Borders are Rough-hewn: Monuments, Local Landscapes and the Politics of Place in a Hittite Borderland
PublisherBritish Institute at Ankara
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Cultural historian Elliott Colla proposed in a recent paper that ancient borders, unlike their modern versions, were often roughly hewn, both materially and conceptually. With this he not only refers to the artfully crafted and politically contested nature of borders in antiquity but also cleverly highlights their geological grounding. For the Hittite imperial landscapes, Calla's statement has special resonance, since Hittite frontiers are often discussed with respect to the making of rock reliefs and spring monuments that commemorate the kingship ideology at both politically contested border regions and appropriate local sites of geological wonder and cultic significance such as caves, springs and sinkholes. Treaties were signed and border disputes were settled at these liminal sites where divinities and ancestors of the underworld took part as witnesses. One such monument is the Yalburt Yaylas1 Sacred Mountain Spring Monument that features a lengthy Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription put up by the Hittite kings in the countryside. Excavated by the Anatolian Civilisations Museum, Ankara, in the 1970s, the Yalburt Monument near Konya is dated to the time of Tudhaliya IV (1237- 1209 BC). Since 2010, the Yalburt Yaylas1 Archaeological Landscape Research Project has investigated the landscapes surrounding the Yalburt Monument. The preliminary results of the extensive and intensive archaeological surveys suggest that the region of Yalburt was a deeply contested frontier, where the Land of Hatti linked to the politically powerful polities of western and southern Anatolia. This paper discusses the nature of a Hittite borderland with respect to settlement programmes, monument construction and regional politics.