The capital of the Hittites - Hattusa - was surrounded by massive fortifications when the Hittite civilization had a status of the Near East superpower. The walls were erected using the natural shape of the terrain or completely changing it, depending on the architectural and strategic needs. At least six gates let people enter the interior of the city. The Lion Gate is the first one that can be seen when following the official sightseeing route around Hattusa.
According to the discovered Hittite texts, the city gates were guarded by the representatives of the city administration, controlling the movement of people to and from the capital. At night, the gates were closed, and the seal was attached, and in the morning the seal was broken in the presence of the relevant authorities.
The Lion Gate, built in the early 14th century BCE, is located in the south-western part of the fortifications. It is flanked by two towers and the upper parts between the towers have been destroyed. The gate consists of two access openings of parabolic shape: an internal one and an external one. Once they were mounted with wooden doors that opened inwards. Most probably, the exterior doors were sheathed in bronze to increase their resistance.
The statues of the front halves of two lions that gave the gate its customary name, were carved in huge blocks of rock on both sides of the external doors. The silhouettes of these wild animals with open jaws and wide open eyes probably played a protective function - they were to scare away evil spirits from the city. This explanation has been deduced by the researchers on the basis of the similarity of the lion theme to other such representations, known from Hittite and Mesopotamian architecture.
The eye sockets of the lions were in the past lined with various decorative materials. It is worth to take a careful look at how skilfully these sculptures were carved. Particularly in the case of the right lion that has been completely preserved, it is possible to see its beautiful mane, the fur on its chest and its head. The lion on the left has been preserved survived in much worse condition as it has lost almost the entire head. It has recently been restored, so that the visitors to Hattusa could admire it in all its glory. Above and to the left of the damaged head of the left lion, a few barely visible Luvian hieroglyphic characters can be spotted. The upper blocks of the left tower facade are not smoothed, which testifies to the fact that the gate was never completed.
The Lion Gate demonstrates the details of Hittite sculpture of the 14th century period and represents excellent craftsmanship of Hittite masons. The blocks of stone that were used for its construction are connected with so-called polygonal technique. In this technique, the visible surfaces of the stones are dressed with straight sides or joints, giving the block the appearance of a polygon. It is said that in the case of the Lion Gate in Hattusa not even the thinnest sliver of paper could be put between the stones as they fit perfectly together. The Lions Gate is similar to the construction techniques seem in Mycenaean Greece, in particular, to another Lion Gate - the one at the entrance to the city of Mycenae.
The paved road leading through the area of Hattusa forks off about 300 meters after the stopover at the Lower Town. The main sightseeing route leads along the right branch of the road, in the direction of the Lion Gate. Near this gate, there is a car park for the tourists who are sightseeing Hattusa by car or by motorcycle.