History Files

Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Anatolia


Hatti (Kanesh / Nesa) (Bronze Age)

MapThe Hatti were quite possibly an aboriginal people in the central Anatolian area of the ancient Near East. They were therefore related to the Neolithic farmers who had branched out into 'Old Europe' to found the Sesklo culture of the seventh millennium BC.

The Hatti (Hattians or Hattis) occupied the region inside the arc of the River Kizil Irmak in modern Turkey (see map link). The first settlements in this region date from the Chalcolithic period of the sixth millennium BC, when small, widely scattered hamlets appeared most particularly on mountain slopes and rocky outcroppings.

Early in the third millennium BC, towards the end of the Early Bronze Age, a Hattian settlement developed, marking the beginning of continuous occupation at the site of Hattusa. These people spoke a non- Indo-European language called Hattic which was probably related to the Circassian language group.

Their eastern neighbours probably spoke a very similar tongue, those neighbours being the Khaldi (Chalybes or Chaldoi, whose easternmost groups were later part of Urartu and some of whom may also have formed the Halizones).

The Hatti didn't have a written language of their own, but their scribes probably used cuneiform script for trade dealings, especially after the Assyrians set up trading posts in the region. Apparently possessing a series of city states and small kingdoms from the mid-third millennium BC, early on they probably participated in trade with the great city states of Sumer, which needed cedar and hardwoods from the Amanus mountains.

In the villages of the Amq plain, at the foot of the Amanus, findings of Ubaid Period painted pottery and then the burnished wares of Uruk bear witness to the fact that the timber trade was active even in those early days.

From at least 2500 BC onwards, the Hatti occupied the mountain city state of Hattusa (modern Boğazkale in Turkey), surrounded by arable land and pasture for sheep, as well as some woodland. The Hatti were probably also responsible for the states at Hassum, Kanesh, Purushanda (possibly), and Zalwar, among others. While at their height, they witnessed Luwians settling to their south after around 2300 BC, to emerge in the states of Arzawa and Kizzuwatna.

In the eighteenth century BC, their homeland was invaded by the Hittites, and within a century or so they had been conquered and replaced. However, their region of Anatolia was still known as the 'Land of the Hatti' until 630 BC, as described by the Assyrians. It is likely that the victorious Hittites replaced the Hatti as a new ruling elite and its associated servicers, while the native Hatti found themselves pushed down towards the lower rungs of society. Their descendants are still there, part of the blending which makes up modern Turks.

Kanesh (or more correctly, Kaneš) was located at the modern site of Kültepe, about twenty kilometres north-east of the town of Kayseri. It was generally known by the name of Nesha or Nesa in local records, but the Assyrians called it Kanesh and this is how it is generally known. In Kanesh's heyday, an area was set aside in the city specifically for the use of Assyrian merchants who were exempt from being taxed.

Situated at the foot of Mount Erciyes (the ancient Argeus) and on a fertile plain, Kültepe occupies a position at the convergence of historic and natural routes, leading from Sivas to the north-east and Malatya to the south-east. When the city was burned, the Assyrians had to abandon their property just as everyone else did, leaving it to be found by archaeologists.

With a vast repertoire of tens of thousands of archaeological and textual finds unearthed in ongoing excavations since 1948, Kültepe has turned out to be a site of utmost importance both for Anatolian and world archaeology. The private archives of the Karum residents yielded 23,500 clay tablets and envelopes by 2018. These are the earliest written documents to illustrate ancient Anatolian history.

Life, society, and economy at this site, and even the family affairs and personal relationships of its inhabitants, were recorded on clay tablets in the Old Assyrian dialect of the Akkadian language using cuneiform script, the knowledge of which was brought into Anatolia by the Assyrian merchants.

Central Anatolian mountains

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC: Holy Warriors at the Dawn of History, William J Hamblin (Routledge, 2006), from The Horse The Wheel and Language: How Bronze Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from The Kingdom of the Hittites, Trevor Bryce (1998), from The Hittites, O R Gurney (1991), from The Hittites, J G Macqueen (1996), and from External Links: A Brief History of Hattusha/Boğazköy (from Archive.today), and Proclamation of Anittas (Hittite Online, Linguistics Research Center, University of Texas at Austin), and Anatolian Conference abstracts, Emory University, and Linguistics Research Center (University of Texas at Austin), and The historical geography of north-central Anatolia in the Hittite period: texts and archaeology in concert, Roger Matthews & Claudia Glatz (Anatolian Studies Vol 59, 2009, pp 51-72, available via JSTOR), and Archaeological Site of Kültepe-Kanesh (Unesco), and A Scenario: Fugitives from Kanesh and the origins of the Old Hittite Kingdom (Academia.edu).)

c.2700 BC

Trade routes in the Anatolia region are already well established with the cities of Sumer. Such trade seems to flow via the city state of Alakhtum at this time, with its king building a stylish and expensive palace out of the income collected thanks to this trade. In Sumer such energetic trade may be the result of rebuilding work after the flood has affected cities such as Kish.

