Putting the Luwian Culture on the Map

August 31, 2022  17:05  |  News

At the time of the Trojan War, around 1200 BCE, western Turkey was covered by a dense network of well-established settlements. This is one of the main results of a comprehensive investigation that began twelve years ago and was published today. A team of Swiss and Turkish archaeologists has evaluated the results of 33 excavations and 30 archaeological surveys in western Turkey and, on this basis, identified 477 large settlement sites that were inhabited at least from 2000–1000 BCE, and in some cases for as long as 5,000 years.

Putting the Luwian Culture on the Map

A Cypriot navarch reports the first sighting of the Sea Peoples c. 1192 BCE. Photo – courtesy of Joe Rohrer/Luwian Studies ©

The study by Eberhard Zangger, Alper Aşınmaz, and Serdal Mutlu demonstrates that a tightly woven network of long-lived Bronze Age settlements exploited the natural resources in western Turkey, a region that was thus far considered a cultural no-man’s land. A preliminary study in 2016 proposed the name “Luwian culture” for the population between the well-studied Mycenaeans in southern Greece and the Hittites in central Asia Minor.

Making use of a geographic information system (GIS) and taking into account 30 physio-geographic factors, the scientists were able to determine which sites people preferred for their settlements. The most important factors were proximity to drinking water and to fertile farmland. Short distances to potential transportation routes also played a role. In contrast, ore deposits, which were abundant in the region, apparently had no influence on settlement patterns.

The study also provides arguments for the identification of the so-called Sea Peoples, a motley band of robbers who raided the coastal cities of the eastern Mediterranean after 1200 BCE. Excavations at Enkomi in Cyprus had brought to light as early as 1952 a document that has now been identified as a letter from a Cypriot admiral. The navarch, while on patrol near the island of Samos in the southern Aegean, unexpectedly encountered a large fleet coming from Troy. From a protective harbour, he sent the letter to request reinforcements. Hence, the hitherto mysterious Sea Peoples turn out to be a temporary military alliance of Western Anatolian petty states.

Source: Eberhard Zangger, Alper Aşınmaz and Serdal Mutlu (2022): “Middle and Late Bronze Age Western Asia Minor: A Status Report.” In: The Political Geography of Western Anatolia in the Late Bronze Age, edited by Ivo Hajnal, Eberhard Zangger, and Jorrit Kelder, Archaeolingua Series Minor 45, 39–180. Archaeolingua, Budapest. ISBN 978-615-5766-54-1.