Category Archives: TURKEY

3,000-Year-Old Cuneiform Tablet Reveals Previously Unknown Language

3,000-Year-Old Cuneiform Tablet Reveals Previously Unknown Language

Words from a “lost” language spoken more than 3,000 years ago have been discovered on an ancient clay tablet unearthed in Turkey.

3,000-Year-Old Cuneiform Tablet Reveals Previously Unknown Language
Almost 30,000 clay tablets covered in cuneiform writing have been unearthed at Boğazköy-Hattuşa. Most of them are written in Hittite; this one at the British Museum records a peace treaty.

Archaeologists discovered the tablet earlier this year during excavations at Boğazköy-Hattuşa in north-central Turkey, the site of Hattusha, the Hittite capital from about 1600 B.C. until about 1200 B.C. and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Annual expeditions to the site led by Andreas Schachner, an archaeologist at the German Archaeological Institute, have unearthed thousands of clay tablets written in cuneiform — perhaps the most ancient written script, created by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia more than 5,000 years ago.

The tablets are “mainly found in clusters connected to half a dozen buildings,” sometimes described as archives or libraries, Schachner told Live Science. “But we find text all over the [site] that are moved around by erosion.”

Most of the tablets unearthed at Boğazköy-Hattuşa are written in the language of the Hittites, but a few include words from other languages — apparently because the Hittites were interested in foreign religious rituals.

The words in the previously unknown language appear to be from such a ritual, which was recorded on a single clay tablet along with writing in Hittite explaining what it was.

“The introduction is in Hittite,” Schachner said in an email. “It is clear that it is a ritual text.”

The words in the “lost” language were written in cuneiform script on a clay tablet found at Boğazköy-Hattuşa. They seem to be from a foreign religious ritual written down by Hittite scribes.

Lost language

The clay tablet was one of several sent to Germany to be analyzed, where it was studied by Daniel Schwemer, a professor and chair of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the University of Würzburg.

From the Hittite introduction, he identified it as the language of Kalašma, a region on the north-western edge of the Hittite heartland near the modern Turkish city of Bolu.

The scholars don’t know what it says yet, and they’re not releasing any photographs of the tablet until it has been fully studied.

But they’ve determined that it belongs to the Anatolian group of the Indo-European family of languages, which the Hittite language also belonged to; other ancient languages in the region, including Akkadian, Hebrew and Aramaic, belong to the Semitic family of languages.

The ruins near the Turkish town of Boğazköy were discovered in the 19th century. They have since been revealed as the remains of Hattusha, the capital city of the Hittite Empire.

Schwemer said in a statement that “the Hittites were uniquely interested in recording rituals in foreign languages.” Extracts of rituals in other foreign languages have also been found in the tablets from Boğazköy-Hattuşa, including in the Indo-European languages Luwian and Palaic and a non-Indo-European language known as Hattic.

Such ritual texts were written by Hittite scribes and reflected various Anatolian, Syrian and Mesopotamian traditions and linguistic milieus. 

“The rituals provide valuable glimpses into the little-known linguistic landscapes of Late Bronze Age Anatolia, where not just Hittite was spoken,” Schwemer said. 

The Hittite Empire was a major power in the eastern Mediterranean during the Bronze Age, ruling most of Anatolia (modern Turkey) and what’s now Syria From about 1600 B.C. to about 1200 B.C.

Hittite Empire

For centuries, the Hittites, who ruled over most of Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) and Syria, were among the most powerful empires in the ancient world. In 1274 B.C., the Hittites fought the Battle of Kadesh against the Egyptians for control of Canaan — what’s now southern Syria, Lebanon and Israel. 

The battle may be the earliest military action ever recorded. It seems to have been a defeat for the Hittites; although they kept control of the city of Kadesh, the Egyptians kept control of Canaan.

Hattusha became the Hittite capital in about 1600 B.C.; and more than 100 years of archaeological excavations at the site have revealed a vast ancient city there.

