a relation with the support of the upper construction. Remains of two walls expose that the construction extends to the south. In the center lies a big room; 17 m long and 10.5 m wide and smaller rooms in various sizes in the northern part. Almost in the center of the big room; there is a big round hearth; 4.3 m in diameter. It is noted that small pillars on the southern and northern walls of the room were made to support the walls and to place the wooden beams. Those pillars were also used in the interior side of the southern wall facing the room on the south. Remains of big burnt timbers expose that the roof of this room; 10.5 m wide was hatched with wooden beams. In front of the northern and eastern walls; inside the big room lie sitting and atelier benchs; made of mudbricks again; 2.3-2.1 m long and 70 cm wide. Mudbrick bench on the western wall might be where the ruler was sitting as it is opposite of the entry door. It has a small intermediate wall and two rooms. Big room has two entrances; one through a corridor. Main door in the west has dual doors. It is assumed that this door is used to enter into the construction. It is proposed that the 2.8 m wide entrance of the big room was not closed by a wooden door; but by a weightless material like fence. Whole walls of the construction were plastered; the one in the center being more elaborately plastered while the floor is coated with clay. Charred remains of the construction attest that it was entirely demolished by a fire. Lack of in situ finds proves that the construction was abandoned before it was fired [Özgüç 1986:34]. Although what this construction was used for was not clearly defined; it is assumed that it functioned both as a temple (big room) and a palace (?). Yet; it is clear that it was not a private house belonging to the public. T. Özgüç indicates that this construction is unique with its features such as size; benches and big monumental hearth compared to the contemporary Anatolian settlements [Özgüç 1986:34]. It is suggested that it was constructed by the influence of palaces and meeting halls of the Mesopotamian cities. Finds expose that there is a small gap between the destruction of the construction at building level 12 and erection of the new construction of building level 11b. Probably upper level was constructed after a short period of time. During the studies conducted on the west side of Trench I in 2011, the western extension of the north wall of the monumental structure that was discovered in 2010 was exposed. The stone wall extending in the east-west direction built with large stone blocks was discovered near the south side of the trench. The floor level of Room 22 belonging to the EBA III building was reached. It was discovered that this room was emptied like the other rooms in the building. The southern extension and the south wall of Room 22 and the solid white plastered floor surrounded by benches located on its south and the continuation of the large garbage pit which was discovered in 2010 have been found in the area which was damaged by the garbage pits on the south, west and north of Room 22. Another room of the monumental structure was exposed. The western extension of the wall, which underwent a heavy fire, running parallel to the monumental structure has been found on the north section of Room 41 and Room 22 that are located successively. A corridor was formed between the wall and the north sidewall of the EBA building. It was found out that the walls of the room, which was discovered during the recent studies, belong to the monumental structure and plastered with white plaster, their floor were formed with compressed soil or plastered with white plaster and the mudbrick walls underwent a heavy fire. It was observed that the floors of benches in front of the walls were coated with a very solid white material and the sub-floor laying consists a fill with sand and pebble. In 2013, the excavations were carried out both in Tepe (Kanesh) and Lower City (karum). During the excavations conducted in Tepe, six more rooms belonging to the monumental building dated to the early phase of EBA III (the building level 13) were exposed. Two of these rooms are large. It was also observed that the structure continues towards the west, north and south [http://www.ttk.gov.tr/templates/resimler/File/Kazilar/2013/15-2013_Kultepe.pdf, 2.7.2016, 16:49]. Pottery: (ascending order) EBA II: This period is represented by four building levels; 17th level being the earliest phase. Building levels 14; 15 and 16; middle and late phases of this period; yielded wheel-made; groove decorated local wares as well as samples of metallic ware originated from Upper Mesopotamia. Samples of flat bottomed and deep vessels recovered from building level 14 contributed to the dating of this building level. Form characteristics of the spouted pitcher recovered from the same level is unfamiliar to Central Anatolia. Two pilgrium flasks were found in the cist graves of the building level 15 [Özgüç 1986:37]. The flask recovered from the building level 14 is a local imitation of the Syrian flasks. Also found are samples of big beakers. EBA III: EBA III levels of Kültepe-Karahöyük yielded again the pottery industry of both local and imported wares. One or two doubtful vessels accepted as transition ware were found at the building level 13 according to T. Özgüç [Özgüç 1964:34] whereas N. Özgüç reports that there are no samples of this ware in this building level. Fragments of flask-like forms in alabaster were also found at the building level 13. Also found is a limited number of Troy II type bowls [Özgüç 1986:pic.13]. Flask-like cups in alabaster; Syrian type bottles recovered from the building level 12 were brought to Kültepe from Mesopotamia or Southeastern Anatolia. Paste of the transition ware is fine; and the number of fine grit tempered samples increases. Some of them are decorated. Wheel-made; thin walled; single and multi-coloured bowls were recovered together from the building levels 11b and 12. Surface colors being pale red or light brown; those bowls are suggested to emerge in the