Thursday, March 25, 2021

Arslantepe: Ceremonial Gate Pt.1

Photos by Jack A. Waldron

It is an extremely challenging task to arrange all of the information, including museum collections, site photos, etc., into a coherent order.  Therefore, I will attempt to work my way back in time, beginning with the Neo-Hittites and the Ceremonial Gate (here), then, back to the establishment of Arslantepe.  The periods of the area under the place name Militene, which is located about 7 km away from Arslantepe, including the Classical and Hellenic Greek, Roman, Byzantine and later have already been covered in Melitene Part 1 & Part 2.  This 4 Part series of posts on Arslantepe will include the extensive collection housed at the Malatya Archeological Museum.
I lived and worked in Malatya for three years, and while I was busy cycling around Turkey to other ancient sites, I waited until my final weeks in the area to explore one of the richest sites of the ancient world.
Here, I am going to focus on the Ceremonial Gate of Arslantepe (Lion Mound), not only because the sculptures are breathtaking, but because it is our first impression of the history involved at this site.  This Part 1/4 post falls in the time period ranging from 700BC, back to around 1200BC.  During this time, the Neo-Hittite culture dominated the area around Arslantepe.
The history of Arslantepe is so vast and important to western civilization, that it actually takes several lifetimes and more to cover, research and discover what is hidden, as it takes us back to the origins of settled human habitation.
Pictured below, here is an early photo of the Lion Ceremonial Gate to Arslantepe, and I must say, that when you visit the site today it is unrecognizable from this image.  First, all of the original sculptures and reliefs have been relocated to the Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Ankara.  Second, the gate area has been restored, built up, and fenced, which has caused it to lose its character as an archeological site.
In this blogpost, I am not going to recount the complete historical background in my own words, as the signboards here included do a more than sufficient job of explaining the various periods and the dates under which they fall.  I will simply try to personalize the experience.
Pictured above, I am standing next to the reproduction of the statue of King Mutallu, which is today positioned next to the Lion Gate.  Below, the remarkably well preserved original statue on display at the recreated Lion Gate in the Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Ankara.
To put the historical importance of Arslantepe into perspective with regard to the development of western civilizations, this display is at center stage within the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, and is the first group of antiquities to greet visitors.
Pictured below, what I believe to be a Hittite ceremonial altar decorated with lion sculptures, on display at the museum, without any historical or analytical information, nor where it was found.
Though the museum does not provide the specific locations of where the sculptures were found at the site of Arslantepe, many of the reproductions of these sculptures have been placed at the ancient gate or entrance to the city.
Pictured above, the original Two-Lion Men sculpture, while below, the reproduction on display at the gate of Arslantepe.
The Storm God corner stone pictured below was also reproduced and put on display at Arslantepe, though further down, the museum display shows its location within the gate much better.
The Reproduction of the Winged God (pictured below), is probably the worst representation of an original among all of the Arslantepe sculptures.

Hittite stele are also a prominent feature of the ancient gate, as the gods and goddesses must be placated in order to ensure the safety and protection of the city, as well as the citizens.
The Libation Ceremony was another of the very important rituals that were aimed at appeasing the gods and goddesses.
The Libation Ceremony can be seen on several of the sculptures of the main entrance gate to Arslantepe.  Pictured below, one of the largest and most detailed of these sculptures was on center stage for all who entered the city to see.

Simply put, orthostats are architectural structures that stand upright to form walls, and in the case of the entrance to Arslantepe, they line the road leading to the main gate.
These elaborately sculpted orthostats offered an aesthetic cultural experience, and served a practical religious function of teaching and security.
Why only half of the reproduction of the Chariot Hunting scene was completed, I have no idea.
I must apologize for the low quality of some of the photos I took at the Anatolian Civilizations museum, because the lighting there is so low, it was challenging to get a steady shot when the shutter attempted to gather as much light as possible without a flash.
Pictured here, the only orthostat from Arslantepe on display at the Malatya Archeological Museum, the Winged Demon.  There is also a reproduction of this sculpture on display at the archeological site (pictured below).
Though the massive lion sculptures do tend to dominate the Arslantepe Gate, and the late afternoon shadows did not help the exposure of the dark side of the blocks, be sure to look closely for the smaller reproductions of the gate blocks.
Again, though difficult to see, the museum originals (pictured below), have been reproduced, and can be seen in the photo above.
Pictured below, the original sculpture of the reproduction seen above, this being the lion on the right side of the gate.
Now having stepped inside the gate, the sun now sheds light on the back of the right side of the entrance gate and the lion sculpture.  As you can see, the sculptures on the smaller blocks can now be seen clearly.  Obviously, the best time to visit the site for photos is not late in the afternoon!!
Pictured below, the original sculptures of the reproductions seen above, on display at the Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Ankara.
Pictured below, the left front lion of the main gate at Arslantepe.  Again, don't let the shadows hide the small reproduced sculptures from your view.
Here, we see the original sculpture of the left lion on display in the museum, and below, the inscription that reads,"Halpasulupis, Mighty ? King".
Next to the left lion gate sculpture pictured below, we can see yet another Libation Ceremony relief in an orthostat.  Further below, the originals are on display in the museum.
Behind the left gate lion, the end of the back corner orthostat that faces the entrance has a depiction of a lion (pictured below).
In the photo below, we can see the small lion relief on the end of the inner orthostat.  The orginal orthostats can be seen on display in the museum further below.
Ages old, and forever retold and re-imagined by cultures all over the planet, the battles between good and evil rage on.  Here, we have the Hittite version told through the Legend of Illuyanka, the giant dragon who stole the eye and heart of the God of the Storm.
In the photo below, we can see the whole of the back side of the Lion Gate at Arslantepe.  The long orthostat at the right of the photo (just above my bicycle!) is the reproduction of the Illuyanka relief.
Following the days visit to Arslantepe, I headed over to the Malatya Archeological Museum.  For this post, I have included the pieces that fall within the time period we have been looking at, as well as a general idea of the development that occurred within the area during this time.  
Pictured below are some cylinder seals, as well as some examples of how they print in clay.  It would take over two-thousand years to get from these printing tools, to applying the same concept with the use of an alphabet and press, that would bring humans to a disruptive change in the course of history.
Hand printing letters in clay with cuneiform script was fast, but not practical for mass producing reading materials.  I can however, imagine the same technique done on a flat semi-malleable clay sheet, that could then be wet with ink and pressed to a sheet of papyrus!!  Hind-sight is 20/20.



In the coming posts, we will move into the mound of Arslantepe.  The site contains layer-upon-layer of newer building over older, and I will do my best to work back in time to the beginnings of human settlement at Arslantepe.

This cooking hearth alluded my camera during my visit.  For some reason, I either did not take a photo of it, or, I have a photo, but I am not able to recognize it in my photos!  This is very frustrating!!
The Malatya Archeological Museum has a fine collection of Hittite pottery, and though I think Arslantepe and the museum are often over looked or passed by when people visit the area, I would strongly encourage travelers to take the time to visit both!

*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)

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