While building a house in Turkey, thieves realized that they were building on top of an old room. Instead of alerting the local authorities, they began digging themselves up – and only after the heritage criminals were caught archaeologists arrived to save the day (and the artifacts inside).
Now, a stone slab has been uncovered during emergency excavations that shed light on the melting pot of cultures that coexisted during the early days of the expansion of the Neo-Assyrian Empire into Mesopotamia nearly 3,000 years ago.
An article published this week in Antiquity It reveals more about the painting, which likely dates from between the 9th and 8th centuries BC. The symbols inscribed there represent a variety of cultures – the inscriptions are written in Aramaic, The carvings reflect a modern Assyrian style with a local Anatolian touch.
The painting shows a procession of eight Aramaic deities. Among them is the storm god Haddad, who is depicted with a trident-esque lightning fork and looms larger than the rest. the goddess Atargatis, known as the mother figure and often depicted as a mourning consort; the moon god Sen, who wears the crown of the crescent and the moon; And the sun god Shemash, who wears a winged sun on his head, is also present.
Scholars believe that the work was left unfinished, since only the bodies of the gods or their heads are shown in profile.
The painting shows “…a local coexistence and coexistence between Assyrians and Arameans in a region and period under the strict control of an Assyrian empire,” the authors wrote. They call the commission “…a glaring example of regional values in the exercise of imperial power” – a relationship that would have involved give and take between the Assyrians who wanted to impress their new subjects and the Arameans eager to please their new masters.
The site was most likely discovered when the house was in the village of Basbuk in southeastern Turkey It was being built, reports National GeographicTom Metcalfe. Instead of notifying the authorities, the thieves punched a hole in the ground floor of the two-storey house. At the other end of this temporary entrance was an old room hewn from the bedrock of limestone and led by a staircase to another lower room.
The excavations lasted for two months in 2018 before archaeologists had to halt due to the “instability of the site,” according to the study.
Rock art dates back to an active period in Assyrian history. Between 900 and 600 BC, the Neo-Assyrian Empire expanded its territories into southeastern Anatolia. The area was once largely governed by city-state dynasties whose inhabitants spoke Aramaic and Lewian. Gradually, however, the new Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II took control of the prominent Aramaic settlements.
This intertwining of cultures is evident not only in the language of the inscriptions but in the way the deities are depicted. The commission’s dating illustrates the Assyrian power grab “in its early stages,” study author Selim Ferruh Adali, a professor of history at the University of Social Sciences in Ankara, told Live Science reporter Emily Stanforth.
“Although some of the features of the deities are clearly Assyrian–such as their rigid postures, and the particular style of their hair and beards–many details of the carvings show strong influences from the local Aramaic culture,” Metcalfe writes of National Geographic.
Archaeologists also found an inscription that may provide insight into the purpose of the work. It appears that the Aramaic writing on the tablet includes the name of Makin Abwa, An Assyrian official in charge of Tushan Province circa 811 to 783 BC. This could mean the complex was set up as a way to impress locals, Adali tells CNN reporter Ashley Strickland.
“The painting was made by local artists serving the Assyrian authorities who adapted Neo-Assyrian art into a regional context,” says Adali. “It was used to carry out rituals supervised by local authorities. It may have been abandoned due to a change in regional authorities and practices or due to an emerging political-military conflict.”
Although it is not clear why the artisans abandoned the painting, the art they started has been effective, even after thousands of years. Even now, his images carry emotional power over those who lay eyes on them.
“I felt as if I was in a ritual,” he says Lead author Mehmet Unal, an archaeologist at Harran University, to National Geographic. “When I encountered the extremely expressive eyes and solemn serious face of Storm God Haddad, I felt a slight tremor in my body.”