Cradle or crucible - Anatolia and archaeology in the early years of the Turkish Republic (1923-1938)

Atakuman Ç.

JOURNAL OF SOCIAL ARCHAEOLOGY, vol.8, pp.214-235, 2008 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 8
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Doi Number: 10.1177/1469605308089965
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.214-235
  • Keywords: Anatolia, ethnicity, heritage, history of Turkish archaeology, Kemalism, Turkish History Thesis, Turkish nationalism
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


The Turkish History Thesis of the 1930s played an influential role in the construction of the discipline of archaeology in the early years of the Turkish Republic. The Thesis argued that the Turks belonged to a high culture that brought civilization to many parts of the world through episodes of migration from their original homeland in Central Asia. Following the launch of the first series of state-supported excavations in 1933, the arguments of the Thesis took on more specific forms. TWO important points were made, mainly through the help of archaeology, as well as linguistics and anthropology. First, the Thesis argued that Anatolia became the real Turkish homeland during migrations from Central Asia, and it hoped archaeology would confirm this by demonstrating Anatolia's identity as Turkish since prehistoric times. Second, as an alternative to the Orientalist discourse that viewed European civilization as having originated in Mesopotamia and Greece, Turkish archaeologists offered a new version of the origins of civilization that highlighted Central Asia and Anatolia. Believed to be the positivistic science of history, archaeology was able to convey powerful messages for framing the exclusiveness of national unity as well as the inclusiveness of the nation-state in the international arena. This article discusses the image of Anatolia and its reciprocal relationship with archaeology in the early years of the Turkish Republic.