Karum (trade post)

Last updated
Central Anatolia during the karum period KarumKanis.svg
Central Anatolia during the karum period

Karum (Akkadian: kārum "quay, port, commercial district", plural kārū, from Sumerian kar "fortification (of a harbor), break-water" [1] [2] [3] ) is the name given to ancient Old Assyrian period trade posts [4] in Anatolia (modern Turkey) from the 20th to 18th centuries BC. The main centre of karum trading was at the ancient town of Kanesh.



Letter from Assyria to karum Kanesh concerning the trade in precious metals. 1850-1700 BC. Walters Museum (click on image for more info) Itur-ili - Business Letter - Walters 481462 - View A.jpg
Letter from Assyria to karum Kanesh concerning the trade in precious metals. 1850–1700 BC. Walters Museum (click on image for more info)

Early references to karu come from the Ebla tablets; in particular, a vizier known as Ebrium concluded the earliest treaty fully known to archaeology, known variously as the "Treaty between Ebla and Aššur" or the "Treaty with Abarsal" (scholars have disputed whether the text refers to Aššur or to Abarsal, an unknown location). In either case, the other city contracted to establish karu in Eblaite territory (Syria), among other things. “The word derives from the mercantile quarter of Mesopotamian cities, which were usually just beyond the city walls, at a convenient landing place by the main waterway.” [5]

Sargon the Great (of Akkadia) who likely destroyed Ebla soon afterward, is said in a much-later Hittite account to have invaded Anatolia to punish Nurdaggal, the king of Purushanda (in Anatolia), for mistreating the Akkadian and Assyrian merchant class in the karu there. However, no contemporary source mentions that to be the case.

During the 2nd millennium BC, Anatolia was under the sovereignty of Hatti city-states and later the Hittites. By 1960 BC, Assyrian merchants had established the karu, [6] small colonial settlements next to Anatolian cities, which paid taxes to the rulers of the cities. [7] There were also smaller trade stations which were called mabartū (singular mabartum). The number of karu and mabartu was probably around 20. Among them were Kültepe (Kanesh in antiquity) in modern Kayseri Province; Alişar Hüyük (Ankuva (?) in antiquity) in modern Yozgat Province; and Boğazköy (Hattusa in antiquity) in modern Çorum Province. (However, Alişar Hüyük was probably a mabartum.) However, after the establishment of the Hittite Empire, the karu disappeared from Anatolian history.


Trade patterns of karu Karum Trade Patterns.png
Trade patterns of karu

In the 2nd millennium BC money was not yet in use, and Assyrian merchants used gold for wholesale trade and silver for retail trade. Gold was considered eight times more valuable than silver. However, another metal, amutum, was even more valuable than gold. It is thought to be the newly-discovered iron and was forty times more valuable than silver.

The most important Anatolian export was copper, and the Assyrian merchants sold tin and clothing to Anatolia. [8]


The name Karum is given to an upscale shopping mall in Çankaya district of modern-day Ankara, Turkey. It is a reference to the presence of karu in Asia Minor since the very early days of history. [9] Another mall in Ankara's Bilkent district is given the name Ankuva. That is also a reference to archaeological discoveries of various karu in Central Anatolia.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anatolia</span> Peninsula in Western Asia

Anatolia, historically known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and is the western-most extension of continental Asia. The land mass of Anatolia constitutes most of the territory of contemporary Turkey. Geographically, the Anatolian region is bounded by the Turkish Straits to the north-west, the Black Sea to the north, the Armenian Highlands to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Aegean Sea to the west. Topographically, the Sea of Marmara connects the Black Sea with the Aegean Sea through the Bosporus strait and the Dardanelles strait, and separates Anatolia from Thrace in the Balkan peninsula of Southeastern Europe.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hittites</span> Ancient Anatolian people and their empire

The Hittites were an Anatolian people who played an important role in establishing first a kingdom in Kussara, then the Kanesh or Nesha kingdom, and next an empire centered on Hattusa in north-central Anatolia. This empire reached its height during the mid-14th century BC under Šuppiluliuma I, when it encompassed an area that included most of Anatolia as well as parts of the northern Levant and Upper Mesopotamia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kültepe</span> Human settlement

Kültepe, also known as Kanesh or Nesha, is an archaeological site in Kayseri Province, Turkey, inhabited from the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC, in the Early Bronze Age. The nearest modern city to Kültepe is Kayseri, about 20km southwest. It consists of a tell, the actual Kültepe, and a lower town, where an Assyrian settlement was found. Its ancient names are recorded in Assyrian and Hittite sources. In Old Assyrian inscriptions from the 20th and the 19th century BC, the city was mentioned as Kaneš (Kanesh); in later Hittite inscriptions, the city was mentioned as Neša, or occasionally as Aniša (Anisha). In 2014, the archaeological site was inscribed in the Tentative list of World Heritage Sites in Turkey. It is the place where the earliest record of a definitively Indo-European language has been found, Hittite, dated to the 20th century BC.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hattians</span> Ancient people of central Anatolia

