Category Archives: TURKEY

Unknown ancient god with astral symbols discovered on a stele at a cult site in Turkey

Unknown ancient god with astral symbols discovered on a stele at the cult site in Turkey

In an ancient sanctuary in Turkey, Münster archeologists excavated a unique Roman relief depicting an unknown god.

According to a first assessment, the one and a half meter (five feet) high basalt stele which was used as a buttress in the wall of a monastery shows a fertility or vegetation god, as classical scholar and excavation director Prof. Dr. Engelbert Winter and archaeologist Dr. Michael Blömer of the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” said after their return from the sacred site of the god Jupiter Dolichenus close to the ancient city of Doliche in Southeast Turkey.

“The image is remarkably well preserved. It provides valuable insights into the beliefs of the Romans and into the continued existence of ancient Near Eastern traditions. However, extensive research is necessary before we will be able to accurately identify the deity.”

In the field season 2014, the 60-strong excavation team uncovered finds from all periods of the 2,000-year history of the cult site, such as the thick enclosing wall of the first Iron Age sanctuary or the foundations of the main Roman temple of the god Jupiter Dolichenus, who became one of the most important deities of the Roman Empire in the 2nd century A.D.

His sanctuary is situated close to the town of Gaziantep on the 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) high mountain of Dülük Baba Tepesi. The archaeologists found the stele in the remains of the Christian monastery, which was erected on the site of the ancient sanctuary in the Early Middle Ages.

Bearded deity with astral symbols

Archaeologist Blömer described the depiction: “The basalt stele shows a deity growing from a chalice of leaves. Its long stem rises from a cone that is ornamented with astral symbols. From the sides of the cone grow a longhorn and a tree, which the deity clasps with his right hand.

The pictorial elements suggest that a fertility god is depicted.” There are striking iconographic details such as the composition of the beard or the posture of the arms, which point to Iron Age depictions from the early 1st millennium B.C.

Stele featuring the unknown god.

The new find, thus, provides information about a key question of the Cluster of Excellence’s research project B2-20, the question of the continuity of local religious beliefs.

According to Prof. Winter, “The stele provides information on how ancient oriental traditions survived the epochs from the Iron Age to the age of the Romans.”

This year’s excavation activities concentrated on exploring the medieval monastery of Mar Solomon (St. Solomon). “The well-preserved ruins of the monastery complex permit numerous conclusions regarding life and the culture in this region between Late Antiquity and the time of the crusaders,” according to Prof. Winter.

Until 2010, when the international team discovered the remains of the monastery, experts had known of it from written sources only.

According to the archaeologist Blömer, “All finds from this year’s excavation season are important pieces of the puzzle, contributing to the knowledge concerning every phase of the long history of this holy place.”

The history stretches from the early Iron Age and the Roman sanctuary known throughout the empire to the long utilization as a Christian monastery, which still existed at the time of the crusaders.

Preparing the excavation site for tourists

Work on an archaeological park is in progress which is to make the outstanding temple complex and the monastery ruins accessible to the public at large.

The monastery ruins were preserved and encased with special fleece material. The complex protection measures were made possible by cooperation with the Turkish Zirve University in Gaziantep, which provided about 200,000 Euros for three years.

Ruins at the site of the Christian monastery of St. Solomon.

For the digital documentation of the area, the team uses a quadrocopter, a remotely piloted vehicle with a 3-D camera, developed by the Institute for Geoinformatics of the University of Münster. A visitors’ trail signposted in three languages, which was completed in 2013, leads to central areas of the excavation site. An initial large protective shelter was erected.

Supported by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft, DFG), the University of Münster’s Asia Minor Research Centre has been conducting excavation work at the main sanctuary of Jupiter Dolichenus under the direction of Prof. Winter since 2001.

So far, the international group consisting of archaeologists, historians, architects, conservators, archaeozoologists, geoinformation scientists and excavation workers uncovered foundations of the archaic and the Roman sanctuary, as well as of the medieval monastery of Mar Solomon.

The Cluster of Excellence’s project B2-20, “Media Representation and Religious ‘Market’: Syriac Cults in the Western Imperium Romanum,” is interlinked with the excavations.

