Colossal statue of Neo-Hittite warrior king found

Tayinat gate lion found last yearThe Tayinat Archaeological Project in southeastern Turkey continues to prove itself a bonanza of Bronze and Iron Age archaeological wonders. To last year’s roaring lion sculpture that once guarded the gates of the citadel of Kunulua (aka Kinalua), capital of the Neo-Hittite Kingdom of Patina (ca. 1000-738 B.C.), we can now add the top half of a colossal statue of Patina’s warrior king Suppiluliuma.

Colossal statue of Suppiluliuma, frontThe statue is the head and torso of the king, depicted with a neatly curled beard and head of hair. His wide eyes are made of inlaid white and black stone. His arms are bent at the elbow, forearms extended and hands clenched in tight fists. He wears an armband above each elbow and bracelets on his wrists adorned with lion heads facing each other. In his right fist he holds the head of a spear; in his left a shaft of wheat. He wears a pectoral piece or necklace shaped like a crescent.

The statue is almost five feet tall and intact from the waist to the top of his head, but the bottom half is missing. Archaeologists estimate that when legs were attached the complete statue was between 11 and 13 feet tall. He too was a guardian, positioned at the gateway leading to the upper citadel to the royal city, and must have been a highly impressive one at that.

Colossal statue of Suppiluliuma, sideIt’s a long inscription on the back that identifies him as the king. A raised relief carved in Hieroglyphic Luwian, an Anatolian language used solely in royal seals and monumental inscriptions, extols the military campaigns and many accomplishments of King Suppiluliuma. We don’t know exactly who he was, but he was named after two kings of the Hittite New Kingdom: Suppiluliuma I (ca. 1344–1322 B.C.) who had revived the flagging kingdom with many military successes including wresting Syrian territories from the control of Akhenaten’s weakened Egyptian empire, and Suppiluliuma II (ca. 1207–1178 B.C.), the last known king of the Hittite New Kingdom who defeated Cyprus in the first recorded naval battle in history.

Experts believe this Suppiluliuma fought against the powerful Neo-Assyrian king Shalmaneser III as part of a coalition of Syro-Hittite states in 858 B.C. Shalmaneser’s father Ashurnasirpal II had conquered Kunulua in the 870s B.C. without encountering any resistance whatsoever. Kunulua King Lubarna caved before the first spear was thrown, handing over huge quantities of silver, gold, tin, iron, oxen, sheep, a large female monkey, linen, furniture, female hostages including the king’s own niece, plus numerous infantry and cavalry troops. Suppiluliuma’s victory 15 years or so later was an important vindication for the humiliated state.

Carved column baseIn the same location, archaeologists found a second sculpture lying on its side next to the colossal statue. This one is a semi-circular column base about three feet tall and nearly three feet in diameter. There’s a winged bull figure carved on the curved side with a sphinx to its left. The flat side is bare, because it was probably originally meant to be placed against a wall.

Both sculptures appear to have been ritually buried under the central passageway of the citadel gate, as was the lion found last year. The Neo-Assyrians conquered the area in 738 B.C., destroying the monumental gateway of the citadel. They buried the statues and then paved them over, turning the one-time royal citadel into a sacred precinct and its gateway into a courtyard.


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Comment by Karen
2012-08-01 09:07:48

I get intimidated by the horses outside PF Chang’s, so can only imagine the effect this guy had on passersby.

Although, am I the only one who thinks he looks like a jogger in that first picture? 😆

Still, nothing like looking into a face that looked back at our ancestors 3000 years ago!

Comment by livius drusus
2012-08-01 09:12:21

😆 It’s the orange headband! A very 80s jogger look. That’s just a strap they’re using to stabilize the statue, though. I think he looks like Beavis when he’s freaking out over how they’re never going to score and Butthead has to tell him to settle down. His clenched fists are so Beavisy.

Comment by BWA
2012-08-01 09:39:54

Looks more like a customer at PF Chang’s. Imagine a knife in one hand, a fork in the other, and some slamming on the table because the food was slow in coming.

Though I doubt that that was the effect the artist was going for

Comment by Android
2012-08-01 13:45:52

Looking at the inlaid eye stones, I wonder if the column base had similar ones for those empty eye sockets. And if they made the poor creature look surprised in the same way as the king.

Comment by Mr. Murphy in VA
2012-08-01 15:57:07

I wonder if the “necklace” is an early version of a gorget, and if so, whether or not it was used as armor or a badge of rank.

Also, I can’t help but notice that this region has a very long tradition of armed conflict–all the way to modern times.

Comment by edahstip
2012-08-01 21:46:18

I think a lot of modern conflicts should end with the surrender of a large female monkey.

Comment by Lucius
2012-08-02 12:36:17

Or a large male monkey. Let’s not be sexist like those people in the olden days.

Comment by Cordate
2012-08-03 18:48:09

The fists held close to the torso and the googly eyes reminded me of the Lewis chesspieces.

Comment by livius drusus
2012-08-03 20:23:16

Ooh, good one! They definitely could be related.

Comment by Cordate
2012-08-20 16:32:32

He’s in the news again, though only as a footnote to this other article. Maybe I’ll order a Bug-eye Warrior Plushie!

Comment by Anonymous
2014-02-18 09:18:40


Comment by Mike M.
2017-11-03 08:30:04

For any future interested readers, I would like to respond to this misconception:

“Comment by Mr. Murphy in VA
2012-08-01 15:57:07

Also, I can’t help but notice that this region has a very long tradition of armed conflict–all the way to modern times.”

It’s not just this one particular “region.” Virtually all tribes, nations, and civilizations of humans have “a very long tradition of armed conflict.”

In point of fact, white Europeans are traditionally far more combative and violent than any other civilization (brown-skinned) of man.

The ancient middle east only SEEMS violent, because people don’t understand the breadth of time involved.

Dates seem to all blend together. For instance, in this article, Livius mentioned a few time periods:

ca. 1344–1322 B.C – Sup. I


ca. 1207–1178 B.C – Sup. II

People read: “There were many military victories, and a successor took over and continued those military campaigns.” They also see the letters “ca,” and know that these dates are approximations. The assumption is that “theres always all of these bloody wars going on,” without looking at the time spans actually involved.

The two date ranges are two centuries….200 years! With about 150 years of separation between the two Suppiluliuma rulers! And the second one one had 15 years of no warfare.

In comparison, that’s like going from George Washington, all the way through to today. How many aggressive armed conflicts has the United States, alone, started? How many has Europe started? And in comparison, how many has Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America each started?

Now take any 200 year range of date. Say….from 1200 – 1400 A.D.(Middle Ages.)The Europeans, BY FAR, has a much longer, and much more “tradition of armed conflict” than any place else on the planet, both before, during, and after that particular period of time!

So no. The Middle East is not at all unusual in this regards whatsoever. If anything, in comparison, it is far more peaceful than white-dominated Europe.

These muddling of facts, is what killed modern conservatism for me. They spread false / highly misleading information, and innocent people like Mr. Murphy make innocent mistakes like here, and perpetuates the false narrative.

Sorry, I’m on a mission to correct the record.

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