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8 August 2009
Cuneiform tablets found in 2,700-year old Turkish temple

Excavations at the site of a recently discovered temple in southeastern Turkey have uncovered a cache of cuneiform tablets dating back to the Iron Age period between 1200 and 600 BCE. Found in the temple's cella, or 'holy of holies', the tablets are part of a possible archive. The cella also contained gold, bronze and iron implements, libation vessels and ornately decorated ritual objects.
     "The assemblage appears to represent a Neo-Assyrian renovation of an older Neo-Hittite temple complex," said Timothy Harrison, professor of near eastern archeology in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and director of University of Toronto's Tayinat Archaeological Project (TAP). "The tablets, and the information they contain, may possibly highlight the imperial ambitions of one of the great powers of the ancient world, and its lasting influence on the political culture of the Middle East."
     Partially uncovered in 2008 at Tell Tayinat, capital of the Neo-Hittite Kingdom of Palastin, the structure of the building where the tablets were found preserves the classic plan of a Neo-Hittite temple. It formed part of a sacred precinct that once included monumental stelae carved in Luwian (an extinct Anatolian language once spoken in Turkey) hieroglyphic script. Tayinat was destroyed by the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III in 738 BCE, and the temple was later burned in an intense fire and found filled with heavily charred brick and wood which, ironically, contributed to the preservation of the finds recovered from its inner chambers. "While those responsible for this later destruction are not yet known, the remarkable discoveries preserved in the Tayinat temple clearly record a pivotal moment in its history," said Harrison. "They promise a richly textured view of the cultural and ethnic contest that has long characterized the turbulent history of this region."

Source: University of Toronto (7 August 2009)

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