Sapinuwa Ancient City and İncesu Canyon
/ By Josh
Just outside of the sleepy little town of Ortaköy are a pair of sights well worth a visit if you’re passing through on the way to Çorum’s main sights of Hattusha or Alacahöyük. Between the beautiful landscape of İncesu Canyon and the ancient history of the Hittite ruins of Sapinuwa there’s good reason for the historian and the nature lover to want to stop in at Ortaköy.
Şapinuva Antik Kenti
Before the Hittites had established themselves as a major empire in Anatolia and the ancient Near East, before the establishment of their great city of Hattusha, they ruled from the city of Sapinuva (also called Shapinuwa or Shapinuva). The city was large and well fortified and continued as a religious centre even after the capital was moved to Hattusha. Strong though it may have been, it was abandoned following a fire that decimated the city in the 14th century BC.
Jewelry, weapons, pottery, and thousands of clay tablets were discovered here, many of which can be seen at the Çorum Museum. The tablets, which number in the thousands, have been a treasure trove of information both for understanding the Hittites and their neighbors as well as for solving the Hittite language itself. Numerous multilingual tablets and linguistic tablets were found in a number of the most important languages and writing systems of the Bronze Age.
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While excavations have revealed a wealth of information for archaeologists and historians about the hittites and the region in general, there is very little for the average tourist to see. While excavations are ongoing all over the ancient city (carried out by the local Hitit University of Çorum), the main section open to visitors, centres on the largest structure found to date. The building is simply called “Building A” and is a 2500 square metre construction that likely rose 3 storeys high. The foundations are built of massive sandstone and limestone blocks, interlinking at odd angles. Unfortunately, the stone is weathering poorly since being excavated.
Cutting through the mountains that separate Çorum and Yozgat provinces the Çekerek River has formed a beautiful ravine, attracting visitors both modern and ancient.
While there’s very little left of the old Phrygian fortifications and wood construction at İncesu Canyon, it’s clear that they considered this deep, twelve kilometre-long canyon to be an important site. They carved cisterns and tunnels among the cliffs and a nearly life size relief of the goddess Cybele (Kybela), seated on her throne with her telltale lion sitting next to her. The cult of Cybele spread out from ancient Anatolia where she was known as the “Mountain Mother goddess” and into the cultures of Greece and Rome.
Today, visitors come less for the history and more for the natural beauty of the high cliffs, the slow running water, and the soaring birds overhead. Hawks, frogs, fresh water crabs, and birds of all types are plentiful. Perhaps best of all is that the only sound is that of the animals, the wind, and the babbling water.
There are a couple dozen picnic tables at the trailhead at the mouth of İncesu Canyon, and another five further down the trail along the riverbank.
How To Get There
Signage to Sapinuwa from the centre of Ortaköy is quite good and it’s only a couple of kilometres away.
To get to İncesu from Ortaköy, head east on the Celal Bayar road for 3 kilometres. At this point you’ll see a sign for İncesu directing you to your right. Follow this road into the little town of İncesu till you get to the river where you’ll see the entrance to the park.
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From the town of Ortaköy there are taxi options to get to İncesu and to Sapinuwa. İncesu is about 8kms away, and Sapinuwa is only around 2.5 kms away. Make sure to arrange a ride back or get the taxi driver’s number before he leaves.
Where To Stay
As there are no hotels of any sort in the town of Ortaköy you’ll have to spend the night elsewhere in Alaca (where there is very little accommodation options) or in the Çorum city centre which has lots of options but few sights of its own.
The town of Boğazkale (home of Hattusha) is quite a long distance away (approximately 90 kms) but, as you may be going there anyways, you’ll find a decent selection of nice little hotels.
Planning on visiting Ortaköy? Make sure to check out what other sights are in the region!
Have any tips or info to add? Spot any mistakes? We’d love to hear about it.