Hattusha, Capital City of the Hittite Empire: a Photo Essay

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The Upper City of Hattusha

Hattusha General View. The view of the city of Hattusha from the Upper city.
Hattusha, Capital City of the Hittite Empire Hattusha General View. The view of the city of Hattusha from the Upper city. Remains of various temples can be seen from this point. Nazli Evrim Serifoglu

A Walking Tour of the Hittite Capital City

The Hittites were an ancient near eastern civilization located in what is now the modern day country of Turkey, between 1640 and 1200 BC. The ancient history of the Hittites is known from cuneiform writings on fired clay tablets recovered from the capital city of the Hittite empire, Hattusha, near the present-day village of Boğazköy.

Hattusha was an ancient city when the Hittite king Anitta conquered it and made it his capital in the mid-18th century BC; the emperor Hattusili III expanded the city between 1265 and 1235 BC, before it was destroyed at the end of the Hittite era about 1200 BC. Following the collapse of the Hittite Empire, Hattusha was occupied by Phrygians, but in the provinces of northwestern Syria and southeastern Anatolia, the Neo-Hittite city states emerged. It is these Iron Age kingdoms that are mentioned in the Hebrew bible.

Thanks are due to Nazli Evrim Serifoglu (photos) and Tevfik Emre Serifoglu (help with text); main text source is Across the Anatolian Plateau.

An overview of Hattusha, capital of the Hittites in Turkey between 1650-1200 BC

The Hittite capital city of Hattusha (also spelled Hattushash, Hattousa, Hattuscha, and Hattusa) was discovered in 1834 by the French architect Charles Texier, although he wasn't completely aware of the importance of the ruins. During the next sixty years or so, numerous scholars came and drew the reliefs, but it wasn't until the 1890s that excavations were undertaken at Hattusha, by Ernst Chantre. By 1907, full scale excavations were under way, by Hugo Winckler, Theodor Makridi and Otto Puchstein, under the auspices of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI). Hattusha was inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986.

The discovery of Hattusha was an important one to the understanding of the Hittite Civilization. The earliest evidence for Hittites was found in Syria; and Hittites were described in the Hebrew bible as a purely Syrian nation. So, until the discovery of Hattusha, it was believed that Hittites were Syrian. The Hattusha excavations in Turkey revealed both the enormous strength and sophistication of the ancient Hittite Empire, and the time depth of the Hittite civilization centuries before the cultures now called Neo-Hittites were mentioned in the bible.

In this photograph, the excavated ruins of Hattusha are seen in the distance from the upper city. Other important cities in the Hittite Civilization include Gordion, Sarissa, Kultepe, Purushanda, Acemhoyuk, Hurma, Zalpa, and Wahusana.

Source:
Peter Neve. 2000. "The Great Temple in Boghazkoy-Hattusa." Pp. 77-97 in Across the Anatolian Plateau: Readings in the Archaeology of Ancient Turkey. Edited by David C. Hopkins. American School of Oriental Research, Boston.

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The Lower City of Hattusha

Temple I and the Lower City of Hattusha with the modern village of Bogazkoy at the background.
Hattusha, Capital City of the Hittite Empire Hattusha General View. Temple I and the Lower City of Hattusha with the modern village of Bogazkoy at the background. Nazli Evrim Serifoglu

The Lower City at Hattusha is the oldest part of the city

The first occupations at Hattusha we know about date to the Chalcolithic period of the 6th millennium BC, and they consist of small hamlets scattered about the region. By the end of the third millennium BC, a town had been built at the site, in what archaeologists call the Lower City, and what its inhabitants called Hattush. In the mid-17th century BC, during the Old Hittite Kingdom period, Hattush was taken over by one of the first Hittite kings, Hattusili I (ruled about 1600-1570 BC), and renamed Hattusha.

Some 300 years later, during the height of the Hittite Empire, Hattusili's descendant Hattusili III (ruled 1265-1235 BC) expanded the city of Hattusha, (probably) building the Great Temple (also called Temple I) dedicated to the Storm God of Hatti and the Sun Goddess of Arinna. Hatushili III also built the portion of Hattusha called the Upper City.

