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Yazılıkaya Hittite Rock Sanctuary Bilgin, Tayfun

Description

Yazılıkaya is a open-air Hittite rock sanctuary located near the Hittite capital Hattusa in central Anatolia. It was one of the most important monumental remnants of the Hittite empire. The sanctuary was built between a group of rock outcroppings, some reaching 12 meters in height, where one large and one smaller opening (Chambers A and B) served as its open-air halls. Excavations of the site revealed the existence of a multi-room building complex that once stood in front of the sanctuary and controlled access to its chambers. The site was in use from at least 1500 BCE, but gained particular significance after the carving of the reliefs in the thirteenth century. The main group of reliefs in Chamber A portrays sixty-three deities. The male deities on the left wall and the female deities on the right wall are depicted in separate processions, which lead to a central scene on the wall across from the entrance, where the two processions meet, headed by the two supreme deities of the Hittite pantheon, the Storm god and the Sun goddess. Most of the deities are accompanied by hieroglyphic labels, although many of these are illegible because of erosion. The labels identify the deities with their Hurrian rather than their Hittite names, which demonstrates the strong influence of Hurrian cultic traditions on the Hittite court in the thirteenth century. Thus the Storm god is labeled as Teššub and the Sun goddes is Hebat. Chamber A also has a well preserved 2.60-meter-high relief of Great King Tudhaliya IV. The smaller Chamber B has fewer but better preserved reliefs, including another relief of King Tudhaliya IV, this time depicted in the embrace of his personal protective deity Sharruma. Both reliefs are accompanied by Tudhaliya's royal “cartouches.” Other reliefs of Chamber B are the 12 gods of the underworld shown in a procession and the 3.5-meter-high sword shaped relief of a somewhat mysterious Sword god, possibly representing Nergal or another underworld deity, The specific function of the sanctuary is not securely determined, but Chamber A was likely a ritual site during periodic cultic festivals, while Chamber B probably served as a memorial or mausoleum for king Tudhaliya IV upon his death.

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Attribution 4.0 International