Yassıhöyük Village: Where and when did the villagers come from?

February 10, 2015

Vew of the Sakarya river that flows west of ancient Gordion, and continues to give life to the villagers

About 100 years ago the earliest known inhabitants of the Yassıhöyük village arrived there from different regions of Anatolia, and settled near the banks of the Sakarya river that flowed through the ancient settlement of Gordion.

Iron tipped wooden plough used until 1960s for manual agriculture

The early subsistence base was animal husbandry supplemented by farming cereals with horse and iron-tipped wooden plough, a threshing board with flint, pulled by oxen, to separate grain from straw (as known from the Neolithic era), on an average of one hectare of land (2.5 acres). This simple technology lasted until 1950s.

Herds taken through harvested fields in early morning

Starting in 1920s the the early settlers moved away from the river, to higher ground toward the ancient settlement, to escape the malaria epidemic. They were joined by immigrants, as far away as Romania, Bulgaria and Bosnia, who were settled in the region.

In time, itinerant shepherds from the mountainous northern region of the Bolu province migrated in winter months to graze their sheep and goats on the wide open steppeland.

shepherd with felt coat
Several varieties of Angora goats
Several varieties of Angora goats
Several varieties of Angora goats
Herds taken through harvested fields in early morning

With abundant rain and snow, the vast open land provided grazing for large herds, among them the Angora goat (tiftik keçisi), that was favored for its milk and its mohair wool.

The itinerant shepherds spent 6 months with their large, not-so-friendly-to-strangers sheep dogs of Kangal breed that wear iron spiked collars to protect the flock from wolf packs.

Sheep dogs for a large flock

Up until 70 years ago the sheep and goat population was 250,000 in YH and in the region of eastern Sakarya river valley. An important product of the animals was the dung cakes used for fuel. A major decline in caprine population the last 15 years was reversed, due to government subsidies extended to shepherds to encourage production of milk and wool.

Cow dung cakes drying in the sun for use as fuel
After drying, it is piled up in a shed in courtyard

Today, many of the “itinerant” shepherds have become landed farmers, practicing mixed agriculture and animal husbandry. Those who are not landowners keep exclusively sheep and goats.