8,500 Years Older Than the Pyramids; This is the Oldest Temple Ever Built on Earth

8,500 Years Older Than the Pyramids; This is the Oldest Temple Ever Built on Earth 

Göbekli Tepe is a center of faith and pilgrimage during the Neolithic Age and is situated 15 km from the Turkish town of Sanlıurfa and added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2018.

The monumental structures, which stand as testaments to the artistic abilities of our ancestors, also offer insights into the life and beliefs of people living in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period (10th-9th millennia BC).

It was not the grandeur of the archeological wonder that dominated my mind, when I stood beneath a 4,000-square-foot steel roof erected to protect the oldest temple in the world in Upper Mesopotamia.

It was how humans of the pre-pottery age when simple hand tools were yet to be discovered, erected the cathedral on the highest point of a mountain range. 

Known as “zero points” in the history of human civilization, southeast Turkey’s Göbekli Tepe pre-dates the pyramids by 8,000 years, and the Stonehenge by six millennia. Its discovery revolutionized the way archaeologists think about the origins of human civilization.

“The men, who built the temple 11,200 years ago, belonged to the Neolithic period,” Sehzat Kaya, a professional tourist guide, tells me, “They were hunter-gatherers, surviving on plants and wild animals. It was a world without pottery, writing, the wheel, and even the most primitive tools. In such a scenario, it’s incredible how the builders were able to transport stones weighing tonnes from a quarry kilometers away, and how they managed to cut, carve and shape these stones into round-oval and rectangular megalithic structures.”

Located fifteen kilometers away from the Turkish city of Sanlıurfa, Göbekli Tepe, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2018, is believed to be a center of faith and pilgrimage during the Neolithic Age. Since the site is older than human transition to settled life, it upends conventional views, proving the existence of religious beliefs prior to the establishment of the first cities. It altered human history with archaeologists believing that the site was a temple used to perform funerary rituals.

Klaus Schmidt, a German archaeologist and pre-historian, who led the excavations at the site from 1996, noted in a 2011 paper that no residential buildings were discovered at the site, even as at least two phases of religious architecture were uncovered. Schmidt discarded the possibility that the site was a mundane settlement of the period, and insisted that it belonged to “a religious sphere, a sacred area.”

“Göbekli Tepe seems to have been a regional center where communities met to engage in complex rites,” Schmidt, who led the excavations until he passed away in 2014, wrote, “The people must have had a highly complicated mythology, including a capacity for abstraction.”

In speaking of abstraction, Schmidt was referring to the highly-stylized T-shaped pillars at Göbekli Tepe, which means “belly hill” in Turkish. The distinctive limestone pillars are carved with stylized arms, hands, and items of clothing like belts and loincloths.

The largest pillars weigh more than 16 tons, and some are as tall as 5.5 meters. Schmidt believed that there was an overwhelming probability that the T-shape is the first-known monumental depiction of gods. Some researchers have also revealed that the site might be home to a “skull cult”.

The unique semi-subterranean pillars carry three-dimensional depictions – elaborate carvings of abstract symbols as well as animals: Scorpions, foxes, gazelles, snakes, wild boars, and wild ducks.

The unique semi-subterranean pillars carry three-dimensional depictions – elaborate carvings of abstract symbols as well as animals: Scorpions, foxes, gazelles, snakes, wild boars, and wild ducks. The monumental structures, which stand as testaments to the artistic abilities of our ancestors, also offer insights into the life and beliefs of people living in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period (10th-9th millennia BC).

“Göbekli Tepe is an outstanding example of a monumental ensemble of megalithic structures, illustrating a significant period of human history,” UNESCO noted in 2018, “It is one of the first manifestations of human-made monumental architecture.

The monolithic T-shaped pillars were carved from the adjacent limestone plateau, and attest to new levels of architectural and engineering technology. They are believed to bear witness to the presence of specialized craftsmen, and possibly the emergence of more hierarchical forms of human society.”

Perched at 1000 feet above the ground, Göbekli Tepe offers a view of the horizon in nearly every direction. The site was first examined in the 1960s by anthropologists from the University of Chicago and Istanbul University. Dismissed as an abandoned medieval cemetery in 1963, the first excavation started in 1996 when Schmidt read a brief mention of the broken limestone slabs on the hilltop in the previous researchers’ report. His findings changed long-standing assumptions.

