Sultantepe

Location: 

GPS coordinates: 37.049999, 38.905701

The tell of Sultantepe, situated in Şanlıurfa Province of southeastern Anatolia, is a Late Assyrian archaeological site. Some researchers identify it with Huzirina, an ancient temple-complex, but this conclusion is not well supported by archaeological evidence.

Sultantepe
Sultantepe

Historical overview: 

Sultantepe mound is about 50 meters high. It hides the traces of settlements from the Bronze and Iron Age, although the earliest layers have not been thoroughly investigated by archaeologists yet. The best-known layers date back to the eighth and seventh century BCE that is the reign of the Assyrians in the north-western Mesopotamia. The city was abandoned at the end of the neo-Assyrian period. The writings from the archives found in Sultantepe end suddenly, simultaneously with the fall of nearby Harran, in 610 BCE. The Scythians and Babylonians were most probably responsible for its destruction.

During the subsequent Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods, Sultantepe was not inhabited. Settlers appeared there again in the Hellenistic and Roman times. From the Hellenistic period, the traces of residential buildings have been preserved. In the Roman times, the settlement was limited to the area lying at the foot of the mound.

Archaeological research: 

Excavations in Sultantepe were conducted in the years 1951-1952, by the combined forces of the Archaeological Museum in Ankara and the British Institute of Archaeology. A team was led by Seton Lloyd and Nuri Gökçe. During the work, the team successfully identified the remains of several temples of Assyrian deities: Zababa, Baba, Ishtar and Sumerian moon god - Sin. The remains of a monumental gate in the form of massive basalt columns were also excavated. This portico stood on the way leading to the top of the mound, where there were the most important public buildings, surrounded by a high wall.

The most important archaeological discovery of Sultantepe was an archive of clay tablets containing various texts from the Assyrian times. The complete library consists of around 600 unfired clay tablets that were found outside a priestly family house. They include the texts on mathematics, economics, medicine, and religion, including hymns, prayers, and predictions. Long sections of the famous Epic of Gilgamesh proved to be precious for researchers. Tablets of literary compositions full of misspellings are the evidence of educational system. The highlights of Sultantepe Tablets include forty lines of the Creation Epic, Enuma Elish, which had been missing from the texts found in Assyria proper. Another invaluable find were the sections of the composition called The Righteous Sufferer, with strong parallels in The Book of Job.

Unfortunately, no further archaeological work has been conducted in Sultantepe since the 50s of the 20th century. A significant obstacle for the in-depth examination of the mound is a seven-meter-deep layer of Hellenistic and Roman era debris.

Many researchers identified Sultantepe with the Assyrian city Huzirina, although there is no consensus for this identification. The records from the clay tablets testify in favour of this theory. On the other hand, according to the chronicles of the Assyrian kings, Huzirina was situated just one day's march west of Nisibis (now Nusaybin); meanwhile, Sultantepe is 220 km away from this city.

Sightseeing: 

The most exciting discovery unearthed in Sultantepe that is the clay tablets are now in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. The mound of Sultantepe is a place that can attract only the most devoted lovers of ancient history. There is not much to see there, although the erosion of the hill uncovered the bases of Assyrian basalt columns. In the area of the hill, you can also make out fragments of stone tools, pottery, and stone steles with barely visible inscriptions.

Visitor tips: 

The access to Sultantepe mound is unlimited and free of charge. Watch out for stray dogs during the exploration of the mound.

Getting there: 

Sultantepe mound stands on the eastern side of the D885 route, from Şanlıurfa to Harran. It is clearly visible from this road. After driving 20 km to the south from Şanlıurfy city centre, turn east and drive 2 km to the village of Sultantepe Köyü.

Image gallery: 

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