The Hattians were an ancient Bronze Age people that inhabited the land of Hatti, in central Anatolia. They spoke a distinctive Hattian language, which was neither Semitic nor Indo-European. Hattians are attested by archeological records from the Early Bronze Age and by historical references in later Hittite and other sources. Their main centre was the city of Hattush. Faced with Hittite expansion, Hattians were gradually absorbed into the new political and social order, imposed by the Hittites, who were one of the Indo-European-speaking Anatolian peoples. The Hittites kept the country name unchanged, which also became the main designation for the Hittite state.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Assur</span> Archaeological site in Iraq

Aššur (; Sumerian: 𒀭𒊹𒆠 AN.ŠAR2KI, Assyrian cuneiform: Aš-šurKI, "City of God Aššur"; Syriac: ܐܫܘܪ Āšūr; Old Persian 𐎠𐎰𐎢𐎼Aθur, Persian: آشور: Āšūr; Hebrew: אַשּׁוּר, ʾAššūr, Arabic: اشور), also known as Ashur and Qal'at Sherqat, was the capital of the Old Assyrian city-state (2025–1364 BC), the Middle Assyrian Empire (1363–912 BC), and for a time, of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–609 BC). The remains of the city lie on the western bank of the Tigris River, north of the confluence with its tributary, the Little Zab, in what is now Iraq, more precisely in the al-Shirqat District of the Saladin Governorate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anatolian peoples</span> Indo-European ethnolinguistic group

The Anatolians were Indo-European-speaking peoples of the Anatolian Peninsula in present-day Turkey, identified by their use of the Anatolian languages. These peoples were among the oldest Indo-European ethnolinguistic groups and one of the most archaic, because Anatolians were among the first Indo-European peoples to separate from the Proto-Indo-European community that gave origin to the individual Indo-European peoples.

Alişar is a village in the district of Sorgun, Yozgat Province, Turkey. Near the village is the archaeological site of Alişar Hüyük.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kussara</span> Bronze Age kingdom in Anatolia

Kussara (Kuššar) was a Middle Bronze Age kingdom in Anatolia. The kingdom, though apparently important at one time, is mostly remembered today as the origin of the dynasty that would form the Old Hittite Kingdom.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alişar Hüyük</span> Place

Alishar Hüyük was an ancient Near Eastern city. It is near the modern village of Alişar, Sorgun.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Museum of Anatolian Civilizations</span> Museum in Ankara, Turkey

The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is located on the south side of Ankara Castle in the Atpazarı area in Ankara, Turkey. It consists of the old Ottoman Mahmut Paşa bazaar storage building, and the Kurşunlu Han. Because of Atatürk's desire to establish a Hittite museum, the buildings were bought upon the suggestion of Hamit Zübeyir Koşay, who was then Culture Minister, to the National Education Minister, Saffet Arıkan. After the remodelling and repairs were completed (1938–1968), the building was opened to the public as the Ankara Archaeological Museum.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Mesopotamia</span>

The history of Mesopotamia ranges from the earliest human occupation in the Paleolithic period up to Late antiquity. This history is pieced together from evidence retrieved from archaeological excavations and, after the introduction of writing in the late 4th millennium BC, an increasing amount of historical sources. While in the Paleolithic and early Neolithic periods only parts of Upper Mesopotamia were occupied, the southern alluvium was settled during the late Neolithic period. Mesopotamia has been home to many of the oldest major civilizations, entering history from the Early Bronze Age, for which reason it is often called a cradle of civilization.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Erishum I</span> Išši’ak Aššur

Erishum I or Erišu(m) Ic. 1974–1935 BC, son of Ilu-shuma, was the thirty-third ruler of Assyria to appear on the Assyrian King List. He reigned for forty years. One of two copies of the Assyrian King List which include him gives his reign length as only 30 years, but this contrasts with a complete list of his limmu, some 40, which are extant from tablets recovered at Karum Kanesh. He had titled himself both as, "Ashur is king, Erishum is vice-regent" and the, “Išši’ak Aššur”ki, at a time when Assur was controlled by an oligarchy of the patriarchs of the prominent families and subject to the “judgment of the city”, or dīn alim. According to Veenhof, Erishum I’s reign marks the period when the institution of the annually appointed limmu (eponym) was introduced. The Assyrian King List observes of his immediate predecessors, “in all six kings known from bricks, whose limmu have not been marked/found”.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Luwians</span> Group of Anatolian peoples

The Luwians were a group of Anatolian peoples who lived in central, western, and southern Anatolia, in present-day Turkey, during the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. They spoke the Luwian language, an Indo-European language of the Anatolian sub-family, which was written in cuneiform imported from Mesopotamia, and a unique native hieroglyphic script, which was sometimes used by the linguistically-related Hittites as well.

