Relief of unknown god found in Turkey

University of Münster archaeologists excavating the ruins of a medieval monastery near the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep have discovered a basalt stele carved with a figure of a previously unknown deity. The monastery of Mar Solomon (Saint Solomon) was built in the early Middle Ages over the remains of the Roman-era temple to Jupiter Dolichenus, a deity who was a syncretized combination of the Greco-Roman thunderer, king of the Olympian gods, and the Hittite sky and storm god Tesub-Hadad. Before the Roman temple there was a sanctuary to Tesub-Hadad on the hill known today as Dülük-Baba Tepesi. The stele was recycled for use as building material in the wall of the monastery.

Archaeologist Blömer described the depiction: “The basalt stele shows a deity growing from a chalice of leaves. Its long stem rises from a cone that is ornamented with astral symbols. From the sides of the cone grow a long horn and a tree, which the deity clasps with his right hand. The pictorial elements suggest that a fertility god is depicted.” There are striking iconographic details such as the composition of the beard or the posture of the arms, which point to Iron Age depictions from the early 1st millennium B.C.

Hundreds of seals from the pre-Roman sanctuary have been found on the site, many of them carved with religious imagery and symbolism that are giving archaeologists new insight into worship practices at the sanctuary in the 1st millennium B.C. The discovery of the fertility god relief is an exciting addition to the archaeological record, and particularly relevant to the team’s investigation of how local cults survived over the millennia and in some cases expanded from their native contexts to widespread religions with adherents all over the Roman empire. Since ancient written sources — usually Roman elites — are unreliable documentation of Near Asian religions, archaeological sources are invaluable.

Excavation director Prof. Dr. Engelbert Winter:

“The image is remarkably well preserved. It provides valuable insights into the beliefs of the Romans and into the continued existence of ancient Near Eastern traditions. However, extensive research is necessary before we will be able to accurately identify the deity.”

Although Doliche was a small town, the empire-spanning prominence of the sanctuary of Jupiter Dolichenus transitioned into the Christian era. It was an episcopal see at least as early as the 4th century, and remains a titular see of the Roman Catholic Church to this day even though there’s nothing there but a glorious wealth of archaeological remains. The monastery of Mar Solomon was in use through the era of the crusades, but it was only known to archaeologists through written sources until the remains were first discovered in 2010.

Now the entire site is being transformed into an archaeological park even as excavations continue. The ruins are being carefully preserved and a trail was put in last year so visitors can view the Jupiter Dolichenus sanctuary and the remains of the monastery.

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Comment by Sonia Brito
2014-11-11 06:37:38

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Comment by Edward Goldberg
2014-11-11 08:33:16

That’s great, Sonia! Can I order a Malaysian passport for the syncretized combination of the Greco-Roman thunderer, king of the Olympian gods, and the Hittite sky and storm god Tesub-Hadad? Or will they need two separate passports? (My feelings won’t be hurt, LD, if you delete both of us!)Ed G.

 
Comment by Anonymous
2014-11-11 09:38:01

hittite customs Authority here:your both under arrest

 
Comment by Anonymous
2014-11-11 09:39:43

you re ,sorry,slip of the mouse

 
Comment by Roman
2014-11-11 13:01:01

This is quite an amazing combination. The God is standing on a Moon, stars and holding a growing plant. I wonder if people saw a connection between the life of plants and certain astrological activities. I also like a flower at the bottom and a tentacle-like object on the left. Through this art, I can feel that people were appreciating nature, which is very good. One thing is to picture a God that looks like a gumen and worship to someone you have never even seen, and another thing is worship to natural objects like a plant, an animal, etc.

 
Comment by Roman
2014-11-11 13:02:39

Sorry, I wanted to say looks like a human, not “gumen”.

 
Comment by L Bean
2014-11-11 16:23:37

Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall in each of these hamlets, from Dublin to Turkey, as the pagan sites were being blocked over for the churches to be built?

If I had a time machine it would be one of those situations I’d most like to eavesdrop, because the losers’ opinion has been lost to time.

 
Comment by Athanasius K.
2014-11-11 17:18:29

L.B., let us not forget: Similar to a proportion of early Christians with a certain attitude towards ‘pagan infidels’ two millenia ago, there are currently ‘gentlemen’ in the aerea, and particularly a bit further south, whose perverted attitudes give every reason to worry about what has been unearthed there, what it had been replaced with – and unfortunately everything else. In fact, ‘the divine plan of Revelation is realized simultaneously by deeds and words which are intrinsically bound up with each other and shed light on each another. It involves a specific divine pedagogy: God communicates himself to man gradually.’ (C3) – What was I about to say ?

 
Comment by Istvan Vallus
2014-11-17 03:45:41

Hello. This symbols found in Karpatian basin. In the relief we see, born of Nimrod! First scythian king of the Word.

 
Comment by Struan Robertson
2015-09-27 11:18:56

The estimated dating seems very tentative – “1st Millennia BC?”

Seems to be a Green Man of unknown provenance. The six pointed figures at the bottom appear to be starfish.

As to Nimrod – why would a famed builder be represented as a vegetative/fertility god?

 
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