Neo-Assyrian underground complex discovered under house in southeast Turkey

(ORDO NEWS) — An Iron Age underground complex has been discovered in Turkey that may have been used by a fertility cult in the first millennium BC.

The underground complex was discovered in the village of Bashbuk in the province of Urfa in southeastern Turkey.

The authorities became aware of the complex during the looting of the territory. This led to a rescue excavation, which unearthed a 30m system of tunnels cut into the rock beneath the two-story house.

When authorities caught the looters, a team of archaeologists carried out a shortened rescue excavation to study the significance of the underground complex and art on the rock panel in the fall of 2018, before erosion could cause further damage to the site. What the researchers found, they told in a study published on Tuesday in the journal Antiquity.

In the complex, archaeologists have discovered rare rock paintings on the walls, which depict a procession of deities depicted in the Assyrian style. For example, Hadad is the god of storm and rain, Sin is the god of the moon and Atargatis is the goddess of fertility, protection and prosperity…

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“When the Assyrian Empire exercised political power in southeastern Anatolia, the Assyrian rulers expressed their power through art in the Assyrian court style,” said Selim Ferrukh Adali, one of the authors of the study and assistant professor of ancient history at Ankara University of Social Sciences.

“The wall panel contains an image of a divine procession with previously unknown elements, with Aramaic writing to describe some of the deities, while combining Neo-Assyrian, Aramaic and Syro-Anatolian divine iconography,” Adalı added.

Monumental rock reliefs are an example of this style, but the authors of the study write that Neo-Assyrian examples were rare.

The works of art were created in the 9th century BC. during the time of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, which originated in Mesopotamia and expanded to become the largest superpower of the time. This expansion included Anatolia, a large peninsula in Western Asia that includes most of present-day Turkey, between 600 and 900 BC.

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“The inclusion of Syro-Anatolian religious themes illustrates the adaptation of neo-Assyrian elements in a way that could not be expected from earlier finds,” said Associate Professor Selim Ferrukh Adali. “They reflect an earlier phase of the Assyrian presence in the region, when local elements were given more attention.” .

The pieces depict eight deities, all unfinished. The height of the largest of them is 3.6 feet (1.1 meters). Among the local deities in the painting are the moon god Sin, the storm god Hadad, and the goddess Atargatis.

Behind them, the researchers were able to highlight the sun god and other deities. According to Adali, the images combine symbols of Syro-Anatolian religious significance with elements of Assyrian representation.

Archaeologists have also been able to identify an inscription that may refer to the name “Mukin-abua”. He was a neo-Assyrian official during the reign of Adad-nirari III (811-783 BC). He may have been given control of the region, and researchers speculate that he may have used the complex to integrate and conquer the locals.

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However, the fact that the object is not completed indicates that it was not successful. Something that affected the efforts of the builders, such as an uprising, could have led to its abandonment. The authors hope that further research will provide insight into the culture and politics of the ancient empire.

Following the 2018 excavations, the site was closed as it is unstable and could collapse. Now it is under the legal protection of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey.

“Because it was a rescue excavation, we were not able to fully explore the site,” Dr. Adali said. “In the future, we will excavate in Bashbyuk and discover even more of the mysterious underground complex.”

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When excavations can safely resume, archaeologists look forward to continuing to work and getting new photographs of the art and inscriptions, and possibly discovering new art and objects.

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