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Relevance of the site: The site of Kınık Höyük lies in the southern fringes of the Central Anatolian region of Cappadocia, in the modern province of Niğde. In ancient times Southern Cappadocia represented the main nexus of the roads leading to the Taurus passes, which connected the Central Anatolian plateau to the Mediterranean Sea (Cilicia) and the Northern Levant. Given this strategic position, the region was occupied since the Neolithic period, it played a particularly crucial role in historical developments of the second (Hittite), first Millennium BC (Syro- Hittite, Persian, Hellenistic) and during the Roman and Medieval periods. Despite such a high potential from both a historical and cultural point of view, Southern Cappadocia was still an underexplored region until the 2011, when a joint Italian, Turkish and American excavation project started at Kınık Höyük.
The project 2011-2021: The excavation project has been directed by L. D’Alfonso from the University of Pavia until 2021, since 2022 Marina Pucci is the director on behalf of the University of Firenze (Florence) in collaboration with the Dokuz Eylul Universitesi in Izmir (codirector Burak Yolaçan) and keeping the collaboration with University of Pavia and ISAW (New York). Main research focus in the first ten years of excavations (https://www.kinikhoyuk.org) has been investigating the acropolis aiming towards understanding the representative architecture from the Middle Iron Age (9th-7th century BCE) to the Hellenistic period (4th – 1st century BCE), bringing to light a large pebbled open space (plaza) with several religious buildings opening to it, that was possibly the center of ritual activities dedicated to Zeus in an interesting mix of Hellenistic religion and local practices. Two stone marble eagles, now at the Niğde Museum, were found in a votive pit in the plaza, as well as inscriptions dedicated to Zeus, as well dozens of fragments of bull votive figurines. All these elements together with the monumental architecture clearly state the function of this architectural complex as a religious sanctuary in the land of Tiana during the Hellenistic period. Excavations on the Iron Age levels of the acropolis brought to light an imposing mound wall around the acropolis identified both to the north and to the south of the acropolis.
The new phase of the project: Since 2022 a second research focus aims at better understanding the social structure of the population living in the settlement during the Iron Age (1200-600 BC), when Kınık Höyük is believed to have reached the height of its influence: the settlement was located at the heart of the kingdom of Tuwana, a poorly understood Syro-Hittite polity documented thus far by monumental inscriptions erected in Southern Cappadocia (Ivriz relief) and a scattering of references in contemporary Assyrian records. As far as it has been investigated, the lower town was already fortified during the 10th century BCE, with a massive town wall, 5 m in thickness with a stone socle and a mud brick wall. In the neighbourhood close to the southern edges of the lower town a small alley with small rooms directly opening to it point toward a dense settlement: one of these room was found full of painted and unpainted vessels that give us a general view of the everyday inventory of the local inhabitants: an amazing mixture between Mediterranean coast (Cyprus and Cilicia), Cappadocia (Gordion) and Central Anatolia. Considering that in 2022 it was possible to identify the mound gate on the southern side of the settlement, it seems that during the Iron Age, the settlement was strongly influenced by the southern polities and possibly emphasized its relationship to the south. The Hellenistic sanctuary identified on top of the mound continues to be excavated, in 2022 a southern limit has been identified, i.e. a high stepped terrace possibly supporting a further structure still to be brought to light.
Each season, 40 people, students, professionals, professors, from three different countries and four universities work together for two months on this excavation project and come to Kınık with different aims: specific research focuses (zooarchaeology, paleoenvironment), archaeological traineeships, broad research topics (reconstruction of society, economic history, Hellenistic religious practices). The excavation’s house, the depo and the labs are located 8 km from the site in the modern village of Yeşilyurt.