The Missing Link

The Hittite empire is today often shown at its maximum extent including all vassals. However, this condition existed only for a short time.
According to current paradigms the entire area around the eastern Mediterranean was exploited during the 2nd mill. BCE – except for the region with the most arable land (dark areas) in western Asia Minor.
Scholars at the foundation Luwian Studies believe that there must have been a culture in western Asia Minor as well: the Luwians.
The Ottoman Empire in the 17th century AD.
Overview of regions, nations, cities, and scripts at the end of the Bronze Age. In each column one element remains unaccounted for ─ together they amount to one culture: the Luwians.
Cover story “Who were the Sea People?” in Saudi Aramco World (1995).
The tell site of Sarhöyük on the northern edge of Eskişehir is one of the largest in western Asia Minor.
Silver bowl with hieroglyphic inscription (14th-13th cent. BCE).
Limestone orthostat from Aslantepe (1200-700 BCE) showing a God on a chariot and holding a lightning bundle.

The distribution of archaeological sites clearly indicates that western Asia Minor in its most fertile regions was densely populated during the second millennium BCE. This is nothing new for those disciplines of archaeology that deal with documents. Considering the state of knowledge among excavating Aegean prehistorians, however, it is a different matter.


The study of the Luwian culture falls within the remit of at least three disciplines in archaeology. Hittitology, a branch of the ancient Near Eastern studies, is based on the study of documents from excavated Hittite sites. In these documents, some 2000 towns and at least two dozen neighboring states of the Hittite Kingdom are mentioned. Early on Hittitologists proposed maps of the political geography indicating at least the relative positions of the petty kingdoms. These attempts still remain controversial.

The second discipline that deals extensively with the Luwians is the linguistic branch of ancient Near Eastern studies, which also relies on the scrutiny of Hittite documents. Since ancient Anatolia was a melting pot of early European languages, this field of research is particularly well advanced.

The study of material remains, however, is the responsibility of excavating Aegean prehistorians. In their field, Luwian culture has been completely absent, despite decades of advances in Hittitology and linguistics, and although twenty-five Luwian sites have been excavated in recent years. No map of the political situation (from an Aegean point of view), no monograph on the Aegean Bronze Age, no anthology of scientific papers, and no conference proceedings in Aegean prehistorians make much of the Luwians.

In 2008, a book entitled The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age was published, which contained over 450 pages that represent today’s knowledge on the subject. None of the articles deal with cultures on Turkish soil. An even more voluminous book, The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean, appeared in 2010. Only a single article with a mere 12 out of a total of 930 pages briefly touches on western Asia Minor. The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Anatolia (2011) also dedicates just 12 out of 1174 pages to western Asia Minor. The most recent work on the subject, 1177 B.C. – The Year Civilization Collapsed (2014), lists various attempts to explain the end of the Bronze Age but never mentions the Luwians. All of the aforementioned books were patchwork composites that were unable to provide a plausible, comprehensive explanation for the collapse of the Bronze Age cultures in the Eastern Mediterranean.


Reasons for the lack of inquiries

Every now and again one comes across an explanation for the lack of interest in the Late Bronze Age of western Asia Minor. It is the assumption that the area was mainly inhabited by semi-nomadic horse peoples. As civilization presupposes an organized society, urban agglomerations and a knowledge of writing, the western neighbors of the Hittites would therefore have been deemed uncivilized. Thus, there was no real need to explore the region. The many extensive and artifact-rich settlement sites, however, show that people have most certainly lived in these places for millennia. The absence of evidence for the existence of a remarkable civilization by no means invalidates the existence of such a thing. We simply do not know enough about the Luwians because there have not been enough large-scale, deep excavations to date.


Bryce, Trevor (2005): The Kingdom of the Hittites. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1-554.
Cline, Eric H. (ed.) (2010): The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean (ca. 3000-1000 BC). Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1-930.
Cline, Eric H. (2014): 1177 B.C. – The Year Civilization Collapsed. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1-237.
Genz, Hermann, Alexander Pruß & Joachim Quack (1994): “Ein Puzzle, das uns nicht paßt.” Antike Welt 25 (4), 340‒347.
Genz, Hermann (2011): “Foreign Contacts of the Hittites.” In: Insights into Hittite history and archaeology. Hermann Genz & Dirk Paul Mielke (eds.), Peeters, Leuven, 301-331.
Goetze, Albrecht (1940): Kizzuwatna and the problem of Hittite geography. Yale University Press, New Haven, 1-86.
Herda, Alexander (2009): “Karkiša-Karien und die sogenannte Ionische Migration.” In: Milet und Karien vom Neolithikum bis zu den ‘Dunklen Jahrhunderten‘ – Mythos und Archäologie. Frank Rumscheid (ed.), Rudolf Habelt, Bonn, 27‒108.
Niemeier, Wolf-Dietrich (1998): “The Mycenaeans in western Anatolia and the problem of the origins of the Sea Peoples.” In: Mediterranean Peoples in Transition – Thirteenth to Early Tenth Centuries BCE. Seymour Gittin, Amihai Mazar & Ephraim Stein (eds.), Israel Exploration Society, Jerusalem, 17‒65.
Rose, Charles Brian (2014): The archaeology of Greek and Roman Troy. Cambridge University Press, New York, 1-406.
Shelmerdine, Cynthia W. (ed.) (2008): The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1-452.
Steadman, Sharon R. & Gregory McMahon (eds.) (2011): The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Anatolia 10,000-323 B.C.E. Oxford University Press, New York, 1-1174.