The upper mound of Türkmen-Karahöyük from the northwest. Photograph courtesy of KRASP.

Türkmen-Karahöyük from space. Image courtesy of Google Earth.

The upper mound of Türkmen-Karahöyük in the distance. Kızıldağ is faintly visible in the center. Photograph courtesy of KRASP.

The Türkmen-Karahöyük Intensive Survey Project (TISP) is a new fieldwork initiative led by James Osborne, Assistant Professor of Anatolian Archaeology at the Oriental Institute. The massive site of Türkmen-Karahöyük is located in the heart of the Konya Plain, an alluvial region in southern Turkey that is littered with mounds of all periods. This incredibly rich archaeological landscape is the subject of a large regional survey co-directed by Chrisoph Bachhuber and Michele Massa called the Konya Regional Archaeological Survey Project, which seeks to understand regional processes including the origins of sedentarism, the rise of urbanism, and early state formation.

This part of Turkey is perhaps most famous for its Neolithic sites, especially the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Çatalhöyük, located under twenty kilometers from Türkmen-Karahöyük. Bronze and Iron Age archaeology in Konya has received far less attention, despite the evidence for complex political formations demonstrated by the palaces of Konya-Karahöyük that date to the Old Assyrian Trading Colony period of the early second millennium BCE, for example. Likewise, historical sources inform us that this part of Konya was very likely within the territory of the Late Bronze Age state of Tarhuntassa, friend and rival of the Hittite Empire, as well as the Iron Age kingdom of Tabal.

Judging from its size and its proximity to nearby landscape monuments like Kızıldağ, Türkmen-Karahöyük is certain to have been a major political center in both of these kingdoms. The upper city is approximately 25 ha in extent and 35 m in height, testifying to a long history of occupation. Preliminary surface collections have also demonstrated a lower town from the late second and early first millennia BCE that is at least 80 ha in size and possibly as much as twice that figure. In order to gain an understanding of the site’s urban trajectory, TISP will be conducting a high-resolution surface survey of the lower town. Ceramic and other artifactual data collected from the surface of the site will clarify its full areal extent; illustrate how the settlement’s population density was distributed across the city; provide a period-by-period picture of the ancient city as its fortunes waxed and waned through time; and indicate how neighborhoods were organized functionally. This surface collection will be accompanied by a program of drone-aided aerial photography that will create a digital elevation model of the site’s topography at cm-level accuracy, allowing for spatial modeling and analysis. Future seasons will incorporate remote sensing techniques like magnetometry and resistivity, which have the ability to map building plans without excavation.