Traces of Prehistoric cultures in Cappadocia can most easily be found
around Köskhöyük/Nigde, Asiklihöyük/Aksaray and in the Civelek cave
near Nevsehir. Excavations in these three areas are still taking place.
Archaeological excavations uncovered the first brick living quarters
in Cappadocia in Asikli Höyük (mound), an extension of Aksaray's Ihlara
Canyon settlements. Yellow and pink clay plaster was used in making
the walls and floors of the houses, some of the most beautiful and complicated
architectural examples of first towns. They buried the dead in the Hocker
position, like a foetus in the womb, on the floor of their houses. According
to Prof. U. Esin, who researched at Asikli Höyük, a bigger population
than that that had been previously theorised was revealed by the abundance
and density of the settlements discovered in these areas in the Aceramic
Neolithic Period. Nowhere else in Anatolia can the unique obsidian tools
be found like those from Cappadocian Tumuli. Figurines, made from lightly
baked clay, were unearthed together with flat stone axes wrought in
many fine shapes, chisels and coulters made from bones and ornaments
made from copper, agate and other different kinds of stones. Evidence
provided by a skeleton found here indicates that the earliest brain
surgery (trepanation) known in the world was performed on a woman 20-25
years of age at Asikli Höyük.
Mining and metallurgy reached its peak in Anatolia during the Early
Bronze Age. Major developments were observed in Northern Anatolia towards
the end of this period. Between 2000BC and 1750BC Assyrian merchants
from northern Mesopotamia formed the first commercial organisations
by establishing trade colonies in Anatolia. The centre of these colonies
was at Kanesh Kharum near Kültepe in Kayseri province (Kharum: A commercial
market place). Another important commercial market place referred in
documents is the Kharum Hattush at Bogazköy. Anatolia was rich in gold,
silver and copper, but lacked tin, essential for obtaining bronze as
an alloy. For this reason tin was one of the major trading materials,
as well as textile goods and perfumes. The merchants had no political
dominance, but were protected by the regional Beys.
Fortunately for the Assyrian merchants, writing was seen for the first
time in Anatolia. From the "Cappadocia tablets", cuneiform clay tablets
on which ancient Assyrian was written, it has been learnt that merchants
paid a 10% road tax to the Bey, received 30% interest from locals for,
and paid a 5% tax to the Anatolian kings for goods they sold. The same
tablets tell us that Assyrian merchants sometimes married Anatolian
women, and the marriage agreements contained clauses to protect the
women's rights from their husbands.
Assyrian merchants also introduced cylinder seals, metallurgy, their
religious beliefs, Gods and temples to Anatolia. Native Anatolian art
flourished under the influence of Assyrian Mesopotamic art, eventually
developing an identity of its own. During the following ages this developed
into the fundamentals of Hittite art.
People coming from Europe via the Caucasus, and settling in Cappadocia
around 2000 BC, formed an Empire in the region merging with the native
people of the area. Their language was of Indo-European origin.
The capital of the Hittite kingdom was at Hattushash (Bogazköy), and
the other important cities were Alacahöyük and Alisar. Hittite remains
can be found in all the tumuli in Cappadocia.
The Hittite Empire, which lasted for six centuries in the region, collapsed
around 1200 BC when the confederacy of Hittite states was invaded by
the Phrygian people from the Balkans.
After the Phrygians destroyed all the important towns in Central Anatolia
eliminating the Hittite Empire, fragments of the Late Hittite Kingdoms
sprang up around central and southeast Anatolia. The Late Hittite Kingdom
in Cappadocia was the Tabal kingdom, which extended over Kayseri, Nevsehir
and Nigde. Rock monuments from this age, with Hittite hieroglyphics
can be found at Gülsehir.
The Cimmerians ended the Phrygian reign, and were then followed by the
Medes (585BC) and the Persians (547 BC). The Persians divided the empire
into semi autonomous provinces and ruled the area using governors who
were known as 'satraps'. In the ancient Persian language, Katpatuka,
the word for Cappadocia, meant "Land of the well bred horses".
