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Recent Excavations at Kultepe, Turkey

4,000-Year-Old Tablets with Evidence of Bronze Age Rights for Women Discovered in Turkey

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Great finds continue to be unearthed at the Bronze Age site of Kültepe-Kaniş-Karum, in Turkey. The latest discovery includes millennia old cuneiform tablets referring to commercial interests as well as personal and social topics. Perhaps the most startling discovery is the inclusion of tablets discussing women's rights.

Kültepe-Kaniş-Karum (Kultepe) is located in Kayseri province, Turkey. It was a well-known ancient trade colony that has been of interest to archaeologists since 1948. It is estimated that approximately 70,000 people inhabited the settlement four millennia ago. Artifacts from the early and middle Bronze Age as well as the Iron Age and Ancient Greece and Rome have been discovered at this site.

As reported in the Hurriyet Daily News, when excavations began again this summer, the archaeologists were certain to find more information regarding ancient life at the expansive site of Kultepe. In a short amount of time, they have added numerous cuneiform tablets to the already immense collection of commercial tablets found in past excavations. This time however, more personal and social writing has emerged.

Cuneiform tablets, Kultepe, Turkey

Cuneiform tablets, Kultepe, Turkey (DHA Photos)

“From women’s rights to the adoption of children and marriages arranged at birth, the tablets include all kinds of civilizational and social data from Anatolia 4,000 years ago. There is also an emotional letter from a woman to her husband and a letter from another woman who complains about her mother-in-law. You can’t find such things in an empire’s official archive,” Professor Fikri Kulakoğlu of Ankara University, told Doğan News Agency.

Though great detail has not yet been provided on the exact content of the cuneiform tablets discussing women's rights, this is an interesting topic to find in the Bronze Age site, but not the first example we have seen regarding gender equality in ancient Turkey. Ancient Origins has already depicted that men and women in ancient Turkey lived in equality at the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük.

Hittite relief of the influential Queen Puduhep and King Hebat, Kayseri, Turkey

Hittite relief of the influential Queen Puduhep and King Hebat, Kayseri, Turkey (Wikimedia Commons)

In total, 23,500 cuneiform tablets have been discovered in Kultepe over the years of excavations. The numerous examples of ancient writing was explained by Prof. Fikri Kulakoğlu to Doğan News Agency: “Kultepe is where the Anatolian enlightenment began. The people in this area were literate much earlier than other places in Anatolia, including its west.”

A highlight of other important artifacts that have been unearthed at Kultepe include: the largest monumental structure of the Middle East, an ancient baby rattle, and a cuneiform tablet dating to 2000 BC describing the local kingdoms in Anatolia during that time.

Ruins of  Hittite Palace at Kultepe, Turkey

Ruins of  Hittite Palace at Kultepe, Turkey (Wikimedia Commons)

There have undoubtedly been numerous discoveries made at Kultepe, despite the fact that only a small section of the site has been excavated. Officials have suggested that it may take upwards to 5,000 years to excavate the entire ancient site due to the immensity. Though this timeframe may be something of an exaggeration, there is certainly much more for Kultepe to unveil to us in the future.

“This is a huge wealth,” Kulakoğlu stated in a news report. He hopes that the wealth of cultural materials found and still waiting to be re-discovered, will one day lead to Kultepe's inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

There certainly is a great value. The recent discoveries at Kultepe, are demonstrating once again that archaeology is as much about telling the human story in seemingly common artifacts as well as the sacred and monumental. These small-in-size-but heavy-in-content artifacts describe to us just as much, or perhaps more, as large statues about the daily events of ancient life.

Featured Image: Recent Excavations at Kultepe, Turkey (BGN News)

By Alicia McDermott



It is sad to see postings by people who have no true understanding of other cultures. They put their prejudices out there for everyone to see.


The Turkey that I have seen is diverse in their population and beliefs. The country at least is an experiment in democracy and attempts to separate church from state. While there are religious fanatics in Turkey so are there ones in the United States. Turkey is no more going to want to destroy its' heritage then we are. They are fighting groups like ISIS.


Yes, there are battles going on between the ethnic Kurds and the government because the Kurds want their own nation-state. However neither side wants to destroy their heritage and both are fighting ISIS.


If you want to comment about a culture, country or government, at least get the payers and their views right.


Gary Ray Fraley

I very much doubt it. It's long been known that women had rights in ancient cultures like Egypt, Sumeria and Anatolia. And most Turks are educated people who would have no desire to destroy an ancient site. They're quite well aware of Anatolia's heritage.

Better not let the Turkish government get wind of this. They might want to smash the site to pieces for suggesting that ancient women had rights.

Just saying what others are thinking.

Alicia McDermott's picture


Alicia McDermott holds degrees in Anthropology, Psychology, and International Development Studies and has worked in various fields such as education, anthropology, and tourism. Traveling throughout Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador, Alicia has focused much of her research on Andean cultures... Read More

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