The Hittites had come to Anatolia in the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC and increased their social and economical powers in the society embracing this area’s material culture. Here, they unified the cultural heritage of the Hatti and the Assyrian merchant colonies with the Egyptian and Mesopotamian parts and melded them into their own culture.
Hittites’ history is scrutinized in various periods:
1900-1650 BC Process of settling down to Anatolia
1650-1400 BC Early Hittite Age
1400-1200 BC Hittite Empire Age
1200-700 BC Late Hittite Age
Hattushili made Hattusha (Bogazkoy) the capital city around 1650 BC and enlarged the state’s territory. An imperialist policy by organized successful campaigns was kept towards northern Syria and Mesopotamia where the period’s rich states are located exceeding the area which was regarded as original Hatti country where being inside of the Kizilirmak Bowl. The expanse of the Old Hittite State ended with the assassination of Hattushili I. The ensuing events caused infighting amongst the Hittite royal family which weakened the country.
After that period, it was called the Grand Empire in and about 1400 BC, the period of decline started by 1200 BC because of political and economic factors as well as by force of sea borne nations.
The Hittites had become powerful with occupations in this period and the war with Egypt ended with the Kadesh agreement after political conflicts over Syria.
Since the Anatolian landscape does not easily connect every part of the peninsula, the Hittites could not spread their political and military authority toward every region of Anatolia and the empire collapsed in around 1200 BC. After the collapse of the empire, Anatolian principalities were established throughout southern Anatolia. This period was called Late Hittite period.
Hittite cuneiform tablets that were found in Bogazkoy give important data about Hittite political organizations, social structure, economic system and religious beliefs. Hittite kings were the highest judges and military leaders, the most superior administrators of the state at the same time were counted as representatives of the ‘god of storms’ on earth and they would rise to the god status when they died. Apart from the ruling class and warriors, the social classes consisted of free people, artisans and slaves. It can be said that the Hittite religion was based on polytheism which was tolerant enough to place Syrian and Hurri gods side by side with local Anatolian gods.
There are not many remnants from the old Hittite period in the capital Hattusha (Bogazkoy). However, it is known that, buildings were made of stone foundations, adobe and flat roofed.
Many monuments from the empire period are gathered in Bogazkoy. Hattusha was the capital of the empire and founded on a rocky plateau. The most important building of the Hittite cities were the castles rather than the temples or palaces. The field gates and yards inside of the Hattusha castle are designed in accordance with Hittite ceremonies and many independent buildings are gathered inside. Warehouses, archives, temples, official buildings and various functional units form the complex of the castle.
The particularity of that is, utilizing large stone blocks with the construction. Structures were built with adobe bricks over stone bases. Temples were built with quadrangular plans and formed an internal courtyard along with various functional and sacred rooms.
Walls are particularly important in the Hittite architecture such as those in Hattusha, Alacahoyuk and Alisar as examples. Walls that were built for attacks and defence alike are in the shape of two parallel walls. Both walls have quadrangular and circular towers. The lower parts of the walls are built with enormous stone blocks. Stone blocks of two metres each are arranged with smaller ones and the empty spaces between them are stacked with much smaller stones.
Tunnels under the walls show that hurried exits were created for defence. A gate named Yerkapi is the first postern (escape tunnel of castles) is vaulted and 70 metres long. This sharp pointed passage is an easily defendable one even with only a couple of people. Walls being strategically compromised against a rough landscape and the system being of excellent design did provide Hattusha city walls to be the strongest fortifications of ancient times.
The Zincirli settlement is particularly important in the Late Hittite period and this fortified settlement reflects the general features of Hittite architecture. Hittites would not use stone columns but wood columns on stone pedestals were very important design components. Another feature of Hittite architecture was its tall windows, which opened towards the outside rather than to the internal courtyard.
Sculpture and depicted arts
One of the most important examples of the Early Hittite period is the Vase of Inandik which is 1 metre high. The scenes depicted in lines on it showing schematic figures of possibly a sacred marriage. On the 38 cm high, Bitik Vase which has raised figures was found in the Bitik settlement near Ankara and it depicts a man who presents a bowl to a woman by removing her veil, which probably has religious meanings (sacred marriage). In those scenes which are separated by horizontal friezes include a religious ceremony of the worshippers in the middle sections and there are two figures drawn of religious dancers with knives.
As all-clay statues, only those fired bull figurines, which were found in Bogazkoy and Inandik, had endured time intact thus far from the early Hittite period. These 90 cm high figurines prove that shaping the clay is the most developed potted art branch of this period.
