Almost twelve years ago, the Swiss geoarchaeologist Dr. Eberhard Zangger set out to systematically record and evaluate the Bronze Age settlements in the west of present-day Turkey. For this purpose, he and like-minded academics established the Luwian Studies foundation, which in the meantime has supported various projects and published numerous scientific articles. In the meantime, the publication that was the foundation’s first goal has appeared: an evaluation of the results of 33 excavations and 30 archaeological surveys, comprising a total of 477 large Middle and Late Bronze Age settlement sites. The settlements were all inhabited throughout the second millennium BCE, and some for as long as 5,000 years. A foldable topographic map accompanies the publication.
Western Asia Minor in the second millennium BCE is still considered politically and economically insignificant. It is mainly linguists who study the language and writing of the Luwian culture. However, the new study by Eberhard Zangger, Alper Aşınmaz and Serdal Mutlu proves that western modern Turkey was covered by a dense network of long-lasting settlements.
The Luwian sphere of influence in western Asia Minor lay between the well-investigated Late Bronze Age cultures (Luwian Studies #0109).
The results of the study refute the common paradigm that the areas between the well-researched Greek Mycenaeans and the Anatolian Hittites were populated by insignificant tribes.
Reconstruction of the “burnt palace” in Beycesultan level V (after Lloyd and Mellaart 1965; Luwian Studies #0302).
In northwestern Turkey, directly at the entrance to the Dardanelles, lay Troy, the legendary city that fell victim to an enemy raid between 1190 and 1180 BCE. According to Homer, a united army of the Mycenaean petty kingdoms fought against Troy and its neighbors who were allied with the city at that time. Homer lists the contingents of both sides. On Troy’s side were armies that came from a huge catchment area. It stretched from the river Axios in northern Greece across Thrace along the entire Aegean coast of Anatolia to the Black Sea. However, the cultures of these regions have so far hardly been systematically recorded. According to the scientists of the current study, this circumstance may have contributed to the fact that the chain of events leading to the sudden demise of the Bronze Age cultures cannot be satisfactorily explained until today.
Using a geographic information system (GIS) and taking into account 30 physio-geographical factors for each of the Middle and Late Bronze Age settlement sites, the researchers, Eberhard Zangger, Alper Aşınmaz and Serdal Mutlu, were able to determine which locations people preferred for their settlements. Proximity to fertile farmland and drinking water were particularly important. One third of the settlements were less than four kilometers from a possible route through the interior. Ore deposits are abundant in the region, but their location had no influence on the settlement pattern.
- The Luwians had their own language, Luwian, which was predominant in western and southern Asia Minor during the second millennium BC.
- They also possessed a distinct script, Luwian hieroglyphics, from at least ca. 1700–700 BC.
- Luwian hieroglyphs continued to be used throughout the Dark Ages (ca. 1200–800 BC), while the other Bronze Age writing systems were either abandoned altogether (Linear B) or were no longer used in Asia Minor (cuneiform).
- Troy, in comparison with the other cultural centers of the Late Bronze Age (Mycenae, Cnossos, Hattusa), is without question the most important site in terms of world history.
- Today we know of 477 Luwian settlement sites over 100 m in diameter that were inhabited throughout the second millennium BC. This is more sites than are known from the Minoan, Mycenaean and Hittite cultures combined.
- The Luwian sphere of influence covered at least 250,000 km2 – an area larger than the spheres of influence of the Minoan, Mycenaean and Hittite cultures combined.
- A Luwian king corresponded on equal terms with an Egyptian pharaoh, as evidenced by the Amarna correspondence. There is no correspondence with a Mycenaean king in that archive.
- Luwian culture provided the substrate for the prosperous kingdoms of the Early Iron Age, most notably the Phrygian and the Lydian kingdoms.
- Among the legendary rulers of this period were King Midas, in whose hands everything turned to gold, and King Croesus, who to this day is considered the proverbial richest man of all time.
The presumed political and economic importance of the Luwians supports the thesis that they were behind the legendary Sea Peoples, who contributed significantly to the demise of the Bronze Age cultures. It emerges that the small states in western Asia Minor took advantage of a phase around 1190 BCE when the Hittite royal house was weakened by internal turmoil. By entering into a military alliance and secretly building a fleet, the states of Western Asia Minor aimed to free Cyprus from Hittite control. Having quickly succeeded in this, they continued to the coast of northern Syria to raid and weaken the main Hittite allies based there. This series of destructions eventually led to the complete downfall of the Hittite Empire. Accordingly, the hitherto enigmatic so-called Sea Peoples, to whom the raids of that time are attributed, ultimately conceal an alliance of Western Anatolian small states.