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About Avanos, Cappadocia



According to the Hittite and Phrygian mythologists, Cappadocia is a plateau made by the volcanic gods and shaped by the tender and magic hands of rain and wind gods ; and Avanos is fairy tale designed as gift for us by nature; the most beautiful specimen of the coming together of geography and history. As the geographic incidents created the famous "fairy chimneys", throughout history men have carved their dwellings and churches in these fairy chimneys and have decorated them with magnificent frescoes.

Avanos and KızılırmakTo save this cultural treasure, to prevent it from being captured by others (which in the end he was unable to prevent), Thales of Miletos helped the Lydian king to transport his army across the Halys (Kızılırmak), against the Median invasion and it was here that he made his first scientific calculations.

During the thousands of years during which human communities have survived through hunting and gathering, due to the vital importance of water, they have preferred sites near rivers for settlement. Halys too, served men in this capacity silently and loyally, as the findings of the archeologist Kemal Talih Turkmen corroborate.

Suspension bridgeThe known history of Avanos goes back to early bronze age. We owe our knowledge of this period to the Topaklı Höyük excavations. The excavations initiated by the Italian archeologists in 1967, have revealed a continuous settlement history from the early bronze age to the Byzantium, made up of 24 architectural layers.

J.C. Cardin and P Carelli, in the context of their investigations on the nature of the highways connecting the Assyrian commercial colonies in Cappadocia during the early 19th century BC, have determined that the boundaries of the Assyrian commercial venture reached Incesu, Aksaray, Konya, Bor, Niğde and Ereğli districts and that Nenessa and Washania are within the scope of this area. Tablets found in Kültepe-Kaneş and belonging to the Assyrian period mention that two Assyrian merchants, during the four days journey that took them from Kaneş to Buruşatum (Acemhöyük) they had to pass through Nenessa and Ullama. The linguist Emile Forrer, during his researches on the royal Hittite archives in Boğazköy, was able to decipher the name of the town ZU-WINASA. According to the researches of M. Coindoz and M. Thierry, Zu-Winasa was transformed first into Venessa and then Avanos.

General viewAvanos, which was first titled as Venessa and then Vanate, is mentioned in Ottoman texts with such names as "Enes", "Üvenez" and "Evenez".

The Phrygians of Thracian origin who have become the subject matter of the Homeric epics as they overran Troy, destroyed the Hittite Empire also and established their own rule in the territory.

After being ruled over by the Hittites and Phrygians, the district was invaded first by Cimmerians and then the Scythians. Following 700 B.C. it ruled, in close succession by the Lydian, Median and the Persian empires.

Old housesAccording to our earliest historical records, Venessa was founded in BC. 332, by Eumenes, a lieutenant of Alexander the Great, though we don't know the exact spot of the foundation. At AD 17 it was transformed into a province. According to the geographer and historian Strabon (58 B.C. - 25 A.D.) Venessa strikes one as a very rich and developed city. It had been the center of the Zeus cult whose priests were as influential as the kings and besides owning great tracts of land wielded immense labour power in the form of the number of slaves they owned.

The most interesting information we have of Venessa comes from priestly documents. The city was very developed and wealthy, with a splendid cemetery, gorgeous, orchards and vineyards famous for the quality of the wine obtained from them. The letter of Gregorius of Nyssa is the only document we have; describing Venessa as it was during antiquity: "The famous Helicon, the Isles of Happiness, all pale to insignificance besides St. Vanate" says Gregorius of Nyssa.

Christianity entered the district during the Byzantine period and it was then that the first frescoed churches were built. During the Middle Ages (10th - 11th centuries) Göreme (Maccan) was a town subordinate to Venessa and it grew as Venessa grew.

It was the provocative landscape of Cappadocia that was the most important factor in fostering mystic thoughts in men. Though it strikes one as hostile and difficult to inhabit at first sight, because of the easy access it lends to the underground caverns which might serve as shelter for men and goods during periods of danger, people have developed passionate attachments to the country.

A period of confusion followed the reign of Basileus II. (963-1025). The tax burden levied both by central state and the local aristocracy increased which fed into the discontent of the Anatolian -and hence Cappadocian- agricultural population.

During the Seljuk period, the number of residences in Avanos had whittled down to 4 or 5. CAVUŞ, who had been sent to protect Saruhan, which was a very busy thoroughfare on the Istanbul Baghdad route, had built a small mosque on the northern shore of Halys. The mosque attracted the people from neighboring country and villages, who built their houses around this mosque. Due to the strict state control on agriculture and commerce, during the first centuries of the Ottoman rule, the trade in pottery in Avanos stagnated and the town resembled a dismal village.

By 1750 there were 56 residences in Avanos. During the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II, Kurena Arif Bey of Avanos who was a courtier, worked hard towards the revitalization of the town. During the second half of the 19th century some development is indeed visible. During this period houses were built which had reliefs on the facade and glorious decorations in the interiors. One such specimen dated form 1872 still remains in its full beauty. The city had already started prospering as of late 17th century as a center for carpet-weaving. And since then Avanos has remained as one of the leading carpet exporting centers. The district is rich in the number of historical sites it contains - underground cities, stone roofs and the Çeç tumulus. With its Seljuk- Ottoman buildings, its carved churches and developed hotel facilities, it is one of the most important touristic centers of the region.