“It (Göbekli Tepe) is the complex story of the earliest large, settled communities, their extensive networking, and their communal understanding of their world, perhaps even the first organized religions and their symbolic representations of the cosmos,” Schmidt wrote.

Schmidt’s discoveries received wide international coverage. The German weekly, Der Spiegel, went a step ahead, suggesting that Adam and Eve settled at Göbekli Tepe after being banished from the Garden of Eden.

The journal based its suggestion on the coincidence that the land surrounding Göbekli Tepe is proven to be the place where wheat was cultivated for the first time, and the Bible says that Adam was the first to cultivate the wheat after he was banished. Another noteworthy aspect of the discovery is that Göbekli Tepe has also questioned the conventional belief that agriculture led to civilization.

Until the discovery, it was widely believed that complex societies came into being after hunter-gatherers settled down, and started growing crops. But the early dates of the temple’s construction proved the opposite was true – the vast labour force required to build the temple pushed humans to develop agriculture to offer food to the workers.

“The communities that built the monumental megalithic structures of Göbekli Tepe lived during one of the most momentous transitions in human history, one which took the civilization from hunter-gatherer lifeways to the first farming communities,” the UNESCO notes, “The monumental buildings at Göbekli Tepe demonstrate the creative human genius of these early (Pre-Pottery Neolithic) societies.”

Aydin Aslan, Culture and Tourism Director, Sanliurfa tells me that the site hosts over 20,000 visitors every week. The megalithic structures have largely retained their original form, offering unforeseen insights into the life of early humans. “The current site is only one-tenth of the marvels that lie hidden under the hill,” says Aslan.

Rare, Neolithic ‘Goddess’ Figurine Discovered in Turkey

Rare, Neolithic ‘Goddess’ Figurine Discovered in Turkey

The finding happened in the southern part of Anatolian Plateau in central Turkey, one of the main proto-city centres of the first settlers and one of the world’s most renowned archaeological sites.

For a thousand years between 7100 and 6000 BC, i.e. the Neolithic period, Çatalhöyük has been continuously inhabited.

In 2016 the figure was found. In Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, the conclusions of his expert analyses are presented.

The best-known artifacts from this location are clay female figures which, due to their giant stance and bare breasts have been regarded as mother goddesses.

Today, they are usually interpreted as depicting the elderly and objects related to ancestor worship.

The 8,000-year-old figurine is notable for its craftsmanship, with fine details likely made with thin tools, like flint or obsidian, by a practised artisan.

Now scientists have announced the discovery of a bone figurine that is anthropomorphic, i.e. has human features.

This is undoubtedly an important find with a very simplified, but clear depiction of human features in the form of eyes.

Anthropomorphic figurine discovered by a Polish researcher
Anthropomorphic figurine discovered by a Polish researcher

The figurine was made of bone, the proximal finger of a donkey`, told the PAP the discoverer of the object, Professor Kamilla Pawłowska, archaeozoologist and palaeontologist from the Department of Palaeoenvironmental Research of the Institute of Geology, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań.

The figurine is about 6 cm high. It has clearly visible incisions shaped to resemble eyes. A similar way of presenting human features is known from artefacts discovered in other sites in the Middle East from the same period, says Professor Kamilla Pawłowska.

She adds that the majority of similar objects are known from a bit later period, the Chalcolithic (4300 – 3300 BC). They are also made of bones, mainly donkey and horse.

Until now, during the research in Çatalhöyük scientists discovered the phalanges of donkeys and horses. They are often well preserved.

In individual cases, there were traces of processing on them, but never in a form reminiscent of human anatomical features, emphasizes Professor Kamilla Pawłowska.

The researcher says that there were not many donkeys in this prehistoric city, especially at the end of its functioning. Sheep and goats were more common since their meat, marrow and fat was an important element of the inhabitants` diet.

The figurine was discovered during the work of an international team under the supervision of Dr Marek Z. Barański from the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk.

Professor Kamilla Pawłowska found it while analysing the flotation sample, i.e. wet screening. This procedure allows archaeologists to find bone remains and other small artefacts.

