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Hittite Past, Water Cult, and the Archaeological Landscapes of South Central Anatolia
September 9, 2018
IL United States
Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
AIA Society: Central Illinois (Urbana)
Lecturer: Ömür Harmansah
In the last few centuries of the Hittite Empire, the karstic watery landscapes of Beyşehir and Çavuşçu Lake Basins to the west of the Konya Plain witnessed the construction of two prestigious, imperially sponsored monuments at prominent springs in the rural countryside. Tudhaliya IV’s monumental pool complex at Yalburt Yaylası near the Çavuşçu Lake featured a lengthy commemorative inscription of the king, linking the site to Tudhaliya’s militaristic discourse. In contrast to this politically charged monument, the uninscribed but visually and architecturally more elaborate pool at Eflatunpınar by the eastern shore of Beyşehir Lake performs a mimetic representation of a mountain spring in its complex iconography and a cosmic reconstruction of the divine world. Why were these two impressive structures built in the midst of the countryside and in the margins of the core of the empire? In this paper, a close comparison of the two monuments is presented from the point of view of their local landscape context, their architecture and their iconographic/textual content to demonstrate how the two monuments carried traces of the cultural imagination of specific sacred landscapes. Supported by evidence from other archaeological contexts such as the Südburg Sacred Pool Complex at Hattuša/Boğazköy and the broad corpus of Hittite texts, the paper will argue that Hittite practices of building ritual monuments at sacred spring sites relate to the cult of “Divine Road of the Earth” which provided a vital, sustained communication with the underworld, the world of ancestors and divinities. The architecture of these structures established a powerful mimetic relationship with specific geological features such as caves and springs, which then further evoked powerful places in the remote rural landscapes. The contextual and comparative study of Yalburt Yaylası and Eflatunpınar spring monuments further reveal the nature of Hittite politics of landscape that involved the appropriation of local practices and sites of veneration as well as imperial interventions to frontier landscapes. Evidence from the first four seasons of the Yalburt Yaylası Archaeological Landscape Project (2010-2013) that the author directs, illustrates such dynamics of interaction between local communities and imperial power structures.
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:
Erbil, Yiğit and Mouton, Alice; 2012. “Water in Ancient Anatolian Religions: An Archaeological and Philological Inquiry on the Hittite Evidence.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 71: 53-74.
Harmanşah, Ömür; Peri Johnson, Ben Marsh and Müge Durusu-Tanrıöver; 2017, “Lake-Places, Local Hydrology and the Hittite Imperial Projects in the Ilgın Plain: Yalburt Yaylası Archaeological Landscape Research Project 2015-2016 Seasons” In The Archaeology of Anatolia: Recent Discoveries (2015-2016) Volume II, SR. Steadman and G. McMahon, eds. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, 302-320.
Harmanşah, Ömür; 2017. “Borders are Rough-hewn: Monuments, Local Landscapes and the Politics of Place in a Hittite Borderland” in Bordered Places ǀ Bounded times – Interdisciplinary perspectives on Turkey, edited by Emma Baysal and Leonidas Karakatsanis. London: British Institute at Ankara Monograph 51, 37-51.
Ökse, Tuba; 2011. “Open-Air Sanctuaries of the Hittites.” In Insights into Hittite History and Archaeology, edited by Hermann Genz and Dirk Paul Mielke. Leuven: Peeters, 219-240.