The Old Assyrian period was the second stage of Assyrian history, covering the history of the city of Assur from its rise as an independent city-state under Puzur-Ashur I c. 2025 BC to the foundation of a larger Assyrian territorial state after the accession of Ashur-uballit I c. 1363 BC, which marks the beginning of the succeeding Middle Assyrian period. The Old Assyrian period is marked by the earliest known evidence of the development of a distinct Assyrian culture and was a geopolitically turbulent time when Assur several times fell under the control or suzerainty of foreign kingdoms and empires. The period is also marked with the emergence of a distinct Assyrian dialect of the Akkadian language, a native Assyrian calendar and Assur for a time becoming a prominent site for international trade.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Naram-Sin of Assyria</span>

Naram-Sin, or Narām-Sîn or –Suen, inscribed in cuneiform on contemporary seal impressions as dna-ra-am-dEN.ZU, had been the "waklum" or "Išši’ak Aššur" of the city-state Assur, listed as the 37th king of Assyria on the later Assyrian King Lists, where he is inscribed mna-ram-dEN.ZU, or a fragmentary list where he appears as -d30. He was named for the illustrious Naram-Sin of Akkad and took the divine determinative in his name Naram-Sin should not be confused with the Naram-Sin who had ruled Eshnunna for around twelve years It is probable that Naram-Sin of Assur was, however, contemporaneous with the earlier part of Ebiq-Adad II’s reign Naram-Sin of Assyria was the son and successor of the short-reigning Puzur-Ashur II, filiation preserved in his seal impression on the envelopes of the waklum-letters to his expat Anatolian-based traders at the karum Kanesh and in the later Assyrian King Lists.

Purushanda was an Anatolian kingdom of the early second millennium prior to the common era. It was conquered by the Hittites sometime between 1650–1556 BCE.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Prehistory of Anatolia</span> Prehistorical period in Western Asia

The prehistory of Anatolia stretches from the Paleolithic era through to the appearance of classical civilisation in the middle of the 1st millennium BC. It is generally regarded as being divided into three ages reflecting the dominant materials used for the making of domestic implements and weapons: Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. The term Copper Age (Chalcolithic) is used to denote the period straddling the stone and Bronze Ages.

Tegarama was a city in Anatolia during the Bronze Age. It is often identified with Gürün and biblical Togarmah.

Urshu, Warsuwa or Urshum was a Hurrian-Amorite city-state in southern Turkey, probably located on the west bank of the Euphrates, and north of Carchemish.

Anna was the main deity of Kanesh, an Anatolian city which in the Old Assyrian period served as an Assyrian trading colony. Multiple possibilities regarding her origin have been considered by researchers. A temple, festivals and clergy dedicated to her are attested in texts from her city, and in contracts she appears alongside the Assyrian god Ashur. At some point her position declined, and an unidentified weather god became the main local deity instead. It is nonetheless assumed that she continued to be worshiped later on by Hittites and Luwians. It has also been proposed that a deity from Emar can be identified with her, though not all researchers share this view.


  1. Rubio, Gonzalo (2 February 2005). "Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.02.02". Bryn Mawr Classical Review. Bryn Mawr College. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  2. Eilers, W. (15 December 1988). "Bandar ("Harbor")". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Ehsan Yarshater. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  3. Jagersma, Bram (2007). "Review of: Sumerian grammar / by Dietz Otto Edzard". Zeitschrift für Assyriologie. Leiden, Netherlands. 97: 142–147. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  4. "Karum | Hittite trading post". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  5. Leick, Gwendolyn. Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. United Kingdom, p. 121. Scarecrow Press, 2003.
  6. Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi, Ankara, ISBN   975-7523-00-3
  7. Seton Lloyd: Ancient Turkey (Translation: Ender Verinlioğlu) Tubitak, Ankara, 1998, ISBN   978-975-403-084-6 p. 18–19
  8. Ekrem Akurgal: Anadolu Kültür Tarihi, Tubitak, Ankara, 2000, ISBN   975-403-107-X p. 40–41
  9. "About us". Nurol İşletme Ve Gayrımenkul A.Ş.