A universally accepted chronology for the entire ancient Near East remains to be established. On the basis of the Royal Canon of Ptolemy, a second-century A.D. astronomer, regnal dates can be determined with certainty in Babylonia only as far back as 747 B.C. (the accession of King Nabonassar). Through the use of excavated royal annals and chronicles, together with lists of annually appointed limmu-officials, the chronology of Assyria can be confidently extended back to 911 B.C. (the accession of King Adad-nirari II). The earliest certain link with Egypt is 664 B.C., the date of the Assyrian sack of the Egyptian capital at Thebes. Although it is often possible to locate earlier events quite precisely relative to each other, neither surviving contemporary documents nor scientific dating methods such as carbon 14, dendrochronology, thermoluminescence, and archaeoastronomy are able to provide the required accuracy to fix these events absolutely in time. The West Asian portion of the Timeline therefore employs the common practice of using, without prejudice, the so-called Middle Chronology, where events are dated relative to the reign of King Hammurabi of Babylon, which is defined as being ca. 1792–1750 B.C.
Between ca. 11,000 and 9000 B.C., hunters and gatherers settle the first permanent villages in southeastern and central Anatolia. They produce sophisticated utilitarian tools from readily available resources of animal bone and stone. Perhaps to meet the demands of a growing population, a shift to an economy based largely on farming occurs in the Neolithic period (ca. 11,000–6400 B.C.). The period is divided into an early phase without pottery and a later phase when pottery is present. Obsidian (volcanic glass) from Anatolia is widely traded across the Near East.
In the Chalcolithic period (ca. 6400–3800 B.C.) there is a continuity of Neolithic traditions with an increase in the use of copper. In the Early Bronze Age (ca. 3000–2000 B.C.), the region’s rich resources in such metals as tin and silver attract new populations, customs, and artistic styles from the surrounding regions of Mesopotamia, Syria, and the Caucasus Mountains.
The Neolithic period in Anatolia is divided into the Pre-Pottery and Pottery Neolithic, to distinguish settlements that do not have pottery vessels from those later ones that do. The Neolithic is the period during which humans live in villages and first domesticate plants and animals. In Anatolia in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, nondomestic buildings contain large stone sculptures of human figures, and in the later Neolithic, the site of Çatal Höyük has buildings with elaborate wall paintings and modeled reliefs, with animal skulls attached to the walls.
The southeastern part of Anatolia is settled by peoples from Mesopotamia, who bring ceramics and everyday objects different from those of the local populations. The Mesopotamians move into this area apparently to acquire agricultural products and raw materials such as metal. The Shulaveri-Shomu and other Neolithic/Chalcolithic cultures of the Southern Caucasus use local obsidian for tools, raise animals such as cattle and pigs, and grow crops, including grapes.
Eastern Anatolia, the Southern Caucasus, and part of the Northern Caucasus are occupied by people of the Kura-Araxes culture (also called the Early Transcaucasian Culture), who make distinctive handmade pottery with burnished black exteriors and red interiors, portable andirons of clay for use in hearths, and new kinds of bronze tools, weapons, and pins. At least in the Caucasus Mountains, these people probably herd cattle.
(some suggest a date in the second half of the fourth millennium B.C.) A group of large tumulus graves (burial pits placed under mounds of earth) in the northern Caucasus Mountains belong to the Maikop culture. In the best known of these elite tombs, a person is buried under a canopy held up by poles topped by gold and silver bull figurines that appear similar in artistic conception to some standards from the burials of Alaca Höyük in Central Anatolia. Some scholars see similarities between objects from the Maikop graves and some from Mesopotamia as well.
At the site of Alaca Höyük is a group of burials called the Royal Tombs, which contain elaborate gold jewelry, vessels of precious metal, and stag and bull standards of bronze. Though we may be able to identify the people buried here as Hattians, a local Anatolian population, the significance and function of their art remains enigmatic.
“Anatolia and the Caucasus, 8000–2000 B.C.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=02®ion=waa (October 2000)