An “ancestor” of Mediterranean mosaics discovered in Turkey

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Usakli Hoyuk (Turkey) (AFP)

The discovery of a 3,500-year-old cobblestone, described as the “ancestor” of Mediterranean mosaics, offers illuminating details of the daily life of the mysterious Hittites of the Bronze Age.

The assemblage of over 3,000 stones – in natural tones of beige, red and black, and arranged in triangles and curves – has been unearthed in the remains of a 15th century BC Hittite temple. AD, 700 years before the oldest known mosaics of ancient Greece.

“It is the ancestor of the classical period of the mosaics which are obviously more sophisticated. It is a kind of first attempt to do it”, explains Anacleto D’Agostino, director of the excavations of Usakli Hoyuk, near Yozgat, in central Turkey.

At the site three hours from Ankara, the capital of Turkey, first located in 2018, Turkish and Italian archaeologists painstakingly use shovels and brushes to learn more about the cities of the Hittites, one of the most powerful kingdoms of ancient Anatolia.

“For the first time, people felt the need to produce geometric patterns and do something different from just a sidewalk,” says D’Agostino.

Turkish and Italian archaeologists painstakingly use shovels and brushes to learn more about the mighty Hittite kingdom Adem ALTAN AFP

“Maybe we’re dealing with a genius? Maybe not. Maybe it was a man who said ‘build me a floor’ and he decided to do something weird?”

The discovery was made in front of the Kerkenes mountain and the temple where the mosaic is located was dedicated to Teshub, the storm god worshiped by the Hittites, equivalent of Zeus to the ancient Greeks.

“Probably here the priests were looking at the photo of the Kerkenes mountain for some rituals and so on,” D’Agostino adds.

– The treasures of the lost city? –

Archaeologists have also discovered ceramics and palace remains this week, supporting the theory that Usakli Hoyuk may indeed be the lost city of Zippalanda.

An important place of worship for the storm god and frequently mentioned in Hittite tablets, Zippalanda’s exact location has remained a mystery.

Excavation director Anacleto D'Agostino describes the find as
The director of the excavations Anacleto D’Agostino describes the find as “the ancestor of the classical period of mosaics” Adem ALTAN AFP

“Researchers agree that Usakli Hoyuk is one of the two most likely sites. With the discovery of the palace alongside the luxurious ceramics and glassware, the likelihood has increased,” D’Agostino said.

“We only need the ultimate proof: a tablet with the city’s name on it.

The treasures of Usakli Hoyuk, for which cedars were brought from Lebanon to build temples and palaces, were swallowed up like the rest of the Hittite world towards the end of the Bronze Age.

The reason is still not known.

The mosaics are in natural tones of beige, red and black, and arranged in triangles and curves
The mosaics are in natural tones of beige, red and black, and arranged in triangles and curves Adem ALTAN AFP

But some believe that climate change accompanied by social unrest is the cause.

– ‘Spiritual connection’ –

Almost 3000 years after their disappearance, the Hittites continue to inhabit the Turkish imagination.

A Hittite figure representing the sun is the symbol of Ankara. And in the 1930s, the founder of the modern Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, introduced the Turks as the direct descendants of the Hittites.

“I don’t know if we can find a connection between the ancient Hittites and the people who live here now. Centuries and millennia have passed and people have moved from one place to another,” D’Agostino said. .

“But I would like to imagine that some kind of spiritual connection exists.”

The temple at the site in central Turkey was dedicated to the storm god Teshub
The temple at the site in central Turkey was dedicated to the storm god Teshub Adem ALTAN AFP

In an attempt to honor this connection, the excavation team recreated Hittite culinary traditions, trying ancient recipes on ceramics produced as they would have been at the time using the same technique and clay.

“We reproduced the Hittite ceramics with the clay found in the village where the site is located: we baked dates and bread with them as the Hittites ate,” explains Valentina Orsi, co-director of the excavation.

“It was really good.”


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