Online Review: Book

Anatolian Iron Ages 7: Proceedings of the Seventh Anatolian Iron Ages Colloquium Held at Edirne, 19–24 April 2010

Peter Ian Kuniholm


Edited by Altan Çilingiroğlu and Antonio Sagona (Ancient Near Eastern Studies Suppl. 39). Pp. x + 332, figs. 228. Peeters, Leuven 2012. €87. ISBN 978-90-429-2562-5 (cloth).

What used to be a modest exchange of information inside a rather limited circle of a handful of Anatolian excavators has now, thanks to the energies of the editors and the distribution system of Peeters Press, become an anticipated biennial collection of the latest events in Anatolian Iron Age archaeology, with geographical outreach in all directions. Volume 7 in this series, with its 16 contributions, is a far cry from the slim paperback that inaugurated the sequence. As usual for any such collection, the disparate nature of the submissions makes for slightly disconnected reading and reviewing.

Baştürk (“The Eastern Sector of the Fortress of Ayanis: Architecture and Texture in the Pillared Hall”) gives us something that is too often missing in Anatolian architectural reports and that was glossed over in Ayanis 1: Ten Years’ Excavations at Rusaḫinili Eiduru-Kai, 1989–1998 (A. Çilingiroğlu and M. Salvini, eds. [Rome 2001]): a creative, three-dimensional perspective on the major buildings of the Ayanis fortress with a detailed breakdown of the probable construction process.

Batmaz’s contribution speculates on how the Urartians might have evolved in four developmental stages from the political formation of an ashiret, or mostly nomadic set of communities, to the city-builders whose remains we excavate. As usual with anything Urartian, we are at the mercy of the Assyrian textual sources whom Batmaz cites from Grayson’s translations. Batmaz also tries to link the imagery from the Ayanis metalwork to that of the Balawat Gate.

Bozhinova discusses evolving pottery styles in Early Iron Age Thrace—notably, a fluted ware—starting in Late Helladic (LH) IIIC Ada Tepe, Kuş Kaya, and Semercheto via Protogeometric Assiros and Kastanas to Troy VIIb2, after which what she calls a “real Iron Age” starts with pottery from Geometric or Early Iron Age II Pšeničevo. For nonspecialists in Iron Age pottery, some more illustrations of the last style would have been helpful.

Cevizoğlu and Yalçın describe “A Blacksmith’s Workshop at Clazomenai,” which could probably be from any period in history except for the finds of a lydion, Klazomenian and Chian trade amphoras, and a late sixth-century Klazomenian black-figure amphora. However, their discussion of the range of equipment from anvils to forges to hammer stones to slags to blooms is workmanlike and useful for the metallurgist of any period and for any Iron Age archaeologist who might someday excavate such a workshop. How appropriate and how unusual to have a paper on iron, iron technology, and ironworking in a book on the Iron Age.

At last, thanks to Çilingiroğlu and Salvini (“New Contributions to Urartian Archaeology from the Fortress at Ayanis”), after hundreds of inscriptions of King Rusa II (son of King Argishti), who built the fortress and temple at Ayanis under Süphan Dağı (Rusaḫinili Eiduru-kai), we know the name of Rusa’s queen (Qaquli) and the Urartian word (tanaši) for the golden fan handle on which her name is inscribed. We also have the Urartian words for various units of volume measurement and for words such as helmet, shield, quiver, candelabrum, and “property of.”

Erdem discusses a local type of grooved pottery that seems to have existed from the 12th to sixth century B.C.E. in eastern Anatolia but about which little can be said other than that pink-buff and red-reddish brown is found in Elazığ-Malatya, gray-black is found in Erzurum-Kars and Ağrı-Iğdır, and pink-buff and intensive chaff-tempered ware is found in the upper Tigris and Siirt. No chronological sequencing or clustering other than in century-and-a-half groups (at best) is available. Useful color photographs and less useful pages of profiles illustrate the assemblage.

