Archaeology

Megaron Ancient Anatolia Archaeology



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Archaeology of Anatolia December 9th, 2003 3: Megarons in Ancient Anatolia (Modern day Turkey) The megaron is an architectural form surprisingly found to last throughout most of the historical ages in Anatolia. The fist evidence of it is in Chalcolithic Beycesultan (5500-3000) and the most recent findings of megaron in Anatolia have been from the Lydian period (687-547). That is an immense span of time covering over 1800 years. This originally simple structure took many different forms and even developed into completely new structures like the Neo Hittite Bit Hilani and Hellenistic temples with columns. Megarons are not seen at all prior to the Chalcolithic. In the Paleolithic and Mesolithic, people mostly lived in caves. In the Neolithic (10000-5500) the only evidence for architecture seen is the use of mud brick in agglutinative (beehive pattern, no streets, no plan) patterns. Initially in the Chalcolithic Period, megara are made from handmade unbaked, sun-dried, cigar-shaped bricks called mud brick. Its plan followed the one story rectangular hall-and-porch design. It consisted of a long hall, and a storage room, and occasionally they were found with columnar porches, vestibules, or main rooms with a hearth in the center. In the early chalcolithic they are basically just domestic units which make some use of timber. In the late chalcolithic they more commonly have two rooms instead of just one, are symmetrically planned, and are found accompanying large tripartite structures.
In the Early Bronze Age (3000-1900) megaron units were found at Beycesultan again as well as Troy, Mersin, Aphrodisias, Tarsus, and Karatas-Semayuk. Overall the megaron of this period had extended walls and a double gateway on the outer wall was added. They were more defense-oriented as these peoples must have had greater threat of invasion. At Troy, megara were not just found standing alone, but in a series with stone ramps leading up to them. They are commonly entered through a propylon, which is an outer monumental gateway also seen in Hellenistic temples. Foundations are still made of stone, but the Bronze Age people made more use of timber. More advancements include the fact that these people seemed to have made more use of the circular hearth in the center and there is evidence for multiple rooms, not just one main room. In the Bronze Age Beycesultan, foundations become deeper than they were in the chalcolithic. Use of timber is more prominent and there is even evidence for possible buttressing, not seen at all prior to the Bronze Age. Buttressing is new concept for Anatolia at this time, let alone the megaron.
Excavators have still found megaron in Beycesultan in the middle and late bronze ages. Here a megaron was even found to have five rooms and there is even evidence to support that they were used as shrines for religious practices. At Kultepe Kanesh we fist see the second story of the megaron. Prior to this, it was a simple one-storied structure.
Not much evidence for megaron appears in the Hittite Period (1680-1200), but a brand new architectural form arises in the Neo Hittite Period (1200?-?717). The Bit Hilani, is by no means a continuation from the megaron, in fact, to quote Joukowsky, it "differs from older palaces in the same manner as the megaron differs from the megaron-like prehistoric dwelling-houses1." This type of architecture was designed for more formal purposes, possibly temple worship, whereas the megaron was more of domestic residence; it just kept getting bigger and more complex from the Chalcolithic to the Late Bronze Age. Despite not being a continuation of the megaron form, the Bit Hilani does display some similarities to it. For instance, it has a rectangular or oblong plan just like the megara of the chalcolithic. However, the Bit Hilani was more formal, possibly used as a grand temple, and more often than not was two-stories high. One of the bit hilani excavated at Golludag was thought to be a sanctuary for pilgrims with the carved lions and sphinxes at its gates. It also made use of columns in the pillared gateway, and columns are more of a characteristic found in the prostyle and peristyle forms of Hellenistic temples (ca.323-113BCE). Rather than the single room or few storage chambers of the megaron, the bit hilani had a reception room, a rectangular throne room, and many storerooms.
Although the megaron structure itself seems to take a break from the Hittites through the Urartians (1680-600), it shows up again with the Phrygians (800-700/696). Here the megaron is once again the favored form. More timber is used than before and now the stone foundations are reinforced. At Gordion a total of 12 megaron are uncovered, one of them being 18x30 in perimeter. It is not just a domestic residence anymore however; it is thought to have housed royalty or to have possibly been a temple a top raised terrace with a ramp. The megaron is once again seen in Anatolia in the Lydian Period. At Bayrakali a 7th century megaron is uncovered and at Sardis its plan was not quite used as expected. The overall impact of the megaron begins to diminish as cultures realize the value of other architectural structures. The megaron changed shape as well as purpose over time. It increased in size, especially in the Phrygian period; it gained an extra story and extra rooms. The original stone foundations became more complex by becoming reinforced with timber. It also shifted from domestic use to religious use. Either the Anatolians saw its function as a religious temple or they simply needed more places of worship. Either way, the megaron survives in at least five different time periods of ancient Anatolia.

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