'Ancestor' of Mediterranean mosaics discovered in Turkey

Over 3,000 stones were found in the remains of a Hittite temple from the 15th century BC. This was 700 years before the oldest mosaics of ancient Greece.
A 3,500-year-old paving rock, which was described as the "ancestor," of Mediterranean mosaics, has been discovered. It provides fascinating details about the everyday lives of the Bronze Age Hittites.

Over 3,000 stones in natural colors of red, beige and black were found in the remainsof a Hittite temple from the 15th century BC. This was 700 years before the oldest mosaics of ancient Greece.

It is the ancestor to the classic period of mosaics that are clearly more sophisticated. It is a first attempt at it," Anacleto D’Agostino (excavation director, Usakli Hoyuk), near Yozgat in central Turkey, says.

Three hours away from Turkey's capital Ankara is the site where Turkish and Italian archaeologists meticulously use shovels to uncover more about the Hittites, an ancient kingdom that was one of the most powerful in Anatolia.

D'Agostino explains, "For the first times, people felt the need to produce some geometric designs and to do something else than a simple pavement."

"Maybe we're dealing with genius?" Perhaps not. Maybe it was a man who asked for a floor and decided to do something different?

The mosaic was discovered in the vicinity of Kerkenes Mountain. It was also found in a temple dedicated to Teshub. This was the Hittite storm god worshipped, which is equivalent to Zeus for ancient Greeks.

D'Agostino says, "Probably here were the priests looking at Kerkenes mountain to perform some rituals and such,"

To uncover more about the Hittite kingdom, both Italian and Turkish archaeologists meticulously use shovels or brushes.

Treasures of a lost city?

Archaeologists also found ceramics and remains of a palace this week, supporting the theory of Usakli Hoyuk being the lost city of Zippalanda.

Zippalanda is a significant spot of worship for the storm god, and it's often mentioned in Hittite tablet. However, Zippalanda has remained mysterious.

Researchers agree that Usakli Hoyuk's is one of the most probable sites. The likelihood of finding the palace remains, as well as the luxury ceramics and glassware has increased," D'Agostino states.

"We only require the most definitive proof: a tablet bearing the name of the city."

The treasures of Usakli Hoyuk were cedar trees brought from Lebanon to make temples and palaces. They were then swallowed up by the Hittites in the Bronze Age.

Anacleto D’Agostino, director of excavations, describes the discovery as "the ancestor to the classical period in mosaics."

It is not yet clear why.

Some believe that a shift in the climate and associated social unrest are the causes.

"Spiritual connection"

Nearly 3000 years after their disappearance the Hittites still inhabit the Turkish imagination.

Ankara's symbol is a Hittite representation of the sun. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was the founder of Turkey's modern republic in the 1930s. He presented Turks to be the direct descendants the Hittites.

"I don’t know if there is a connection between the ancient Hittites, and the people who live here now. D'Agostino explains that centuries and millenia passed and that people have moved from one place or another.

"But I would love to imagine that there is some kind of spiritual connection."

The excavation team tried to honor this connection by recreating Hittite culinary traditions. They used ancient recipes for ceramics made using the same clay and technique.

The mosaics come in natural colors of red, black and beige and are arranged in triangles or curves.

The central Turkish temple was dedicated to Teshub, the storm god.

Valentina Orsi (co-director of excavation) says, "We reproduced Hittite pottery with the clay found within the village where site is located: We baked dates and bread using them as Hittites used."

"It was very tasty."

You can now explore more Ancient Hittite scripts in cuneiform online

2021 AFP