Altıntepe, excavated more than half a century ago by Tahsin Özgüç, has now been reopened by Karaosmanoğlu and Korucu. In “The Apadana of Altıntepe in the Light of the Second Season of Excavations,” their first publication in English of their six years of work, they show that the site is more complicated than Özgüç had realized. On top of a layer I Bronze Age occupation is a layer II Urartian “Early Apadana” with additional room(s) and kitchen, all destroyed by fire. A layer IIa renewal of their “ramped” room follows, and then the late Urartian “Extended Apadana” with 18 columns and the wall paintings that we know from Özgüç’s publications. A small Byzantine chapel sits on top. The authors make an attempt at a three-dimensional reconstruction of the kitchen, but this reviewer looks forward to seeing how they reconstruct the Early Apadana beyond the very rough sketch plans provided.

Köroğlu provides a brief summary of what we know about “The Kingdom of Urartu and Native Cultures.” One interesting figure (fig. 5) shows a three-dimensional reconstruction of the facade of the Cavuştepe temple. Another brief contribution (a Ph.D. dissertation in progress) by Kunze, “Archaeometric Investigations of Basaltic ‘Grinding Stones’ from the Iron Age Settlements of Udabno, Georgia,” shows evidence from X-ray fluorescence analysis for the export of “bubble basalt” across the Caucasus from southwest to northeast. Presumably, this kind of investigation could be extended to Anatolia, but Kunze does not indicate any intention of doing so. A long non-Anatolian paper by Nekhrizov and Tzvetkova (“Ritual Pit Complexes in Iron Age Thrace: The Case Study of Svilengrad”) seems out of place in this book, unless one remembers Greenewalt’s Ritual Dinners in Early Historic Sardis (Berkeley 1978). The Bulgarians have 207 pit burials spread out over time with 185 (133 early and 52 late) from the Iron Age, mostly pigs and dogs, with some human remains—including an individual with a trephinated skull—to confuse the issue. Chthonic deities are proposed (among others) as the recipients of the sacrifices.

Nojehdehi describes three conical, bronze Urartian helmets in the Reza Abbasi Museum (Iran) confiscated from looters—utterly lacking provenance and still uncleaned. Nojehdehi thinks they are not forgeries. He says a colleague has been able to read the name of (King) Sarduri on Helmet 2, but he says the rest of the inscription remains untranslated, and in his article he provides a drawing of the inscription. This reviewer was not able to identify the name of Sarduri from the drawing, nor was Paul Zimansky (Stony Brook University), but Zimansky kindly reports (pers. comm. 2014) that the patronymic “son of Argishti” is there along with mention of the dedication of the helmet to [the god] Haldi.

Twenty-seven curious, crude stone slabs between 4 and 34 cm in height, discussed by Roller in “Phrygian Semi-Iconic Idols from Gordion,” and accompanied by a catalogue sufficiently detailed that it probably should be thought of as a component of the Gordion Special Studies series, are usually discs on top of rough rectangles, occasionally with some facial features (on nine slabs) and possibly faint indications of gender (on five slabs). Two have bolsters on the left and right of the head. This class of object is well known from Phrygia, especially the Phrygian highlands. The Gordion slabs are found on the Citadel Mound inside and outside of houses, in the neighboring tumuli, and in the fields around Gordion, so the contexts do not really help us to interpret their purpose(s). If they were examined for paint traces, Roller does not say. All are later rather than earlier: none, for example, are from the ninth-century destruction. The range in dates is from Middle Phrygian to Hellenistic. Who are they? Do the females represent Matar, the Phrygian “mother”? Do the males represent her consort Attis or a priest? Or are they something akin to a heroized ruler or a clan or ancestor figure, as the life-sized male figure at Kerkenes Dağ appears to be? Why are they all anonymous? Roller—quite correctly—after showing us what the range of possibilities might be, lets it go at that. “The variety of the Gordion idols,” she says, “and the broad dispersal of their contexts open the possibility that a semi-iconic idol could symbolize one of several types of figures, divine and human. As these pieces make clear, Phrygian cult practice was more multi-faceted and complex than is often recognised” (230–31).

