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Hittitology today: Studies on Hittite and Neo-Hittite Anatolia in Honor of Emmanuel Laroche’s 100th Birthday

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Alice Mouton

IV. Archéologie

Cult and Ritual at Late Bronze Age II Alalakh: Hybridity and Power under Hittite Administration

K. Aslıhan Yener

Texte intégral

  • 1 dIŠTAR or “could have been read as the Hurrian DN dIšhara” (Greenstein/Marcus 1976: 68), Shaushka, (...)

1This article commemorating Emmanuel Laroche’s 100th birthday continues a series of discourses on newly defined cult practices and ritual spaces at Alalakh (Yener 2014, 2015a, 2015b). Although Alalakh is only periodically woven into the fabric of the Hittite world of which Laroche has contributed so much over the years, as a result of the new round of excavations the realization has grown that Alalakh’s important cult center of the goddess Ishtar1 played a crucial role in Hittite administration of the Amuq. Hittite cult practices were also integrated into local culture along with other foreign traditions to create a new ritual milieu unique to Alalakh. Based on the recent discoveries of cult contexts and also imperial Hittite seal impressions, an appendix of which follows by Peker, I will argue the social and political importance of cult and ritual at Alalakh during the time of Hittite ascendancy.

2The topic of Late Bronze Age cult and ritual is an important one, and one that Tell Atchana is well suited to contribute to. Yet despite so much information recovered from years of excavation, there has been little comprehensive study of the material correlates of the religion and rituals of this Bronze Age city. Much has been assumed, especially by the first excavator Sir Leonard Woolley, and subsequent interpretations have built uncritically on his work. With the new excavations, the body of evidence for cult spaces and practices has grown and the first steps have been taken towards a better understanding of local religion and ritual behavior both royal and common.

3Particularly important is the introduction of new cults and their associated rituals in the international Late Bronze Age, when many foreign contacts and eventually foreign overlords affected local society on many levels. We can now propose specific associations between elements of the local ceramic corpus and ritual activities, bringing us closer to identifying a material culture of ritual at Alalakh. These finds integrate with existing evidence from the Woolley excavation to clarify and extend our knowledge of the ritual lives of the Late Bronze Age inhabitants.

4Tell Atchana is located about 50 km inland from the Gulf of Iskenderun (Fig. 1), and the size and navigability of the Orontes (Asi) River led to such close connections to seaborne trade that the city can easily be considered part of the coastal Levantine realm as well as inland southern Turkey and northwestern Syria (Braidwood 1937, Yener 2005 and Yener 2010 (éd.)). The site (Fig. 2) is located in the rich farmland of the Plain of Antioch (Amuq valley) on a bend in the Orontes River and was once the capital of a small Bronze Age principality called Mukish. The city and its territory are located on a crucial interregional communication route on the border between Anatolia, modern Turkey, the Levant, and inner Syria. Access to the sea via the Orontes added Cyprus and the Aegean to Alalakh’s horizons. Alalakh was part of the Semitic Middle Bronze Amorite cultural and linguistic horizon that extended from the foothills of Anatolia in the north to the area of Kadesh in the south and east into much of Mesopotamia. Intruding into this region came a complex matrix of Hurrian and later Hittite and Luwian cultural and political elements which became politically predominant in the later part of the Late Bronze Age (von Dassow 2007). Connectivity with foreign cultures naturally brought a melting pot of new gods and rituals to Alalakh.

Fig. 1: Map of the eastern Mediterranean showing M/LB sites

Fig. 1: Map of the eastern Mediterranean showing M/LB sites

Fig. 2: Tell Atchana Excavation squares 2003-2014

Fig. 2: Tell Atchana Excavation squares 2003-2014

© Alalakh archive, plan M. Akar

5Certainly the largest and most conspicuous cult establishment yet found at Alalakh is the temple sequence excavated by Woolley in the Royal Precinct. From its earliest well defined architectural phase, Level XVI ca. 2000 BC, the city of Alalakh seems to have been centered on this cultic edifice located adjacent to the palace sequence (Woolley 1955). New excavations have revealed that this Alalakh cult center, which endured for over 700 years, is the only area of the city that continued in use past the newly recognized abandonment of most of the site at perhaps 1300-1290 BC (Yener 2013). Specifically, Woolley’s Temple Level Ic is so far without contemporary settlement on the city mound.