There are more examples from the Empire period with most of them being small, handled statutes with small dimensions as though to be strung on a chain functioned as amulets. Those small statues in which some of them are made of precious metals mostly depict gods and goddesses.
Examples of monumental sculpture examples are found too. The statues at the entrance of Hattusha castle’s door are amongst those. The door with Sphinx in the southern walls can be regarded among these examples. The eyes are engraved and their smiles are quite interesting. These statues are believed to be protecting the city. In the Door with Lion on the western walls, lions are depicted only from a frontal view. And in the King’s Door, there is a warrior-god relief, which is of oversized dimensions where the head is in a profile view, the body is facing front and the feet are profile as well in this figure. These are believed to be also protecting the city like other examples discovered.
Similar examples are also in Alacahoyuk. One of them is the door with Sphinx whose side part of the block of figures on the right part of the door has a double-headed eagle. A lion statue from Alacahoyuk whose head is completely made from potted clay and the body is a relief and is holding a cow, is probably from a door’s figures.
Another interesting feature on Alacahoyuk is, walls being decorated throughout from the inside-edges with stone blocks call ortostat. A dynamic and expressionist style is observed. The types of scenes depicted are of a king and a queen that are worshipping to a bull-shaped god, a group of acrobats, hunting scenes etc.
However, the most magnificent example of these reliefs is at Yazilikaya which is an open-air temple that was made by utilizing cracks in a massive rock near Hattusha. Two main natural splits in the rock make the ‘A’ gallery which is the main room of Yazilikaya and the ‘B’ gallery which its auxiliary chamber.
In the ‘A’ gallery, there is a large gods’ parade image as a relief. A portion of this passage is devoted to the gods, which were ordered in a row, and the other part is for the goddesses, which were depicted in the same position. In the place where these two parts meet, Tesup the storm god and Hepat the chief goddess are seen to be facing each other.
In this parade where 63 gods and goddesses are participating, each relief has a hieroglyph title near them that shows which god or goddess the likeness belong to.
However, not all the gods and goddesses are possible to recognize because the hieroglyphs are worn and eroded by the effects of time. Goddesses are wearing long and liberally pleated skirts, which covered their legs, a kind of blouse and a cylindrical hat on their head. While gods are depicted as wearing sharp pointed headgear and a coat which ends at their knees and is bound with a girdle. Sometimes they are holding a mace and sometimes a sabre with a curved edge.
Important gods or goddesses are depicted as either with their sacred animals or with other related creatures. For example, the chief-goddess Hepat on a lion, and Thesup the chief-god steps over two gods of the mountains, which were shown as human figures leaning forward.
Two reliefs of genies with wings protect the entrance of the ‘B’ gallery, the auxiliary chamber. While there is a relief that consisted of 12 gods similar to the one in the other gallery, the emphasis is gathered over the relief of Tuthalia’s relief, which were depicted as being cradled under the shoulders of the god Sarruma.
Amongst the most impressive works among Hittite art include hieroglyph inscriptions and monumental reliefs that were made on flattened rock surfaces across the sovereign areas of the Empire. One of them is the king Mutavalli relief, in ceremonial costumes, in the Sirkeli area near Adana.
On the Tasci Relief near Kayseri, Hattushili VI is depicted as presenting a aqueous offering to the god of storms. On the rock relief at Gavurkalesi near Ankara, two gods are facing a seated goddess. To the rear of the relief, there is a burial chamber, which was possibly the last resting place for a local sovereign. Karabel Monument near Izmir is seen as a monument of conquest of the Hittites in the west. However, it is more possible that a local king had it constructed. There is a figure with his bow dressed in a warrior costume.
Monument of Eflatunpinar was made from 14 rectangular stone blocks with raised reliefs as if almost an artificial surface of the rock at the place called Eflatunpinar at the eastern coast of Lake Beysehir.
There is a queen and a god seated in the centre of the composition. Between and near these two figures are ten composite creatures in pairs in five rows, holding three sun disks with wings of which two are carved level with the heads of goddess and god, and the other one covers the entire upper part of the monument on a single stone block. The headdress of the goddess is in the shape of the sun disk as well. This kind of headdress is also found on the one of the afore mentioned miniature gold figurines. In this regard, it is assumed that the seated goddess is Arinna’s sun goddess and the god is the god of storms.
In Hittite potteries, which are mostly monochromatic, colours are varied from brown to terracotta and red. As for shape, beak-shaped pitchers, kettles (narrow and circular necked and whose handle extends from the neck to the shoulder), bowls, (handled bowls) and wide brimmed dishes can be given as examples.
Probably the most attractive kind of pottery of Hittite are ritons, animal-shaped bowls. One of them is the vase with a double-headed duck shape.