Gods Carved in Stone: The Hittite Rock Sanctuary of Yazilikaya.

Author:Bilgin, Tayfun
Position:Book review
 
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Gods Carved in Stone: The Hittite Rock Sanctuary of Yazilikaya. By JURGEN SEEHER. Istanbul: EGE YAYINLARI, 2011. Pp. 205, illus. C35 (paper).

Yazilikaya is possibly the most significant monumental remnant of the Hittite Empire. In 1834, the discovery of the rock-carved reliefs of Yazilikaya and the nearby ruins of the Hittite capital Hattusa in this central Anatolian location brought this once-forgotten empire to the attention of scholars and launched scientific studies on Hittite civilization. Excavations of the site have been carried out by the German Archeological Institute since 1931, and Jurgen Seeher himself headed the operation between 1994 and 2005. However, Gods Carved in Stone is not an in-depth scientific publication. There have been numerous such publications about Yazilikaya, of which the 1975 monograph Das hethitische Felsheiligtum Yazilikaya by Bittel et al. remains the most comprehensive. But until this book of Seeher none has covered the full extent of the research and provided extensive illustrations.

As he had done in his previous publications, Hattusha Guide: A Day in the Hittite Capital (1999) and A Mudbrick City Wall at HattuSa (2007), Seeher has designed this book more like a guidebook to enlighten the visitors to Yazilikaya and enthusiasts for Hittite studies with in-depth information about the site and the reliefs. With that in mind, the 206-page book has over 200 images and drawings, about ten percent of which are full-size images that cover two pages each. High-quality images taken at optimum conditions during various times of the day and year reveal details that one would not be able to see during a single visit to the site. Like the previously mentioned volumes, this book has also been published in German and Turkish.

After a brief introduction about the Hittite capital and the location of Yazilikaya on the city's outskirts, the next hundred pages of the book are dedicated to describing the chambers of the sanctuary. The main feature of the Yazilikaya sanctuary is the reliefs that decorate the flattened rock walls of its chambers. Seeher proceeds through the eighty-three figures of the A and B chambers, explaining each relief or relief group, providing individual photographs and drawings in addition to detailed stylistic descriptions.

Several divine figures of Chamber A, some of which are accompanied by a hieroglyphic Luwian label, remain to be identified, uncertainty arising mostly due to erosion and damage...

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