But it was abandoned in about 1200 B.C. during the cataclysmic “Late Bronze Age collapse” that suddenly ended or damaged many ancient states in the eastern Mediterranean; the collapse has been ascribed to invasions by migrants called the “Sea Peoples”, sudden climate changes, and disruptive new technologies like iron — but historians and archaeologists debate the causes. 

Schachner said it wasn’t possible to foresee if any other writings in the “lost” language would be found, or if extracts from still other ancient languages would be found in the tablets from Boğazköy-Hattuşa.

A mass grave of children unearthed in ancient city

A mass grave of children unearthed in ancient city

Archaeologists have unearthed a mass grave of children dating back to the fifth century in the ancient city of Savatra in the Central Anatolian province of Konya.

Excavation work has been ongoing for the past three years in the ancient city of Savatra, under the leadership of İlker Işık, the head of the Department of Cultural Heritage Preservation and Restoration at Selçuk University.

During surface surveys in 2020, a remarkable discovery was made — an inscription in the Greek alphabet bearing the word “Türkoğlu,” the descendant of a Turk in Turkish, marking the first occurrence of the term “Turk” in Anatolia.

This year’s excavation efforts led to the discovery of mosaic floors in a 400-square-meter area, presumably belonging to a church foundation.

As the excavation continued, a collective children’s burial site dating to the fifth century was revealed.

“We encountered two different burial typologies in terms of east-west orientation, consisting of chamber tombs and tile graves.

We identified a children’s cemetery, primarily consisting of non-adult individuals, ranging from fetuses to approximately 13-14 years of age. In total, we found 42 skeletons here,” Işık explained.

Highlighting the distinct burial techniques found, Işık added, “For example, we encountered instances of stacked burials, even finding five skulls in a single grave. Whether due to familial connections or the functional continuity of the burial sites, we observed these overlapping burials.

Various small artifacts, such as coins, rings, and earrings, were also discovered during the excavation.

Starting this year, excavation efforts are continuing in the area known as the narthex, situated at the rear of the church. Significant discoveries have already been made in this approximately 400-square-meter mosaic area.

“This is indeed a crucial find for Anatolia. The presence of such a splendid mosaic area in Konya not only underscores the richness and grandeur of the region but also serves as a significant testament to the city’s historical importance.

In light of this, we intend to persist in our excavation efforts this year, with a particular focus on the mosaic area, to unveil more of its hidden treasures,” Işık said.

Huge Ancient Sarayini Underground City Is Twice As Large As Previously Thought

Huge Ancient Sarayini Underground City Is Twice As Large As Previously Thought

Scientists knew the ancient underground city they examined was huge, but now it’s obvious it’s twice as large as previously thought! What secrets does this mysterious ancient place hide? How many underground tunnels, galleries, chambers, and unknown rooms still await discovery?

Huge Ancient Sarayini Underground City Is Twice As Large As Previously Thought
The ancient Sarayini underground city covers at least 20,000 square meters. Image credit: Anadolu Agency (AA)

The ancient underground city in Sarayönü, a district of Konya in Turkey, dates back to the Roman period. When first examined by archaeologists, it was thought the subterranean city covered an area of  ​​5000 m2, but a recent investigation reveals this enigmatic ancient place is at least 20,000 square meters, if not even more!

In co-operation with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Sarayönü Municipality, scientists are investigating the ancient underground city for the second year.

What has been discovered so far is fascinating. There are dozens of underground rooms connected to each other by tunnels of different lengths and widths. Many corridors, tunnels, and galleries are still waiting to be cleaned, so it is currently difficult to determine where they lead.

Is Sarayini Turkey’s Largest Underground City In Horizontal Architecture?

The history of the subterranean place, which includes domestic spaces, connected galleries, room-like living spaces, water wells, furnaces, workshops, chimneys, oil lamps for lighting, cellars, warehouses, ventilation, and spaces whose quality has yet to be investigated, dates back to the 8th century.

