Institut für die Kulturen des Alten Orients

Forging the Political Landscape in Iron Age Turkey

This research group investigates how urban settlement, mobile and sedentary social groups, and ecological resources were deployed in the construction of a new territorial state in the mid Iron Age (10th-8th centuries BC) in southeastern Anatolia. Through excavation at Zincirli, Turkey (the ancient city of Sam’al) and survey in the river valley and hills surrounding it, the Chicago-Tübingen Archaeological Project in Sam’al examines changes in regional and intrasite settlement pattern in relation to environmental, political, cultural, and social factors. Group members will examine in particular attitudes toward and access to subsistence and mineral resources across different social groups and political regimes.

Zincirli is located in Gaziantep province of southern Turkey, on the cultural and geographic border between the highlands of Anatolia and the plains and river valleys of Syria and Mesopotamia. In the Iron Age II (900-720 BC), this site, first investigated by the German Orient-Comité under the leadership of Felix von Luschan from 1888 to 1902, was the capital of a small Aramaean valley kingdom. This expedition discovered royal inscriptions and striking reliefs and sculptures of gods, humans, and animals adorning the palaces and gates of the city, many of which today reside in the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin. Investigations were resumed in 2006 by the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute and will be continued by the joint Chicago-Tübingen Archaeological Project in Sam’al. The kings of Sam’al soon became vassals of the expanding Neo-Assyrian empire of northern Mesopotamia, and eventually the kingdom was annexed as an imperial province ruled by an Assyrian governor (720-605 BC).

In this historical trajectory, Zincirli/Sam’al is emblematic of the many independent polities that developed in the early Iron Age Near East between the imperial epochs of the Late Bronze (1600-1200 BC) and later Iron Ages. With its easily accessible and well-preserved Iron Age remains, therefore, Zincirli is an ideal case-study for the exploration of how different political regimes affect the lives of their subjects, both at the macro-scale of urbanization and settlement patterns and at the micro-scale of domestic life.

Profile: Group members

Virginia R. Herrmann