Source:
Gregory McMahon. 2000. "The History of the Hittites." Pp. 59-75 in Across the Anatolian Plateau: Readings in the Archaeology of Ancient Turkey. Edited by David C. Hopkins. American School of Oriental Research, Boston.

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Hattusha Lion Gate

Hattusha Lion Gate. The Lion Gate is one of several gates of the Hittite city of Hattusha.
Hattusha, Capital City of the Hittite Empire Hattusha Lion Gate. The Lion Gate is one of several gates of the Hittite city of Hattusha. Nazli Evrim Serifoglu

The Lion Gate is the southwestern entrance to Hattusa, built about 1340 BC

The southwestern entrance of the Upper City of Hattusha is the Lion Gate, named for the two matched lions carved from two arched stones. When the gate was in use, during the Hittite Empire period between 1343-1200 BC, the stones arched in a parabola, with towers on either side, a magnificent and daunting image.

Lions were apparently of considerable symbolic importance to the Hittite civilization, and images of them can be found at many Hittite sites (and indeed throughout the near east), including the Hittite sites of Aleppo, Carchemish and Tell Atchana. The image most often associated with Hittites is the sphinx, combining a lion's body with an eagle's wings and a human head and chest.

Source:
Peter Neve. 2000. "The Great Temple in Boghazkoy-Hattusa." Pp. 77-97 in Across the Anatolian Plateau: Readings in the Archaeology of Ancient Turkey. Edited by David C. Hopkins. American School of Oriental Research, Boston.

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The Great Temple at Hattusha

Hattusha Temple 1. A look towards the reconstructed city gates and the store-rooms of Temple I.
Hattusha, Capital City of the Hittite Empire Hattusha Temple 1. A look to the reconstructed city gates and the store-rooms of temple I. Nazli Evrim Serifoglu

The Great Temple dates to the 13th century BC

The Great Temple at Hattusha was probably built by Hattusili III (ruled ca. 1265-1235 BC), during the height of the Hittite Empire. This powerful ruler is best remembered for his treaty with the Egyptian New Kingdom pharaoh, Ramses II.

The Temple Complex held a double wall enclosing the temples and a tememos, or large sacred precinct around the temple including an area of some 1,400 square meters. This area eventually included several smaller temples, sacred pools, and shrines. The temple area had paved streets connecting the major temples, room clusters, and store rooms. Temple I is called the Great Temple, and it was dedicated to the Storm-God.

The temple itself measures some 42x65 meters. A large building complex of many rooms, its base course was built of dark green gabbro in contrast to the remainder of the buildings at Hattusa (in gray limestone). The entry way was through the gate house, which included guard rooms; it has been reconstructed and can be seen in the background of this photograph. The inner courtyard was paved with limestone slabs. In the foreground are the base courses of storage rooms, marked by ceramic pots still set into the ground.

Source:
Peter Neve. 2000. "The Great Temple in Boghazkoy-Hattusa." Pp. 77-97 in Across the Anatolian Plateau: Readings in the Archaeology of Ancient Turkey. Edited by David C. Hopkins. American School of Oriental Research, Boston.

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Lion Water Basin

Hattusha Temple 1. A water basin carved in the shape of a lion in front of temple I
Hattusha, Capital City of the Hittite Empire Hattusha Temple 1. A water basin carved in the shape of a lion in front of temple I. Nazli Evrim Serifoglu

At Hattusa, water control was an important feature, as with any successful civilization

On the road from the palace at Buyukkale, right in front of the Great Temple's northern gate, is this five-meter long water basin, carved with the relief of crouching lions. It may have contained water conserved for purification rites.

The Hittites held two major festivals during the year, one during spring (the 'Festival of the Crocus') and one during the fall (the 'Festival of Haste'). Fall festivals were for the filling of storage jars with the year's harvest; and spring festivals were for opening those vessels. Horse races, foot races, mock battles, musicians and jesters were among the entertainments conducted at cultic festivals.

