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It is easiest to find evidence of Prehistoric cultures in Cappadocia around Koskhoyuk/Nigde, Asikli Hoyuk/Aksaray and in the Civelek cave near Nevsehir. Excavations in these three areas are ongoing.
Archaeological excavations uncovered the first ever brick living quarters in Cappadocia. These living quarters were found in Asikli Hoyuk (mound), an extension of Aksaray's Ihlara Canyon settlements. The builders used yellow and pink clay plaster to make the walls and floors of the houses. These settlements are some of the most beautiful and architecturally complicated examples of first towns. The inhabitants buried the dead in the Hocker position, like a fetus in the womb, on the floor of their houses. According to Prof. U. Esin, who researched at Asikli Hoyuk, the abundance and density of the settlements discovered in these areas revealed a bigger population in the Aceramic Neolithic Period than previous theories had suggested. The unique obsidian tools from Cappadocian Tumuli can be found nowhere else in Turkey. Diggers unearthed figurines, made from lightly baked clay, as well as finely shaped flat stone axes, chisels and coulters made from bones, and ornaments made from materials like copper, agate and 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 Hoyuk.
(3000BC - 1750BC)
Mining and metallurgy reached its peak in Anatolia during the early Bronze Age. Northern Anatolia saw major developments toward the end of this period. Between 2000 BC and 1750 BC, Assyrian merchants from northern Mesopotamia formed the first commercial organizations by establishing trade colonies in Anatolia. The center of these colonies was at Kanesh Kharum, near Koltepe in Kayseri province (Kharum: A commercial marketplace). Kharum Hattush at Bogazkoy represents another important commercial marketplace referred in documents. Rich in gold, silver and copper, Anatolia lacked tin, which is essential for obtaining bronze as an alloy. For this reason tin was one of the major traded goods, as well as textile goods and perfumes. While merchants had no political dominance, they were protected by the regional Beys. Merchants paid a 10% road tax to the Bey, received 30% interest from locals, and paid a 5% tax to the Anatolian kings for the goods they sold. This was discovered from the "Cappadocia tablets,” cuneiform clay tablets on which ancient Assyrian was written. These tablets were the first examples of writing in Anatolia. The same tablets tell us that Assyrian merchants sometimes married Anatolian women, with the marriage agreements containing clauses to protect the women's rights from their husbands. Assyrian merchants also introduced cylinder seals, metallurgy, and their religious beliefs, including Gods and temples, to Anatolia. Native Anatolian art flourished under the influence of Assyrian Mesopotamian art, and the blended art style eventually took on an identity of its own. This developed into the fundamentals of Hittite art.
In 17AD, the wars came to an end when Tiberius conquered Cappadocia and placed it under Roman rule. After the conquest, the Romans reconstructed the commercially and militarily significant road to the west. 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 Emperor Septimus Severus’s reign, Cappadocia's economy flourished while the capital, Kayseri (Caesera) was attacked by Sassanid armies from Iran. Around this time, Emperor Gordianus III ordered the construction of defensive city walls. Also at this time, some of the first Christians began moving from the big cities to villages. In the 4th century, when Kayseri was a flourishing religious centre, the Christians discovered the rocky landscape of Goreme. 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.
Europeans arriving via the Caucasus and settling in Cappadocia around 2000 BC formed an empire in the region, merging with the native people of the area and speaking a language of Indo-European origin. The capital of the Hittite kingdom was at Hattushash (Bogazkoy), and the other important cities were Alacahoyuk and Alisar. Hittite remains can be found in all the tumuli (burial mounds) 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 Phrygian people from the Balkans.
When the Roman Empire split into two, Cappadocia fell under the eastern region. In the early 7th century, severe wars raged between the Sassanid and Byzantine armies, and for six or seven years, the Sassanids held the area. In 638, Caliph Omer ended the domination of the Sassanids, and the Arab Ommiades began to attack. The long lasting religious debates between sects reached a peak with the adoption of the Iconoclastic, anti-religious-imagery view by Leon III, who was influenced by Islamic traditions. Christian priests and monks who were in favor 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 favor of icons could continue to worship comfortably.
After the Phrygian destruction of 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 Gulsehir.
