Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Arslantepe: Mound History, Dwellings and Metallurgy Pt.2

Photos by Jack A. Waldron

I lived and worked in Malatya for three years, and while I was busy cycling around Turkey to other ancient sites during the summers, I waited until my final days in Malatya to explore one of the richest sites the ancient world has to offer.  Pictured above, I am standing in front of a recreation of a typical adobe house that would have found on the site around 1200BC-700BC.
The history of this site is so vast, that it takes us back to the origins of settled human habitation.  In fact, it has been a challenging task to put 12,000 years of information into a coherent order with only four blog posts . . . , but I think I was fairly successful!
I have attempted to work backwards in time, beginning with the Seljuks, Byzantines, Romans, Greeks, and so on, in Melitene Part 1 and Part 2.
I continued on with the Neo-Hittites and the Ceremonial Gate in Arslantepe Part 1, which gives us our first experience and impression when visiting the site.  And now, here in Arslantepe Part 2, we'll look at life in the area between 1200BC-3000BC.
As is stated in the information panel above, Arslantepe is an artificial mound that reaches a height of 30 meters.  The mud bricks that were used to build the structures of the settlement over the millennia were slowly eroded, which accumulated to create ever higher building surfaces.

In the photo below, we are looking over the top of Arslantepe, which is basically the top layer, though some areas have been excavated below this layer.
This top layer would have in ancient times, been last occupied by the Hellenistic Greeks and early Romans, before the settlement was relocated to Melitene, some 7 km to the east.
With a fresh mountain fed river running within a stones throw of the mound before making its way down to the Euphrates, a vast plain full of fruit trees, arable farming land, and a mild climate, well, this is why it's called the Fertile Crescent.
Immediately below, I will let the signboards explain the basic history of Arslantepe, the surrounding area, the discovery of the ancient site, and the excavations that took place early on.

Since I was not able to arrange a guided tour of the site, I cannot be sure what exactly we are looking at in the these two photos.  I can take a stab at it though, and say that these may be of later construction, meaning, around the 700BC-300BC period, only because they are at the top of mound, and they appear to be constructed of large stone blocks, which may have formed bases for fortification wall built on top of them during "End Of Concensus", the period between 3000 BC and 2900 BC.
That said, the the base of the walls of the lower temple at Hattusa are also constructed of large stone blocks, upon which adobe walls were constructed.  I don't however, see any of the signature drill holes on the top sides of these blocks, where wooden poles would have risen from in order to build Hittite style adobe walls.

In the following photos, we are touring the reconstructed adobe houses that sit at the entrance of the site.  I'm not sure if these were meant to have rooftop entrances, and simply had side wall entrances for easy access, or, if these reconstructed dwellings were based on structures from a later period.  
Though quite dark in the night, these multi-room homes seem quite comfortable.  Earlier period dwellings should have shared walls with their neighbors and, used rooftop entrances, where as these reconstructions do appear to be of a type from a later period, because the door entrances to these buildings are located in the side walls.
When compared with the houses of an earlier period, such as those at the lower levels of Catalhoyuk, houses of these earlier periods shared walls, and the living space was entered via ladders from the roofs.
Pictured above, a cooking/heating hearth can be seen against the wall.  In earlier period buildings, this hearth may have sat upon an extended ceremonial platform, under which deceased relatives may have been buried (cheers for the spell correction Le Stratege!), close to the nourishment and gathering of living family members.  Pictured below, a simple hearth wit cooking pot on display at the Malatya Archeological Museum. 

Interestingly, the illustration above does show rooftop entrances and shared walls.  The period known as the "End Of Consensus" marks a time of a breakdown in society caused by movements of population, occupation, power struggles, and thus, a rise in weaponry and violence.
Following the destructive fires of the mound structures during the late 4th and early 3rd millennium BCE, pottery production at the mound was done by hand, while out on the Malatya plain, cultural remnants of pottery produced on fast wheels continued.
The significant event or series of events that took place at the mound around 3000 BCE, both altered and changed the culture of centralized community organization and governance, to one of defense and fortification in order to counter hostilities and violence.  
Fortification walls were constructed on the mound, and the populace dispersed to the rural regions of the Malatya plain.
Sword production became a priority during this time of upheaval, which mostly coincided with human movements and migrations, in particular, from the Caucuses into northern Mesopotamia.
The finely crafted swords and spears pictured below are on display at the Malatya Archeological Museum, and are evidence of the important role Arslantepe played in the development of new sophisticated forms of metal weaponry.
Fascinatingly, Arslantepe became a major center for metallurgy in the Fertile Crescent, also referred to as Mesopotamia.
Though I don't have any photos that I can think of, if you go to the metal bazaar in downtown Malatya today, you will see shop after shop after shop of craftsmen hammering out copper pots, pans, and so on, as well as the forging of farm tools, and on, and on.  The practice and culture of metallurgy continues till this day!

Pictured above, a crucible from the Early Bronze period found at Arslantepe.  Along with the innovation by the Hittites of setting the wheel base of their chariots directly under the carriage, thus giving it much more maneuverability due to a center to hold the main weight at the pivot point, I wonder how much the advancement in weaponry played in their rise?
Pictured above, an early Bronze Age mold used to cast axes and hatchets of various sizes, and, an arrangement of various sized bronze needles and pins.
Pictured above and below, a ceremonial bronze bulls head cup, that appears to have held wines (for example) to be released into cups through the small hole at the bottom.
Pictured below, a view east/southeast across the acropolis of Arslantepe.  I don't know if I will see the day, but there will come a time in the not too distant future when we will have smart 3D augmented reality glasses that will explain every block, wall, hole, section, etc., of nearly every site we explore.  Microsoft Inc. is nearly there!!

Again, we're probably looking at the bases on which mud brick fortification walls were constructed, as well as the remains of earlier buildings that had been destroyed by fire caused by the attack of invading forces.

*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)

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