Late Bronze Age Archaeological Sites in Western Asia Minor

The former Luwian dwellings are often preserved in the form of stratified settlement mounds, so-called tells. (© Google, Digital Globe)
Some of these tell sites reach a diameter of several hundred meters. Shown here Büyük Höyük near Aşağikepen. (© Google, CNES/Astrium)
The surface at Çaltılar Höyük near Fethiye in the district of in Muğla has been explored archaeologically from 2008 to 2012. (© Google, CNES/Astrium)
Anthopogenic layers covering a few thousand years are preserved in many tell sites. Here: Çandır Höyük, 70 km south-west of Afyon. (© Google, CNES/Astrium)
Doganci Höyük near Alpu is 15 m high, 150 m in diameter and like most tells completely unexplored. (© Google, Digital Globe)
Hisar Tepesi on the northern side of the village Emirhisar Sandıklı. (© Google, CNES/Astrium)
Iskele Höyük is located on the eastern shore of Lake Eğirdir. (© Google, CNES/Astrium)
The settlement mound of Karapazar near Eskişehir is 200 m wide and 25 m tall. (© Google, Digital Globe)
Kayıköy Höyük close to the modern town Tavşanlı lies right on the bank of the river Kocasu. (© Google, CNES/Astrium)
The tell of Keskin north-west of the city center of Eskişehir has a diameter of 100 m. (© Google, Digital Globe)
Kolossai was an ancient town in the fertile Lycus valley south of the meander. (© Google, Digital Globe)
The tell of Köprüören Höyük in the city Kütahya has a diameter of 200 m. (© Google, Digital Globe)
Kozluca Höyük at Boğaziçi village in the province of Burdur is 100 x 200 m in size. (© Google, Digital Globe)
Like almost all others tells, the one of Küçükhüyük in the county town Sinanpaşa is still unexplored. (© Google, Digital Globe)
The Tell of Soğulcak is located near the town Seyitgazi. (© Google, Digital Globe)
The settlement site Üyük Mevkii near Alamescit village in the district of Sandıklı is 470 x 430 m in size. (© Google, NASA, Digital Globe)
The concentric elliptical rings in the middle of the aerial photography are the massive walls of Kaymakçı, an over 2000 m2 wide fortress from Late Bronze Age. (© Google, Digital Globe)
With a diameter of 500 m Midaion is one of the largest known and unexcavated tell sites in western Asia Minor.
View from Güneli, a tell site, towards river, floodplain, and quarry nearby.
Settlement mound in Kadıkalesi with exposed Byzantine foundations. The more than 15 m thick deposition layers below hide the living quarters of Luwians.
Freshly plowed field of exceptionally high artifact density in Çandarlı.
Civilizations that have been investigated for over 100 years (blue) cover only a small part of the Aegean coasts. The newly recognized Luwian culture occupied much of the remainder.

Although hundreds of Bronze Age settlements are known in western Asia Minor, so far only two of them have been excavated on a large scale. Our knowledge is therefore based mainly on contemporary Bronze Age documents, found in Egypt, Greece, and Hattuša. The potential for future discoveries, however, is immense.


Along the Aegean coast of Turkey, a number of famous archaeological sites have become major tourist attractions. Ephesus, Pergamon, Miletus, Sardis, Aphrodisias, Didyma and Iasos are widely known. At almost all of these sites, however, archaeological scrutiny does not extend further back than the Greek colonization in the 8th century BCE. The reason for this is that preserved archaeological remains would have to be removed to gain access to the Bronze Age settlement layers underneath. As a result, some archaeological excavations only reveal the uppermost Byzantine structures. Little is known about the preceding Bronze Age settlements, whose remains, despite significant archaeological activity above, remain hidden a few meters below.

Several hundred Late Bronze Age settlements are already known today in the region stretching from Antalya, in the southeast, to Troy, in the northwest. Only two of these have been extensively excavated with the results published in a western language: Troy and Beycesultan. Both initial excavators – Heinrich Schliemann and James Mellaart – were given a hard reception by their peers; both were even forbidden from doing further fieldwork in Turkey. The research interests of prehistorians have thus far been focused on settlements located on the southwestern Aegean coast of Turkey that were clearly influenced by the Mycenaean or Minoan culture. These include Miletus, Iasos and Müsgebi. In recent years, Turkish archaeologists launched excavations at about two dozen settlement sites dating to the 2nd millennium BCE. To date, their mostly preliminary results have been published almost exclusively in Turkish, so that new discoveries and insights have not yet been internationally recognized. In the absence of further systematic studies, knowledge of the Late Bronze Age in western Asia Minor remains limited. What we know mainly comes from documents of the time that archaeologists found during excavations in Egypt, Greece and Hattuša. Obviously, these documents were written in different scripts and languages, they use different names for regions, nations and cities, and usually have a specific local view and intention.


