Precious metals such as silver, gold, and tin attract merchants to the Anatolian plateau, particularly from the northern Mesopotamian city of Ashur. These merchants establish trading centers (karum)—such as the one at Kanesh (modern Kültepe)—and the details of their transactions are documented in cuneiform tablets, the earliest texts found in the region. During the fourteenth century, the Hittite kingdom, with its capital at Hattusha (modern Bogazköy) and religious center at Yazilikaya, creates an empire extending into northern Syria. By around 1200 B.C., Hattusha is violently destroyed and the Hittite empire collapses.
In the Caucasus, the earlier culture of Kura-Araxes gives way to the Trialeti culture, known for its particular form of burial. Large mounds with extensive underground graves contain bronze weapons, tools, and unique artifacts in gold and silver.
In Georgia and part of Armenia, the Trialeti culture develops from the earlier Kura-Araxes tradition. Because their settlements are today difficult to find, some think that the peoples of the Southern Caucasus are pastoralists around this time. The elite are interred in large, very rich burials under earth and stone mounds, which sometimes contain four-wheeled carts. The precious materials in these tombs reflect influences from Anatolia; pottery from the Trialeti culture is found in simple burials in eastern Anatolia.
Assyrian merchants from northern Mesopotamia establish trading colonies (karum) in Anatolia at sites including Kültepe (ancient Kanesh). The presence of these merchants is known primarily from the large number of clay tablets (66.245.5b) that record the commercial transactions and correspondence between the merchants in Anatolia and those at home in Assyria.
In Homer’s Iliad, the site of Troy, in Anatolia, is known as “Troia” or “Ilios.” Archaeologists dispute which level of settlement at Troy is specifically referred to by Homer, but it is considered to be either late level VI (ca. 1700–1250 B.C.) or level VII (ca. 1250–1000 B.C.). In both levels, pottery from Mycenaean Greece is found, demonstrating connections between this part of Anatolia and Greece. In period VI, Troy is an enormous settlement, among the largest trading centers in Anatolia at this time.
After many years of successful military campaigning, the Hittite empire, with its capital at Bogazköy (ancient Hattusha, founded ca. 1650 B.C.), reaches its maximum extent in central and southeast Anatolia as well as lands to the south, which border on Egyptian-controlled territory. The ruler Shuppiluliuma I (r. 1370-1330 B.C.) is both a great general and a master builder of large stone structures decorated with stone reliefs. It is during this time that concepts of the sacred nature of royal leaders develop. The influence of Hittite language, art, and ideas continues after the fall of the empire in independent states in southeastern Anatolia.
In West and Central Anatolia, this is a time of great social and political change, marked by invasions of many foreign groups, including the “Sea Peoples,” Thracians, and Phrygians. Mycenaean settlements in the coastal areas come to an end, and the Hittite empire is destroyed.
“Anatolia and the Caucasus, 2000–1000 B.C.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=03®ion=waa (October 2000)