Colossal Ancient Human Sculpture Unearthed in Turkey

By Chelsea Whyte on July 31, 2012 12:30 AM EDT

sculpture
Archaeologists unearthed this massive human sculpture, which once sat at the gateway of an ancient kingdom. (Photo: Jennifer Jackson)

Archaeologists have unearthed a massive sculpture of a curly-haired man holding a spear and a sheath of wheat, thought to be part of a gateway that once guarded the upper citadel of an ancient kingdom's capital.

The sculpture, found at the Tayinat Archaeological Project (TAP) excavation site in southeastern Turkey, is intact from the waist up, and stands 5 feet tall from head to hip, which suggests the full body would have been around 12 feet tall.

The man's face is bearded and his hair is carved in a curly pattern. The face has inlaid white and black stones to make up the eyes. The man has carvings depicting jewels: on each extended arm sit two arm bracelets decorated with lion heads, and a crescent shaped pectoral necklace sits on the chest.

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The human sculpture was found alongside a semicircular column base bearing the images of a winged bull and a sphinx - the two pieces date back to between about 1000 B.C. and 738 B.C.

"These newly discovered Tayinat sculptures are the product of a vibrant local Neo-Hittite sculptural tradition," said Tayinat Project director Tim Harrison. "They provide a vivid glimpse into the innovative character and sophistication of the Iron Age cultures that emerged in the eastern Mediterranean following the collapse of the great imperial powers of the Bronze Age at the end of the second millennium BC."

The Neo-Hittites were a group of civilizations that arose along the eastern Mediterranean after the collapse of the Hittite Empire around 1000 B.C. When the statues were carved, the area was emerging from the Bronze Age and entering into the Iron Age, reports The Christian Science Monitor.

"The two pieces appear to have been ritually buried in the paved stone surface of the central passageway through the Tayinat gate complex," Harrison said, according to UPI.

A lengthy Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription, carved in raised relief across the back of the sculpture of the man, records the campaigns and accomplishments of Suppiluliuma, a Patinean king who faced an Assyrian siege.

The passageway that the sculpture likely adorned seems to have been destroyed in 738 B.C. when Assyrian forces conquered the Neo-Hittite city. 

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