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Ancient Hittite Dam at Alacahöyük, Turkey

A Hittite-era dam located in the central Anatolian province of Çorum and believed to be one of the oldest in the world to have survived to date has been restored and is once again serving as a source of irrigation for local residents.

The dam, located at the Alacahöyük archaeological site, was built by the Hittites in 1240 B.C.

Excavations of the site started in the late 19th century and in 1907 were led by the archaeologist Theodor Makridi Bey. Royal tombs dating to the third millennium BC were discovered and a Hittite town of the second millennium BC. The impressive sphinx gate surrounded by stone reliefs marks its entrance. The town was heavily fortified with walls and towers due to the frequent raids of the Kaska people living in the mountaineous region to the north. Many of the artefacts discovered at Alaça Hüyük are today housed at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. Excavations begun in 1935 have revealed considerable local wealth and achievement before the time of the Hittites, with the earliest occupation dating from the 4th millenium BC. Tombs of the 3d millenium B.C. feature metal vessels, jewelry, weapons, and pole finials of bulls, stags, and abstract forms often interpreted as solar symbols.

Alacahöyük is a village in the Çorum Province, Turkey, located 170 km east of Ankara. It is the site of an ancient town dating to the civilization of the Hittites.

Excavations in the area, launched in 1936 at the order of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, had revealed the dam in a swampy area. The dam was found to be functional, prompting further excavation in its vicinity.

The dam was ordered by Hittite King Tudhaliya IV in the name of goddess Hepat, according to ancient Hittite tablets, he said. “After a drought Anatolia suffered in 1200 B.C., Tudhaliya IV imported wheat from Egypt so that his subjects would not suffer a famine. Following this, the king ordered numerous dams to be built in central Anatolia, in 1240 B.C. All but one of them became dysfunctional over time. The one in Alacahöyük has survived because the water source is located inside the dam's reservoir,” he explained.

The construction technique used in building the dam was similar to those of today but that the stone blocks forming the dam were joined with clay instead of cement.

The Hittites used the dam to provide both irrigation and tap water. Archaeolog Çınaroğlu: “In ancient times, tap water from this dam was collected in a separate pool, and after filtering, the water was carried to the city center two kilometers away. Canals built based on the water's flow astonished us.”

Capable of holding approximately 15,000 cubic meters of water, the dam is now being used by locals for irrigation. “An ancient dam is re-inaugurated 3,240 years after it was built. It is now serving the 2,300 residents of Alacahöyük village as an irrigation source," Çınaroğlu said. He noted that the width of the reservoir would become clear after excavation was complete.

The base of a statue of Hepat as well as a golden necklace decorated with rubies were also unearthed during the excavations.

Following the ceremony guitarist Ahmet Kanneci and clarinetist Ekrem Öztan performed a recital in front of the Hittite temple in Alacahöyük, where the oldest known guitar relief is found. Turkish Daily News

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