Source: Gary Beckman. 2000 "The Religion of the Hittites". Pp 133-243, Across the Anatolian Plateau: Readings in the Archaeology of Ancient Turkey. David C. Hopkins, editor. American School of Oriental Research, Boston.

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Cultic Pool at Hattusha

Hattusha Sacred Pool, probably once filled with rainwater.
Hattusha, Capital City of the Hittite Empire Hattusha Sacred Pool The cultic pool, where it is believed that important religious ceremonies took place. The pool was probably once filled with rainwater. Nazli Evrim Serifoglu

Cultic pools and mythologies of water gods reflect the importance of water to Hattusa

At least two cultic water basins, one decorated with crouching lion relief, the other undecorated, were part of the religious practices at Hattusha. This large pool likely contained purifying rain water.

Water and weather in general played an important role in a number of the myths of the Hittite Empire. The two major deities were the Storm God and the Sun Goddess. In The Myth of the Missing Deity, the son of the Storm God, called Telipinu, goes mad and leaves the Hittite region because the proper ceremonies are not held. A blight drops over the city, and the Sun God gives a feast; but none of the guests can have their thirst quenched until the missing god returns, brought back by the actions of a helpful bee.

Source:
Ahmat Unal. 2000. "The Power of Narrative in Hittite Literature." Pp. 99-121 in Across the Anatolian Plateau: Readings in the Archaeology of Ancient Turkey. Edited by David C. Hopkins. American School of Oriental Research, Boston.

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Chamber and Sacred Pool

Hattusha Chamber and Sacred Pool. The side wall of the sacred pool.
Hattusha, Capital City of the Hittite Empire Hattusha Chamber and Sacred Pool. The side wall of the sacred pool. The chamber with the carvings of deities is just in the middle. Nazli Evrim Serifoglu

Beneath this superstructure are underground chambers at Hattusa

Adjacent to the sacred pools are underground chambers, of unknown use, possibly for storage or religious reasons. At the center of the wall at the top of the rise is a sacred niche; the next photograph details the niche.

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Hieroglyph Chamber

Hattusha Chamber. This chamber was built near and partially under the sacred pool at the city.
Hattusha, Capital City of the Hittite Empire Hattusha Chamber. This chamber was built just near (and partially under) the sacred pool at the city. At the back wall a relief carving of Sun God Arinna and at one of the side walls the weather god Teshub are depicted. Nazli Evrim Serifoglu

The triangular Hieroglyph chamber has a relief of the sun-god Arinna

The Hieroglyph Chamber is located near the southern Citadel. The reliefs carved into the walls represent Hittite deities and rulers of Hattusha. The relief at the back of this alcove feature the sun-god Arinna in a long cloak with curly-toed slippers.

On the left wall is a relief figure of the king Shupiluliuma II, the last of the great kings of the Hittite empire (ruled 1210-1200 BC). On the right wall is a line of hieroglyphic symbols in the Luvian script (an Indo-European language), suggesting that this alcove might be a symbolic passageway to the underground.
 

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Underground Passageway

Hattusha Underground Passage. This underground passage way runs below the Sphinx Gate of Hattusha.
Hattusha, Capital City of the Hittite Empire Hattusha Underground Passage. This underground passage way runs below the Sphinx Gate of Hattusha. It is believed that it was used at times of emergency and soldiers could secretly enter in or leave the city from here. Nazli Evrim Serifoglu

Subterranean side entrances to the city, posterns were among the oldest structures at Hattusa

This triangular stone passage is one of several subterranean passages which travel beneath the lower city of Hattusha. Called a postern or "side entrance", the function was thought to be a safety feature. The posterns are among the most ancient of structures at Hattusha.
 

