The Central Black Sea Region and the Kelkit River Basin Settlements in the Bronze Age
Keywords: Bronze Age, Central Black Sea Region, Kelkit River
The geographical area under discussion in this article covers the region from Samsun in the west to Bayburt in the east. I have chosen this area that we may call the East Black Sea Region hinterland in order to collect the existing archaeological evidence and thus make an assessment. The Kelkit River (ancient Lykos) is the most important river in this area. Because of its geographical advantages this river basin must have been used as a trade route between the Central Black Sea Region, Caucasia and Western Iran. Kelkit River rises from Gümüşhane Province, passes through the south of Giresun Province as well as the Reşadiye, Niksar and Erbaa districts of Tokat Province until it finally joins the Yeşilırmak River (ancient Iris) near Taşova District in the Amasya Province. The west side of the Kelkit Basin that begins in Koyulhisar has been thoroughly investigated and few settlements have been located there. Although the east side which consists of the Suşehri, Şebinkarahisar, Şiran and Kelkit districts has not undergone any serious resarch yet, we still get information regarding this area from the neighbouring Bayburt province. Following our present knowledge about the subject matter of this article, we come to the conclusion that the first settlements in the area occured in the Late Chalcolithic Age. As a result of the field surveys in Samsun Province, which constitutes the west of region, we can assume that especially the Kızılırmak Valley (ancient Halys) and its neighborhood were densely inhabited both in Early and Middle Bronze Age, with some decrease in number. It has been observed that towards the Yeşilırmak Valley in the east of Samsun Province, settlements appeared to have been quite few, and the existing ones were inhabited only in the Early Bronze Age. The most important change seen in this province in the 2nd Millennium BC is the remarkable decrease in the number of settlements, compared to their amount in the Early Bronze Age. We conclude that some of the densely populated settlements of the Early Bronze Age were not further occupied in the Middle Bronze Age. Besides from the middle of Middle Bronze Age onward, we notice the number of settlements declined to agreat extentand thus, there was a loss in population. This situation, which is related with Gashka people, most probably shows the borders of the regional hegemony of these people. In fact, A. Dinçol and J. Yakar, have pointed out the area covered by the Sinop-Samsun-Ordu provinces, i.e. the north of Amasya-Merzifon line, as the Gashka Land. J. Yakar, has even widened this line more, and expounded it as Kargı - Merzifon - Taşova or Taşköprü Boyabat - Durağan - Vezirköprü, and has emphasized that these lines might have been used as buffer zones by Hittite Kings, against the raids of Gashka people, in his last related book. It has been observed that dense populations inhabited the Amasya and Tokat Provinces during the Early Bronze Age, as was the case in the Samsun Province. Though we do not have sufficient information on the following period of the 2nd Millennium BC, we can conclude that these sites, especially those in the Amasya Province, were - due to their proximity to the Hittites - more densely inhabited during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. We would like to point out that we do not have enough evidence to assume that the Mesudiye or even the Sivas-Koyulhisar neighborhood was inhabited in the 2nd Millennium BC, nor that the Hittites had occupied the south of the Ordu Province and the Northeast of Sivas Province. It is to be said that rare finds or settlements dating to the Middle or Late Bronze Ages are known in Bayburt, except for Büyüktepe Höyük further to the east. The rarety of settlemens of the 2nd Millennium in Bayburt region, that is, however, not yet fully researched, semmes to be comparable to similar situations in the northern part of Sivas province, just across the Kelkit River in Koyulhisar and Suşehri districts, in the southern part of Giresun Province in the districts Şebinkarahisar and Çamoluk, in the Şiran and Kelkit districts of Gümüşhane province. There is a slight possibility that the reason for this - even though this question is not solved yet - is to be sought with the peoples forming the Trialeti Culture. Having similarity with the samples found in Trialeti graves of the 2nd Millennium BC, the bronze weapons from the cave finds of Ordu and Artvin as well as the metal remains in the graves of the late 2nd Millennium BC in Erzurum-Pulur can be evaluated as an evidence for this assumption.