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Ancient Turkey

July 2010 (114.3)

Ancient Turkey

By Antonio Sagona and Paul Zimansky (Routledge World Archaeology). Pp. xii + 420, figs. 105, tables 3, plans 31, maps 23. Routledge, London 2009. $44.95. ISBN 978-0-415-48123-6 (paper).

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In view of the rich cultural diversity and the large number of excavations, surveys, and research projects conducted every year, it is a formidable challenge to attempt to compile a synthetic overview of the archaeology of Anatolia. In the book under review, Sagona and Zimansky have done a remarkable job of providing a detailed yet readable overview of the archaeology this region from the Paleolithic period until the Achaemenid conquest in the mid sixth century B.C.E.

The book is divided into 10 chapters. After a general introduction dealing with geography, climate, and natural resources (ch. 1), the book proceeds with an overview of cultural developments in chronological order from the Paleolithic until the end of the Early Bronze Age. For later periods, a different approach is chosen, as the disparate developments in various parts of Anatolia from the Middle Bronze Age onward require regional analysis. For this reason, the simultaneous developments in the Iron Age, for instance, are treated in different chapters, such as Neo-Hittite states in southern Anatolia (ch. 8), Urartu in eastern Anatolia (ch. 9), and Phrygia and Lydia in central and western Anatolia (ch. 10). The chapters on the Middle and Late Bronze Ages focus on central Anatolia only; developments taking place in western Anatolia during the Late Bronze Age are somewhat awkwardly placed at the beginning of the Iron Age chapter dealing with that region (ch. 10).

The authors manage successfully to work out the specific local components of Anatolian developments while integrating them into the wider framework of the Near East and the eastern Mediterranean. This certainly is one of the main strengths of the book, as Anatolia is a crucial area regarding a number of questions, such as the origins and spread of farming and animal husbandry during the Neolithic period, the emergence of metallurgy, the development of international trade relations during the Chalcolithic and the Middle Bronze Age, and the origin of Indo-European languages, to name only a few.

While it is clear that such a vast project has to have limitations, one cannot but regret that a number of important new discoveries and developments in Anatolian archaeology have not been addressed.

The recent redating of the Gordion destruction layer is discussed (357–60), but a similar trend in applying dating methods provided by the natural sciences—such as radiocarbon dating and dendrochronology for the Hittite period, which leads to a considerable revision of the traditional historical chronology—is not mentioned at all. This redating has considerable consequences for the history of the Hittite capital, as well as for the chronology of Hittite material culture in general (A. Müller-Karpe, "Remarks on Central Anatolian Chronology of the Middle Hittite Period," in M. Bietak, ed., The Synchronisation of Civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Second Millennium B.C. II [Vienna 2003] 383–94; see also various contributions in D.P. Mielke, U.-D. Schoop, and J. Seeher, eds., Strukturierung und Datierung in der hethitischen Archäologie [Istanbul 2006]). Other recent discoveries are also not discussed, such as the highly developed water management of the Hittites (K. Emre, "The Hittite Dam of Karakuyu," in T. Mikasa, ed., Essays on Anatolian Archaeology [Wiesbaden 1993] 1–42; A. Hüser, Hethitische Anlagen zur Wasserversorgung und Entsorgung. Kuşaklı-Sarissa 3 [Rahden 2007]) and their sophisticated grain storage techniques (J. Seeher, "Getreidelagerung in unterirdischen Großspeichern: Zur Methode und ihrer Anwendung im 2. Jahrtausend v. Chr. am Beispiel der Befunde in Hattuša," SMEA 42 [2000] 261–301). Equally omitted are new insights concerning the end of the Hittite capital, which definitely rule out the traditional concept of a sudden and unexpected catastrophe (J. Seeher, "Die Zerstörung der Stadt Hattuša," in G. Wilhelm, ed., Akten des IV: Internationalen Kongresses für Hethitologie [Wiesbaden 2001] 623–34).

Concerning the Iron Age, the discussion of central Anatolia is restricted to a few key sites such as Gordion, Midas Şehir, and Kerkenes Dağ. However, one may ask whether these really provide a representative picture of the Iron Age cultures in that region, and why other, equally important sites such as Ankara, Boğazköy, Göllüdağ, Kaman Kalehöyük, and Kululu are not even mentioned.

Lastly, the volume would have benefitted from more thorough editing. Figure 3.2, which, according to the caption, is supposed to show Pre-Pottery Neolithic sites only, includes a number of Pottery Neolithic and even Early Chalcolithic sites (e.g., Fikirtepe, Kumtepe, Beşiktepe, Büyükkaya, Büyük Güllücek). A number of references cited in the footnotes are missing in the bibliography (e.g., Shennan 1998; Caneva 2000, Özbal et al. 2000, Sagona 2001). These points of criticism, however, should not distract from the overall quality of the book. It certainly is a valuable introduction to the study of pre-Hellenistic Anatolia and undoubtedly will remain so for years to come.

Hermann Genz
Department of History and Archaeology
American University of Beirut
1107 2020 Beirut

Book Review of Ancient Turkey, by Antonio Sagona and Paul Zimansky

Reviewed by Hermann Genz

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 114, No. 3 (July 2010)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1143.Genz

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