Many hundred uninvestigated archaeological sites

As part of the work of the Luwian Studies foundation, 340 Late Bronze Age settlement sites in western Asia Minor have been systematically recorded. As a result we were able to produce, for the first time, a map of the currently known Late Bronze Age sites surrounding the Aegean Sea. Even the 25-year long research project of the German Research Foundation (DFG) “Tübinger Atlas des Vorderen Orients” (TAVO) did not present a map of the Late Bronze Age settlements in Asia Minor. It is evident from the distribution that all the sites that we know today from Minoan Crete, Mycenaean Greece and the Hittite Empire taken together hardly come close to the number of already known Luwian sites. Even more impressive than the number of settlements, however, are their individual sizes and the density of artifacts at each site. To see a freshly plowed field at a site such as Çandarlı on the Aegean coast, densely dotted with artifacts and remains of dry stone walls, would leave any archaeologist speechless. The same is true when one realizes the size of the citadel at Kaymakçı for instance.

The location and size of these settlements appear directly related to the natural resources. Rivers, fertile floodplains and mineral deposits attracted people and helped them accumulate wealth. Digging prehistorians, however, were attracted mainly by architectural remnants or the chance of finding documents near the surface. They focused on mainland Greece and central Asia Minor, regions that are relatively poor in mineral resources. If one combines the distribution of ore deposits with the distribution of known archaeological sites, it turns out that archaeological interest thus far has focused on the poorer regions. During the clashes that led to the end of the Bronze Age in 1200 BCE, however, the struggle for access to the metals – and thus to wealth – could very well have played a central role. In any case, mineral-rich areas are specifically mentioned in the old documents. The Sea Peoples’ invasions were preceded by naval battles involving Cyprus. And troops from the Troad, from Macedonia, and from the region around Sardis are cited by Homer as opponents of the Greeks in the Trojan War.

So far, archaeologists have considered the presence of Mycenaean artefacts on the Aegean coast of southwest Asia Minor as evidence of increasing Greek power. However, taking into account the distribution of mineral resources, an alternative view becomes possible. The Luwians initially withheld the knowledge of writing from the Mycenaeans for several centuries. Then they only permitted Mycenaean access to areas which were poor in mineral resources, while keeping the truly mineral-rich regions for themselves. One could even go a step further by looking at the distribution of metal resources and combining this with the contingents (listed by Homer) in the Trojan War. It appears as if those who had little access to wealth (the Greeks) rebelled against those possessing great riches (the Luwians).


Heinhold-Krahmer, Susanne (1977): Arzawa – Untersuchungen zu seiner Geschichte nach den hethitischen Quellen. Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, Heidelberg, 1-473.
Joukowsky, Martha Sharp (1996): Early Turkey – Anatolian Archaeology from Prehistory through the Lydian Period. Kendall Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1-455.
Kolb, Frank (2011): “Schliemanns bronzezeitliche Hisarlik-Siedlungen: Ihre Bedeutung im Kontext heute bekannter bronzezeitlicher Siedlungen im westlichen Kleinasien.” Mitteilungen aus dem Heinrich-Schliemann-Museum Ankershagen 9, 41-59.
Mouton, Alice, Ian Rutherford & Ilya S. Yakubovich (eds.) (2013): Luwian Identities: culture, language and religion between Anatolia and the Aegean. Brill, Boston, 1-604.
Singer, Itamar (2011): The Calm before the Storm. Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, Georgia, 1-766.
Wittke, Anne-Maria, Eckart Olshausen & Richard Szydlak (2007): Historischer Atlas der Antiken Welt. Der Neue Pauly, special edition. J. B. Metzler, Stuttgart, 1-328.
Yakubovich, Ilya S. (2010): Sociolinguistics of the Luvian language. Brill’s studies in Indo-European languages & linguistics, Brill, Leiden, 1-454.