building level 13 and be imported to Kültepe from Western Anatolia. Double handled vessels known as forms of the Western Anatolia region in the archaeological literature were spread not only into Central Anatolia; but into Southeastern Anatolia and Mediterranean regions. Locally produced samples of this ware are found both at Kültepe and Alisar. Light brown washed cup recovered from the building level 12 bears vertical bands in red. Also found in this level are sherds of Cilicia ware. Double handled and long beakers called depas amphikypellon are other forms repeating the historical relation between Troy II and Kültepe building level 12. Some of them are decorated in a similar way with the double handled goblets. Wheel-made double handled goblets resemble the North Syrian style. Last forms of double handles are mugs which are considered to originate from Western Anatolia. Limited number of finds identical to the ware of Alisar III found at the building level 11 exposes that the origin of wares during the Colony Period followed by Hittite Period can be related to the last phase of EBA. During the 2011 studies, potsherds dated to the end of 3rd millennium BC were recovered from the garbage pits on the south of Trench I. A pot found on the floor belonging to a room, which was exposed in the small area on the north of the excavation area in Trench I, indicates that the late levels belong to EBA as well. Clay: A bell-shaped female idol in terra cotta was recovered from the floor of the temple. Also found are seals in clay. Ground Stone: Buildings; cist graves and surface collection yielded idols that can be grouped into 4 belonging to EBA II-III of Kültepe. Renowned flat idols made of alabaster specific to Kültepe were largely found on the floors of the monumental buildings at the building levels 13 and 12. Some are the depictions of two gods side by side. Other than single triangular headed idols; two; three and four headed ones are found. Facial characteristics (eyebrows and eyes) of those flat figurines were not depicted; and their round bodies were decorated by incisions. Among decorations; human and lion figures are common. Presence of this idol type in the vicinity of Aksaray; except Kültepe; is an indication of the possibility of having similar finds during the excavations to be carried out in the other EBA settlements of Central Anatolia. Second types of idols have a round body and a pointed head [Bilgi 1975:pl.I-III]. Some of them have opposite notchs on both sides of the body as to depict the waist. Samples of the third type are with a standing position identified as Ankara or Central Anatolian type [Bilgi 1975:pl.IV; pic.14]. Fat; seated female figurines in alabaster; again originating from Kültepe are claimed to relate with those building levels or upper transition levels [Özgüç [N) 1957:62-64; pic.1-6; 12; 13]. Human Remains: Presence of pithos; even cist graves other than simple pit burials was informed in the all EBA building levels of Kültepe. A grave; damaged by a deep garbage pit of the Roman Period beneath the building level 13 yielded human bones and EBA II pottery. The golden necklace recovered from this grave is typical of the Ur Dynasty Period according to T. Özgüç. Therefore; it can be accepted as a leakage. Graves in the building levels 11b; 12 and 13 yielded subjects of ornaments made of gold; electrum and semi-precious stones as grave goods. Grave goods like golden earring; golden discs made by "Telkari" workmanship were also found [Özgüç 1986:42]. Particulary those finds prove the relation of Kültepe with the Ur Dynasty cemetery (end of the third millennium BC) Rounded chamber graves were also found in the building levels 12 and 11. They are specific to Kültepe. It was noted that after digging a pit; middle sized stones were put on top of each other in a round shape by loam mortar in a shallow and disordered way; then a separation wall was erected; and dead was buried into one compartment in hocker position and finds like ornament subjects made of alabaster and precious metals into the other compartment [Özgüç 1964:pl.VI]. An electrum ring of an earring and an amulet was recovered from a pithos grave in the building level 12. It is certain that EBA people of Kültepe didn't inter their dead people into the above mentioned graves; but into an extramural cemetery. Intramural cemetery; probably; belongs to the managing class only. Extramural cemetery was not found yet.
Interpretation and Dating: Kültepe is; in fact; one of the major settlements of the Central Anatolia Region; which evidenced the trade relationship between Anatolia and Mesopotamia during the 19th-17th centuries BC by means of the inscriptions of Colony Period and other finds. Excavations conducted by T. Özgüç revealed that this relationship emerged during the second half of the third millennium BC and Kültepe was a Hatti city having almost similar richness during that period. Building levels 15 and 14 of the mound are reported to be contemporary with Ur Dynasty Period of Mesopotamia; EBA II settlement of Gözlükule and Tell Chuera by T. Özgüç depending on the excavation results [Özgüç 1986:38] while building level 13 was dated to the second half of the third millennium BC; nearly Ur Dynasty III of the 2nd century BC with its cist graves including metallic finds; marble idols depicting the gods and goddesses. The building levels 12 and 11 dazzling with their monumental buildings are dated to the Akkads and Post-Akkads Period by T. Özgüç. Trade relations during that period with both Western and Southeastern Anatolia as well as Northern Mesopotamia were certainly proved with the above mentioned evidences. The building levels 13-11; indifferent in cultural outcomes; rebuilt with slight changes after the demolishing of building levels 12 and 11b by fire were; probably; related with the instructions of the same ruler. Big fires resulted in collapsed buildings expose that the people didn't live in a peaceful environment during the end of the third millennium BC. The EBA III level of Kültepe is contemporary with the EBA III of the Cilicia Region.

To List