This project started as somewhat of a whim last summer (2019) when I noticed not much had been done in the case of Bronze Age Anatolian clothing reconstruction. After collecting image after image of orthostates and other objects, it fell to the wayside as I became focused on other endeavors. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the cancellation of my previous research conferences, I allowed myself to return to this idea.
At this point, as the research appears to be super-new, I understand that this body of work will raise more questions than it will serve as answers, and I am willing to bring forth that needed dialogue, and accept changes will need to be made this early in the study. As far as I know, I am the first SCAdian, and possibly scholar/experimental archaeologist to try this. Please be patient with me as I iron out the kinks, and work to determine the best patterns and ideas before adding a ton of information that may not be correct. I know that some of this reads a bit choppy, I plan to flesh it out as I continue to build my arsenal of sources.
Check out my Youtube video of my class for Trimaris University Online here!
I am a Classicist-Medievalist by training, not a Hittitologist or even an Assyriologist, with limited knowledge of the Ancient Near East, but a fascination none the less that I hope can bring at least some fresh ideas and excitement to this particular historical and archaeological table.
Because of the nature of the age of the resources we have regarding the Hittites and contemporary civilizations, lost mostly to the passage of time and continual re-settlement of these regions by newer and evolving cultures through antiquity, some questions may never be answered satisfactorily. In this regard, I am, at the very least, pleased to begin my own speculation.
The summaries below are brief and simplified to allow for an easy introduction to the Hittite Empire for those unfamiliar, and a stronger focus on the overall observation and construction of the presented garments. Please visit the attached bibliography for more thorough reading.
Who were the Hittites? A very brief introduction.
The Hittites were an Indo-European civilization in Anatolia during the middle to late Bronze Age, spanning the period from approximately 1700-1400 BCE. Their discovery is relatively “recent” as far as history and archaeology goes, having been identified in the mid 19th-century. The name “Hittite” is anachronistic, taken from a Biblical term that included such individuals as Uriah, and for a people that had a king that was equated to that of Egypt. To the Hittites themselves, they were the People of the Land of Hatti, and their capital was Hattusa, which is located near the modern Turkish city of Boğazkale. At their height, they were one of the largest empires in the Bronze Age, alongside Babylonia and Egypt.
When you see an opening, you take it. I was first introduced to the historical Hittites by one of my professors in graduate school who focused on them, but was teaching classical history as a stopgap. His inclusion of the Hittites in his lectures regarding the historiocity of the Trojan War and other Greek interactions with Anatolia, I found to be rather eye opening, and vowed to return to it at a later date when time permitted, purely for my own enrichment and enjoyment in creating reproduction clothing and experimental archaeology.
At this moment, I have found no reconstructions of Hittite dress outside of dramatic documentaries. Some correspondence with fellow scholars has alerted me to works in progress, so I eagerly await their releases. Until then, I am filling in the gap with clothing made strictly by observation and interpreting artwork and some written record in regard to textiles and appearance during this period.
Understanding the sources we have.
Going into this blind, I was quick to discover why not much has been written or reconstructed as of yet. While archaeologists have discovered a wealth of documents, mostly in the form of baked cuneiform tablets which have given us tremendous insight into the People of the Land of Hatti, the truth is that we will never know the whole story. We will probably never find extant textiles or more in-depth information on how clothing was manufactured and worn. As I’ve previously mentioned, everything I have done at this point is early speculation, and I expect to make many changes and be proven outright wrong in some regards to this project. What we do have, and what I was able to work with, I will describe below.
The language of the Hittites is by far one of the most amazing discoveries in Near Eastern History. Referred to as “Nesite”, it is an Indo-European language, in a region where Semitic (Akkadian, Arabic, Hebrew, and Egyptian are Semitic languages) was more common. The similarities between Nesite, and the modern European languages, including English (water = watar) allowed scholars to decode the language. They primarily wrote in Mesopotamian Cuneiform, but also had a hieroglyphic system for another language, Luwian, which shows up more in the artistic record, than in correspondence.
Orthostates and Relief Carvings
An orthostat is defined as stone blocks that are greater in height than depth, used in lower portions of walls. It is more closely associated with Classical Greek architecture, but the term works for Hittite structures as well. Hittite orthostates are carved with a variety of scenery, often with depictions of gods, kings, queens, and processions. In the case of this project, I referred to shapes commonly seen in these carvings.
