3,000 years later, Kings of Hakkari see the light of day
- 3,000 years later, Kings of Hakkari see the light of day
* 'The excavations we undertook yielded sensational results in terms
of archaeology. We have not found any artifacts resembling these
in the entire Near East. We are not sure whether or not there are
similar examples from anywhere in the world'
* The recently discovered artifacts have been brought to the Meydan
Medresesi in Hakkari. Since the Meydan Medresesi is under the
authority of the General Directorate of Foundations, the Ministry
of Culture has to intervene and assist in solving the legal
problems related to turning this religious complex into a museum
Ankara - Turkish Daily News
For 3,000 years, the artifacts were lying beneath the ground, waiting
to be discovered. In nearby Van many finds had been uncovered, but
Hakkari, it was thought, was not a site of ancient settlement. Now,
however, Hakkari is understood to have been the home of a civilization
that predates the Urartians.
It began when Necdet Yildiz, a local resident living along the
outskirts of the Hakkari fortress, stumbled upon a stele, a stone
tablet with writing incised on its surface. Yildiz proceeded to inform
the Hakkari Governor's Office of his find, and on the invitation of
the Governor's Office, Professor Veli Sevin, an archaeologist
specializing in Middle and Near East ancient history and with a keen
interest in the civilizations of eastern and southeaster Anatolia,
headed out to Hakkari to investigate.
Sevin, who teaches in the Department of Archaeology in Istanbul
University's Faculty of Arts and Letters, brought with him a group
from Istanbul University and another group from the Van museum to
investigate the area in which the stele had been found. Just a few
weeks before, Sevin had been involved in an excavation in Hakkari in
which 25 tombs belonging to ancient kings had been unearthed. Along
with the tombs, hundreds of iron guns, jewellery and other artifacts,
dating back at least 3,000 years, were discovered and turned over to
the Van Museum. When Sevin and his team began exploring the area
surrounding the location of Yildiz's accidental discovery, 13
additional stele were found, also dating back 3,000 years ago, from
the Upper Mesopotamian kingdom of Habushkia. The stele feature images
of gods or kings and are now under protection at Hakkari's Meydan
Medrese, a religious school, whose historical significance is equal in
value to the artifacts it now houses.
Professor Veli Sevin: 'International archaeological event'
The Turkish Daily News spoke with Professor Sevin about his recent
excavations. Speaking with enthusiasm, he stressed the archaeological
significance of the latest discoveries. The findings, he explained,
belong to the early Iron Age of 3,000 years ago and are even older
than the Urartian civilization, the most important ancient
civilization of the region. According to Sevin, previously discovered
artifacts attributed to the pre-Urartian Hurrian civilization in
actuality belong to the Hubushkian's, a nomadic group descended from
"The excavations we undertook yielded sensational results in terms of
archaeology," Sevin related with excitement. "We have not found any
artifacts resembling these in the entire Near East. We are not sure
whether or not there are similar examples from anywhere in the world.
But at the end of all these studies, we can state that there was such
a kingdom in this region around 1000 B.C. So we have come face to face
with a 3,000 years old civilization. The objects found are stele
belonging to regional kings. These objects were built for the kings
either while they were alive or for commemoration after their deaths.
We are sure that if other excavations are begun in this region, other
important objects will be found."
Governor Canpolat: 'Another stone has been found'
Hakkari Governor Nihat Canpolat also spoke with the TDN, informing us
of the region's historical wealth. In order to promote the region and
attract more tourists, these archaeological studies must be extended,
Akdogan asserted. Moreover, the governor related the discovery in the
region of another stele, in which the Hakkari fortress has been
depicted as it appeared in ancient times. As far as can be understood
from the carving, the site at which the 13 stele were found was the
location of the entrance to the Hakkari fortress. Listening to the
governor, it easy to understand the necessity for comprehensive
research in the region.
Governor Canpolat would like to see the Ministry of Culture show some
interest in the region. As it is, he says that without the efforts of
his office, the newly uncovered artifacts would never have been
brought to light.
Canpolat praises Necdet Yildiz for his model attitude in informing the
governor's office when he first discovered the stele in his garden.
Yildiz, Canpolat asserts, should receive an award from the ministry.
Caring for these significant historical masterpieces is our
obligation, he stresses. "A major historical treasure has been brought
to light. We want to carry out new excavations in the early spring.
For now, we have taken the objects that were unearthed to the Meydan
Medresesi for protection. We aim to turn the medrese into a museum."