The arrival of the Seljuk Turks in Anatolia marked the beginning of a new historical era. After their victories in Iran and Mesopotamia, Turks spread rapidly throughout Anatolia, settling in the second half of the 11th century. In 1071, the Seljuk ruler Alparslan defeated and captured Byzantine emperor Romanos Diogenes, of Cappadocian origin, at Malazgi. In 1080, Suleiman Shah founded the Anatolian Seljuk State with the capital of 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 Cimmerians ended the Phrygian reign, with the Medes (585 BC) and the Persians (547 BC) following after to rule. The Persians divided the empire into semi-autonomous provinces, ruling the area with governors 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 speak their native languages. For these devotees of the Zoroastrian religion, fire was considered to be divine, including the volcanoes of Erciyes and Hasandagi. 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 BC and 332 BC, thus conquering the great empire. After bringing the Persian Empire to an end, King Alexander faced great resistance in Cappadocia. He tried to rule the area through one of his commanders, Sabictus, but the ruling classes and people resisted, instead declaring Ariarthes, a Persian aristocrat, as king. Ariarthes I (332 - 322 BC) was a successful ruler who 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 region of Cappadocia was also quite peaceful during the Ottoman period. Nevsehir was a small village in the province of Nigde until the time of the commander Damat Ibrahim Pasha. At the beginning of the 18th century, especially during Pasha’s time, places like Nevsehir, Gulsehir, Ozkonak, Avanos and Urgup prospered and mosques, kulliyes (a collection of buildings of an institution, usually composed of schools, a mosque, mental asylum, hospital, kitchen, etc.) and fountains were built. The bridge in the center of the town of Ozkonak, which was built during Yavuz Sultan Selim's campaign to the east in 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-Urgup, the 19th century church built in honor of Dimitrius in Gulsehir, 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 Rome during the reign of Emperor Augustus. Strabon detailed the region as a very large area surrounded by Taurus Mountains in the south, Aksaray in the west, Malatya in the east and 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" formed as the result of the erosion of the tufa layer, sculpted by wind and flood water running down on the slopes of the valleys. Water found its way through the valleys, creating cracks and ruptures in the hard rock. The softer, easily eroded material underneath has been gradually swept away, creating conical formations protected by basalt caps. The fairy chimneys with caps, mainly found in the vicinity of Urgup, have a conical shaped body and a boulder on top of each chimney. The cone is constructed from tufa and volcanic ash, while the cap is made of harder, more resistant rock such as lahar or ignimbrite. Various types of fairy chimneys are found in Cappadocia. Among these are chimneys with caps, cones, columns, pointed rocks, and mushroom-like forms. Fairy chimneys are generally found in the valleys of the Uchisar--Urgup--Avanos triangle, between Urgup and Sahinefendi, around the town of Cat in Nevsehir, in the Sogani valley in Kayseri, and in the village of Selime in Aksaray.
Mounts Erciyes, Hasandagi and Golludag were all active volcanoes in previous geological periods. Along with many other volcanoes, eruptions of these volcanoes started in the Early Miocene period (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 include ignimbrite, soft tufa, tufa, lahar, ash, clay, sandstone, marn, basalt and other agglomerates. Plateaus, shaped by the lava from the bigger volcanoes, were continuously altered by the eruptions of smaller volcanoes. Starting in the early Pliocene period, 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-day shape.
Another characteristic feature of the area is the sweeping curves of 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/ Gulludere, Goreme/ Meskendir, Ortahisar/Kizilcukur and Pancarlik valleys.
Cappadocia is rich with possibilities, despite its small area, and we’re happy to help you explore them. Here are a few of the ways to discover the richness of the region at your own pace.
Cappadocia's valleys offer infinite hiking routes. It’s essential to bring plenty of water, regardless of how easy your hike will be. In summer, leaving early in the morning can help avoid the full glare of the sun. A night with a full moon can provide a spectacle of fantastic colors. For any situation, we can propose a route to you and an English-speaking guide, if needed.
Whether you like bicycles, scooters or motorbikes, the landscape of Cappadocia is waiting for you! The terrain ranges from flat to rolling, with stunning vistas. In July, Cappadocia even celebrates an international mountain bike festival.
While studying the formation and evolution of volcanoes and their products (tuff, lava, pumice and obsidian), you will discover how the beautiful Cappadocian landscape was formed. You will also understand the role of erosion (rain and wind) in shaping Cappadocia as we see it today, full of fairy chimneys and colorful tuff layers.
Excursions by horse can offer a fast-paced, exciting way to see Cappadocia. Tours can vary from one hour to one week, based on request. This type of tour can provide close contact with nature, along with charming views of the area.
For those who aim high, several local agencies allow guests to discover the area by balloon. The sights and service involved are splendid; the flight certificate is served with a champagne toast!
Numerous underground cities, intended to be used as refuge in the event of attack, can be visited in the area.
Cappadocia is the perfect place for admirers of handicrafts. Potters, especially concentrated in Avanos, are always ready to share their know-how, and visitors can even try to create their own pottery. Likewise, carpet shop owners will present their collection and explain their techniques. In addition, local shops offer a wide variety of antiquities, jewelry and souvenirs for you to show off to everyone back home. Whatever your plans are, don’t hesitate to contact us, and we’ll help you sort out any plans.