The ancient Kanesh, the main trading center of the Old Assyrian Colony period is one of Turkey’s most important archaeological sites. It is also one of the largest ruins of Anatolia, Kultepe is located some twenty kilometers to the northeast ot Kayseri, the Mazaka of antiquity.


The Assyrians, who had inhabited Northern Mesopotamia, began to expand their trading centers into Anatolia during the beginning of the second millennium B.C. They quickly established a line of these posts along the route connecting the cities of Diyar-bakir, Malatya, Kayseri, Urfa and Adana. The trading centers were called Karums, and caravans of donkeys would bring goods and merchandise out of Assyria along these routes to sell-to the native Anatolians. These packtrains were often made up of as many as 200-250 animals. The main karum of the Assyrians was established at Kanesh, the site at Kultepe., It was here that the earliest written documents, scribed on cuneiform tablets, were uncovered. Since this was a major trading center, the majority of the tablets are of a commercial and legal nature. They record business transactions, dealings with, among others, the Hittites, and other important oc-curances during the great period of prosperity in Anatolia.

The archaeological site ot Kultepe incorporates two distinct sections: the mound of the ancient Karum, which rises twenty meters above the Kayseri plain, and the area of the lower trading center itself. The area was inhabited from the fourth millennium B.C. to the end of the period of Roman occupation In Anatolia. During the Assyrian Colony period, the princes and people of nobility resided in ‘the area of the karum in vast palace complexes. This lasted from 1950 to 1850 B.C. The city suffered extensive damage during this period, and was rebuilt in about 1800 B.C. After the Assyrians were forced out of Anatolia, Kanesh experienced a sudden decline, it was unable to regain its former status during the great Hittite periods. During the Hellenistic arid Roman ages, Kultepe was an important city of the province of Cappadocia.


The excavations at Kultepe have revealed four distinct building levels in the mound. The earliest, Level Four, belongs to the pre- historic period, as does level three. The Old Assyrian Colony period is found at Level Two of the site. Efficient city planning was observed duifng this occupation, with buildings having been constructed around a grid of streets and large open squares. While wood was used In the construction of houses, they were built for the most part with mud bricks on a foundation of stones. The houses were usually very large, and often they had two or more levels. These buildings each contained their own archives; a total of nearly fifteen thousand tablets, enclosed in their envelopes and stamped with the owners’ seals, have been recovered.

In the Assyrian level of the mound, vast palaces have been uncovered to show the degree to which the princes of Kanesh rose to prosperity through their dealings with the Anatolians. A wall surrounded the affair, and palaces were composed of large courtyards, halls with long corridors and the royal residences. The administrative affairs of the kingdom of Kanesh were taken care of in this complex as well. A huge assortment of implements and artifacts from the period have been recovered In the excavations at Kiiltepe, These Include animal-shaped vessels, jewelry, large alabaster idols with multiple heads, statues and many other relics that lend information about the way of life of these early people. The Assyrian exhibit in the Ankara museum is an excellent representative group of these fjids.’

Level One of the mound is of the period of Hammurabi the Great who ruled Babylonia. Few tablets have been found at this level, and it is doubtful that the inhabitants enjoyed the degree of prosperity and importance of those from the Kanesh period.

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