Excavations in Turkey Reveal the True Home of the Cimmerians
‘Conan the Barbarian’ popularized the name of the Cimmerians, an equestrian nomadic people from Anatolia for the uninitiated, and they’re back in the news for fantastic reasons. Ongoing excavations led by a Japanese archaeologist in Turkey's Kırıkkale province, have pointed to the fact that Büklükale village served as the primary, and indeed the first, settlement for the Cimmerians. Fascinating artifacts discovered at the site corroborate this historical reality too, revealing evidence of warfare within the constructed fortress at the site!
No Horsing Around: Understanding the Equestrian Cimmerians and Their Fortress
Continuing archaeological excavations in the central Kırıkkale province of Turkey, which is now in its 14th year, initiated by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, have revealed the presence of two archaeological sites known as the ‘upper city’ and ‘lower city’. These excavations have been conducted under the tutelage of Japanese archaeologist Kimiyoshi Matsumura, associate professor at Kırşehir Ahi Evran University reports Daily Sabah.
"Within this fortress, we found animal motif materials belonging to the Scythians. Additionally, we discovered a small figurine of a person riding a horse, which we believe is likely associated with the Cimmerians. Hopefully, we have identified their first settlement or fortress in Anatolia. In this year's excavations outside the city walls, we also determined that a significant fortress was constructed. It will be fascinating. There is no information about what they did in Anatolia," said Matsumara.
Recent excavation works led by a Japanese archaeologist in Türkiye's central Kırıkkale province have revealed new findings indicating that Büklükale village was the first settlement of the Cimmerians, an ancient equestrian nomadic people, in Anatolia.https://t.co/y1S3qEFjmo
— TurkishArchaeoNews (@turarchaeonews) June 20, 2023
Büklükale is believed to be the earliest Cimmerian settlement in Anatolia, and the recovered artifacts provide vital insights into this culture, while revealing traces of warfare within the fortified structures. Noteworthy findings include depictions of individuals on horseback, featuring animal motifs from the Scythian period, as well as arrowheads believed to date back to the Cimmerian era, offering tangible evidence of involvement in battles.
The Cimmerians are best known for their military prowess and their raids on neighboring kingdoms. They were skilled horsemen and renowned for their archery. They frequently conducted raids on Assyrian and Urartian territories, causing disruptions and sacking various cities. For example, their most famous conquest was sack of the city of Sardis, the capital of the Lydian Kingdom, in 644 BC, which eventually caused the downfall of the Lydians. Their raids were not limited to Anatolia, as they also ventured into the Levant and even clashed with the powerful Neo-Assyrian Empire.
Multiple Civilizations and Recorded Archaeological Layers
Matsumara revealed that the evidence of multiple civilizations has been recorded at the site. Located at a strategic point along the Kızılırmak River, Turkey's longest river, Büklükale is believed to have been inhabited from the Early Bronze Age to the Ottoman era. Serving as a natural bridge throughout history, this city has played a crucial role at the crossroads between the East and West. Adjacent to Büklükale stands the Çeşnigir Bridge, an architectural marvel constructed during the Seljuk period.
“On the top layer, we found remnants from the Ottoman period. Below that, we discovered artifacts from the Hellenistic period, the time of Alexander the Great’s arrival. Beneath that, we identified architectural remains. Before that, we found traces of the Lydians. Below that, we found the fortress constructed by the Cimmerians, which is what we were aiming for. And beneath that, we discovered settlements dating back to 2,000 B.C. in the Hittite period. Currently, we have reached that level,” he explained.
Among the findings, a fortified structure associated with the Cimmerians took center stage. Matsumura emphasized that the arrival of the Cimmerians in Anatolia is mentioned in the works of Herodotus, renowned as the "father of history." He also mentioned that they had found arrowheads used in warfare during the excavation works, reports Arkeonews.
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Kırıkkale’nin Karakeçili ilçesinde yer alan Büklükale, Kimmerlerin Anadolu'daki ilk yerleşim yeri olabilir. Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı Kültür Varlıkları ve Müzeler Genel Müdürlüğü izinleriyle 2009 yılında başlatılan ve 14 yıldır kesintisiz devam eden kazı çalışmalarına pic.twitter.com/dIi040NdEX
— Ümit ŞIRACI (@UmitSiraci) June 20, 2023
“Excavations are still ongoing, but, interestingly, we have uncovered nearly seven arrowheads from the fortress. Among them, we found some that were bent. This indicates that there was a battle here, and arrows were shot, resulting in the bending of the arrowheads. This suggests that during that period, most likely during the time of the Cimmerians or the subsequent era, a war took place here,” he elaborated.
The Cimmerians: Rise and Fall
The Cimmerians, a nomadic people, are known from several Assyrian texts calling them Ga-mir or Gi-mir-aa. These peoples, about whom we do not know much, may have lived in southern Ukraine, where the Crimea is, according to some scholars. Archaeologists have identified them with the Novocerkassk culture on the grass plains between the river Prut and the Lower Don (c.900-c.650 BC).
Despite their military achievements, the Cimmerians did not establish a lasting political entity in Anatolia. They operated more as a confederation of tribes rather than a centralized state. The lack of written records from their perspective makes it challenging to fully understand their social and political organization.
The decline of the Cimmerians is believed to have occurred around the 6th century BC. They gradually lost their dominance to other emerging powers such as the Scythians and the Medes. The exact fate of the Cimmerians is uncertain, as historical accounts become scarce after this period. Matsumara mentioned that future excavation works are likely to shed more light on this, and provide us with greater historical detail and accuracy about the Cimmerians.
Top image: Büklükale Archaeological Settlement, Turkey. Source: Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Turkey.
By Sahir Pandey
Altuntas, L. 2023. Archaeologists Reveal First Settlement of Cimmerians in Anatolia. Available at: https://arkeonews.net/archaeologists-reveal-first-settlement-of-cimmerians-in-anatolia/.
Keskin, B. 2023. Japanese archaeologist reveal 1st settlement of Cimmerians in Anatolia. Available at: https://www.dailysabah.com/arts/japanese-archaeologist-reveal-1st-settlement-of-cimmerians-in-anatolia/news.