To do this entails some legal procedures, Canpolat explained. Since
the Meydan Medresesi is under the authority of the General Directorate
of Foundations, the Ministry of Culture has to intervene and assist in
solving the legal problems related to turning this religious complex
into a museum.
Hakkari: Crossroad of ancient civilizations
Hakkari is located at the triangle where Turkey, Iran and Iraq
intersect, at the easternmost point of Anatolia and the northernmost
point of Upper Mesopotamia. It is the highest point of Upper
Mesopotamia, as well, and is naturally sheltered by the surrounding
mountains, which reach heights above 4,000 meters. The region is in
the vicinity of the "Silk Road" and the "Spice Road" and on the
"King's Road" belonging to the historical Urartian civilization.
Hakkari's history goes back to very ancient times. Rock paintings in
the Geverok valley and the Tiresin plateau reportedly go back
10,000-15,000 years. People setting deer traps and mountain goats and
the people who hunted them are portrayed on the rocks. The Hakkari
Mountains, located between two cradles of civilization, Anatolia and
Mesopotamia, have been the host of many nations in the Middle East. In
its long history, the region has come under the rule of the Kardukh,
Guti, Kassit, Hurrian, Mitanni, Urartian, Nayiri, Med and Persian
civilizations. Hakkari's geographically strategic location has led it
to become the shelter for small communities escaping from powerful
empires. For example, the Guti were a people who fled to the region to
take refuge from the Assyrians.
Where do these artifacts come from?
In his book entitled "The History of Anatolian Culture," Professor
Ekrem Akurgal asserts that the oldest civilization in the region
belonged to the Hurrians, who controlled Upper Mesopotamia.
Consequently, the Hurrian civilization had a strong influence on other
regional civilizations -- the Hittites were affected by the Hurrian
religion and the Urartians by the Hurrian language.
The first document found in the Hurrian language was a stone tablet
from 2300 B.C., discovered in what was once the city of Urkis. The
tablet is currently in the Louvre Museum. While some experts believe
that the excavated artifacts found in Hakkari appear to belong to the
Hurrian civilization, they also indicate that the whole subject of
Hurrian civilization is a problematic one and that the lack of
archaeological evidence from the Hakkari region makes it difficult to
explore the subject.
Historian Cemsid Bender also asserts that the Hurrians were one of the
oldest communities in the region. He believes that they built on the
cultures of their predecessors, the Guti and Subari, which survived in
later Anatolian and Hellenistic civilizations. He also presents the
thesis that the Urartian civilization was formed following the
unification of formerly scattered Hurrian tribes. Bender has pointed
out that all of the Hittite gods had names originating in the Hurrian
language. Noting the originality of this language, he posits that the
oldest languages of the world originated in Upper Mesopotamia. Bender
has stated that because Upper Mesopotamia witnessed some of the most
important developments in human history, carrying out research into
the Hurrian culture is obligatory.
Upper Mesopotamia: Motherland of ancient religions
The mountainous regions of Upper Mesopotamia saw the development of
several religious trends including Mithraism, Mazdaism, "Daiva
Yasnacilik," Zoroastrianism, and finally, the Yezidiler religion. Most
of these were alternative beliefs that developed in opposition to the
Until the previous century, the region was the most important center
of the Nestorian Christians, who originated in Assyria. Even today one
can see ruins of churches in almost all of Hakkari's mountain
villages. The oldest of these churches, the Hananis Church, was built
in the fifth century. While the Hananis Church is today in a state of
almost total destruction, its existence proves that Christianity was
practiced in the area in very early times.
During the period of the expansion of Islam, many religious clerics
sought refuge in this region to escape the Islamic orthodoxy. As a
result, in the ninth and tenth century Hakkari had become an important
center of sufism. Seyh Hadi bin Musafir el Hakkari, the contemporary
of the famous Sufi mystic Seyh Abdulkadir Geylani, built a school in
the mountains of Hakkari. It was here that he developed his world
view, on which the basic tenets of the Yezidiler religion were built.
In addition to Seyh Hadi, several other sufis are known to have lived
in the mountains of Hakkari.
Today, the mountains are home to many still unnamed historical tombs,
lying uncared for in the mountain villages. Research into these sites
is essential, but now, they are left in negligence. If the Ministry of
Culture takes the initiative and widens the scope of excavations
conducted in the area, everyone believes that other artifacts of deep
historical significance will be brought to light in Hakkari.
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