6In Woolley’s Levels XVI-I, the large temple buildings and associated courtyard spaces contained abundant evidence of cult activity, including altars, copious ash deposits lacking in cookware or other domestic debris, fine ceramic types particular to the building, and caches of votive materials. Though no single inscription or statue was ever found in situ to identify the patron deity of this temple, some clues do exist. The inscription on the statue of King Idrimi, itself found buried below the Level Ib temple courtyard, mentions “Ishtar, lady of Alalakh” (Greenstein/Marcus 1976). This evidence prompted Woolley to posit that the temple was dedicated to this goddess and was therefore, as its location suggests, the preeminent cult space of the city. As the protectress of Alalakh, Ishtar’s temple can be expected to have major importance to the entire territory of Mukish. The proximity and, in at least one phase (Level VII), physical integration with the royal palace shows the respective degree of integration between the rulers and the religious authority emanating from the house of Ishtar. No one could hope to rule over Mukish without the blessing of this powerful goddess from her ancient edifice on the highest part of Alalakh.

7One of the most important targets of the renewed Alalakh excavations was to securely date the floating chronology of Woolley’s temples in the later phases, Periods 3-1, when the physical association between the temple and the other buildings in the elite precinct is unclear despite Woolley’s attempt at a phasing concordance. A new square designated 42.10 was placed immediately to the south of Woolley’s deep temple sounding with the intent of picking up adjacent stratigraphy and fine-tuning the chronology of this important building. This exploration has yielded two Imperial Hittite sealings with major significance for the chronology and political history of Alalakh. The first was a seal impression on a bulla belonging to a hitherto unknown Hittite 13th century ‘Great Priest’ named Pilukatuha (Fig. 3: Dinçol/Peker, forthcoming), unfortunately found out of context in 2012 mixed in with Iron Age materials. During the 2014 excavation season a second stamp seal impression was found, this time on the local Phase 4 floor of a room in a mud brick building (Figs. 4a and 4b). The sealing is this time in context and dates to the LBII. Since the ceramics and radiocarbon dates are still being processed, a more precise dating other than late 14th or early 13th century BC cannot be given to this building.

Fig. 3: Sealing, Great Priest, Pilukatuha

Fig. 3: Sealing, Great Priest, Pilukatuha

© Alalakh archive, photo M. Akar

Fig. 4a and 4b: Square 42.10 plan and photo, local Phase 4

Fig. 4a and 4b: Square 42.10 plan and photo, local Phase 4

©Alalakh archive, photo and plan M. Akar and E. Kaya

8The sealing is of a Princess Ašnu-Hepa and a Prince Tuthaliya (Fig. 5). The orthostat relief depicts a Hittite named Tudhaliya, now identified as ‘Great Priest.’ He is followed by a female figure whose identifying text was also so worn that no certain reading could be made, though the assumption was that this is the wife of Tudhaliya. The new sealing identifies this wife as Princess Ašnu-Hepa (Yener/Peker/Dinçol 2014).

Fig. 5: Tuthaliya Orthostat and Sealing of Princess Ašnu-Hepa and Prince Tuthaliya, from local Phase 4, Square 42.10

Fig. 5: Tuthaliya Orthostat and Sealing of Princess Ašnu-Hepa and Prince Tuthaliya, from local Phase 4, Square 42.10

© Alalakh archive, photo H. Peker

9The orthostat slab was found by Woolley re-used as a staircase step in Temple 1b. The original context of the slab was argued by Woolley to have been the Level Ia temple, where similar orthostats were used (Woolley 1955: 86-87). In that case, we can see how the Hittites have inserted themselves into Ishtar’s temple and thus into the religious as well as political life of the city’s inhabitants. This strategy co-opted the power of Ishtar and gave legitimacy to the new rulers of Alalakh. The seal of Tudhaliya confirms that he is a Great Priest and thus carries direct sacred as well as secular authority. While the exact details of Tudhaliya’s role at Alalakh are still unknown, he set a precedent of basing Hittite administration in the temple. Imperial Hittite sealings (‘Paluwa’ AT/39/322, Woolley 1955: 266, Pl. 67: no. 155) continue to be found in Temple Ic until at least the reign of Hattusili III, long after the rest of the city had apparently been abandoned.