The Hüseyindede Vases
The Hüseyindede Vases were found in 1997, at an early Hittite site called Hüseyindede Tepe, just south of the Turkish town of Yörüklü. Two vases, referred plainly as Vase A, and Vase B, depict dancers, clerics, and possible gods and royalty, engaging in a form of celebration or processional ceremony, as well as a variety of other scenes. Vase B remarkably focuses on the sport of bull leaping, which is a familiar scene from contemporary Minoan finds. These vases date to approximately 1650 BCE.
Do to the nature of quarantine, I have been unable to communicate with the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations effectively, so initial searches on strictly Hittite jewelry in the internet with limited resources is relatively scarce. Opening the query into generic “Anatolian” designs does provide more options within a reasonable timespan to draw influence on. These other civilizations include the Hattians, which existed prior to the Hittites in the same region, as well as Wilusa (The Troad), and other client kingdoms.
Material Culture from other cultures to go by
Because of the nature of lacuna surrounding the Hittite record of material culture, sniffing out additional resources in contemporary civilizations was a must in regard to issues of fabrics, dyestuffs, and gemstones. These cultures include Babylonia, Egypt, and the Ahhiyawa, or Mycenaean Greeks (“Achaians”.) Digging into the Jewish scriptures and Christian Old Testament for additional resources regarding observations by the Hebrews in this time was also helpful.
Understanding common fibers, shapes, colors, and findings
Wool was the primary fiber of this region, and period, and it’s ability to be spun, felted, and dyed allowed for some creativity and malleability for fashion that other fibers, such as linen, do not provide. Linen was an imported luxury good from Egypt, and it underwent additional processing through Cyprus before reaching the Anatolian mainland. Linen is not particularly colorfast in regard to natural dyes, so when color is discussed for garments, it should be understood that it was more than likely wool. Babylonian sources discuss the favored use of red and blue dyes, including having words for madder and woad, which records also indicating inclusion of mordants in orders. (Alum for madder, for example.) As both plants were available in Anatolia, and the Hittites sharing words with Babylonians regarding the dying industry, these colors must have been very popular to the people of Hatti as well as Babylon. Another dye was that of murex sea snail, which is more well-known as the source of Tyrian Purple, or Imperial Purple dyes in the later millennia that became exceptionally popular during the Roman Empire. Ugarit was a large processing center for this coveted purple dye, and documentation of its existence spreads up into the Aegean among the Ahhiyawa.
Garments appear to have been simple, rectangular cuts of various widths and lengths to allow for draping and pleating, as seen in contemporary cultures such as Mycenaean Greece (The Ahhiyawa), Babylon, and Egypt. Comparing Hittite dress with Aegean hypotheses as worked out by Bernice Jones has been helpful as well in this regard. While the women of the Ahhiyawa appear to have been comfortable with deep necklines and exposed breasts, women of Hatti did not. This possibly had to do a great deal with climate of the arid Anatolian highlands, versus modesty. I will be discussing this further in the sections below.
Gemstones were a bit trickier, as I have found little written as far as Hittite aesthetics. Observations are based on extant pieces, Babylonian and Aegean aesthetics, and descriptions in Hebrew scripture. Lapis Lazuli and carnelian were incredibly popular during this period across the Near East from the Aegean Sea to the Persian Gulf, but so was chalcedony, which was mined in the region of Bithynia which borders the Black Sea. Its milky iridescence plays well with gold, as I will demonstrate with my re-creation of a Hattian piece for one of my ensembles. Gold and silver for jewelry was in use, as well as bronze, and possibly copper for the lower classes.
Garments I constructed:
For the initial study, I focused on two complete ensembles. One based on the Hüseyindede vases, and the other on depiction of women from orthostates. They will be referred to as the “dancer” and the “noblewoman” respectively. All garments are constructed from minimal materials and seams, utilizing loom width for maximum efficiency. I attempted to source materials that were naturally dyed, or at least, passable within those palettes. Linen was substituted for wool for cost reasons, as fine, lightweight woolens can be prohibitively expensive, and the natural flax and bleached linens would have been an option, if not a potential luxury. These can always be upgraded in the future when funding becomes available, but for the initial study, my goals were to emulate appearance and shapes, and not letting perfect be the enemy of the good.
“The Dancer from Hüseyindede Vase A”
This tunic style was taken directly from Hüseyindede Vase A, but I supported its use as a potential undergarment through evidence from orthostates. It should be noted that the individuals in the artwork are male. It is possible that women did not wear this, but there is no visible evidence to the contrary, either.
