07 March 2012

Karatepe Open Air Museum

Walking to from the entrance of Karatepe Open Air Museum to the relics, it’s easy to imagine the pilgrimage made by the ancient Neo-Hittites of Adana to reach the summer residence of King Asitawada.  Below are stunning views of Lake Aslantaş framed by marvelous dark colored basalt bas-relief murals depicting scenes of feasts, musicians, the God of Storm, and various palace activities. 

Excavations carried out in 1946 uncovered the walls and gates to the city. The inscribed bas-reliefs and statues were left in place and restored. A roof supported by concrete columns established the open air museum.

Photo by Kelly Bortles

Entrance Fee - 3 TL
Difficulty Getting There - About 90 minutes from Incirlik
Physical Difficulty - EASY Flat paved trail with an easy incline.


According to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, “the Hittites were a Bronze Age Indo-European speaking people of Anatolia. They established a kingdom centered at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia in the 18th century BC. The Hittite empire reached its height the 14th century BC, encompassing a large part of Anatolia, north-western Syria about as far south as the mouth of the Litani River (in present-day Lebanon), and eastward into upper Mesopotamia. The Hittite military made successful use of chariots. By the mid-14th century BC (under king Suppiluliuma I) carving out an empire that included most of Asia Minor as well as parts of the northern Levant and Upper Mesopotamia. After 1180 BC, the empire disintegrated into several independent “Neo-Hittite” city-states, some surviving until the 8th century BC.”  Archaeologist Sandra Scham wrote a paper about the hieroglyphs found at Karatepe, comparing their importance to the Rossetta stone, “There are several bilingual inscriptions there that, when the site was discovered in 1946, became the key to unlocking the mysterious Luwian hieroglyphs and truly opening up Hittite civilization to scholars for the first time.” 

Photo by Kelly Bortles
According to the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, “The fortress of Karatepe-Aslantaş was founded in the 8th century B.C. by Azatiwatis, ruler of the plain of Adana as a frontier castle against the wild hordes lurking in the north. He named it Azatiwadaya. A caravan road leading from the southern plains up-to the Central Anatolian plateau, skirted it on the west, the Ceyhan river (now the 
Aslantaş dam lake) on the east.”

“Two monumental t-shaped gate-houses, flanked by high towers gave access to the citadel. An entrance passage between two towers led up to a double-leafed wooden gate, which swung on basalt pivot-stones, from there to two lateral chambers and further on into the citadel. In a holy precinct at the inner entrance of the southwest gate stood the monumental statue of the Storm-God. The inner walls of the gate-houses were adorned with sculptures of lions and sphinxes, inscriptions and reliefs, depicting cultual, mythological and daily-life scenes carved on blocks of basalt. A bilingual text in Phoenician and Hieroglyphic Luwian, the longest known texts in these languages, was inscribed on slabs of each gate with a third one in Phoenician on the Divine Statue, constituting the key for the final decipherment of the Hieroglyphs, (known in Anatolia since the 2nd mill B.C.), being thus reminiscent of the famous Rosetta Stone.”

“After the fall of the Hittite Empire (which ruled Central Anatolia in the 2nd mill B.C.), due to the invasion of the “Peoples of the Sea” (around 1200 B.C.), small kingdoms such as those of Malatya, Sakçagözü, Mara_, Kargamı_, Zincirli, sprang up south of the Taurus mountain range. They were conquered and destroyed in the course of various Assyrian campaigns. The reign of Asatiwatas coincides with this period. His citadel was probably looted and burnt down to the ground by Salmanassar V around 720 B.C. or by Asarhaddon around 680 B.C.”

Read More 
For More About the Open Air Museum

For More About the Hittite Empire

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