A Syrian Bottle from AcemhöyükYalçın Kamış
Acemhöyük is located on the southern tip of Tuz Gölü in the Aksaray Plain and was one of the largest trading centers during the Assyrian Trade Colonies. Excavations that have been conducted along the southern slope of the mound have revealed several Early Bronze Age layers under the Hellenistic and Assyrian Trade Colonies period deposits. The Early Bronze Age layers of Acemhöyük have yielded a large number of archaeological finds that indicate cultural and commercial relations extending beyond Central Anatolia. The Syrian bottle recovered from Level XI is one of these finds. Syrian bottles are one of the well-known and widely distributed vessel forms of the ancient Near East. They have been attested to in several Early Bronze Age sites distributed over a wide geographical area and thus are considered one of the distinctive archaeological object groups that are useful for understanding cultural and commercial relations alongside the chronological issues of the related period. The following article presents a typological and technical discussion on the Syrian bottle that was recovered from Level XI at Acemhöyük. As a result, the Acemhöyük bottle appears to have been connected to bottles that were distributed in Northwestern Syria.
Acemhöyük’ten Bir “Suriye Şişesi”Yalçın Kamış
Tuz Gölü’nün hemen güneyinde, Aksaray Ovası’nda yer alan Acemhöyük Asur Ticaret Kolonileri Çağı’nın büyük ticari merkezlerinden biridir. Höyüğün güney yamacında yürütülen kazılar Helenistik Dönem ve Asur Ticaret Kolonileri Çağı dolgularının altında bulunan İlk Tunç Çağı tabakalarının açığa çıkartılmasını sağlamıştır. İlk Tunç Çağı tabakalarında Acemhöyük’ün Orta Anadolu dışına uzanan kültürel ve ticari bağlarının anlaşılmasına katkı sunan çok sayıda buluntu ele geçmiştir. Söz konusu buluntular arasında XI. tabakada ele geçen bir “Suriye Şişesi” de yer almaktadır. Eski Önasya dünyasının en fazla bilinen kap formları arasında yer alan “Suriye Şişeleri” oldukça geniş bir coğrafyaya yayılan çok sayıda İlk Tunç Çağı yerleşiminde ele geçmiştir. Bu nedenle, dönemin kültürel ve ticari ilişkilerinin kavranmasının yanı sıra kronolojik sorunlarına da ışık tutan buluntu gruplarından biri olarak kabul edilirler. Bu çalışmada Acemhöyük XI. tabakada ele geçen “Suriye Şişesi” biçimsel ve teknik özellikleriyle değerlendirilmiştir. Bunun sonucunda, Acemhöyük şişesinin Kuzeybatı Suriye’de dar bir alanda yayılım gösteren şişelerin bir örneği olduğu anlaşılmıştır.
Acemhöyük is a large ancient city located on the alluvial fan of the Karasu River near the southern tip of Tuz Gölü. Long-term excavation projects have been carried out at the site for many decades and revealed wide spans of different periods. The site is located at the crossroads between Syro-Cilicia, Central Anatolia, and Western Anatolia, and its complex history reflects its changing relations associated with cultural and political developments. Archaeological investigations carried out at the site have indicated the presence of a citadel mound and a lower town. The lower town is mostly covered now by the modern village of Yeşilova. Archeological soundings carried out at different locations suggest that the lower town surrounded the citadel mound during the Assyrian Trade Colonies period (2000-1700 BC) and covered a much larger area than the mound itself. The citadel covers approximately 30 hectares and rises 20 m above the surrounding Aksaray Plain. The mound was extensively excavated by Nimet Özgüç and Aliye Öztan between 1962 and 2019.
The excavations shed new light not only on the Assyrian Trade Colonies period, but also provides evidence for earlier periods. The architectural sequence of the Early Bronze Age settlement was recovered at the southern slope of the mound. According to the current state of research, the mound has several Early Bronze Age layers (Levels XII-IV), corresponding to a period spanning from the Early Bronze Age II (2700-2450 BC) to the end of Early Bronze Age III (2450-2000 BC) during Anatolia’s 3rd millennium BC chronology.
The archaeological work conducted at the southern slope of Acemhöyük yielded a large number of objects deeply connected to the regional and interregional developments characterizing the Anatolian cultures of the 3rd millennium BC. The appearance of Trojan plates, tankards, wheel-made vessels, and Syrian bottles in Level XI should be considered a strong indication of the interregional relations of the settlement.
Syrian bottle as a term usually refers to a specific type of small bottles that were widespread throughout Syria, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia during the second half of the 3rd millennium BC. Accordingly, these were considered one of the distinctive archaeological objects reflecting cultural and commercial relations alongside the chronological issues of this period. Their typology, chronology, and distribution have been discussed by many researchers. Syrian bottles appear mainly in funerary contexts. They have also been found less frequently in domestic and public contexts. Their shapes can be roughly divided into two forms: one is a long alabastron shape and the other is a globular shape. Syrian bottles are suggested as having been used as containers for aromatic fluids or oils.
Some of the Early Bronze Age sites located in Central and Western Anatolia have yielded Syrian bottles. Although the number of sites is very limited, the bottles revealed at these sites display significant diversity in terms of typology, chronology, and production materials. The Syrian bottles recovered at Central and Western Anatolian sites include local derivatives and actual imports. Their chronologies coincide roughly with the Syrian and Mesopotamian counterparts. Silver and gold bottles recovered at Eskiyapar and Troy indicate that these bottles were also considered to be items of prestige.
In some of the recent contributions, the bottles were divided into two classes according to their base shapes. While the bottles with pointed or rounded bases are defined as proper Syrian bottles, contemporary flasks with a flat or ring base are not included in this phenomenon. Proper Syrian bottles are defined as transregional types spread over a wide area. Contrarily, flat- or ring-based flasks are interpreted as local bottle types with limited geographical distribution.
The Acemhöyük bottle discussed in this article was recovered from Level XI. The morphological, technical, and typological characteristics of the bottle are inconsistent with the local pottery repertoire. Therefore, this vessel could be considered to have been imported. Based on the morphological characteristics, it might be related to the flat- and ring-based flasks found in Northwestern Syria and its immediate vicinity. If one were to follow the methodology from the above-mentioned studies, the Acemhöyük bottle would not be able to be classified as a proper Syrian bottle. The bottle found at Acemhöyük has been dated to the beginning of the Early Bronze Age III (2450-2300 BC) according to stratigraphical observations, typological comparisons, and radiocarbon dates and is a significant archaeological object that defines the cultural and commercial relations of the site.