THE KARUM OF KANESH
THE KARUM OF KANESH Impressive areas of this ancient settlement have already been excavated under the direction of Professor Tahsin Özgüc of Ankara.
Already during the Bronze Age, the Kingdom of Kanesh was a blooming nation. The actual city comprised two divisions. The mound of Kültepe accommodated the palace of the ruling prince and the residences of the nobility, with the houses of lesser citizens clustering around them. Nearby lies Karum of Kanesh, the Assyrian trading colony, dating to circa 2000 B.C.
Similar trading colonies were fairly widespread in Anatolia and all have been called “karums” but the Karum of Kanesh appears to have controlled them all.
The Assyrian merchants were the actual initiators of Cappadocian trade, both internal and external. We know that traders residing at Kanesh imported tin, fine garments and other textiles in exchange for cattle, silver, copper and skins.
Working on the site since 1948, the archeologists uncovered several habitational levels which belong to very remote periods of which no written records exist. The mound of Kültepe was inhabited as early as 4000 B:C.
The discovery of an ancient settlement destroyed by a sudden calamity, such as an earthquake or conflagration is the archeologist’s delight. The Karum of Kanesh had been destroyed by a great fire that compelled the inhabitants to flee for their lives, giving them no time to rescue possessions. At Kanesh, household utensils, pottery, drinking cups, statuettes and clay tablets were all left behind for posterity. As a matter of fact, written and documented Anatolian history begins at Kültepe, where, using the cuneiform script of Babylonia, the Assyrian merchants recorded their everyday business and stored their correspondence with traders in distant cities, including Assur in Mesopotamia. Fifteen thousand clay tablets have been found here. Understandably, the majority of them are related to commercial transactions, lists of commodities and their prices, bills of sale, orders, receipts and the sort, but some tablets provided enough historical information for scholars to determine the existence of ten principalities in Cappadocia.
Among these, the city of Buruskhatum (the Hittite Purushkhanda) held the dominant position because its ruler was titled Great Prince in every document. Hittite presence in the region was proven by the Kültepe tablets which disclosed the names of king Pitkhana and his son Anitta of Kussara. The tablets corroborated with the context of other records found in Hattusas, but in the latter ones the names of the kings bear the Hittite suffix “s”: Pitkhanas and Anittas.
The cause of the conflagration is not known. Although the Hittite seizure of Kanesh and the cessation of Assyrian activity at the Karum historically coincide, there is nothing to indicate that Hittite attitude toward these important merchants was hostile, as the Hittites could only benefit from their presence. The decline of the Assyrian trading colonies in Anatolia may have been caused by upheavals at home, especially at Assur, following the Kassite conquest of Babylon.
Kültepe has a small museum where samples of locally found artifacts are displayed.