Kültepe (ancient Kanesh)
The archaeological site of Kültepe (Kanesh, or 'Ash Hill' in Turkish) was first occupied in the Chalcolithic period (the Copper Age) but perhaps reached the height of its development between the twenty-first to eighteenth centuries BC

c.2500 BC

The Hatti establish a city state centred on Hattousha (Hattusa), one of many such small states in the region which are supported by farming and which produce a distinctive, highly-burnished pottery. Nearby Kanesh is probably also a Hatti state.

FeatureThe Hattian Early Period begins here with levels IV and then III of the city, although the lack of textual evidence suggests the inhabitants are illiterate. Already, around them are settling newly-arriving waves of Indo-Europeans of the South Indo-European group - generally agreed to have been the first to migrate out of the original Indo-European homeland to the north of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea.

These are the Luwians, and they will eventually form two major regional states along the southern Anatolian coast, Arzawa and Kizzuwatna (see feature link).

Map of proto-Anatolian migration 3000-2000 BC
This map attempts to illustrate in basic terms the separate paths taken by the Luwians, Hittites, and Pala during their westwards migration and their progress from proto-Anatolians to kingdom-builders (click or tap on map to view full sized)

late 23rd cent BC


Contemporary with Pamba of Hattusa. Fought Naram-Sin.

Again according to later tradition (from the fifteenth century BC), a king of Akkad campaigns in Anatolia, this time Naram-Sin (after Sargon had done the same a centry before). He marches against a coalition of seventeen kings, including Pamba of Hattusa and Zipani of Kanesh. While unproven, the tradition demonstrates that Anatolian states are able to act in union, although no one state has achieved dominion over any others at this stage.

c.2000 BC

The Assyrians establish a trading colony at Kanesh, which may well be within Hattian territorial boundaries, as well as another in Hattusa itself, the Hatti capital. Findings of royal seals with the name of Ibbi-Sin of Ur also suggests that there may be a Sumerian presence here from at least 2025 BC.

The local Kütepe period civilisation (2000-1700 BC) which is based at Kanesh is at its height between 1950-1800 BC. This is the start of the Hattian Middle Period.

The Kültepe tablets
The Kültepe tablets were written by Assyrian traders who were based at Kanesh between 1920-1740 BC, recording business transactions in the Old Assyrian dialect of Akkadian

fl c.1845? BC


fl c.1840? BC


Perhaps partial joint ruler and successor to Hurmeli.

c.1835 BC

Kanesh is attacked (Level II), as there are clear archaeological signs that the city is burned to the ground at this time. The attack is attributed by some to Uhna of Zalpa, this then being the point at which he carries off the idol of the city's god, Sius.

The city is abandoned for around thirty years until about 1800 BC and then a new city is built over the ruins (Level Ib). The new city prospers and trades with Shamshi-Adad's kingdom of Upper Mesopotamia.

early 18th cent BC

The arrival of the Hittites sees them invade Hatti territory and conquer the city of Kussara (presently unlocated, but possibly to the south-east of Kanesh). This they make the capital of their new kingdom.

Ruins of Kanesh
Only a small proportion of the ruins of the ancient city of Kanesh had been uncovered by 2018, with potentially much more to be discovered


King of Kanesh.

fl c.1770 BC


Son. King of Kanesh. Defeated by the Hittites?

early 18th cent BC

The Hittites conquer Kanesh, the centre of the Assyrian trading colonies in Anatolia, under leadership of Pithana. The city is destroyed by fire and Assyrian trading is ended, but it seems the majority of the population is unharmed by the invaders.

The city is re-inhabited and rebuilt to a modest degree, but by Hittites, not Hattians (Level Ia). The early Hittites refer to themselves as Neshites after this city ('Hittite' is an error made by the other ancient empires when they fail to differentiate between the early Hatti and their conquerors).

late 18th cent BC

Kanesh is probably destroyed by a king of Salatiwara, perhaps at the end of the reign of the last of the pre-Old Hittite empire kings. This point represents the definitive end of the Assyrian trading colonies. Kanesh fades completely as the Hittites withdraw to Kussara for the next century or so.

Map of Anatolia and Environs 2000 BC
At the start of the second millennium BC, a series of small city states in Anatolia which had existed for perhaps a millennium now began to emerge from obscurity (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1000 BC

While it has been rebuilt under Hittite control, Kanesh has failed to achieve any level of greatness after the loss of the Assyrian trading post. Following the fall of the Hittites, Kanesh becomes one of the foremost cities of the kingdom of Tabal.

The decorated palaces which are built here are later destroyed during the Hellenistic and Roman periods when Kanesh is within the kingdom of Cappadocia.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.