The tunic was constructed from a simple pattern of two rectangles of bleached white linen at 32” wide, one elongated for the back side “tail”. It is joined at the shoulders and sides with openings for the arms and neck. Selvedge edges were used for the neckline to eliminate the need for hemming, and to emulate a potential header band. I curved and hemmed the tail once I was pleased with the fit. The short side hits above my knee, while the tail reaches to the bottom of my calves.
I supported this pleated style from the relief carvings, especially this one, that depicts a queen or nurse carrying a child. The pleats below the child’s tunic are very sharp and visible.
This skirt was taken from studies done on figures found in Mycenaean Greece by Bernice Jones. It is fitted to the body by pleated the excess fabric into a parallel line against the body, and then stitched to fit the hip. To achieve the more slim fit rather than structured, boxy look of the Mycenaean example, I altered Jones’ pattern by gently creased the pleats against the body to give a more knife-pleated appearance, and then stitched them flat against the waistband. Following through with Jones’ additional observations of the Mycenaean skirt, I folded down the waistband, and achieved a good fit. The skirt is more secure if a woven belt is placed under the fold.
Woven belt with ornaments:
The belt was handwoven by myself from madder-dyed wool I procured from an artisan in the UK. Since my looms are designed only for narrow fabrics, I hand-welted lengths of finished band together to achieve a wider band. This also provides a provisional, experimental appearance that could match the textured belts seen in some artwork. The ornaments attached are shorter lengths of woven band, with replica Hittite amulets purchased from a supplier in Turkey. The original artwork does not give any detail in regards to the attached ornaments, so this is an artistic liberty designed to provide a more “Hittite” appearance. These can be easily changed out if more accurate pieces can be determined.
The dress is constructed similarly to the white tailed tunic. It is two lengths of 32” coral-colored linen which I chose to imitate a madder exhaust, with simple seams on the sides and along the shoulders, leaving openings for the neck and arms. As the orthostates show either applied trim, or header bands, I applied wool trim that I wove myself in a basic tabby pattern using a simple thread heddle construction, along the top edges and arm openings. The bottom I manually fringed by extracting weft threads.
This is a simple conical hat constructed from two layers of felted wool, dyed with madder, which I procured from an artisan here in the United States. The color may have been a bad choice, because of the glaring similarity to a modern Turkish fez, but the materials are wholly plausible for the period represented. Two layers are necessary for the hat to retain its shape. It is possible that the ones worn by women during the Hittite era had additional treatments to strengthen them, such as starching, or including additional layers of stiff fabrics, but that appears to be an unknown at this time.
Some carvings show intricate ornamentation on the hats, but it seems to always be represented on a goddess, or a funeral stele. Since there were Hittite beliefs regarding divinity after death being signified by ornaments on the hats of kings, I have decided to skip the idea of ornamentation for now until I find record that it was a regular practice, and not just symbolism of the divine.
The veil is a simple 3-yard rectangle of open weave, very lightweight unbleached, undyed linen, which I pressed thoroughly to remove creases, and hand-extracted threads to create 2” of fringe on all ends. It is difficult to see for sure if these garments had any curved shapings that would have facilitated a better drape and fit overall, so I felt that for the initial study, I would leave it as a simple uncut length of fabric until further information comes to light.
This belt was commissioned by me, and made by Mistress Ellisif in Atlantia, who could weave a wider band. While I am still unsure if the designs we are seeing on the sashes in the reliefs are woven patterns, felted patterns, applied cording, wrapping, or other designs such as my welting experiment. We decided to approach this conservatively with a tabby woven length of pure wool in alternating red and blue stripes that simulate madder and woad. This also provides a strong, visual contrast on the body, which could have been desirable using what few sources we have.
Belts are seen knotted behind the back of the wearer, as seen in this carving of acrobats:
For this project, I created two simple necklaces: One based on a chalcedony and gold Hattian find from Alacahoyuk, and the other is loosely based on the gold eagle and wire necklace currently held at the British Museum. The chalcedony piece is constructed from modern necklace wire for safety, gold plated brass findings, large disk pendants from a supplier in Turkey, and natural chalcedony. The wired necklace is brass wire, brass hollow wire cut into 1” beads, and Hittite/Hattian “sun disks”, also purchased from a supplier in Turkey. While I have not seen evidence of these motifs being used in jewelry, they are considered “visibly Hittite”. I am planning on casting similar eagles eventually when I have the means to do so. The bracelet in my photos is my medical alert bracelet, just pretend it’s not there.
