Saturday, May 13, 2023

Sofraz Tumulus A: Ancient Cesum?

 Photos by Jack A. Waldron

I arrived at the Safraz Tumulus in the evening, after 5:00, and there was nobody around, though it looked like there may be guard on duty at times.  Though visitors are never allowed to camp near such antiquities, it was late, so, I set up camp, cooked some doner lamb, topped it with fresh tomatoes, and ate it with a loaf of Turkish white bread, then, went to sleep.

The Safraz Tumulus site is located 10 kilometers southeast of Ucgoz village, 30 kilometers southeast of Adiyaman city, and about 25 kilometers north of the 2nd century Roman mausoleum monuments at Elif, Hisarkoy, and Hasanoglu.  The question, is this the site of ancient Cesum?  Cesum is located in the middle left of the map pictured above, and is located along a tributary of the Goksu river.  I don't see another possibility of this being another settlement, unless there is a missing or unknown site on this map?

If there is a perfect time to visit Adiyaman, it's Spring!  The fields are green with wildflowers all a bloom, while the air is still fresh, both above and below all tombs.  They say, you cannot ride a road in Adiyaman without seeing a Tumulus somewhere in the distance.  No, I say that.

As stated below, the Sofraz Tumulus rises approximately 15 meters above the surrounding fields.  Here at the site, the sign says 1C CE, while other sources date the structure from between 1C BC to the 2C CE, well.  I guess we'll leave the dating to future excavations and analysis.

Not far from the tumulus flows the Safraz River, which is a tributary of the Goksu River, that flows beneath the Goksu Roman Bridge before entering the mighty Euphrates.

There is actually a second tumulus located within a stones throw of the Safraz Tumulus, and I will cover that burial site in my following blog post.  Facing away from the Safraz Tumulus, (pictured below), the large hills rising in the distance harbor another elaborate burial tomb containing several sarcophagi.

So, Safraz as I see it, lay along a route circumventing the numerous tributary obstacles that, previous to the massive bridges being built over these tributaries by the Romans closer to the Euphrates, made travel along the mighty river difficult to impossible.

The tumulus is constructed of crushed stone and rubble, that rises above the dromos (entrance) on the southern side of the structure, which is located a further 5-6 meters below ground level.  Pictured below, the walled conclave leading to the entrance shaft.

Perhaps such an obstacle (depth) was considered a safer more secure way to protect the grave, that is putting it deep underground, as opposed to building a stone structure above ground, like tombs in Elif, Hasanoglu, and Hisar?

Pictured above and below, the support walls directly outside the steps leading up to the top of the entrance shaft.

Modern wooden stairs take us down to a tunnel entrance that leads into a large vaulted chamber where two sarcophagi are positioned in situ.  I included my foot in the photo below in order to give an idea of the depth.

The stone blocks of the structure are very finely crafted, and with no ornamental or relief work present, I wonder if it was cheaper to build a tumulus, then to erect a mausoleum with such decoration.  After all, these blocks could be bought, made or quarried in stock sizes, without regard to a facade.

Pictured above, looking upward to the top of the entrance shaft.  You cannot see it from this angle, but, there is no locked gate at the top of the stairs to prevent visitors from entering the shaft during off hours.  However, it would be very dangerous to try to climb down in the dark!  Pictured below, the stone door to the tomb is sitting off to the side, and notice the locking mechanism built into its construction.

I didn't mention it earlier, but the tall guy pictured below showed up in the morning while I was making coffee.  He is the güvenlik görevlisi, or, security guard for the tomb, and I immediately apologized for camping next to the tumulus, but he kind, and said not to think about it.  He then asked if I would like a tour of the tomb.

As you can see from these photos, the stone work is very fine, and you can see a red band painted along the bottom of the wall, which drops in height as you approach the chamber through the tunnel, or corridor.  There must be a reason for such painting, and know I am very curious to find out why this was done.

This corridor is referred to as the 'transition room', and the paint on the walls dropping from high to low as you proceed toward the chamber entrance may have something to do with entering the underworld.  The direction of the corridor is north-south, which may also play some role in the ritual of burial and interment.

The burial chamber is elongated east-west measuring 3 by 4 meters, with the sarcophagi buttressed against the east and west walls.  The sarcophagi are of a more simple type, lacking the elaborate relief and sculpture of sarcophagi purposed for public display.

