Archaeologists Unearth Large Human Sculpture In Southeast Turkey
April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
At the Tayinat Archaeological Project (TAP) excavation site in Turkey, archaeologists have unearthed two new and exciting sculptures. One is a large, semi-circular column base, ornately decorated on one side and the other is a beautiful and colossal human sculpture. These cultural treasures are both from a monumental gate complex that provided access to the upper citadel of Kunulua, capital of the Neo-Hittite Kingdom of Patina that existed from approximately 1000 – 738 BC.
“These newly discovered Ta’yinat sculptures are the product of a vibrant local Neo-Hittite sculptural tradition,” said Professor Tim Harrison, the Ta’yinat Project director and professor of Near Eastern Archaeology in the University of Toronto’s Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. “They provide a vivid glimpse into the innovative character and sophistication of the Iron Age cultures that emerged in the eastern Mediterranean following the collapse of the great imperial powers of the Bronze Age at the end of the second millennium BC.”
The human sculpture is the head and torso, intact to just above its waist, which stands approximately 1.5 meters in height, suggesting that when it was whole, the sculpture’s total body length measured 3.5 to 4 meters. His inlaid white and black stone eyes are set off by a bearded face and elaborate hair curls aligned in linear rows. Both arms are extended forward, bent at the elbow, and each has two arm bands decorated with lion heads. The figure holds a spear in his right hand and a shaft of wheat in his left. The figure has a crescent-shaped pectoral on his chest. Across his back, in raised relief carving, is a Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription that records the campaigns and accomplishments of Suppiluluma, who was a king of the Hittites between 1344 – 1322 BC.
Hieroglyphic Luwian, or Anatolia hieroglyphic, is a pictographic writing system used in Anatolia (the majority of modern day Turkey) and Syria between 14th and 7th century BC. For the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age, it was employed especially for stone inscriptions and monuments.
The second sculpture, the large column base, is approximately one meter high and 90 centimeters in diameter. It was found lying next to the human figure on its side. The right side of the column is flat and unadorned, suggesting it rested against a wall, while the left side has a winged bull flanked by a sphinx.
“The two pieces appear to have been ritually buried in the paved stone surface of the central passageway through the Ta’yinat gate complex,” said Harrison. The gate complex would have provided a monumental ceremonial approach to the upper citadel of the royal city. Ta’yinat today is a low lying mound approximately 35 kilometers east of Antakya, or ancient Antioch. The site was a major urban center two separate times, in the Early Bronze Age and again in the Early Iron Age. It is thought to be the site of Kunulua, a capital city of the Neo-Hittite culture.
Giant human sculptures, often riding lions or sphinxes, adorned the citadel gateways of the Neo-Hittite royal cities in Iron Age Syro-Anatolia. This continued a Bronze Age tradition of regarding gateways as boundary zones, and kings as divinely appointed gatekeepers to the community. By the 8th century BC, however, these elaborate gateways had come to serve as dynamic parades, legitimizing the power of the ruling elite through their sheer size and grandeur. The gates were carved in relief, forming linear narratives showing the king as a living link between the human and divine worlds.
Other sculptures, including a carved lion that was discovered in 2011 and Hieroglyphic Luwian-inscribed stelae (stone slabs used for commemorative purposes) have also been found under the paved over area. The researchers think that the destruction of the Ta’yinat gate complex happened following the Assyrian conquest of the region in 738 BC, when the whole area was converted into the central courtyard of an Assyrian sacred precinct.