Yalburt Project Presents 2016 Survey Results at AIA Annual Meeting in Toronto

Archaeological Institute of America Annual Meeting in Toronto
SESSION 7H Bronze Age and Iron Age Anatolia 8:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.  Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, Grand Ballroom Centre

Lake-places: Hittite imperial wetland projects and the local hydrology of Ilgın, Konya

Peri Johnson, University of Illinois Chicago, Ömür Harmanşah, University of Illinois Chicago, Ben Marsh, Bucknell University, and Müge Durusu-Tanrıöver, Bilkent University

To be presented by Peri Johnson.


One of the most monumental second millennium earthwork projects in the Mediterranean world is the Köylütolu dam, which lies in the western borderlands of the Hittite Empire. A Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription found at the site in 1884 provisionally dates the monument to the time of Tudhaliya IV (1237-1209 BCE). The 750 m long and 18-20 m high earthen embankment at Köylütolu spans a local drainage beginning at an abundant spring, and has been investigated by the Yalburt Yaylası Archaeological Landscape Research Project since 2010. Fieldwork in 2015 demonstrated numerous problems with the design of the dam and earlier coring did not encounter any lake sediments. It is clear that the dam never held any water. Fieldwork in 2016 surveyed settlements in the undulating limestone lowlands around the dam, and found settlements at sites known as “gölyeri” (literally, “lake-place”). These are ubiquitous geological formations where north flowing groundwater emerges in depressions and creates localized wetlands. The Köylütolu embankment is built of the deep red and grey soils of the slopes and depressions themselves. This paper argues that the embankment, although designed as a dam to hold water as has long been assumed, was intended to create a lake-place. The Köylütolu depression is, however, a swallow hole and a lake-place never emerged nor did a settlement grow up around the depression. This paper situates the Köylütolu embankment within the context of a series of imperial projects in the borderlands of the Hittite Empire. Yalburt Project had previously documented another nearby project, the construction of a monumental fortress and lower walled settlement at Kale Tepesi 3.5 km northwest of the embankment. In the 2016 season, an associated settlement of the masons of the fortress was surveyed and the surface ceramics suggest a date a couple of centuries before the construction of the embankment. We thus suggest that the Köylütolu earthworks project must be understood in the light of long term investments facilitated by empire but imagined according to local hydrological phenomenon such as lake-places. The fraught relationship between the two produced a monument of much labor but no fruit.