Though of a basic design, you can see that the lids and bodies are very smoothly cut, with fine sharp lines, expressing care, strength, and purpose.  Both sarcophagi are made of limestone.

Interesting to me, is that both sarcophagi lids have through holes on one end at their ridge.  

They appear to be specifically purposed to raise and lower the lid, which could suggest a few possibilities; they were necessary in order to lower the lid a great distance (in this case, 5 meters deep), they were used to raise the lids at an angle within the confined chamber, or, something other, or, all the above.

Regardless, the grave robbers ended up breaking into each of the sarcophagi at one of their ends, probably because they tightly sealed, and, perhaps with sort of adherent, or over time the lids just adhered to their bases naturally?

The arched roof is high, and has protected the chamber extremely well, considering the structure is around 2000 years old.

The dryness and lack of any standing water surprised me most, though you can see that there has been some leaking from the corners of the roof.  In my next post, we will take a look at the other Safraz Tumulus, or, the Safraz Tumulus II, which with its somewhat shallow staircase entrance, was much less protected from the elements.

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

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Monday, April 17, 2023

Hasanoglu Mausoleum

Photos by Jack A. Waldron

Hasanoglu Village is only 4 kilometers from the ancient city of Sugga (modern Elif), and about 8 kilometers from Hisar Village, site of the Hisar Mausoleum.  All three of these communities have as their centerpieces, beautifully constructed mausoleums dating from from the late 2nd or early 3rd century CE.

While all three mausoleums have striking similarities, their differences stand out.  The Mausoleum of Hasanoglu more resembles that of the Mausoleum of Hisar, both having arched vaults on all four sides, as opposed to the Mausoleum of Elif, which has only three arches.

One of the starkest differences between the three mausoleums are their roofs.  The roof of the mausoleum in Hisar curves on all sides as its rises to its pyramidal peek, where as that of the mausoleum in Elif rises like an Egyptian pyramid, with straight flat surfaces.

As for the roof of the Hasanoglu mausoleum, well, as you can see from the photos, there is no roof.  Why the restoration did not include making the structure whole again I do not know, but I can guess that the same or similar reason applies here as did for the Septimius Severus Karasu Bridge.

The Mausoleum of Hasanoglu has high basement with newly fashioned stone ashlar blocks and a new wooden door securing the entrance to the tomb (pictured above).  Atop the high basement is a flat platform that supports four groups of pseudo Corinthian columns with fluted relief stretching their lengths (pictured below).

The entablature of the high basement is simpler in design, meaning, no Medusa reliefs, Syrinx flutes, scissors, swords or shields on display, as is the case for the Mausoleum of Elif.  Further, the roof entablature is also of a basic design, much of which is from newly sculpted stone.

The four groups of pseudo columns make for a very strong and sturdy structure, and also give inward pressure and force to counter the outward pressure on the corners by the four arches.

If you look closely at the photo above, you will see an inscription in the frieze of the entablature.  I have not yet found a translation, but am looking.  As you may know, we do not know to whom any of the three mausoleums belong, and finding out this information may provide more details on the the history of these communities.

Based on the grande ornate design and finish of these three mausoleums, we can guess that the interred were successful, rich, probably nobles, probably Roman, perhaps high-ranking soldiers, who had been given land for dedication and duty to the Empire, and/or so on.

Pictured below, this large Corinthian capital was sitting on display within the courtyard of the tomb.  Due to its size, I don't believe it is part of the mausoleum, and if this is so, then it attests to the size and grandness of other ancient buildings that once comprised this community.

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

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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Sugga: Ancient Junction and Elif Mausoleum

Photos by Jack A. Waldron

Along the ancient road turned modern over the centuries, the larger Elif Town is located only 3 kilometers west of the much smaller Hisar Village, where the Mausoleum of Hisar, or, the Hisar Memorial Tomb is located.  Though both can be proud of their ancient Roman mausoleum tombs, Elif, known to the ancient Romans as Sugga, appears to have a retained its wealth over the centuries, and has built a grande park around their monument, the Mausoleum of Elif, making it a centerpiece of the community (pictured above and below).

Perhaps Elif (or, ancient Sugga) deserves its larger status, as both in ancient times and today, it sits at the junction of roads connecting Doliche (modern Duluk) and Zeugma (gateway across the Euphrates), with the ancient capital Samosata.  