10In addition to this major Hittite co-opting of the premier temple of Alalakh, aspects of material culture in the later 14th century phases suggest that specific Hittite cult practices were introduced to Alalakh at that time. Small model vessels in the shape of plates and juglets, and a type of juglet with a pointed base and single handle, are found scattered across the site beginning in Period 2. Similar model plates and juglets have been found deposited as votives in the sacred pools of Hattusa (Fischer 1963: Pl. 119, Neve 1971: 12, 1993: 28, abb.66, Schoop 2011: 248). Water, ritual pools, reservoirs and basins have often been noted as essential for Hittite ritual practices especially in view of the ritual text found at Hattusa (KBo 23.27 Rs. III 5-14).

  • 2 Local phase refers to the first occupation phase encountered in that particular square.

11An interesting collection of miniature votive plates, juglets, and other ritual paraphernalia have been excavated in Square 43.54 (10x10m), located about 40m south of Woolley’s temple sounding, along with plastered features apparently intended for the containment and drainage of water (Fig. 6). These activities persisted for two building phases in the same location. Directly below the top soil, the square was divided into a multi-roomed structure on the uphill (west) side and a sloping rubble area on the downhill (east) side that seemed to have accumulated over a considerable period of time with multiple ephemeral layers and lenses of dump material (Fig. 7). This local Phase 12 was poorly preserved but yielded an occupation context with a pyrotechnical installation, a basin-like rectangular feature defined by bricks, and unusual ceramics with spouts (Horowitz 2015). The miniatures were recovered on a poorly preserved burnt surface deposit surrounded by tiles near a water channel/drain in close proximity to the ‘Ishtar’ temple excavated by Woolley (Akar in press). One biconical plain ware jar has a beak spout (Fig. 8), while several rounded plain ware bowls have long open spouts reminiscent of Middle and Late Cypriot I ceramics.

Fig. 6: Miniature vessels and Square 43.54, Phase 1

Fig. 6: Miniature vessels and Square 43.54, Phase 1

©Alalakh archive, plan and photo M. Akar, E. Kaya

Fig. 7: Basin and findplace of miniature vessels, Square 43.54, Phase 1

Fig. 7: Basin and findplace of miniature vessels, Square 43.54, Phase 1

©Alalakh archive, plan Ö. Demirci, E. Kaya and M. Akar

Fig. 8

Fig. 8

1. Pointed juglet with scraped sides AT10331, 2. Hand-molded model plate AT 7185; 3. model pitcher AT3524; 4. small bowl with spout AT 2974; 5. small biconical jar with beak spout AT 4793

Illustration: M. Horowitz

  • 3 3045+-40 BP: 68.2% probability; 1387-1338 BC (27.6%), 1318-1258 BC (35.3%); 1245-1234 BC (5.4%); 95 (...)

12Local Phase 1 has been associated with Alalakh Period 1 based on the local ceramic profile, stratigraphic position, and the persistence of Nuzi and LH IIIA: 2 pottery in trash deposits (Yener/Akar/Horowitz (éds.), in preparation). A single carbon date unfortunately has a rather broad range including the fourteenth and earlier thirteenth centuries.3 Alalakh Period 1 was the time of Great Prince Tudhaliya, the Great Priest.

13Beneath Phase 1, an earlier Phase 2 (Figs. 9a and 9b) also contained water and drainage features, this time with carefully laid river pebble surfaces (Yener/Akar 2013). Phase 2 may be associated with Alalakh Period 2 based on stratigraphic position and the presence of Mycenaean and Nuzi ware fragments in floor contexts (Yener/Akar/Horowitz (éds.), in preparation). Miniature model vessels are present in scattered fragments, as are fragments of spouted vessels. Excavation below Phase 2 has revealed no trace of these artefact types and a different architectural layout, indicating that Phase 2 was the founding of the proposed ritual activity area.

Figs. 9a and 9b: Square 43.54, Phase 2

Figs. 9a and 9b: Square 43.54, Phase 2

©Alalakh archive, plan and photo M. Akar and E. Kaya

14A fragmentary ceramic wall bracket (AT 11012, Figs. 10a and 10b) was found lodged in the pebble surface of the water feature in Phase 2. Much has been written about the possible votive nature and origin of wall brackets which were also found in the Uluburun shipwreck (Cline/Yasur-Landau 2007), Tiryns (Maran 2004), Crete (Girella 2010), Cyprus (Smith 2011) as well as at Ugarit (Cline 1999). Late Cypriot (ca. 1600-1050 BC) and proceeding Cypro-Geometric period (ca. 1050-750 BC) wall brackets have been found in diverse contexts including the Uluburun ship (possibly fastened to the mast), domestic structures, sanctuaries, industrial areas and tombs. Their suggested functions include votive lamps, incense burners, coal scoops, water ladles and figure holders. That they were found in a context at Alalakh in association with miniature votive vessels and water-related activities lends credence to their postulated ritual nature.

