Friday, September 29, 2017


Christoph Bachhuber, Citadel and Cemetery in Early Bronze Age Anatolia. Monographs in Mediterranean archaeology, 13. Sheffield; Bristol, CT: Equinox Publishing, 2014. Pp. xv, 223. ISBN 9781845536480. $120.00.

Reviewed by Vasıf Şahoğlu, Ankara University (

Version at BMCR home site


Archaeological interpretation is fraught with difficulties. Any attempt to bring together the archaeological evidence for the Early Bronze Age (EBA) of Anatolia and to go beyond the historico-archaeological approach in its interpretation, as Bachhuber has done, is certainly to be applauded. As the author points out, Anatolian archaeology has generally suffered from a lack of sound theoretical approaches being applied to its rich body of data; it is not often that attempts are made to reconstruct the social dynamics behind the archaeological remains.

Bachhuber focuses on data from two different types of settlements – citadels and villages – and cemeteries to construct his narrative. His main sets of data include the settlement of Troy, the settlements and cemeteries of Karataş-Semayük and Demircihöyük, the "Royal Tombs" of Alacahöyük, and the limited EBA data from Kültepe.

In Chapter 1, "Four Proto-Histories," Bachhuber chooses three sites, namely Troy, Alacahöyük, and Kültepe, and concentrates on the history of archaeological research dealing with the "proto-histories" of Homeric Troy, the Hittites, and the Assyrian traders, all of which have their roots in the EBA. The fourth "proto-history" concentrates on Indo-Europeans. In this chapter he also discusses the close connection between "citadels" and a particular types of architecture and pottery, the latter being the Wheelmade Plain Wares (WPW).

In Chapter 2, "Landscape and Settlement," Bachhuber focuses on bioarchaeological data to outline subsistence strategies. Here the palaeobotanical data suggests that the domestication of olives, figs, and grapes all date to the EBA, signalling the onset of horticulture. This evidence is supported by the appearance of pottery forms for consuming or storing wine and oil. Continuity of the types of animals consumed is also noted and the secondary products revolution is addressed. The consumption of meat is linked by Bachhuber to "socially sanctioned and integrative feasting events." Similarly, the evidence for animal use for traction is assessed. The evidence for equid domestication was found to be inconclusive. Seasonal transhumance is tied into this discussion, and Sherratt (1997) is cited as maintaining that the availability of the traction complex as well as a reliance on pastoral economy resulted in the ability to inhabit marginal and less agriculturally productive regions.

In Chapter 3, "Villages," Bachhuber focuses on the agrarian activities of households. Considering agrarian activities together with weaving, and mainly using the data from Demircihöyük, Bachhuber links the households within which wool was produced with large scale storage and the serving of food.

In Chapter 4, "Cemeteries," Bachhuber concentrates on the mortuary evidence from EBA Anatolia, particularly from Karataş–Semayük, Demircihöyük–Sarıket, and Alacahöyük. Here he considers extramural cemeteries to be foci of ritual activity which tied the village communities together and validated the village's claim to the landscape that its inhabitants used. According to Bachhuber, extramural cemeteries are not linked to any citadels but are a characteristic feature of villages. A recent discovery of an EB III extramural cemetery at Kültepe, however, raises a counterargument to the views expressed in this chapter. 1

In Chapter 5, "The Monumental Choreography of the Citadels," the author concentrates on the built environment of the citadels, both their "façades" and their interior arrangement, along with changes observed between the "more open and integrative" citadels of the EB I–II period and the "more exclusionary" ones of the EB III period. Most of Bachhuber's arguments are based on the data available from Troy I–III. He stresses the lack of systematic survey data which would enable a better understanding of the relationship between surrounding villages and the citadel, but nevertheless he argues for an increased control of the surrounding countryside by the citadel itself.

In Chapter 6, "The Agrarian Foundation of Citadel Elites," Bachhuber argues for the conversion of surpluses in agricultural production into forms of social capital and distinguishes between storage facilities in EB I–II, which he characterizes as more corporate and centralized than those of EB III, which he defines as "more modular."

In Chapter 7, "Connectivity and Refinement on Citadels," Bachhuber examines the long-distance exchange mechanisms and their transformative results using World Systems Theory. He first examines the trade network of the Assyrian Trade Colonies period as well as earlier documented exchange mechanisms in the Near East and concludes that "gift-exchanges are more relevant to the question of trade in EBA Anatolia." The author focuses on the exchange of metals, reviewing the evidence for standardised weights as well as the presence of ingots in Anatolia), and interprets their rapid spread throughout the Near East as only possible through increased exchange in the region.

In Chapter 8, "Spectacle and Communion on Citadels," Bachhuber concentrates on the ritual aspects of citadels. He argues that two types of ritual activity, both meant to mediate different kinds of relationships between the human and the cosmological realms, were used by the elites to bolster their power. One is the manipulation of fire and burnt sacrifices while the other is the ritual deposition of wealth (hoard deposits). In this chapter, the author also considers the absence of evidence for extramural cemeteries associated with citadels and concludes that cremation (which Bachhuber inventively calls "spectacular, fuel intensive pyrotechnic events"), was introduced by the elites as a new form of disposing of the dead. The chapter is concluded by a consideration of the end of the EBA period in Anatolia, which the author links to the 4.2 kiloyear event which disrupted both agricultural production and severed the exchange networks that supplied the elite with high-status goods.

