Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The people of Kanesh: Residential mobility, community life, and cultural pluralism in a Bronze Age city in Anatolia, Turkey
by Yazicioglu Santamaria, Gokce Bike, Ph.D., The University of Chicago, 2015, 620; 3687183
Abstract (Summary)

The archaeological site of Kültepe (ancient Kanesh), located in south-central Anatolia, in the present-day Republic of Turkey, was the capital city of a native Anatolian kingdom during the early Middle Bronze Age (20th - late 18th c. BC). Uninterrupted archaeological excavations at the site since 1948 by the Turkish Historical Society under the directorship of the late Prof. Tahsin Özgüç have revealed wide exposures of densely settled residential neighborhoods at the foot of a high citadel mound with palaces and temples. Archaeological evidence from the site indicates a millennium-long settlement sequence of the Early Bronze Age (EBA), predating the Level II settlement, during which a demographic explosion occurred at the site. Circumstantial evidence from Anatolia contemporary with the poorly understood levels of the EBA and direct archaeological and textual evidence from the Level II and Ib settlements of the MBA demonstrate a complex history of immigration to Kanesh. By the turn of the 2nd millennium BC, at least five languages, namely Neshili (Hittite), Luwian, Hattian, Hurrian, and Old Assyrian were spoken in this city, as can be understood on the basis of prosopographic data. The three centuries, during which the city existed as the largest known urban site in central Anatolia, were times of political turmoil, characterized by the formation of territorial states on the Anatolian plateau, which culminated in the establishment of the Old Hittite Kingdom that was born at Kanesh.

Kültepe/Kanesh is widely known beyond the academic circles of Ancient Near Eastern and Anatolian archaeology as an Old Assyrian Trade Colony due to the 22,500 cuneiform texts in the Old Assyrian language found in the private family archives of merchants in the residential quarters of the lower town. On the basis of these texts, the excavated areas of the lower town have been regarded as a colonial settlement (Karum) established outside the citadel walls and scholarship on Kane has been structured by colonial frameworks. Moreover, due to certain organizational principles of the Old Assyrian trade operations, which resemble free market economy, the historical evidence from Kanesh has received a great deal of attention from economic historians. On various occasions, the case of Kanesh has been cited as an ancient example of capitalism, colonialism, and World Systems that resulted in underdevelopment in Anatolia. Since the excavators' research agenda has targeted areas that bear a higher potential to yield cuneiform texts, this well-investigated mercantile district of the city has remained like an island isolated from its past and its surroundings. As such, the case of Kane represents a prime example of "the tyranny of the text" in the archaeology of Anatolia and calls for alternative perspectives beyond the straight-jacketing colonial paradigms. In recent years, the new campaign of excavations under the directorship of Prof. Fikri Kulakoglu have begun to embrace interdisciplinary and integrative research agendas, which sets a promising direction for Kültepe studies.

In this dissertation, I place the native communities of prehistoric Anatolia at the center of my inquiries and investigate the questions of residential mobility and cultural pluralism at Kültepe within a long-term, local perspective in relationship to the process of urbanization in the region. I use the methodological approaches of history-from-below and text-aided archaeology to counteract the interpretative biases of colonial frameworks and reconstruct a diachronic framework for demographic mobility at Kanesh in relationship to its political history. Guided by concepts borrowed from archaeology of communities that focus on the study of human interaction in face-to-face societies in light of analogies to the ethnographic record of Anatolia, I attempt to identify social, economic, and cultural distinctions of individuals and households at Kane based on the diversity of its archaeological remains, beyond a restricted notion of ethnicity. I propose a systematic research model for the reconstruction of household biographies and investigate the utility of the funerary remains from the site for demographic assessments. And finally, I present the results of the strontium and stable light isotope analyses I conducted on human tooth samples from Kültepe graves encountered during the 2006-2010 excavation seasons, in light of which I identify local individuals, immigrants, and mixed households, and make preliminary observations on the sources of diversity in paleodiet.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Yener, Aslihan, Gibson, McGuire
Commitee: Ambrose, Stanley H., Kulakoglu, Fikri, Lozada, Maria C.
School: The University of Chicago
Department: Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 76/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Archaeology, Biogeochemistry, Near Eastern Studies
Keywords: Anatolia, Ethnic diversity, Old assyrian trade, Residential mobility, Strontium isotope analysis, Urbanism
Publication Number: 3687183
ISBN: 978-1-321-64592-7
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