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