The Persians gave their people the freedom to choose their own religion
and to speak their native languages. Since the religion they were devoted
to was the Zoroastrian religion, fire was considered to be divine, and
so, the volcanoes of Erciyes and Hasandagi were sacred for them. The
Persians constructed a "Royal Road" connecting their capital city in
Cappadocia to the Aegean region. The Macedonian King Alexander defeated
Persian armies twice, in 334 and 332 BC, and conquered this great empire.
After bringing the Persian Empire to an end, King Alexander met with
great resistance in Cappadocia. He tried to rule the area through one
of his commanders named Sabictus, but the ruling classes and people
resisted and declared Ariarthes, a Persian aristocrat, as king. Ariarthes
I (332 - 322 BC) was a successful ruler, and extended the borders of
the Cappadocian Kingdom as far as the Black Sea.
The kingdom of Cappadocia lived in peace until the death of Alexander.
From then until 17AD, when it became a Roman province, it fought wars
with the Macedonians, the Galatians and the Pontus nation.
The wars came to an end in 17AD when Tiberius conquered Cappadocia and
placed it under Roman rule. After the conquest, the Romans reconstructed
the road to the west that was of both commercial and military significance.
During the Roman era the area saw many migrations and attacks from the
east. The area was defended by Roman military units known as "Legions".
During the reign of Emperor Septimus Severus, Cappadocia's economy flourished,
but the capital, Kayseri (Caesera) was attacked by Sassanid armies from
Iran. Emperor Gordianus III ordered the construction of defensive city
During this time some of the first Christians were moving from the big
cities to villages. In the 4th century, when Kayseri was a flourishing
religious centre, the rocky landscape of Göreme was discovered. Adopting
the teachings of St. Basil, Bishop of Caesarea (Kayseri), the Christians
began to lead a monastic life in the carved out rocks of Cappadocia.
When the Roman Empire divided into two, Cappadocia fell under the eastern
region. In the early 7th century there were severe wars between the
Sassanid and Byzantine armies, and for 6 or 7 years the Sassanids held
the area. In 638 Caliph Ömer ended the domination of the Sassanids,
and the Arab Ommiades began to attack.
The long lasting religious debates among sects reached a peak with the
adoption of the Iconoclastic view by Leon III, who was influenced by
Islamic traditions. Christian priests and monks who were in favour of
icons began to take refuge in Cappadocia. The Iconoclastic period lasted
over a century (726-843). During this time, although several Cappadocian
churches were under the influence of Iconoclasm, the people who were
in favour of icons were able to continue to worship comfortably.
The arrival of the Seljuk Turks in Anatolia marked the beginning of
a new era in history. After their victories in Iran and Mesopotamia,
Turks rapidly spread throughout Anatolia, settling there in the second
half of the 11th century. In 1071 the Byzantine emperor Romanos Diogenes,
who was of Cappadocian origin, was defeated and captured by the Seljuk
ruler Alparslan at Malazgirt. In 1080 Suleiman Shah founded the Anatolian
Seljuk State, the capital of which was Konya. In 1082 Kayseri was conquered
by Turks. Cities such as Nigde and Aksaray were reconstructed, and caravanserais,
mosques, Madrasah, and tombs were built.
The Seljuk Turks' conquest of Anatolia did not affect the administrative
authority of the Patriarchy. It was only after the 14th century that
its size and status were diminished.
The Region of Cappadocia was very peaceful also during the Ottoman Period.
Nevsehir was a small village in the province of Nigde until the time
of Damat Ibrahim Pasha. At the beginning of the 18th century, especially
during the time of Damat Ibrahim Pasha, places like Nevsehir, Gülsehir,
Ozkonak, Avanos and Ürgüp prospered and mosques, külliyes (a collection
of buildings of an institution, usually composed of schools, a mosque,
lunatic asylum, hospital, kitchen, etc.) and fountains were built. The
bridge in the centre of the town of Ozkonak, which was built during
Yavuz Sultan Selim's campaign to the east (1514), is important in terms
of being an early Ottoman Period building.
