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Forty Years in the
Capital of the Hittites

Peter Neve retires from his position as Director of the Hattusha-Boghazköy Excavations

By Jürgen Seeher

IT WAS JUST A CENTURY AGO WHEN Ernest Chantre began excavation of the Hittite capital at Hattusha-Boghazköy in 1893-94 by opening several trial trenches. The first systematic excavations were carried out from 1906 to 1912 under the leadership of Theodor Makridi, Hugo Winkler, and Otto Puchstein. Successive campaigns, resumed under the direction of Kurt Bittel in 1931, have continued to the present, save for an interruption of several years (1940-1951) during and following the Second World War. Yet in this extensive project, no one has played a more active role than Bittel's successor Peter Neve. His retirement in 1994 coincides with his fortieth year of spry and spirited participation at the site.

Neve first arrived at the site in 1954 as a twenty-five-year-old student of architecture. He reached the site over a brand-new road of stabilized earth linking the village with nearby Sungurlu, a town on the Ankara-Samsun route. Much progress had been made since the first excavations at the turn of the century, when travel from Ankara to Boghazköy had meant an exhausting five-day journey by horse and carriage. The year Peter Neve arrived, Professor Bittel (1954:3) noted the difference, commenting on the increase in visitors: "The number of travellers interested in ruins and excavations has risen a lot. Whereas living and working at Boghazköy before the war took place in nearly complete seclusion, this season nearly 80 visitors have stopped by during our presence here."

It may have been only a spirit of adventure that led Peter Neve to Bogazköy, but his heart was soon captured by the site and the surrounding countryside. His first experience 'digging' was on Büyükkaya, the plateau across the gorge from the royal citadel Büyükkale, but in the following year work again concentrated on Büyükkale itself and the area of the Great Temple. Neve's first report, an article on the work in the Lower City, appeared in 1958, and--thanks to Kurt Bittel's policy of delegating the immediate publication of certain areas and topics to staff members--numerous articles by Neve on various parts of the site quickly followed (Seeher 1993:3).

In 1963, Peter Neve was appoints field director at Bogazköy; Bittel, who continued as general director o the excavations, had become President of the German Institute of Archaeology and was--quite understandably--compelled to reduce his presence at the site. The excavations had by now moved further into the limelight. "Boghazköy today," Bittel commented, "is on good roads within a few hours reach of th capital of the Turkish Republic. During the three months of the 1963 campaign alone far more than 2000 visitors have come to see the ruins."

The following years saw Neve at work in various parts of the site, although primarily in the area of the Lower City and the Great Temple. In terms of its extent, the work there represented the second large-scale project of the excavations at the Hittite capital, the first having been the investigation of the Royal Citadel on Büyükkale during the 1930s and 1950s. A myriad of data on the temple and the surrounding structures was recovered, as well as rewarding information about life and living standards in the residential sector.

The initiation of the third large-scale project coincided with Peter Neve's, official appointment as General Director of the Excavations in 1978. Effort was now concentrated on the Upper City of Hattusha, i.e., the large 13th-century BCE extension of the capital to the south. The highlights of this project, which followed a schedule meticulously prepared in advance, included the substantial work done on Yerkapi (the huge paved earthwork supporting the city wall), the systematic exposure of the temple quarter at Aghaç Denizi to the north of Yerkapi, and excavations on and around Nisantepe. Campaigns at Boghazköy now lasted six to seven months, often from the very first blossoms heralding the advent of spring to the first white flakes of winter. One important aspect of this rather strict program was the priority it gave to making critical findings of the excavations quickly and easily available to all scholars and students of archaeology. Since the 1978 campaign, annual preliminary reports up to fifty pages in length have appeared with photos and plans in Archäeologischer Anzeiger; reports of the yearly Kazi Sonuçlari Toplantisi in Ankara presented a Turkish version. This is not to suggest, however, that Neve's publication has been restricted only to annual reports. He has published comprehensive articles on a variety of subjects ranging from Hittite domestic architecture to the significance of the site in Byzantine times, not to mention his voluminous monograph on the architectural remains of Büyükkale throughout the ages.

