The Tayinat Lion

Image: The Tayinat Lion

Archaeologists have uncovered a monumental gate in southeastern Turkey at the site of the Neo-Hittite Tayinat citadel. Among the findings uncovered by archaeologists was a stone-sculptured lion.  Below is an excerpt of the news report:

TORONTO, ON – Archaeologists leading the University of Toronto’s Tayinat Archaeological Project in southeastern Turkey have unearthed the remains of a monumental gate complex adorned with stone sculptures, including a magnificently carved lion. The gate complex provided access to the citadel of Kunulua, capital of the Neo-Hittite Kingdom of Patina (ca. 950-725 BCE), and is reminiscent of the citadel gate excavated by British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley in 1911 at the royal Hittite city of Carchemish.

The Tayinat find provides valuable new insight into the innovative character and cultural sophistication of the diminutive Iron Age states that emerged in the eastern Mediterranean following the collapse of the great civilized powers of the Bronze Age at the end of second millennium BCE.

“The lion is fully intact, approximately 1.3 metres in height and 1.6 metres in length. It is poised in a seated position, with ears back, claws extended and roaring,” says Timothy Harrison, professor of near eastern archaeology in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and director of U of T’s Tayinat Archaeological Project (TAP). “A second piece found nearby depicts a human figure flanked by lions, which is an iconic Near Eastern cultural motif known as the Master and Animals. It symbolizes the imposition of civilized order over the chaotic forces of the natural world.”

The gate complex appears to have been destroyed following the Assyrian conquest of the site in 738 BCE, when the area was paved over and converted into the central courtyard of an Assyrian sacred precinct.

The Neo-Hittites were the successors of the great Hittite empire that ruled Asia Minor during the 14th-13th centuries B.C.  The Old Hittite empire disappeared from Anatolia after 1200 B.C. during the invasion of the Sea Peoples.

The Neo-Hittite established their kingdoms in northern Syria. The most notable Neo-Hittite kingdom in northern Syria was the Hittite kingdom at Carchemish.  The Neo-Hittite were conquered by the Assyrians. The Neo-Hittite kingdom of Carchemish was conquered during the reign of Sargon II in the late 8th century B.C.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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