Though large and important, we know very little about ancient Sugga, because there is very little written history of the community, but as we can see from the various building fragments on display in the park (pictured above and below), the ancient city did showcase some spectacular structures.  Most of the ancient building blocks of Sugga have either been quarried for newer structures, or, remain underneath the town that lay over them, in dormant for future excavations.

The name Sugga was apparently given when the Romans established the settlement, and may mean 'boar', 'pig' or 'swine'.  The etymological origin of 'sugga' appears to be inherited from Sauraseni, inherited from Sanskrit, inherited from Proto-Indo-Iranian ('suHkaras'), inherited from Proto-Indo-European, ('suh-keh', meaning pig, swine).

There is however one grand monument that remains to remind us of the wealth provided by this rich land, the Mausoleum of Elif, built some 1800 years ago.

As with the Mausoleum of Hisar, which shares a number of design similarities, the Elif Mausoleum was erected at the end of the 2nd or beginning of the 3rd centuries CE.  It is important to point out that a full restoration of the Elif Mausoleum was completed in 2013, the year I began my tenure in Turkey.

As you can see from these photos, there are three levels in the design, what is called a high basement (referring to a basement above ground level), a body (or, main mass/section), and a vaulted roof (meaning, that it is supported by arches).  Pictured below, a wooden door once again protects the ornate entrance to the tomb chamber.

The mausoleum was built of finely dressed stone, of which any missing blocks have been carefully sculpted and set into position during the restoration.  The only fully walled facade of the mausoleum faces to the north, with the other facades being arched.  

There is an opening or entrance at platform level in the the northern facade, and we may assume that it was necessary during ancient times to access the platform (pictured below).

The pyramidal roof of the Elif Mausoleum is supported by three arches that rest atop pseudo-columns in the Corinthian order, and which share the load through connecting stone block at each corner of the monument with larger pseudo-columns in the Corinthian order.

Featured on the front facade of the mausoleum are two heads of Medusa, which strike out from beside each Corinthian capital on the inside, between the capital and the top of the arch (pictured above and below).

Medusa, the mythical abhorrent female with snakes for strands of hair, who would turn all to stone for merely gazing upon her, is prominantly visible in reliefs encompassing the whole of the tomb.  Pictured above and below, the Medusa relief at the top right corner of the front facade.

There is a deeply religious aspect with regard to the inclusion of such a number of Medusa figures incorporated on the Elif Mausoleum.  As we will see below, the mythical figure surrounds the tomb with terr(or)ific affect!

Such pronounced use of the Medusa relief expresses an absolute belief in her metaphysical powers to ward off grave robbers, or,  to those who might consider encroaching on or entering the inner sanctum of the tomb in an effort to abscond with some family grave goods.

As you can see in the photo below, there is a decorative frieze that wraps around the entire structure, only not at the top of the building under a pediment as is usual, but at the top of the high basement, directly aimed at eye level.

The Medusa images are flanked with draping garlands, perhaps a sign that the interred was a victor in battle, a soldier of high rank and honor.  After all, ancient Sugga is thought to have been settled by Roman soldiers, who in return for their service received land.

Other objects that can be found in the 'Medusa Frieze' are scissors (pictured below, center right), mirrors (pictured below, center left), what appear to be sward and shield (pictured below, far right center).

One of the more interesting reliefs in the 'Medusa Frieze' is a Pan flute or Syrinx (pictured below just off the corn).  This may intend to recreate the traditional music that would have accompanied the ceremony when laid to rest, or, perhaps the deceased played they flute.

Pictured below, a close-up of the Pan flute.  The Pan flute is also called a Syrinx, which refers to the female nymph of the same name, who was a follower of Artemis, and was known for her chastity.  One day after being chased to the river's edge by Pan, she asked the river nymphs to save her.

The river nymphs changed her into hollow water reeds, which when the breath of frustrated gods blew across them, made an eerie sound.

I am currently based on my sailboat in Izmir, and plan to spend the winter getting caught up on these blog posts.  The plan is for me to continue to explore ancient sites by cycle and sail, and I can see when I look at my map of ancient sites, that there are too many everywhere I go.  Still, I never find it dull or boring to finally reach a new site to examine.

The fragment pictured below was sitting across the street from the mausoleum, and my guess is that it was a replica meant to be used in the monument restoration, but seems to have cracked during production.

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

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