Clay tablets dating back 4,000 years show the beginnings of writing and literacy in ancient Anatolia, in the middle of modern-day Turkey, according to researchers.
Excavations at an ancient mound in the central Anatolian province of Kayseri shed light on writing from around 2,000 B.C., said Fikri Kulakoğlu, a professor of archeology at Ankara University and head of the excavation team.
Throughout the 70 years of excavations at Kültepe mound, located 25 kilometers northeast of Kayseri, 23,000 cuneiform-script tablets have been found.
“Excavations have been ongoing in Kültepe for 70 years but Kültepe has been known in the world literature since 1871. The most important reason it is well-known is because these cuneiform tablets were created by the Assyrian and Anatolian traders in Kültepe, especially in Karum. There are nearly 23,000 and most of them are on display at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. Some 1,000 tablets are in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum and the rest are in the Kayseri Archaeology Museum,” he said.
“Anatolian people learned how to read and write in Kültepe. The first-ever literate people in Anatolia are from Kayseri,” said Kulakoğlu and added that these were the first written tablets in Anatolia.
Many of the tablets excavated are exercise tablets, apparently used by children to practice their writing.
The reading exercises in scripted tablets are signs of school-like instruction, he said.
Ancient day traders
Alongside the practice tablets are ones used for trade or business, Kulakoğlu said.
The tablets were used to record anything “valuable,” he explained.
“These tablets show that local merchants made their presence in Anatolia alongside the Assyrians,” a people from a civilization in ancient Mesopotamia, he said.
Kulakoğlu added that the clay tablets excavated from Kültepe are among the rarest in the world.
Kültepe has been a candidate for the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2014.
According to UNESCO’s website, the site of Kültepe was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Kanesh and center of a complex network of Assyrian trade colonies in the 2nd millennium B.C.