Continuity vs. Collapse? Some Thoughts on Central Anatolia After the Fall of the Hittite Empire

Lorenzo d'Alfonso, University of Pavia

The fall of the Hittite Empire can be regarded as an extraordinary case study in the collapse of Empires. A territorial state, which came to dominate all of Anatolia and Northern Syria for over 400 hundred years, suddenly disappeared, totally forgotten in later historical records. Until the late '80s archaeologists and historians provided different interpretations of the Empire’s sudden collapse: some put the blame on external causes (such as migration, war, or climate change), others on internal causes (such as social conflicts or dynastic power struggles). However, since the late 1980s, with the discovery of new evidence from the south-eastern Anatolia, it has become clear that some ‘Hittite’ or Luwian royal dynasties continued to exist from the end of the Bronze Age into the Iron Age, necessitating our view on the collapse and continuation of the Empire to be changed considerably. Hence, 1.) The continuity between the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age in Central Anatolia has been better appreciated and 2.) The fall of the Empire is now understood to have been a slow process of decadence rather than a real collapse.

This paper will present recent archaeological and epigraphic finds from Central Anatolia, and discuss the alleged antinomy “continuity vs. collapse” by considering:

a. the main features of the different EIA ceramic zones in Central and Southern (Cappadocia) Anatolia.
b. the new results of the Pavia University Survey of settlement patterns and ceramic production in Southern Cappadocia.
c. the study of the Luwian Hieroglyphic ANDAVAL inscription as a recourse to a new understanding of the formation of political units after the collapse of the Hittite Empire.

The analysis of these aspects will set the basis for a new paradigm for the formation of the Iron Age states in Central Anatolia, between the Syro-Levantine “ethnic state” and the Ionian archaic polis.

Please note that audio recording and photography of any kind is not permitted at ISAW activities without prior consent. Requests can be emailed a week or more in advance to

To RSVP, please email