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.
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 were 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.
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 reliefs at Yazilikaya by French archaeologist Charles Texier (1882).
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.
Hattusa, the capital city of the Hittites in the late Bronze Age, is located in the Boğazkale District of the Çorum Province, 150 kilometres east of Ankara. It was the head of an empire that stretched across the broad lands of Anatolia and northern Syria, from the Aegean in the west to the Euphrates in the east. The ruins of the city walls, the gates, the temples and the palaces awaiting the visitors today provide a comprehensive picture of the Hittite capital in the 13th century BC.
The earliest traces of settlement on the site are from the 6th millennium BC. During the 19th and 18th centuries BC, the Hattians and the Assyrian Trade Colonies settled in the area. Hattusa, named Huttush at the time, was one of the Karu (trading post) established by the merchant colonies of Assyria. Hattush came to an end around 1720 BC when Anitta, king of Kussara (of the dynasty that would form the Old Hittite Kingdom), sacked the city. A generation later, another king of Kussara decided to make the city his capital. A new city was planned and built on the ruins of the old one, and the Hittite language was introduced to the region. Hattush became the Hittite city of Hattusa, and the king took the name of Hattusili I, the “one from Hattusa”. Over the next few hundred years, Hattusa remained the capital of the Hittite empire.
At its peak, the population of Hattusa reached an estimated 40,000-50,000 inhabitants. The city was very large, covering 1.8 km² with massive defensive walls over 6km in length and huge watchtowers and secret tunnels.
The site was discovered on July 28 in 1834 by Charles Texier, but the first systematic excavations in Hattusa began in 1893-1894 under the guidance of Ernest Chantre who published the first cuneiform tablets from Hattusa. Since 1907 archaeological work has been carried out by the German Archaeological Institute. The city consisted of two separated districts; the Lower City, the district of the Old City of the Hittites where the main temple was located, and the Upper City, a newer part of the city with a fortified palace complex surrounded by massive walls. The site also boasts a number of hieroglyphic inscriptions bearing traces of the so-called “Luwian” script.
The city was destroyed, together with the Hittite state itself, around 1200 BC, as part of the collapse of the Late Bronze Age kingdoms. Excavations at the site determined that Hattusa was invaded and burned early in the 12th century BC after many of Hattusa’s residents had abandoned the city. The site was subsequently abandoned until 800 BC when a modest Phrygian settlement appeared in the area. Today the whole tour of the ancient city can be completed following the concrete path of 3-4 kilometres either on foot or by car.