An unexpected discovery reveals ancient artwork that was once part of the Iron Age complex under a house in southeastern Turkey. The unfinished work shows a procession of the gods, showing how different cultures came together.
The looters entered the underground complex in 2017 by making an opening in the ground floor of a two-story house in Başbük village. The chamber, carved in limestone, extends 98 feet (30 m) below the house.
Archaeologists followed a long stone ladder to an underground chamber, where they found rare artwork on the wall. Credit: C. Uludağ
The artwork was created during the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the ninth century BC, which began in Mesopotamia and spread to become the largest superpower of the time.
The expansion included Anatolia, a large peninsula in West Asia, covering most of modern-day Turkey between 600 and 900 BC.
“When the Assyrian Empire used political power in southeastern Anatolia, the Assyrian governors expressed their power through art in the Assyrian court,” said study author Salem Ferro Adali, of the University of Social Sciences in Ankara, Turkey. I am an associate professor of history. Statement
The authors of the study wrote that an example of this style was carved on monumental rocks, but neo-Assyrian examples are rare.
Artwork reflects the integration of cultures rather than total conquest. The names of the deities are written in the local Aramaic language. This painting depicts the religious themes of Syria and Anatolia and is created in Assyrian style.
“It shows how the Assyrians and the Assyrians had a local harmony and harmony in one area in the early stages of neo-Assyrian control over the region,” Adali said. “The Başbük panel provides scholars studying the nature of empires with an excellent example of how regional traditions can remain significant and important in the use of imperial power, which is expressed through monumental art.”
The artwork depicts eight deities, all incomplete. The largest is 3.6 feet (1.1 m) high. Local deities in the artwork include the moon god Sen, the storm god Haddad and the goddess Atargates. Behind them, researchers could identify the sun god and other gods. Adali said the symbols of Cyro-Anatolia’s religious significance in the photographs were mixed with elements of Assyrian representation.
Parts of the artwork include Haddad, the god of the storm, and Atargates, the original goddess of northern Syria. Credit: M. O’Neill
“The inclusion of Cyro-Anatolian religious themes (shapes) adapts the neo-Assyrian elements in ways that no one expected before,” Adali said. “They reflect the first phase of the Assyrian presence in the region when there was a strong emphasis on local elements.”
After discovering the artwork, the study’s author, Mehmet O’Neill, a professor of archeology at the University of Haran in Turkey, said, I realized that I was facing very impressive eyes. The wonderful face of Hadad, the god of storms. “
The team also identified a manuscript that may have named Makin Abu, a neo-Assyrian official who served during the reign of Adad-Niari III between 783 and 811 BC. Archaeologists suspect that he was assigned to the area at the time and was using the complex to win the appeal of the local population.
But the structure is incomplete and has been incomplete for so long, suggesting that something abandoned it to architects and artists – perhaps even rebellion.
“The panel was formed by local artists serving the Assyrian authorities who adapted neo-Assyrian art to the provincial context,” Edali said. “It was used to perform rituals under the supervision of the provincial authorities. It may have been abandoned due to a change in the behavior of the provincial authorities or due to the resulting political and military conflict.”
Adali was the team’s epigraphist who read and translated comfort notes in 2019 using images obtained by the research team, who had to work hard to study the site.
“I was amazed to see comforting inscriptions on such artwork, and I felt a great deal of excitement as I read the names of the deities,” said Adali.
The site was shut down after the 2018 excavations because it is unstable and could collapse. It is now under the legal protection of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Archaeologists are still struggling to gather enough evidence before reaching the final conclusions about the location of the artwork and inscriptions.