An unexpected discovery reveals ancient artwork that was part of an Iron Age complex beneath a house in southeastern Turkey. The unfinished work shows a procession of gods depicting how different cultures came together.
The looters initially invaded the underground complex in 2017 by creating an opening on the first floor of a two-story house in the village of Bashbuk. The room, carved into the limestone bedrock, extends 98 feet (30 meters) under the house.
Archaeologists followed a long stone staircase to the basement, where they found a rare work of art on the wall. credit: C. Uludag
The artwork was created in the 9th century BC of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, which began in Mesopotamia and expanded into the largest superpower of the time.
This expansion included Anatolia, a large peninsula in Western Asia, between 600 and 900 BC, including much of modern Turkey.
“When the Assyrian Empire exercised political power in southeastern Anatolia, the Governor of Assyria expressed power through art in the court style of Assyria,” said Selim, an associate professor of history at the Ankara University of Social Sciences in Turkey.・ Feru Adali said. statement.
An example of this style was a carved monumental rock relief, but an example of the Neo-Assyrian Empire was rare, the study authors write.
The artwork reflects cultural integration, not complete conquest. The names of the gods are written in the local Aramaic. This image represents the religious themes of Syria and Anatolia and was created in an Assyrian style.
“It shows how there was a regional cohabitation and symbiosis of Assyrians and Arameans in an area during the early stages of Neo-Assyrian rule in the region,” Adali said. “The Başbük panel is impressive to scholars studying the nature of the empire about how local traditions can remain loud and energetic in the use of the power of the empire expressed through monumental art. For example.”
The artwork depicts eight unfinished gods. The largest is 3.6 feet (1.1 meters) high. The local gods of the artwork include the moon god Sin, the storm god Hadad, and the goddess Atargatis. Behind them, researchers were able to identify the sun god and other gods. The depiction is a combination of a symbol of religious importance in Shiroanatoria and an element of Assyrian expression, Adali said.
Part of the artwork depicts Hadad, the god of storms, and Atargatis, the main goddess of northern Syria. credit: M. Onal
“By including the religious theme (illustration) of Shiroanatoria, we adapted the elements of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in a way that was not expected from previous discoveries,” Adali said. “They reflect the early stages of Assyrian existence in areas where local elements are more emphasized.”
Upon discovering this artwork, research author Mehmet Onal, a professor of archeology at the University of Haran, Turkey, said: The magnificent face of the storm god Hadad. “
A mystery remains
The team also identified an inscription that could name Mukin Abua, an official of the Neo-Assyrian Empire who served during the reign of Adad-nirari III between 783 and 811 BC. Archaeologists suspect that he was assigned to the area at the time and used the complex as a way to win the charm of the locals.
However, the structure is imperfect and remains unfinished all this time, suggesting that something has caused architects and artists to abandon it-perhaps even a rebellion.
“The panel was created by a local artist serving the Assyrian authorities who adapted the art of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in a local context,” Adali said. “It was used to perform rituals supervised by state authorities. It may have been abandoned due to changes in practice with state authorities or the occurrence of political military conflicts.”
Adali was the team’s inscriptionist who read and translated the Aramaic inscription in 2019 using photos captured by a research team that had to work quickly to study the site.
“I was shocked to see the Aramaic inscription on such artwork. When I was reading the names of the gods, great excitement struck me,” Adali said. ..
After the 2018 excavation, the site was closed due to instability and possible collapse. It is currently under the legal protection of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Archaeologists are eager to continue working when excavations are safely resumed, new images of artwork and inscriptions are captured, and in some cases more artwork and artifacts can be discovered.