Hasan Uguz, archaeologist and head of excavations of Konya Museums Directorate, said that based on the findings, scientists determined that “the local Christian people used the underground city in the 8th century to protect themselves from the raids that lasted for 150 years” the Konya News reports.

Uguz explained that elderly people who had lived here all their lives used to play in the tunnels as children. Locals knew a very large underground city was here, but no one could even guess how vast it was. Scientists did not think the underground tunnels, corridors, and rooms could spread over such a large area.

Uguz said it is possible this is the largest underground city in Turkey ever discovered in horizontal architecture.

“We may have found one of the largest underground cities in Central Anatolia. The rumors of the people of the region and the collapses in different places show us that the underground city can spread over a very wide area and that it can be a very long tunnel system.

The openings and dents we caught give positive signals at this point. It is an important historical and tourist discovery, as no other underground city is known in the region,” Uguz told the Konya News.

Ancient Sarayini Underground City Was A Comfortable Place

“In our research, we noticed that 19th-century European travelers refer to this region as Sarayini. The people living here also say this. The real name of this place is Sarayini. It has been determined that the caves resemble a palace because of their very spacious, comfortable, interconnected, and high-quality-of-life architecture, and in this sense, it is called Sarayini,” Uguz told the Anadolu Agency.

The archaeologists explained that scientists discovered a very wide corridor resembling what could be best described as a main street. On the left and right sides of the corridor were galleries connected by tunnels and other corridors.

The ancient underground city gives the impression of being prepared for people to live as comfortably as possible, almost like residing in a palace.

In an interview with the Anadolu Agency, Uguz said the archaeological investigations continue. During excavations, the science team discovered altar-type tombstones, tomb stelae made in the Roman period, sophisticated artificial walls built, and a north-south oriented structure reminiscent of a wooden cross.

Uguz explained that the underground city’s human capacity and exact size will become clear as the work progresses.

Soil currents coming from some submerged places with water filled the spaces between 30 and 80 cm. After the spaces are cleaned and exposed, the capacity and size of human accommodation will become clear. There are domestic spaces and interconnected galleries that excite us.

The most important thing for us is the discovery of this place and the start of the work. This underground mystery, how people lived here, how these places were created at that time attracts attention,” Uguz said.

8,000-year-old Cave paintings found in Türkiye’s İnkaya Cave depict life and death

8,000-year-old Cave paintings found in Türkiye’s İnkaya Cave depict life and death

8,000-year-old Cave paintings found in Türkiye’s İnkaya Cave depict life and death

A number of cave paintings dating back some 8,000 years have been found in İnkaya cave in the Marmara province of Balıkesir during a field study conducted by Associate Prof. Dr. Derya Yalçıklı from Çanakkale (18th March) University, in 2015.

During the same studies, another cave located 5 kilometers away from the İnkaya cave was discovered. The discovery of both caves is known as the most important archaeological discovery made in Anatolia in recent years.

The cave paintings discovered in the Baltalıin and İnkaya Caves, which are situated in the Delice neighborhood of the Dursunbey district in the Balıkesir province of Turkey, offer information that sheds light on Neolithic Age life.

One of the remarkable findings showing that people in the Prehistoric Age were undeniably knowledgeable about the phenomenon of childbirth is the scene found among the cave paintings of İnkaya Cave.

The painting depicts a woman becoming pregnant, the pregnancy, and childbirth in an expression that has yet to be matched.

The western part of the panel, which is well-preserved and situated close to the entrance of the İnkaya cave, constitutes the main scene of the picture.

When Baltalıın and İnkaya caves were analyzed separately, it was revealed they were used for different functions, as the paintings in one of them depicted hunting figures, while the other depicted figures of beliefs. The paintings found in the two caves date back to the Late Neolithic period.

Associate Professor Derya Yalçıklı, who discovered and examined the cave paintings, told Arkeonews in an email, “Social and belief systems in Western Anatolia during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods constitute an important question of Anatolian archeology, and examining the wall paintings in Baltalıin and İnkaya caves may provide some important answers.”

The floor and northern wall of the İnkaya Cave were greatly damaged by past treasure hunters using dynamite, however, despite this damage, the cave continues to reflect important information about the Neolithic era.

Southwestern painting.

Inkaya Cave is located 2.5 km northwest of Delice neighborhood. The cave, with its karstic quality, consists of a gallery that is 4.5 m deep, 8 m wide, and 4.4 m high. It features two murals located on the northern and southeastern outer edges of the cave entrance.

The panel located on the left side (southwest) of the cave entrance measures 1.43×0.87 meters. There are also four people dancing in the main part of the painting on the left side of the entrance.

A different depiction of a human wearing fur on the right side of two women and two men is depicted, while on the left side of this painting, there is a depiction of a fetus growing in the womb.

Across from a human wearing fur, a human is depicted with a snake behind. It was believed that the snake represents death in this figure, which was interpreted as “the moment of death” by the experts.

The depiction of a human wearing fur and extending his hand forward is believed to be a shaman who is helping human spirits to go to the land of the dead at the moment of death. A portrayal of a dead human without a head offered to the vultures is also depicted.

Detail of southwestern painting.

Life and death are the themes of the cave paintings in İnkaya Cave. The panels representing Life are based on the formation of a fetus inside a pregnant woman’s abdomen, its development, and birth, as well as the celebration of a new individual joining the community, with an emphasis on the shaman’s role throughout this process.

In cave paintings, reliefs, and figurines from the Neolithic period in Anatolia, scenes of sexuality, pregnancy, and childbirth are presented to the viewer from various angles.

The successful use of the “X-ray” style -The rays pass through the painting and create a negative of the darker areas on film- in the creation of the İnkaya Cave painting in the Neolithic period fills a gap in the history of Anatolian painting and sculpture.

2,700-year-old ‘extremely well preserved’ skeleton found in fortress in Turkey may be an earthquake victim

2,700-year-old ‘extremely well preserved’ skeleton found in fortress in Turkey may be an earthquake victim

Archaeologists in Turkey have unearthed the skeleton of an elite individual who may have met an untimely death during an earthquake in the region 2,700 years ago.

2,700-year-old 'extremely well preserved' skeleton found in fortress in Turkey may be an earthquake victim
Aerial view of the skeleton found this year at Ayanis Castle.

Wearing jewelry and surrounded by weapons and artifacts, such as a double-sided inscription, and seals – small items used for “designating signature, private property, ownership and authority,” this individual no doubt lived an opulent life in the eighth century B.C. until they fell to their death within the fortress, with their personal belongings in tow, said Mehmet Işıklı, head of the Ayanis excavations and professor in the Atatürk University Department of Archaeology.

The fortress was built in Ayanis, an Urartian center in Turkey’s Van province where the skeleton was found.

The Iron Age kingdom of Urartu reigned from the ninth to sixth centuries B.C.and spanned from what is now Armenia to western Iran to eastern Turkey, where Ayanis is located.

Scholars have long speculated that an earthquake and subsequent fire caused the downfall of Ayanis. Since excavations began there in the late 1980s, there has been a “lack of such evidence to support the proposed earthquake scenarios for the end of the city,” Işıklı told Live Science via email. The finding of this skeleton lends critical evidence to the earthquake hypothesis, Işıklı said.

 Anthropological analysis will be conducted on the skeleton to determine the individual’s age and sex, and to verify if any traces of the brain remain, although there is debate among researchers as to whether any soft tissue remains.

The recently restored Haldi Temple. 

A double-sided inscribed cuneiform tablet, found with the skeleton, will be translated and published soon. Depending on the content of the inscription, it may be possible to determine this individual’s role and class in Urartian society, as well as to give valuable context to the social or political activities at Ayanis.

According to Işıklı, not only is the skeleton “extremely well preserved” but “the skull is in good condition, and according to the preliminary information we have received,” there may be chemically degraded traces of the brain remaining.

Aerial view of the temple area.

Erkan Konyar, an associate professor in the Department of Ancient History at Istanbul University who is not involved in the finding but has excavated other Urartian findings, warned that brain tissue does not typically survive in the climate of Van, which includes the massive Lake Van and is over a mile above sea level (5,380 feet, or 1,640 meters).

Rather, brain tissue is likely to survive only in swampy or glacial environments. Evidence that first appears to be brain tissue are actually “traces formed by hardened soil,” Konyar told Live Science in an email.

Işıklı said further anthropological testing is needed to confirm the remains of tissue, along with other characteristics of the skeleton.

After the “magnificent” city of Ayanis was built by King Rusa II in the mid-seventh century B.C., “the kingdom quickly entered the process of collapse and collapsed shortly after,” Işıklı said.

Therefore, clues to the kingdom’s collapse may lie within the walls of the Ayanis citadel. Ayanis is “the only excavation project that has the potential to solve the problems of this peak and collapse of the kingdom,” Işıklı said.

Previous excavations within the citadel have unearthed the Haldi Temple, which has undergone restoration since 2020, along with its stone carvings honoring Haldi, the premier god in Urartian religion.

A number of rooms in the temple have been excavated recently, and there are plans to create an open-air museum for tourists to visit the temple.

The three-headed statue of Goddess Hecate discovered in Turkey’s Mersin

The three-headed statue of Goddess Hecate discovered in Turkey’s Mersin

In the ancient city of Kelenderis in Mersin, located in the south of Turkey, the statue of the 3-headed goddess Hecate, which is evaluated to be 2300 years old, and ceramics belonging to the Hellenistic period were unearthed.

The ancient city of Kelenderis is located at the Mediterranean coast of Turkey in modern town of Aydincik, which is in the province of Mersin.

In the ancient city of Kelenderis, the excavation and restoration/conservation works started in 1987 continue uninterruptedly.

There have been exciting developments in the studies carried out this year under the coordination of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Batman University.

Head of the excavation, Associate Professor Mahmut Aydın, stated that the Roman period floors were unearthed in this season’s excavations and that they found a large amount of Hellenistic ceramics in these floor fillings.

Statue depicts three similar figures of Goddess Hecate joined together and facing in different directions. This is because these statues were used at Crossroads. These statues, which are few in number, were placed on pedestals, where the directions were inscribed. Hecate statues also marked boundaries.

Stating that the Hecate figurine was found in the underfloor fillings behind the odeon, Aydın continued as follows: “The 3-headed Hecate figurine was found in the layer where the ceramics were found. The figurine is about 20 centimeters.”

“Looking at the connection between the goddess Hecate and Kelenderis, we know that there is a Hecate temple in the ancient city of Lagina in Muğla, and an inscription found there indicates that Kelenderis is among the cities that participate in competitions held every five years in honor of Hecate.

Furthermore, Kelenderis is also among the cities that show respect for the sacred area of Hecate and pledge not to attack it. Therefore, the discovery of the Hecate figurine in this excavation site is meaningful.  We evaluate that the work is 2300-2400 years old and belongs to the Hellenistic period.”

In ancient Greece, Hecate was venerated as a goddess of the underworld, capable of both good and evil.

She was associated with magic, witchcraft, the moon, and creatures of the night such as ghosts. Her face was also depicted on doorways.

The work will be delivered to the Silifke Museum after its examination.

Mysterious ruins discovered at the bottom of Lake Van, Türkiye’s largest lake

Mysterious ruins discovered at the bottom of Lake Van, Türkiye’s largest lake

Mysterious ruins discovered at the bottom of Lake Van, Türkiye’s largest lake

At the bottom of Lake Van, Türkiye’s largest salty soda lake with 3,712 square kilometers, divers discovered a cemetery and areas bearing the traces of an old village.

Lake Van (Van Gölü in Turkish) is the largest lake in Turkey and the second largest in the Middle East. It’s also the biggest sodium water lake in the world.

While the ruins at the bottom of Lake Van were introduced to the world by diving, new ones were added to these remains.

Following the dive made by members of two associations in Bitlis and Van provinces, it was stated that sunken ruins determined to be part of a historic city imprinted with cross marks were discovered in the depths of Lake Van.

Eastern Sea Association President Cumali Birol said in a statement to Demirören News Agency (DHA) that they discovered new mysteries waiting to be solved by diving.

Cumali Birol said that as the water levels decreased, notifications were made to relevant institutions regarding some tombstones and ruins seen in the water between Tatvan and Ahlat regions.

“Our divers saw structures similar to a village in the region, streets and tombs with crosses and marks of the Kayı tribe on them. We are endeavoring to bring the history of the region to light by giving the findings to experts. We discovered a very large area between Ahlat and Tatvan. There are cemeteries at the bottom of the water here. There are cross signs on the graves.”

Emphasizing that Lake Van is a mysterious place for divers, Birol said that over 3 meters of water has receded in the lake basin in recent years, which brought to light many ruins, as traces of ancient civilizations are seen everywhere in the lake basin.

“We brought two geologists from England to the workshop organized by our association. Therefore, we have proved that Noah’s Flood happened in the Lake Van Basin. These new findings, which we found at a depth of 23 meters, prove this thesis,” Birol added.

In 2017, a team of archaeologists and independent divers from Van Yüzüncü Yıl University had been found 3,000 years old underwater fortress while diving to explore the lake.

3800-years-old Akkadian Cuneiform Tablet found in Turkey’s Hatay

3800-years-old Akkadian Cuneiform Tablet found in Turkey’s Hatay

3800-years-old Akkadian Cuneiform Tablet found in Turkey’s Hatay

A 3,800-year-old Akkadian cuneiform tablet was found during the archaeological excavations carried out in the Aççana Mound, the old city of Alalakh, in the Reyhanlı district of Hatay city in southern Turkey.

Tell Atchana, Alalakh is the capital of the kingdom of Mukish in the second millennium BC, located in the Amuq Valley of Hatay, near present-day Antakya.

Alalakh was one of the most famous cities in the ancient world; part of the larger Yamhad kingdom in the Middle Bronze Age, vassal to the Mitannian kingdom in the Late Bronze Age, and incorporated into the Hittite Empire at the end of the fourteenth century BC.

The earthquake on February 6, centered in Kahramanmaraş, which caused great destruction in the city, also affected the mound in Reyhanlı district, where Alalah, the capital of the Muşki Kingdom, was located during the Middle and Late Bronze Age periods.

Under the leadership of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, restoration and conservation work has been initiated in the mound, where some parts of the palace walls were damaged after the earthquake.

The head of the excavations and an academic from the Hatay Mustafa Kemal University, Murat Akar told state-run Anadolu Agency, the tablet features a contract on sales of a city, which consists of information about parties, and witnesses, said.

Removing the wall rubble as part of the study, the team found a cuneiform clay tablet among the remains.

In the first examination of the Akkadian tablet, information regarding the agreement made by Yarim-Lim, the first known king of Alalakh, to buy another city was found.

Akar emphasized that the tablet found among the remains, dating back 3,800 years, is in a well-preserved form. “While removing the debris of a few collapsed walls at the mound, it was very exciting to come across a tablet that had never been touched or damaged,” he said.

Akar continued by stating that the historical period of the artifact extends to the Middle Bronze Age. “During the Middle Bronze Age, a period we define as such, we observe that the kings of this region possessed economic power.

This is evidenced by astonishing examples documented in written records. In this tablet, we see that Yarim-Lim, the first known king of Alalakh, intended to purchase another city and, in this regard, entered into an agreement.

This actually demonstrates that the kings in this region had the economic capability and potential to acquire another city,” he said.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Akar, who pointed out that the tablet would also contribute to understanding the economic structure of the era, stated,

 “The tablet likely contains the names of significant individuals from the city who witnessed this sale. In a sense, we see evidence of a witness list from that period.

The artifact has emerged as an exceptionally unique example, particularly for understanding the era’s economic structure, city relationships, and economic and political model.