Neve's work in the Upper City of Hattusha has triggered a variety of new interpretations and incentives. To the four temples then known in the area, he has added twenty-six more, and it would seem that there are still others awaiting discovery. This demonstrates that Hattusha was not only the secular capital of the Hittites, but also a cult center of paramount importance. Peter Neve believes that the enlargement of the city to the south was carried out according to a master plan. He suggests that the layout there reflects not only spatial and geometric order, but a spiritual equilibrium bringing symbols of human and divine power--palaces and temple--into a balanced relationship.

To name but a few more of his recent discoveries, we can list the bronze tablet testifying to the treaty between Tudhaliya IV of Hattusha and Kurunta of Tarhuntassa; the Nisantepe archive with its more than 3300 clay bullae; the Hittite-Hurrian bilinguae; and at the Southern Citadel, the structure known as Chamber 2 with a hieroglyphic text of Shuppiluliuma II, and the Sacred Pond related to it. Each of these finds was sensational in itself, and each has served to alter our understanding of the site and its inhabitants.

Preservation and restoration of the site has also been one of Neve's foremost principles. Together with a well-trained group of local workmen, he restored lost walls and replaced broken stones, in some instances dismantling and reconstructing endangered structures. His technique of preserving excavated foundations by adding a few courses of stone to the original walls and then filling in the structures to the level of these uppermost courses has become a method common to many other archaeological sites. As well as preserving and protecting the original masonry, this method permits the display of the architectural plans on the surface. Instructive for both scholar and lay visitor, the extensive restoration work at the site has drawn an ever-increasing number of tourists to Boghazköy; by the end of the 1980s more than thirty tourist buses were visiting the site daily over the summer months.

Neve has struggled relentlessly to protect the site. In order to make an archaeological park of the area, he managed to buy some 100 hectares of farmland and incorporated it into what is now a precinct under government protection. A zone extending fifty meters beyond the city walls was encircled by seemingly endless meters of fence, and a village road leading southward from Bogazkale through the ancient ruins has been rerouted outside the precinct to the west. A stone quarrying operation near Kayali Boghaz just across the valley from the Kings' Gate had to be halted, and plans for a water reservoir in the same valley were suppressed. Finally in 1987, Hattushaa was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List as one of the seven most significant sites in Turkey. Personally more satisfying to Neve himself, however, may be the Nifi Ormani (or 'Neve Forest', as the locals call it), one of his pet projects. With the blessings of the Turkish forestry department, Neve fenced in the large flat rise south of Yerkapi. His aim here was to salvage the landscape from foraging herds of animals, the goats in particular. The project quickly proved successful, and a veritable oak forest now covers the once barren slopes of grass and scrub. Standing upon the Yerkapi fortifications today, one can look out over rustling tree tops and have some impression of what large parts of Anatolia must have been like in ancient times.

As an architect, Peter Neve was not satisfied to serve Boghazköy only by studying and preserving the Hittite, Phrygian, and Byzantine remains; he also provided a new home for the archaeological staff of the site by designing and supervising the construction of excavation house number three. Number one, Makridi and Winkler's excavation house, had been located on the slope above the Great Temple. During the 1930s, Bittel's team used a complex in the depression south of Büyükkale (house number 2). Upon the destruction of this, the post-war team moved into the konak (mansion) of Zia Bey in the village of Boghazkale, provisional housing which is remembered by some with a smile, others with a shiver. Only in 1975 was the present excavation house of Neve's ready for occupation, located conveniently near the museum. The general plan of the house, as well as many of the details, demonstrates the awareness Neve had gained over his many years of excavation life. A most functiona,l but at the same time charming and traditional, edifice was the result, well worthy of the praise it has received from both team members and visitors. As a trained carpenter, Neve himself did the woodwork of the roof.

