Monday, July 30, 2012

Turkey 3: Hittites

I spent two weeks in Turkey with the Brown Fellows, Centre College scholarship students.

The Hittites were a Bronze Age people who flourished in Anatolia (the heart of modern Turkey) in the centuries around 1500 BCE. The modern Turkish state has embraced the Hittites to a surprising degree. This headpiece, featuring the Hittite bull god, was adopted by the city of Ankara as its symbol.  A large sculpture of this piece stands in the middle of town.

The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, sometimes called the Hittite Museum, has the best collection of Hittite artifacts in the world. The museum was created early in Ataturk's reign. It helps foster the idea that Anatolia has had many civilizations, including important non-Christian and non-Muslim ones like the Hittites.  All of these civilizations are honored by modern Turkey - and none define it. This uncaptioned picture of Ataturk inspecting the collection is posted amidst the exhibits.

Ataturk's image and signature, which are everywhere in Turkey, hang from a banner in the Hittite Museum, above the treasures from King Midas' tomb. The civil religion of modern Turkey embraces the Hittites as part of the useable history of the many civilizations that have existed in Anatolia.

No comments: