The site of Türkmen-Karahöyük, is a very large settlement mound that rises 35m off the plain and dominates the landscape at the eastern end of the Çarşamba delta (fig.1). The site had been previously visited in several survey projects since the 1950s but, curiously, almost nothing had been published from this site. The KRASP team first visited Türkmen-Karahöyük in 2017, and recognized its importance as the largest Bronze and Iron Age settlement mound in the region. In 2018 KRASP carried out a semi-intensive survey, followed in 2019 by a collaboration with James Osborne (University of Chicago, Oriental Institute) to implement the Türkmen-Karahöyük Intensive Survey (TISP). Led by James Osborne under the wider aegis of KRASP, TISP set out to map and record the site in more detail with intensive sherd collection, drone photogrammetry and geophysical prospection.

In the 2019 season, the TISP team systematically collected and analysed a large volume of pottery sherds (over 17.000) from ca 350 units on the main mound and from the surrounding plain (likely a lower town). This pottery analysis, carried out by Fatma Şahin (Çukurova University) and Hüseyin Erpehlivan (Bilecik University), has revealed the extent of the site in different periods from its origin in the Late Chalcolithic to the early Roman period (ca 4500 BCE-200 CE). While the size of the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age settlements is obscured by the later phases, the distribution of Middle Bronze Age material (early 2nd millennium BCE) shows that the extent of the site was 30ha with a possible lower terrace to the north-east.  During the Late Bronze Age (particularly 14th-13th centuries BC) Türkmen-Karahöyük grew to an astonishing 125+ ha (fig. 2), ranking it among the largest pre-Hellenistic sites in Anatolia. The site maintained this size until the end of the Middle Iron Age (ca 600 BCE), suggesting continuity of its role as the primary regional centre from the Late Bronze Age to the Middle Iron Age.

The most exciting discovery from the 2019 season was a Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription found in an irrigation canal ca 600m from the mound (fig. 3). The palaeographic analysis of the inscription by Petra Goedegebuure and Theo van den Hout (University of Chicago, Oriental Institute) dates it provisionally to the 8th century BCE. In the inscription, a “Great King” Hartapu, already known from several other inscriptions in the region, commemorates his military victories including the conquest of Muska, probably to be identified with the Iron Age kingdom of Phrygia. 

The proximity between Türkmen-Karahöyük and two peak sanctuaries both with Hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions of King Hartapu (Kızıldağ 14km distant, and Karadağ 28km distant) strongly suggests that the three sites were interconnected in a ritual and political landscape.

It is very likely that Türkmen-Karahöyük is the capital of a previously unknown Middle Iron Age kingdom based on the following observations: the size of the settlement; the abundant presence of very high-quality pottery; its location within one of the most fertile basins in ancient Anatolia; and its proximity to two Luwian-inscribed peak sanctuaries also associated with King Hartapu. Hartapu and his father Mursili probably ruled in an area that comprises the modern Konya and Karaman Plains, one of three major kingdoms in southern-central Anatolia during the 8th century BCE (fig.4). During the Late Bronze Age, we are working with the hypothesis that the site was a primary regional (and probably administrative) centre of the Hittite Lower Land. This raises the possibility that Türkmen-Karahöyük might be identified with the city of Tarhuntašša, briefly the capital of the Hittite Empire in the early 13th century BCE and later the seat of an independent kingdom.

Our 2020 fieldwork season will prioritize the completion of the intensive pottery collection, as well as the implementation of large-scale geophysical prospections to investigate the architectural features, urban layout and extent of the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements. 


Three major articles related to the discoveries at Türkmen-Karahöyük are in press in the 2020 volume of Anatolian Studies:

Goedegebuure P., van den Hout T., Osborne J., Massa M., Bachhuber C. and F. Şahin (in press). TÜRKMEN-KARAHÖYÜK 1: a new Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription from Great King Hartapu, son of Mursili, conqueror of Phrygia. Anatolian Studies.

Massa M., Bachhuber C., Şahin F., Erpehlivan H., Osborne J. and A.J. Lauricella (in press). A landscape-oriented approach to urbanisation and state formation in the Konya and Karaman Plains, Turkey. Anatolian Studies.

Osborne J., Massa M., Şahin F., Erpehlivan H. and Bachhuber C. (in press). The City of Hartapu: Results of the Türkmen-Karahöyük Intensive Survey Project. Anatolian Studies.