During his last season as director in 1993, Neve concentrated his efforts once more on Büyükkaya, the scene of his first Boghazköy experiences. Here he exposed a huge fortress of the Hittite Empire period with three gates and at least three posterns. And now? As is to be expected, Peter Neve is continuing in his typically energetic exertions, directing his efforts toward the final publication of his work at the site. A series of monographs will treat the architectural remains of the various areas excavated, and some ten scholars under Neve's coordination are analyzing the finds, from the cuneiform texts to the small finds and pottery of the different periods. Last, but by no means least, Neve will continue as advisor to the ongoing excavations, sharing with us his wisdom, experience, and fathomless knowledge of the site.

By now--Autumn of 1994--the first campaign of the 'post-Neve era' has successfully come to an end. A large part of this success is due to a permanent crew recruited by Peter Neve from the village of Bogazkale. Through learning by doing, these people have gained immense experience in field work and documentation of finds, as well as in the restoration of architecture and artifacts. Thus, Neve has guaranteed a continuity of qualified help for further investigations in the Hittite capital. Every archaeologist who has worked on a long-term dig realizes the importance of continuity and teamwork. A team with decades of experience, such as Neve's at Boghazköy is not often found. This may be a little-recognized achievement of Neve, but it is one that will effect the progress of excavation at the site long after his own retirement from active site supervision. It is also an excellent example of his unpretentious and practical approach. This attitude, intrinsic to his character, is one which has gained Peter Neve many friends over the years.



The author wishes to acknowledge with gratitude the assistance of Jean D. Carpenter-Efe for corrections and improvements to the English text of this article.


Bittel, K.
1955 Vorläufiger Bericht ilber die Ausgrabungen in Bogazköy im Jahre 1954. Mitteilungen der Deutschen Orientgesellschaft 88:1-36.

1965 Vorläufiger Bericht über die Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen in Boghazköy in den Jahren 1962 und 1963: EinleitungMitteilungen der Deutschen Orientgesellschaft 95:3- 5.

Seeher, J.
1993 Peter Neve, Schriftenverzeichnis bis 1993, zusammengestellt von Jürgen Seeher, Istanbuler Mitteilungen 43 (Festschrift Neve).

Captions to Illustrations

Boghazköy-Hattusha: progress of an excavation. This map shows the state of the art at Boghazköy-Hattusha in the early 1960s. Maps and photographs courtesy of J. Seeher.

Boghazköy-Hattusha: progress of an excavation. Here, the additions made during Peter Neve's directorship are easily recognized: The numerous temple buildings in the Upper City in the south of the site; the Hittite buildings around Nisantepe; the quarter of the Lower City northwest of the Great Temple; and the large fortress wall around Büyükkaya across the gorge north of the Royal Citadel on Büyükkale. Maps andphotographs courtesy of J. Seeher.

Aerial view of Hattusha-Boghazköy. During a century of excavation, no one has played a more productive role than Peter Neve. Under his directorship, work concentrated at first in the area of the Lower City and Great Temple. Neve next focused on the Upper City of Hattusha, revealing its breath-taking investment in sacred architecture. Recent discoveries have included the stupendous bronze tablets recording the treaty between Tudhaliya IV of Hattusha and Kurunta of Tarhuntassa. Neve's efforts have transcended the excavative, however; he saw to the protection of the site it secured membership on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1987-and tended to the reforestation of hillsides round about.

Jürgen Seeher was appointed successor of Peter Neve as Director of the Boghazköy/Hattusha Excavations in 1994. Seeher received his Ph.D. from the Freie Universität Berlin in 1983 with a dissertation on Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Early Bronze Age pottery from Demircihüyük. From 1984 to 1988, he worked in Egypt on the publication of the German-Egyptian excavations at predynastic Maadi near Cairo. Dr. Seeher then held a five-year position as assistant at the German Institute of Archaeology in Istanbul (1989-1990), during which time he conducted the excavation of the Bronze Age cemetery at Demircihüyük-Sanket. He has authored articles and monographs on various topics from the Predynastic period in Egypt and neighboring regions, as well as from prehistoric Anatolia.

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