There were archaeologists in ancient times

Archaeologists may have come across forgotten ancient capital

Bern / Ankara - Sirkeli Höyük may not necessarily be a name that people with an average interest in history will immediately have to hand. Located in the south-east of Turkey near the metropolis of Adana, it is a place with history: It is a hill that was continuously inhabited from around 5,000 BC to the turn of the times.

New discoveries

Archaeological excavations have been increasingly carried out there since the 1990s. A Swiss-Turkish team has now discovered an ancient city complex there. The research team headed by the University of Bern, with the help of geophysical prospecting and surface inspections, came across an extensive lower town with what was once dense residential development and an upper town that was or was on two mountain ridges. In the center there is a necropolis with chamber graves.

According to the researchers, the urban areas form a unique 80-hectare urban landscape for this region. According to Mirko Novak from the Institute for Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bern, both the lower and upper towns were surrounded by a double ring of city walls and a moat, which also bordered the citadel, which has been known for a long time.

Relics of an eventful history

Excavations took place in different places. In the lower town, the walls of the town fortifications made of large stone blocks and the paved east gate from the early 1st millennium were examined. At the gate there were traces of a siege, which was presumably carried out by the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III. and therefore should date to the year 835 BC.

A stamp seal was found in a neighboring building, which is inscribed with both Luwian (i.e. ancient Anatolian) hieroglyphs and Babylonian cuneiform characters. "The parallel use of these writing systems on a seal was extremely unusual for the first millennium BC, says Novak. In the northeast of the citadel, two rock reliefs show the Hittite king Muwattali II. (1290–1272 BCE). A building extends above it which obviously served the ancestor cult.

Forgotten center

In a relatively small room at the highest point of the citadel, the researchers also found the skeletons of at least three sheep on a pedestal - apparently the remains of a ritual act. "All of these findings support the assumption that the ancient city could be Kummanni, which is known as a place of worship," believes Novak.

If this assumption proves to be correct, a historical knowledge gap could be closed: According to vague historical traditions, Kummanni was the religious center and capital of the Kingdom of Kizzuwatna, which was founded around 1500 BC. C.E. briefly gained independence from the Hittite Empire before it was rejoined. The name of the capital has been passed down - but where it was located remained unclear. (red, APA, October 18, 2018)