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The Hittite Rock Sanctuary of Yazılıkaya

The rock sanctuary of Yazılıkaya ( = rock with writing) lies nestled between rock outcroppings at the foot of the high ridge east of Hattusha. In contrast to the temples within the city, the two rooms of this sanctuary (Chambers A and B), hemmed in by natural rock faces up to 12 m high, lie open to the skies. Although the site has been in use since the 15th century BC at least, not until the 13th century did the long procession of gods and goddesses take their place here, chiseled onto the rock faces by Hittite sculptors. It apparently represents the "House of the New Year's Celebration," a House of the Weather God where festivities were held to honor all the pantheon at the coming of the New Year and the beginning of spring.

 

The actual rock sanctuary was screened off from the outside world by a rather impressive architectural complex. Although only the wall socle zone remains in place, the reconstruction drawing gives an idea of how the buildings must have looked with the typical mudbrick and timber frame wall construction that was employed here as well. Through this building complex one would have entered the large Chamber A. Here on either side reliefs can be seen, chiseled into panels running horizontally across the natural limestone walls.

 

On the left side we have male deities (with two exceptions); on the right, female. They all face the opposite end of the chamber, towards which they appear to be slowly progressing; and there, indeed, is the climactic tableau: as leaders of the holy procession, the two supreme divinities, the weather god and the sun goddess greet one another.

 

 

Nearly all of the gods along the left side of the chamber are dressed in short skirts and high pointed hats. 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. The female divinities on the right-hand side of chamber are dressed in long pleated skirts and all wear curling-toed shoes, earrings and high headdresses. They display scarcely any individual attributes.

 

The largest relief figure in the sanctuary stands on the wall opposite the climactic scene, at the end of the procession of goddesses. Represented here is no god, but the Great King Tudhaliya IV, directly opposite-if at a respectful distance-the meeting of the gods, as if he was paying his respects to the highest deities. For this reason as well we assume it was this Great King who was responsible for the final arrangements of the Yazılıkaya sanctuary around the middle of the 13th century BC.

 

The relief sculpture in the small chamber B is much better preserved because the chamber was partly filled with earth and remained unexcavated until the mid 19th century.

 

 

On the wall immediately to the right of the entrance was carved a line of gods of the Underworld. They wear shirts, belts, short skirts and shoes curling up at the toe. They each carry a crescent-shaped sword flung over the shoulder, and the horned pointed hats that identify them as divinities.

On the wall opposite the divinity Sharrumma, the patron of Tudhaliya IV, is depicted as an escort of the Great King (after his death?).

Next to it, a most unusual iconography depicts an upright sword with the pommel on the hilt above fashioned into a male head wearing the tall horned and pointed hat of the gods. This is the god Nergal of the Underworld. And the third relief in this chamber shows a cartouche with the name and title of the Great King Tudhaliya IV. We assume that this chamber was a memorial to the Great King Tudhaliya IV erected by his son Shupiluliuma II, who set up a statue of his father here.