Yazilikaya Hittite Rock Sanctuary

Yazılıkaya (“Inscribed Rock”) is a Hittite rock sanctuary located about 1.5 kilometres northeast of Hattusa, the capital city of the Hittite Empire. It is the largest known Hittite rock monument. The sanctuary consisted of a temple-like building and two open-air chambers cut into the bedrock.

Coordinates: 40° 1′ 30″ N, 34° 37′ 58″ E

Yazilikaya

The Yazılıkaya sanctuary served as a place for the celebration of the arrival of the New Year each spring. These ceremonies took place in the open air in front of the Hittite Pantheon. The sanctuary was made of two rock chambers, later labelled Chamber A and Chamber B by archeologists. The walls of each chamber was covered with the richest and most striking samples of Hittite relief art. They featured gods and goddesses and the figures of the Great King Tudhaliya IV (ca. 1237 – 1209 BC). There are a total of 83 images, 66 in the Chamber A and 17 in Chamber B.

Human activity on the site probably began in the 16th century BC, although what we see today is probably the result of modifications made in the late 13th century BC, not long before the Hittite Empire began its steep and mysterious decline.

The entrance to Yazılıkaya sanctuary.
The entrance to Yazılıkaya sanctuary.

Chamber A, the largest of two chambers, is 30 metres long and about 20 metres wide. Its walls are almost entirely decorated with reliefs running horizontally. The deities are aligned in two rows, perhaps in procession, with male figures on the left wall (with two female attendants) and female figures on the right wall. The name of each deity is given in Luwian hieroglyphs above their raised hands but due to natural deterioration some parts of these names have disappeared. These two rows are directed towards the main scene in the middle where the Storm God Teshup and the Sun Goddess Hepat meet.

Engraving from a relief at Yazilikaya by French archaeologist Charles Texier (1882).
Engraving from a relief at Yazilikaya by French archaeologist Charles Texier (1882).
Teshub stands on two deified mountains (depicted as men) alongside his wife Hepatu, who is standing on the back of a panther. Behind her, their son, their daughter and grandchild are respectively carried by a smaller panther and a double-headed eagle.

Chamber B is accessible via a narrow passage with winged demons on the both sides. It is believe that Chamber B was built as a memorial chapel for Tudhaliya IV, dedicated by his son Suppiluliuma II at the end of the 13th century BC. Buried until the mid 19th century, the reliefs on the walls are much better preserved than those in Chamber A. A line of gods of the Underworld are pictured on the wall immediately to the right of the entrance. On the opposite wall is a representation of Nergal, the God of the Sword and the Underworld. To the left of this relief a cartouche with the name of Tudhaliya IV is visible and this same king is shown embracing the Thunder God Teshub on the right side.

PORTFOLIO

Chamber A

Overview of Chamber A.
Overview of Chamber A.
Chamber A, twelve gods of the Underworld.
Chamber A, twelve gods of the Underworld. They all wear shoes curling up at the toe, and many are armed with either a sickle-shaped sword or a mace, which they carry over their shoulder.
Chamber A, two bull men stand between male gods on the hieroglyphic symbol of the earth and supporting the sky.
Chamber A, two bull men stand between male gods on the hieroglyphic symbol of the earth and supporting the sky.
Left wall of Chamber A depicting male gods.
Left wall of Chamber A depicting male gods.
Chamber A, main relief scene with
Chamber A, main scene in the middle of the chamber where Teshup and Hepat meet and female goddesses in procession on the right wall.
Chamber A, goddesses in procession.
Chamber A, goddesses in procession.
Chamber A, main scene depicting (left to right) the God Kumarbi (chief god of the Hurrians), the weather and storm god Teshuba, the earth goddess Hepat, Sharumma (son of Teshuba & Hepat) and Alanzu (daughter of Teshup Hepat).
Chamber A, main scene depicting (left to right) the God Kumarbi (chief god of the Hurrians), the weather and storm god Teshuba, the earth goddess Hepat, Sharumma (son of Teshuba & Hepat) and Alanzu (daughter of Teshup Hepat).
Chamber A, relief depicting the sanctuary's founder, King Tudhaliya IV, standing on two mountains.
Chamber A, relief depicting the sanctuary’s founder, King Tudhaliya IV, standing on two mountains.

Chamber B

Entrance to Chamber B with a relief of a winged, lion-headed demon.
Entrance to Chamber B with a relief of a winged, lion-headed demon.
Chamber B.
Chamber B. The narrow gallery is thought to be a memorial chapel for Tudhaliya IV, dedicated by his son Suppiluliuma II
Chamber B, the niches were probably used for offerings.
Chamber B, the niches were probably used for offerings.
West wall of Chamber B depicting the twelve Gods of the Underworld.
West wall of Chamber B depicting the twelve Gods of the Underworld.
East wall of Chamber B with a depiction of Negal, the Sword God and God of the Underworld.
East wall of Chamber B with a depiction of Negal, the Sword God and God of the Underworld.
Chamber B, cartridge showing the name and title of King Tudhaliya IV.
Chamber B, cartouche showing the name and title of King Tudhaliya IV.
East wall of Chamber B depicting in a niche the God Sharruma (son of the Thunder God Teshub) embracing King Tudhaliya IV.
East wall of Chamber B depicting in a niche the God Sharruma (son of the Thunder God Teshub) embracing King Tudhaliya IV. The god has his left arm over the king’s shoulders while holding the king’s right wrist. The god wears a shot tunic and has pointed shoes. The king wears a long coat and carries a sword and a litus.
West wall of Chamber B depicting the twelve Gods of the Underworld.
West wall of Chamber B depicting the twelve Gods of the Underworld.

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2 thoughts on “Yazilikaya Hittite Rock Sanctuary

  1. It was a very moving experience visiting this place. Especially the engraving of the god escorting the king to the underworld. The Hittite Vatican.

    Like

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