It is known that the figurine was in one of the clay containers in a room where the food was stored. The container was made ca. 6500-6300 BC. (PAP)

Earliest Mosaic in the World Found in Turkey

World’s Oldest Mosaic Unearthed in Turkey

The earliest known mosaic in the world, Anacleto D’Agostino from Pisa University records, is a primitive tiled floor laid in a geometric design that is discovered in a pre-classic Hittite city in central Turkey. Moreover, he adds, the settlement where the mosaic was found maybe the lost Hittite city of Zippalanda.

Discovered during the excavation of prehistoric Usakli Hoyuk, the multichromatic patterned surface is in the courtyard of a public building – which archaeologists interpret to be a temple to the Storm God, D’Agostino writes in Antiquity, published by the Cambridge University Press. Made of stones of varying size and shape, the Late Bronze Age floor is also the earliest-known rendition in the rock of geometric patterns.

Since 2008, the Anatolian Archaeological Project in Central Anatolia has been revealing the ancient town’s long history. They have found fragments of cuneiform tablets indicating that it was once a major Hittite center. 

Dr. Anacleto D’Agostini of Pisa University, who took part in the mission, wrote that the site may be the “lost Hittite city of Zippalanda,” according to Haaretz.

The stone Bronze Age mosaic floor is in the foreground.

During work on the site, a large building on a terrace, which dated to the Late Bronze Age, was found. This had the characteristics of a building that was constructed during the Hittite period. It was believed to be a temple that was possibly dedicated to the Storm God, a very important deity for the Hittites and other populations. 

Near this possible temple, a courtyard was located, and it was here that archaeologists made the remarkable discovery of a mosaic.  The experts found a paved floor that measured about 20 ft by 9 ft (7m by 3m), which was poorly preserved.

The floor was paved with some 3000 pieces of stone, that appeared to have been roughly shaped and cut. Haaretz quotes D’Agostini as saying that “the mosaic was framed with perpendicularly positioned stones in white, black-blue and white again”. 

Closeup of the Bronze Age mosaic at Usa̧klı Höyük.

Unlike later mosaics, it was not made out of smooth and small stones.  All the stones that were found were cut in irregular shapes and the floor would not have had a smooth finish.

According to Haaretz “one wonders how comfortable it was to walk on and one envisions a lot of twisted ankles.” However, the mosaic was possibly deliberately made to be uneven so that slippery mud would not form on its surface.

The stones have been clearly set to produce geometric patterns using divergent colors reports Antiquity.

The mosaic is divided into three distinct areas, and each one contains a number of triangles. It is discerned to have been created at the same time as the Hittite temple because it is closely aligned with its eastern wall.

D’Agostino is quoted by Haaretz as saying that the “building and mosaic are characterized by ‘high-status architecture’” and this lends credence to the theory that indeed the unearthed structure was the Temple of the Storm God.

The discovery of this Bronze Age mosaic at a Hittite site is astonishing. Flagstone and cobblestone, often painted, have been found at sites associated with this Bronze Age culture.  They have been found in temples and even private rooms. However, no decorative mosaics have been found ever, until this one at Uşaklı Höyük.

“The technique of making mosaic floors using different colored pebbles is well known during the Iron Age,” according to the report in Antiquity. 

There are many examples of checkerboard mosaic floors from the Iron Age. But until the discovery at Uşaklı Höyük, the earliest known mosaic had been found in southern Anatolia at the 9 th century BC Phrygian Gordion citadel.

Aerial shot of the excavation area shown, including the Storm God Temple and the Bronze Age mosaic are (highlighted in yellow).

However, the discovery of a Bronze Age mosaic floor at Uşaklı Höyük is considerably older than anything yet found. Moreover, the design of the mosaic was much more complex than anything found from the time. Antiquity reports that the find “provides the first evidence of a polychromatic mosaic floor with clear patterning.”

It is possible that the mosaic may represent an older tradition from Anatolia. Antiquity reports that the pavement “could represent a Late Bronze Age Anatolian forerunner for later polychromatic mosaic floors.”

