9000 Years of Anatolian Woman

Within the context of the history of mankind over the several million years of human evolution, the story of the Anatolian woman illustrates woman’s creativity, productivity and prominence in all the civilizations which have flourished in this peninsula. The woman appears as a goddess with creative and protective powers, as a ruling monarch, as a patriotic citizen, patron of the arts, teacher, writer and artist, and at all times as a mother guiding her family.

Joint Stamp Seal of Hittite King Hattashili and Queen Puduhepa
Bogazköy (Hattusha) Late Bronz age, Hittite Empire 1265-1235 B.C Clay. Çorum Museum.
Hittite queens enjoyed equal powers with the kings. This seal impression bears a winged sun disc above, and below, the names and titles in Hieroglyphic Hittite of the Great Queen Puduhepa, right, and the Great King Hattushili III, left. In the margin around the circle is a legend written in Hittite cuneiform script.

The woman is manifested in different identities, sometimes simultaneously, in each period, and the “9000 Years of the Anatolian Woman”

Figurine of a Seated Goddess
Çatalhöyük. Neolithic, first half of 6th mill. B.C. Baked clay. Ankara, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.
This figurine seated, with legs curled to left beneath body shows that the central element of religion in the Neolithic Period was the mother goddess. Her hands are placed on large pendulous breasts. Her large belly rests on heavy thighs

exhibition is the visual evidence of the distinctive Anatolian quality which characterizes these identities. In reviewing the past nine thousand years of the Anatolian woman, the exhibition examines her place in religious belief, administration, daily life, professional life, and the family, focusing on her social status and problems in the context of faith, tradition and legislation. The broad spectrum of cultures characterized by diverse faiths and doctrines, forms of government, and traditions over the span of nine thousand years have been classified under three headings in this exhibition: Prehistory to the Iron Age (7th millennium B.C.-7th century B.C.): Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods (7th century B.C.- 15th century A.D.); and the Seljuk and Ottoman periods (12th century A.D.-early 20th century).

 

The first section covering a span of six millennia from pre-history to the Iron Age focuses primarily on the role of women in religion. The hunting and gathering communities of the Upper Palaeolithic Age became conscious for the first time of sexual differentiation and the fecundity of women, and therefore associated women with the concept of fertility. In southeastern Anatolia these people harbored religious beliefs centered around a fertility cult in which the woman was the predominant element. The many female figurines found in excavations of these settlements, with their exaggerated portrayal of breasts and thighs, usually represent women pregnant or with children, symbolizing the fertility and hence creative power of women. Finds at the Neolithic settlement of Çatalhöyük, the largest in Anatolia, demonstrate that at the end of the 7th millennium B.C. belief in the supernatural made way for religious faith in the true sense. It was Neolithic man who first drew a connection between the idea of creation and sexual relations and birth, manifesting this concept in a divine family consisting of god, goddess, and child. The female goddess was the dominant element in the equation, with power over birth, life and death, and was seen as the protector of all creatures. In other words, as the embodiment of divine creation, the woman was the central figure in the first religion devised by mankind. The role of the woman in both religious beliefs and the family was equally preeminent a thousand years later, as proved woman in both religious beliefs and the family was equally preeminent a thousand years later, as proved by finds at Hacilar.

Small Head of a Woman
Troy 9 (Hisarlik). Hellenistic Period. 1st century B.C. Baked clay Istanbul Archaeological Museums.
The small female head is shown wearing an elaborate headdress embellished with flowers and fruit. Iconographically, it bears resemblance to large-scale statues of priestesses of Demeter.

With the advent of the Bronze Age at the end of the 4th millennium B.C., coinciding with the formation of the first towns and political organization, the role of the

Candlestick In the Shape of a Woman
Urartian, first quarter of 7th century B.C Bronze. Istanbul Archaeological Museums.
Candlestick or base for an incense burner is a three-legged stand, riveted to a female figure. This is a characteristic of Urartian figurine with hands crossed below her breasts. Her shoulder-length hair is divided into strands threaded with beads, probably symbolizing a wig.

men in society took on a new significance, although the woman remained the symbol of fertility. The mother goddess was now associated with the sun, as we can see from finds at Kültepe, where the sun goddess and her family had come to dominate the pantheon. When cuneiform writing was introduced into Anatolia in the 2nd millennium, tablets and seals throw light on the status of the Anatolian woman.


Plaque with Relief of a Sacred Merriage
Çatalhöyük. Neolithic, first half of 6th mill. B.C Schist. Ankara, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.
This is one of the earliest known representations of a sacred marriage. On the left is an embracing couple, on the right a woman with a child in her arms. The scene explains in a narrative fashion the physical relationship between a man and a woman, and the result of this, a woman with a child.

Anatolia was now divided into a multitude of small kingdoms and princedoms ruled by monarchs in conjunction with their wives. We find queens enjoying substantial authority in administration and commercial life. Women were able to pursue certain professions. Monogamy was upheld by law and there was equality between men and women. The matriarchal family structure had stood the test of time.

Lekythos
Myrina (Kalabaksaray). Classical Period, 4th century B.C. Baked clay. Istanbul Archaeological Museums.
On each side of the lekythos, which has a funnel-shaped mouth on long narrow neck, are two female heads, covered, both of which face a caryatid figure between them.

Figurine of a Kore (Mirror Support)
Çanakkale. Archaic Period ca. 500 B.C. Bronze. Istanbul Archaeological Museums.
The figurine which throws light upon the apparel of women in the Archaic Period. wears a long peplos-like garment with rich folds and pleats and decorated borders, over which a himation is draped over right shoulder and under left arm.

 

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