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Underground Chamber at Hattusha

Hattusha Underground Chamber. An underground chamber of unknown function.
Hattusha, Capital City of the Hittite Empire Hattusha Underground Chamber. An underground chamber of unknown function. May have been used for cultic reasons, as it was built very near Temple I. Nazli Evrim Serifoglu

There are eight subterranean chambers underlying the ancient city

Another of the eight subterranean chambers or posterns which underlay the old city of Hattusha; the openings are still visible although most of the tunnels themselves are filled with rubble. This postern dates to the 16th century BC, the time of the dedication of the Old City.

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The Palace of Buyukkale

The Hittite Palace of Buyukkale.
Hattusha, Capital City of the Hittite Empire Hattusha Buyukkale. Buyukkale was the palace of the Hittite Kings, which had its own fortification walls. There is a small stream which flows nearby. Nazli Evrim Serifoglu

The Buyukkale Fortress dates at least to the Pre-Hittite period

The Palace or Fortress of Buyukkale contains the ruins at least two structures, the earliest from the pre-Hittite period, with a Hittite temple built essentially on top of the earlier ruins. Built on the top of a steep cliff above the remainder of Hattusha, Buyukkale was in the best defensible place in the city. The platform includes an area of 250 x 140 m, and included numerous temples and residential structures enclosed by a thick wall with guard houses and surrounded by steep cliffsides.

The most recent excavations at Hattusha have been completed at Buyukkale, conducted by the German Archaeological Institute on the fortress and some associated granaries in 1998 and 2003. The excavations identified an Iron Age (Neo Hittite) occupation at the site.

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Yazilikaya: Rock Shrine of the Ancient Hittite Civilization

Hattusha Yazilikaya. The entrance of one of the rock cut chambers of Yazilikaya.
Hattusha, Capital City of the Hittite Empire Hattusha Yazilikaya. The entrance of one of the rock cut chambers of Yazilikaya. Nazli Evrim Serifoglu

The Rock Sanctuary of Yazilkaya is dedicated to the Weather God

Yazilikaya (the House of the Weather God) is a rock sanctuary located up against a rock outcrop outside of the city, used for special religious festivals. It is connected to the temple by a paved street. Abundant carvings decorate the walls of Yazilikaya.
 

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Demon Carving at Yazilikaya

A relief carving depicting a demon at the entrance of one of the chambers at Yazilikaya
Hattusha, Capital City of the Hittite Empire Hattusha Yazilikaya. A relief carving depicting a demon at the entrance of one of the chambers at Yazilikaya, warning visitors not to enter in. Nazli Evrim Serifoglu

Carvings in Yazilikaya date between the 15th and 13 centuries BC

Yazilikaya is a rock sanctuary located just outside the city walls of Hattusha, and it is known world wide for its numerous carved rock reliefs. Most of the carvings are of Hittite gods and kings, and the carvings date between the 15th and 13th centuries BC.
 

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Relief Carving, Yazilikaya

Hattusha Yazilikaya. A relief carving depicting God Teshub and King Tudhaliya IV
Hattusha, Capital City of the Hittite Empire Hattusha Yazilikaya. A relief carving depicting God Teshub and King Tudhaliya IV from the rock cut chambers of Yazilikaya, Hattusha. Tudhaliya IV is believed to be the king who gave the chambers their final shape. Nazli Evrim Serifoglu

A rock relief of a Hittite ruler standing in the palm of his personal god Sarruma

This rock relief at Yazilikaya shows a carving of the Hittite king Tudhaliya IV being embraced by his personal god Sarruma (Sarruma's the one with the pointed hat). Tudhaliya IV is credited with the final wave construction of Yazilikaya during the 13th century BC.

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Yazilikaya Relief Carving

Hittite Rock Shrine of Yazilikaya: A relief carving at the rock cut chambers of Yazilikaya
Hattusha, Capital City of the Hittite Empire Hittite Rock Shrine of Yazilikaya: A relief carving at the rock cut chambers of Yazilikaya, near Hattusha. Nazli Evrim Serifoglu

Two goddesses in long pleated skirts

This carving at the rock shrine of Yazilikaya illustrates two female gods, with long pleated skirts, curly-toed shoes, earrings and high headdresses.