The discovery may indicate that the art of mosaic making developed much earlier than widely believed and this could provide new clues into its stylistic development. The find may result in the experts re-writing the history of images made out of polychromatic stones, an art-from that reached its zenith in the Classical Period in the Mediterranean. 

A Man Renovating His Home Discovered A Tunnel… To A Massive Underground City

A Man Renovating His Home Discovered A Tunnel… To A Massive Underground City

In 1963, a man in the Nevşehir Province of Turkey knocked down a wall of his home. Behind it, he discovered a mysterious room and soon discovered an intricate tunnel system with additional cave-like rooms. What he had discovered was the ancient Derinkuyu underground city in Turkey.

The underground city was home to approximately 20,000 residents.

The elaborate subterranean network included discrete entrances, ventilation shafts, wells, and connecting passageways. It was one of the dozens of underground cities carved from the rock in Cappadocia thousands of years ago. It remained hidden for centuries.

Located almost exactly in the center of Turkey in the region best known as “Cappadocia,” this particular complex is located in the modern town of Derinkuyu.

Researchers think that the underground corridors may go much deeper, nevertheless, the exact size of them remains unknown.

That the man found this complex while digging out his house was surprising, as was its size, but Cappadocia was already famous for its underground dwellings. There are over two hundred known underground “cities” of various sizes in the region (most of them would more properly be called “villages” or “hamlets”).

At least forty of them have three or more levels, with Kaymakli and Derinkuyu having eight and eighteen (!), respectively. Most archaeologists believe that the caves were begun by the Phrygian people (one of the many “sea peoples” that invaded the Aegean and Turkish area from the west, and who are mentioned in ancient texts) in about the 7th or 8th centuries B.C.

Some believe the caves are older, and date from the Hittite period some five hundred years before that. Regardless of who dug it, the cave system at Derinkuyu especially was not built by “stupid troglodytes”–these were exceedingly smart troglodytes.

Probably the last residents of the city were the early Christians, but they weren’t the actual builders.
Then the city was forgotten for more than 1,000 years.

As one can imagine, there are many good reasons for building a city underground. First and foremost was likely defense, but of course, shelter from the weather was an important factor too. No wind, no rain or snow, protection from the blazing Mediterranean sun.

Another factor was access to water. Rivers and lakes run dry and enemies might control water sources in an effort to subdue your people, but if you are sitting directly on top of an aquifer, you’ve got all the water you’ll ever need.

The cleverness of the people at Derinkuyu is illustrated by the fact that one of the wells there (over two hundred feet down) was controlled by those on the deepest levels. Access to the wells could be closed tight with wood and stone so those above could not attempt to poison the water below.

There were stone-wheel doors at the entrances to the tunnels to protect residents from invaders.
Even if the enemy had gotten inside, he would have never gotten back to the surface without knowledge of the secret passages and labyrinth plan.

The stone in Cappadocia is soft volcanic rock left eons ago. One might call it sandstone, from its looks, but it is not. Though relatively easy to dig through (compared to granite, for example), it was still no small undertaking for the people of Cappadocia to dig out.

This also means that the stone can be carved easily. Later troglodytic complexes include elaborate early Christian churches, with arches embedded in the ceiling.

Security was built in. Entrances were in high or in very well-hidden places. The tunnels and stairways are just wide enough for one adult to make their way through – enemy warriors could only fight one on one in the corridors.

Oil lamps lit the halls, stairways, and dwellings, and could be extinguished by retreating warriors and families to confuse invaders. Dead-ends known only to those living in the complex would also add to any confusion.

Large circular stones could be rolled into tunnels, blocking further advance. During the original Turkish invasions in the 10th century, and into the Ottoman era, these caves were used as refuge and defense.

Some of the smaller troglodyte dwellings (and that’s what they’re called) are still inhabited. Many of the others were lived in until early in the 20th century.

The large complex at Kaymakli was last used as a refuge by Anatolian Greeks fearing the massacres that were taking place in the war between Turkey and Greece in the early 1920s.

Today, many of these underground cities and towns are open to the public and are Turkish national treasures.

Tourists are allowed to visit only a small part of the city where the maze is fenced so that nobody gets lost.

The large complexes at Kaymakli and Derinkuyu offer guided tours through the approximately ten percent of the cave systems that are open to the public.