Figs. 10a and 10b: Terracotta wall bracket from Square 43.54, Phase 2

Figs. 10a and 10b: Terracotta wall bracket from Square 43.54, Phase 2

©Alalakh archive, photo M. Akar; illustration, M. Çakın

15The combination of miniature votive model vessels, pointed juglets, plastered water features, a wall bracket, and the unparalleled spouted vessels generates a picture of cult practices that have come together from disparate traditions. Anatolian, Aegean, and Cypriot features are merged with a peculiar local revival of beak spouts and spouted bowls to create something new and entirely unique to Alalakh.

16In conclusion, ongoing excavation and research at Alalakh are helping to elucidate religious practices across an epic sweep of six centuries. Changes in cult practices are an excellent barometer of local social, political, and cultural developments, especially in an era of imperial ambitions. Overall, what is developing is a picture of Alalakh absorbing and adapting new cultic elements from the Hittites in the final quarter of the 14th century BC. What is certainly emerging from our team’s interdisciplinary research is that despite the rise and fall of kingdoms and empires, be they Amorite, Hittite or Hurro-Mitanni, and the appearance of new commodities, artistic styles, and cult practices at the site, the people of Alalakh engaged in this milieu on their own terms and local expressions always endured.

Bibliographie

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Notes

1 dIŠTAR or “could have been read as the Hurrian DN dIšhara” (Greenstein/Marcus 1976: 68), Shaushka, or Ishtar-Sawoska (Yakubovich 2010: 265).

2 Local phase refers to the first occupation phase encountered in that particular square.

3 3045+-40 BP: 68.2% probability; 1387-1338 BC (27.6%), 1318-1258 BC (35.3%); 1245-1234 BC (5.4%); 95.4% probability 1414-1196 BC (95.1%), 1138-1135 BC (0.3%). Vienna Vera Laboratories.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1: Map of the eastern Mediterranean showing M/LB sites
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3548/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 103k
Titre Fig. 2: Tell Atchana Excavation squares 2003-2014
Crédits © Alalakh archive, plan M. Akar
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3548/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 117k
Titre Fig. 3: Sealing, Great Priest, Pilukatuha
Crédits © Alalakh archive, photo M. Akar
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3548/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 117k
Titre Fig. 4a and 4b: Square 42.10 plan and photo, local Phase 4
Crédits ©Alalakh archive, photo and plan M. Akar and E. Kaya
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3548/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 187k
Titre Fig. 5: Tuthaliya Orthostat and Sealing of Princess Ašnu-Hepa and Prince Tuthaliya, from local Phase 4, Square 42.10
Crédits © Alalakh archive, photo H. Peker
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3548/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 96k
Titre Fig. 6: Miniature vessels and Square 43.54, Phase 1
Crédits ©Alalakh archive, plan and photo M. Akar, E. Kaya
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3548/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 247k
Titre Fig. 7: Basin and findplace of miniature vessels, Square 43.54, Phase 1
Crédits ©Alalakh archive, plan Ö. Demirci, E. Kaya and M. Akar
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3548/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 98k
Titre Fig. 8
Légende 1. Pointed juglet with scraped sides AT10331, 2. Hand-molded model plate AT 7185; 3. model pitcher AT3524; 4. small bowl with spout AT 2974; 5. small biconical jar with beak spout AT 4793
Crédits Illustration: M. Horowitz
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3548/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 40k
Titre Figs. 9a and 9b: Square 43.54, Phase 2
Crédits ©Alalakh archive, plan and photo M. Akar and E. Kaya
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3548/img-9.png
Fichier image/png, 162k
Titre Figs. 10a and 10b: Terracotta wall bracket from Square 43.54, Phase 2
Crédits ©Alalakh archive, photo M. Akar; illustration, M. Çakın
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifeagd/docannexe/image/3548/img-10.png
Fichier image/png, 128k

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Koç University, Istanbul – Istanbul University (emeritus)

© Institut français d’études anatoliennes, 2017

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