Additional Props in my photos:
The mirror is constructed of true bronze, and is a historic replica created by Sally Pointer in the United Kingdom, and is part of my personal collection for later Greek and Roman impressions. In this case, it is simply used as a prop to imitate carvings.
There are very little images of shoes other than upturned and pointed toes, with limited visible decoration. These are described as “Hattian shoes”. For my photoshoot, I am wearing a simple pair of Turkish yemeni from my personal collection used for Byzantine impressions.
Following trends in other parts of the Ancient Near East, I applied modern, hygienic cosmetics to appear like heavy kohl eyeliner, malachite eyeshadow, and red ocher blush and lip color. At the time the photos below were taken, I had my summer tan which obscured the blush. Maybe I’ll do less contouring next time. 😉
I have just started to scratch the surface with Hittite dress, and I know that my work in this area of study is far from over. I do hope that the early observations I’ve been able to construct are helpful to some, and can assist in furthering the study in Bronze Age Anatolian dress. I look forward into moving into the next stage of this project, which includes purple-dyed wool/linen blend for a royalty impression to add to this collection, and additional jewelry, and embellishment included bezants, or metal ornaments attached to garments. I am excited about this new avenue in my career as a dress historian, and hope that this path continues to become beneficial.
Observations after wearing:
Tail Tunic: Should be shorter in the front. More party, less business. In comparison to the processional women on Vase A, I think that the women are wearing a more full tunic that brings the armholes closer to the wrist.
Pleated Skirt: Unsure if the rolling-down method works for the waistband with linen because of the fiber’s natural tendency to stretch. On my next wearing, I will tie the belt over it rolled up, and see if I can get a better fit.
Tunic Dress: Looks correct.
Hat: Absolutely needs stiffening of some sort. I may disassemble it and insert reeds for stability.
Veil: Too long on the sides for walking comfortably. It does look like it was drawn up more onto the women’s bodies or maybe pinned and tucked into the belt from some views, which may also help for future wearings.
Photos from intial wearing of Vase A Dancer during Trimaris Royal University Online:
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Bryce, Trevor. Warriors of Anatolia: a Concise History of the Hittites. London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, 2019.
Casselman, Karen Diadick, and Takako Terada. “The Politics of Purple: Dyes from Shellfish and Lichens.” The Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium, September 19, 2012, 1–11.
Jones, Bernice R. Ariadne’s Threads: the Construction and Significance of Clothes in the Aegean Bronze Age. Leuven – Liège: Peeters, 2015.
Michel Cécile, Marie-Louise Nosch, and Matteo Vigo. “Linen in Hittite Inventory Texts.” Essay. In Textile Terminologies: in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean from the Third to the First Millennia BC, 290–322. Oxford: Oxbow, 2010.
Michel Cécile, Marie-Louise Nosch, Mary Harlow, Guilia Baccelli, Benedetta Bellucci, and Matteo Vigo. “Elements for a Comparative Study of Textile Production and Use in Hittite Anatolia and Neighboring Areas.” Essay. In Prehistoric, Ancient Near Eastern & Aegean Textiles and Dress, 97–142. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2014.
Pozza, Marianna. “Traces of ‘Weaving’ in Hittite: A Brief Overview.” Athens Journal of Philology 3, no. 4 (2016): 227–38. https://doi.org/10.30958/ajp.3.4.2.
Sare-Agturk, Tuna. “Arakhne’s Loom: Luxurious Textile Production in Ancient Western Anatolia.” Mersin University Publications of the Research Center of Cilician Archaeology, 2014, 251–80.
Turgut, Murgat. “Dress and Culture in the Hittite Empire and During the Late Hittite Period According Toe Rock Reliefs.” Academia.edu. Accessed November 17, 2019. https://www.academia.edu/35266654/DRESS_AND_CULTURE_IN_THE_HITTITE_EMPIRE_AND_DURING_THE_LATE_HITTITE_PERIOD_ACCORDING_TO_ROCK_RELIEFS.
Turkilsen , Debbie. “The Lives of Hittite Women in the Late Bronze Age.” Academia.edu, 2014. https://www.academia.edu/5803405/The_Lives_of_Hittite_Women_in_the_Late_Bronze_Age.
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