In the final Chapter 9, "Metahistory and the Bronze Age in Anatolia," Bachhuber summarises his interpretations based on the data and his theoretical approach which he calls "universalist evolution." This approach differs from the more often employed "diffusionist historicism," and he attempts to place the Anatolian EBA within the wider Bronze Age of the Near East. Bachhuber's interpretative framework takes into account all the available evidence in order to understand the economic framework in which the settlements operated. While his efforts are admirable, some of the assumptions he makes are later treated as "facts."

Bachhuber's discussion of gift-exchange, for example, may be mentioned as one area in which he goes beyond the evidence. Although he admits that gift-exchange is archaeologically hard to detect (all examples he provides from the Near East are based on written evidence), Bachhuber asserts that a "down-the-line prestige chain was mediated by relationships and interactions based on gift-exchange" in Anatolia during the EB III period. The problem here may lie in the author's underestimation of the power of the extensive Anatolian Trade Network, which actively influenced all cultural formations from Mesopotamia, northern Syria, Cilicia, western and central Anatolia (south of Halys river), the Cyclades (Kastri), the Greek mainland (Lefkandi I), and Cyprus (Philia) at its peak (by the beginning of the EBA III period).2 The spread of this network in Anatolia largely corresponds with the distribution area of WPW.3

The WPW material, with minor exceptions, is almost nonexistent in the area north of the Halys River. This area seems to reflect a different cultural formation that manifested itself with the extensive usage of metals. It may be that sites like Alacahöyük, Resuloğlu, and Eskiyapar, located within the area to the north of this river, may have been part of a different interaction network than the regions to its south; this region may have chosen to participate in different networks of contact and exchange (perhaps with northern cultures instead of with the Anatolian Trade Network). A somewhat similar case can also be seen in the Argolid in the Greek mainland.4

One of the major problems of the book, however, is chronology. A sound chronological framework is vital to archaeological interpretation and although the author himself admits this, his dating of EB III between ca. 2600–2200 BC causes various problems regarding the conventional chronological setting of Anatolia. In the caption of Table 2, Bachhuber mentions a complete agreement between the chronological framework of the ARCANE Project as Early Western Anatolia (EWA) I–III and the conventional chronological framework of Anatolia as EB I–III. A close look at the table clearly shows that in the ARCANE project, the beginning of EWA III is proposed to be 2500 BC which is at least 100 years later than Bachhuber's EBA III (2600 BC) whereas the beginning of Early Central Anatolia (ECA) III offers an even later date, close to 2400 BC. In the same table, Bachhuber equates EBA III of Anatolia fully with Early Cycladic (EC) II period. Similarly, at Table 1, level 14 of Kültepe, which is generally considered to date to the EBA II, is interpreted as EBA III.

The chronological framework followed in the book thus creates an instability in the chronological synchronisms of various sites with similar archaeological finds. The book would have benefited from a more detailed and a clearer discussion of its chronological terminology in order to present the narrative within a coherent diachronic development.

A major concern in this respect is the re-dating of the Alacahöyük tombs to EBA I–II and incorporating this – as yet tenuous – result to the main narrative of the book. The "royal tombs" of Alacahöyük had been traditionally dated to the EB III period, mainly on typological grounds as well as because of the boom of metallurgical finds from EB III contexts elsewhere in Anatolia. A preliminary report of three new radiocarbon dates from Alacahöyük was reported by Ünsal5 where he himself admits that revising the chronology based on the results of these three samples would be premature and that more data is needed (Ünsal 2011: p. 62, n. 13). Bachhuber seems to have used these results without any discussion as a supporting element for his narrative of EBA Anatolia.

One could argue that Bachhuber selectively chooses the data he uses in his monograph to support his thesis. As he himself says "an evolutionary model, like historicism, contains a powerful internal logic that can bend archaeological data into its frame" (p. 184). Nevertheless, as he also points out, research on the EBA of Anatolia has only picked up its pace in the past 20–25 years; most of the data remain inadequately published, and the quality of the data remains uneven. Thus, the selective nature of his data can surely be understood. One of the problems that archaeology faces is that as soon as new discoveries are made, the data set used to explain social constructs and dynamics also changes, necessitating a review of the theories that were put forth to provide meaning to the data. This book, published in 2015, thus predates some important discoveries made in the past few years, which will perhaps offer new perspectives and new explanations that will replace some of the ideas expressed in this study.

Regardless of the issues outlined above, Bachhuber is to be congratulated for putting together such a comprehensive synthesis of the available data, and for presenting it within a new theoretical framework. His command of the published data, especially Turkish publications, is exemplary. This book will certainly be widely read by scholars and graduate students working on the EBA of Anatolia – it will be an eye-opener that will inspire further discussion.


1.   Kulakoğlu, F., "Current Research at Kültepe," in F. Kulakoğlu and C. Michel (eds.), Proceedings of the 1st Kültepe International Meeting. Kültepe 19–23 September, 2013. Studies Dedicated to Kutlu Emre. Subartu XXXV. (Brepols, Turnhout, 2015), pp. 9-21.
2.   Şahoğlu, V., "The Anatolian Trade Network and the Izmir Region during the Early Bronze Age," OJA 24 (4), 2005, pp. 339–360.
3.   Current evidence demonstrates that there are regional characteristics, which indicate local production and use of WPW ceramics at various regions of Anatolia. See Şahoğlu, V., "Depas and Tankard Vessels," in M. Lebeau (ed.) ARCANE IR 1 – Ceramic. (Brepols 2014), pp. 289–311, for the argument that the idea of this ware group traveled rather than the objects themselves.
4.   Şahoğlu 2015, p. 354.
5.   Ünsal, Y., "Alacahöyük İlk Tunç Çağı Kral Mezarları Üzerine," in Çorum Kazı ve Araştırmalar Sempozyumu - 1, 2011, pp. 55–64.

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