The Christian people living in the area were treated with tolerance
in the Ottoman Period as in the Seljuk Period. The 18th century church
of Constantine-Helena in Sinasos-Ürgüp, the 19th century church built
in honor of Dimitrius in Gülsehir and the Orthodox Church in Derinkuyu
are some of the best examples of this tolerance.
Strabon, a writer of antiquity, describes the borders of the Cappadocia
Region, in his 17-volume book Geographika (Geography) written in his
maturity in Rome during the reign of Emperor Augustus, as a very large
area surrounded by Taurus Mountains in the south, Aksaray in the west,
Malatya in the east and all the way up to the Black Sea coast in the
north. Present day Cappadocia is the area covered by the city provinces
of Nevsehir, Aksaray, Nigde, Kayseri and Kirsehir. The smaller rocky
region of Cappadocia is the area around Uchisar, Goreme, Avanos, Urgup,
Derinkuyu, Kaymakli and Ihlara.
The interesting rock formations, known as "fairy chimneys", have been
formed as the result of the erosion of this tufa layer, sculpted by
wind and flood water, running down on the slopes of the valleys. Water
has found its way through the valleys creating cracks and ruptures in
the hard rock. The softer, easily erodable material underneath has been
gradually swept away receding the slopes and in this way, conical formations
protected with basalt caps have been created.
The fairy chimneys with caps, mainly found in the vicinity of Urgup,
have a conical shaped body and a boulder on top of it. The cone is constructed
from tufa and volcanic ash, while the cap is of hard, more resistant
rock such as lahar or ignimbrite. Various types of fairy chimneys are
found in Cappadocia. Among these are those with caps, cones, mushroom
like forms, columns and pointed rocks.
Fairy chimneys are generally found in the valleys of the Uchisar- Ürgüp-Avanos
triangle, between Urgup and Sahinefendi, around the town of Cat in Nevsehir,
in the Soganli valley in Kayseri, and in the village of Selime in
Mount Erciyes, Hasandagi and Golludag were active volcanoes in the geological
periods. Alongside with many other volcanoes, eruptions of these volcanoes
started in the Early Miocene (10 million years ago) and have continued
until the present day. The lava produced by these volcanoes, under the
Neogene lakes, formed a layer of tufa on the plateaus, which varied
in hardness and was between 100 and 150m thick. Other substances in
the layer are ignimbrite, soft tufa, tufa, lahar, ash, clay, sandstone,
marn, basalt and other agglomerates.
Plateaus, having been essentially shaped with the lava from the bigger
volcanoes, were continuously altered with the eruptions of smaller volcanoes.
Starting in the Early Pliocene Period, the rivers in the area, especially
Kizilirmak (the Red River), and local lakes contributed to the erosion
of this layer of tufa stone, eventually giving the area its present
Another characteristic feature of the area is the sweeping curves on
the sides of the valleys, formed by rainwater. The array of colors seen
on some of the valleys is due to the difference in heat of the lava
layers. Such patterns can be seen in Uchisar, Cavusin/ Güllüdere, Goreme/
Meskendir, Ortahisar/Kizilçukur and Pancarlik valleys.
Timeline (Chronology) of Cappadocia
Central Anatolia. With the Taurus Mountains
astride its southern perimeter, Cappadocia was a bulwark of the Byzantine
Empire's efforts to contain Islam, and a prime recruiting ground for the army
until the Seljuq victory at Manzikert in 1071.
The core lands of the Hittites..............c.
1800 ?-c. 1550 ?
Kingdom of Kizzuwadna
Ishputakhshu....................................fl. c. 1500
Pelliya II......................................fl. c. < 1450
Shunashshura II.................................fl. c. 1400
Kingdom of TabalNeo-Hittite kingdom in central
Anatolia, centered around the city of Kanesh (modern Kul-Tepe,