During the first centuries of the 2nd millennium BC, Assyrian merchants originating from Assur (Upper Tigris) organised large-scale commercial exchanges with central Anatolia, settling in several fortified towns on the main roads called kārums, and smaller trading posts called wabartums. Large settlements show an organisation around a huge palace and several temples built on top of the mound, with a lower terrace, where occupation areas are made up of two-storey houses constructed with wood and mudbricks over stone foundations (Michel 2011).
Sociopolitical and economic changes are seen with the new material culture—open wheel-made vessels with coloured geometric decorations—with figurative art (zoomorphological rhyta, lead and ivory figurines), buried bodies under the floors of the houses together with artefacts, all pointing to Assyrian burial customs. The seal industry is the best example of Old Assyrian influence, with Old Anatolian iconography combining elements and filling empty spaces with animal figures. Treaties are documented (ca. 2000–1800 BC) between Assyrian kings and local Anatolian rulers (Michel 2011).
Old Assyrian was used as diplomatic language (with Hittite loanwords since ca. 19th c. BC), and writing continued the Assyrian cuneiform tradition without changes. In family law, husband and wife enjoyed equal status, and they owned house and goods in common. Both could divorce, and contracts were established under the supervision of the local ruler and his second–in–command. Adoption is also attested, with the possibility of adopted individuals to inherit (Michel 2011).
The first generations of Assyrians who came to Anatolia was made up of men who left their families in Assur, temporarily at the beginning, but eventually contracting a second marriage, often with an Anatolian woman, who stayed in Anatolia as ‘secondary wife’ and brought up their children, taking care of the household, and doing agricultural tasks while their husbands were travelling and trading. When some Assyrians went to retire in Assur, they left their Anatolian wives and drew up a divorce contract, with women keeping usually the house, furniture, and some divorce money, as well as their younger children, with the father paying for their upbringing—although he could also decide to take some of his Anatolian children to Assur (Michel 2011).
Precise archaeological studies do not parallel written accounts, which remain the best source for knowledge of Anatolia during the Bronze and Iron Ages. In the west, the Arzawa territories are assumed to correspond to earlier Luwiya, and refers strictly to the five states or kingdoms constituting the Arzawa Lands: Mira, Šeḫa River Land, Wiluša, and Ḫapalla. It is unclear to what extent these territories formed a social, ethnic, or political unity in the different periods (Bryce 2011).
The eventual presence of Luwian hieroglyphs, the eventual dominance of Mira over western Anatolia, and the succeeding Luwic and Carian groups in the region suggest that at least part of western Anatolia was mainly Luwic-speaking territory in the first half of the 2nd millennium BC. During the mid–2nd millennium, the appearance of Mycenaean settlements—evidenced by fortifications, pottery, domestic architecture, burial practices—suggests that the Hittite form Aḫḫiyawa corresponds to the Greek name Achaiwia, Achaean, supporting the close Greek–Anatolian contacts during this period.
The beginning of the Hittite kingdom followed the collapse of the kārum period network of Assyrian trade colonies, caused by the struggle of various groups, and eventually the emergence ca. 1650–1600 BC of the Ḫatti kingdom based on Ḫattuša and the area within the Maraššantiya/Kızıl Irmak River. To consolidate their rule, Hittite kings followed an active settlement policy to fund new provincial centres in the semi-arid highlands of Anatolia, bordered by the Pontic Mountains in the north, and the Taurus Mountains to the south, but also including Cilicia in south-eastern Anatolia, and the Upper Euphrates region (Seeher 2011).
Around 1350 BC, during the reign of Tudḫaliya III, enemy attacks from everywhere led to heavy losses of territory and power, and the conflagration of the capital. The recovery of the state was accompanied by the massive development of Hittite rule in the Hittite Empire, evidenced in widespread city growth and monumental architecture, such as the creation of rock reliefs. The collapse of the empire at the end of the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1200/1180 BC) is accompanied by destruction of Empire period sites, with some Early Iron Age sites yielding a pronounced non-Hittite material culture, possibly settlers who took advantage of the deserted landscapes.
Anatolia EBA individuals from Ovaören (ca. 2300–2000 BC), one of hg. J2a-M410, and later Assyrian and Old Hittite individuals from the MLBA in Kalehöyuk show continuity with Chalcolithic samples, with no statistically significant EHG-related ancestry that could be compatible with a sizeable impact of steppe migrations (de Barros Damgaard, Martiniano, et al. 2018). Nevertheless, there seems to be a significant Steppe-related contribution in Anatolia MLBA samples from Kalehöyuk compared to EBA individuals from the southern Ovaören site, which is compatible with the presence of Anatolian speakers contrasting with a neighbouring non-Indo-European population.
Samples from Kalehöyük include individuals from the Assyrian period (ca. 2000–1750 BC), contemporary with the international trade system managed by expatriate Assyrian merchants, one of hg. G2a2b1-M406, mtDNA H6a1b2e, and another of hg. J2a1-L26; and two of the Old Hittite period (ca. 1750–1500 BC), contemporary with the emergence of the Hittite state, one of hg. J2a1-L26. Interestingly, the mtDNA found in one Assyrian sample is of European origin (found also in the steppe), not yet found in any ancient sample of the Near East. This genetic picture is consistent with the description of the Assyrian colony period as one of admixture of Assyrian male settlers with local women, in this case probably Anatolian speakers, who raised their children locally, and the Hittite period representing the emergence of local rulers (of Assyrian patrilineal descent) who spoke the maternal language.
The prevalent presence of non-Indo-European languages of the area, including Hattic, possibly part of the North-West Caucasian group, and Hurrian, part of the Hurro-Urartian family that may have also been related to languages of the Caucasus (see §vi.4. Northern Caucasians), is consistent with the appearance of haplogroups G2a-P15 and J2a-M410, both related to migrations through the Fertile Crescent and the Caucasus, and not linked to Indo-Europeans migrating from the steppe.