Sagona (“Remarks on the East Anatolian Iron Age”) tries to make the best of a bad deal, and he begins by pointing out the region’s deficiencies compared with central Anatolia. Excavations are relatively few, with emphasis on one-period fortresses. Secure and stratified contexts are even fewer. Far too much attention has been paid to tombs, some of them with as many as 80 interments. Terminology is inexact and contradictory. “Evident” but “muted” connections are to the central Trans-Caucasian Iron Age (the Lchashen-Tsitelgori and Samatvro traditions). Sagona’s own stratified site of Sos Höyük shows that some sort of sense can be made of the Iron Age in the northeast, but even here the reader is unsatisfied by the imprecision: two radiocarbon determinations that are said to mark the transition between the second and first millennia (the burning of a period IIA building) are 1200–855 B.C.E. and 1220–800 B.C.E., which could have been guessed at even without the expense of obtaining radiocarbon dates. Sagona does provide a set of color photographs of the Early and Middle Iron Age ceramics at Sos Höyük. Finally, he points out that the northeastern highlands have mound sites that should be investigated to sort it all out.

Summers and Burney discuss—a half-century after the excavations—an easily identifiable class of (mostly) geometric pattern-painted pottery (“Western Triangle Ware”) from Yanik Tepe in northwest Iran. Almost 300 drawn profiles and photographs, grouped by the levels or pits in which the pots were found, illustrate what appears to be a Late Achaemenid/pre-Parthian ware found also in eastern Iranian Azerbaijan (the “Ardabil Style”) and southwestern Iran in the Susiana Plain (where it is known as “Festoon Ware”), in Georgia, and at Van Kale, Bastam, Pasargadae, Hasanlu II end, Altıntepe, and Karagündüz. In central Anatolia, although locally made Achaemenid bowls are common at Kaman Kalehöyük, Gordion, and Sardis, “Western Triangle Ware” has not been reported. The illustrations in this article are so copious and detailed, however, that Late Iron Age excavators outside eastern Turkey and northwestern Iran might be well advised to have another look at their bags of as-yet-unidentified potsherds.

Finally, Vassileva discusses (with a full descriptive catalogue) six small, poorly preserved bronze animal figurines from Gordion, not unlike the wooden animals from Tumulus P: a creature described as “deer-like,” a goat, a bridled horse(?), two double-headed horses, a mouflon, a leaping animal (“a deer?”), and a plinth on which one of them may have stood. Five are from Terrace Building 2, and one is from Terrace Building 1 in the late ninth-century destruction level. Most have traces of burnt textile pseudomorphs and the remains of bronze furniture tacks. Among Vassileva’s suggestions are that they were votives, furniture decorations, vessel handle attachments, or children’s toys (as in Tumulus P). After discussing the details of their manufacture, for stylistic parallels she looks east to Iran and north Syria, west to the sanctuary sites of Greece, northwest to Thrace and Bulgaria, then seems to plump for a local Phrygian style inherited from an earlier Anatolian tradition. Her thinking of a local production and style seems to make more sense, since the destruction level is earlier than any of her proposed parallels.

The Anatolian Iron Age continues to take shape, thanks to a series of colloquia such as this, and the publication record—even if delayed in some cases by decades—is catching up. Efforts to link to the Iron Age(s) in neighboring countries, although often inconclusive, are worth making because they force the reader to think outside modern political and cultural or terminological boundaries.

Peter Ian Kuniholm
Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research and School of Anthropology
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona 85721

Book Review of Anatolian Iron Ages 7: Proceedings of the Seventh Anatolian Iron Ages Colloquium Held at Edirne, 19–24 April 2010, edited by Altan Çilingiroğlu and Antonio Sagona
Reviewed by Peter Ian Kuniholm
American Journal of Archaeology Volume 118, Number 3 (July 2014), published online at
DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1183.Kuniholm

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