Carchemish was an important ancient city in the northern part of Syria. At times during its long history, Carchemish was independent, but it was also part of the Mitanni, Hittite, and Neo-Assyrian Empires. Today it is on the frontier between Turkey and Syria, encompassing an archaeological site of 90 hectares, of which 55 lie in Turkey and 35 in Syria, located on the West bank of the Euphrates River.
All monumental finds from Carchemish date back to the Neo-Hittite period when a number of states emerged in southeastern parts of modern Turkey and northwestern parts of modern Syria, following the collapse of the Hittite New Kingdom in the 12th century BCE. They lasted until they were subdued by the Assyrian Empire in the 8th century BCE.
In the first millennium BCE, Carchemish consisted of a high citadel mound located by the Euphrates River with a walled inner town and an outer town. Excavations found a processional road which led to the temple of the Storm-God and to a monumental stairway into the citadel. The whole complex was decorated with sculptures carved in basalt and limestone. Most of these orthostats and statues from the early excavations are currently on display in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara while several other artefacts are in the British Museum in London.
Finds from the Procession Way in Carchemish
The lion attacking a bull holds the bull's head and twists it backwards. A basalt orthostat from the Procession Way at Carchemish (900-700 BCE, neo-Hittite).
Two musicians, wearing long robes with wide belts. One of them plays a stringed musical instruments with tassels on the handle, while the other plays the flute. The third, smaller, figure holds castanets (?) in his hands. The person on the right wears a short dress. This person dances standing on the toes with the hands raised over the head. A limestone orthostat from the Procession Way at Carchemish (900-700 BCE, neo-Hittite).
Procession of three women wearing long dresses and high headdresses. They are thought to represent the priestesses of Goddess Kubaba. They all carry an object similar to a sceptre and the women at the front and at the back also have bunches of spices or wheat. A basalt orthostat from the Procession Way at Carchemish (900-700 BCE, neo-Hittite).
Procession of three women wearing long dresses and high headdresses. They are thought to represent the priestesses of Goddess Kubaba. They all carry an object similar to a sceptre and the women at the front and at the back also have round mirrors while the person in the centre carries a bunch of spices or wheat. A limestone orthostat from the Procession Way at Carchemish (900-700 BCE, neo-Hittite).
Goddess Kubaba sits on a chair that is placed on a lion. She holds a mirror in her right hand and a pomegranade in her left hand. On the other face of the orthostat, there are four figures. The person on the far left plays on a horn while the other three people play the drum. A basalt orthostat from the Procession Way at Carchemish (900-700 BCE, neo-Hittite).
Young male servants of Goddess Kubaba carrying sacrificial animals on their shoulders. A basalt orthostat from the Procession Way at Carchemish (900-700 BCE, neo-Hittite).
Finds from the Water Gate in Carchemish
A limestone orthostat relief from the Water Gate at Carchemish. The figure sitting on a stool to the left of a table holds a goblet in his raised right hand. Behind him there is a servant with a fan in his hand. On the other side of the table, another servant waits with a vessel in his hands. The person to the far right plays a stringed musical instrument with a tassel on the handle.
A winged lion walking with its tail raised in the air. A limestone orthostat relief from the Water Gate at Carchemish.
A sphinx or a winged lion in profile, with the chest covered in fish scales. A basalt orthostat relief from the Water Gate at Carchemish (900-700 BCE, neo-Hittite).
A lower part of a walking figure - a basalt orthostat relief from the Water Gate at Carchemish (900-700 BCE, neo-Hittite). The person is wearing curled shoes and is walking on a floor with a braided motif.
A human figure holding a lion upside down - a basalt orthostat relief from the Water Gate at Carchemish (900-700 BCE, neo-Hittite). The person is wearing curled shoes, a short dress and has a sword at the waist. Two front paws of the lion hang down, and its head is turned upwards. Sharp teeth and a tongue are visible in its open mouths.
A bull-man holding the trunk of a tree. The part of the body below the waist is of a bull. A basalt orthostat relief from the Water Gate at Carchemish.
Two bull-men holding a tree trunk. The horned figures with bull's legs and ears have human torsos. A basalt orthostat relief from the Water Gate at Carchemish (900-700 BCE). Kusarikku ("Bull-Man") was an ancient Mesopotamian mythological demon shown in artistic representation from the earliest (late Uruk period) times with the arms, torso and head of a human and the ears, horns and hindquarters of a bull. He is portrayed as walking upright and characterized as a doorkeeper to protect the inhabitants from malevolent intruders. He is one of the demons which represented mountains.
Finds from the Herald's Wall in Carchemish
These reliefs depicting warriors marching in a military parade are from the Herald's Wall at Carchemish (900-700 BCE). Helmeted soldiers in short skirts carry shields on their backs and spears in their hands. The darker orthostat is made of basalt, while the lighter one - from limestone.
This is a basalt orthostat relief from the Herald's Wall at Carchemish (900-700 BCE). It depicts a kneeling person in the centre, surrounded by animals. The person holds a bull's horn with his left hand and a lion's hind leg with his right hand. Below this lion, there is another lion and a lion cub. The top right corner of the relief is occupied by a deer. It has been suggested that this relief depicts Gilgamesh in his role of the master of animals.
Basalt pedestal from the Herald's Wall at Carchemish (900-700 BCE). In the centre, there is a kneeling human figure with two lions on his sides. There is a recess on the pedestal where a statue was placed.
This is an orthostat relief from the Herald's Wall at Carchemish. Two figures standing on a lion, it is thought that the winged figure at the front is a Moon god, while the figure at the back is the Sun god. It dates back to the period of 900-700 BCE and represents the Neo-Hittite style.
This orthostat relief from the Herald's Wall at Carchemish depicts a rider in a short skirt riding a camel. This limestone relief dates back to the period of 900-700 BCE and represents the Neo-Hittite style.
This orthostat relief from the Herald's Wall at Carchemish depicts bird-headed winged figures with human bodies. They hold their hands up, possibly preventing the sky from falling down. The relief was carved in basalt around 850-750 BCE, i.e. in the Neo-Hittite period.
This basalt orthostat relief from the Herald's Wall at Carchemish depicts a winged creature with three heads - a human head, a lion's head, and a bird's head. With its bird-headed tail, this Neo-Hittite creature reminds the Chimaera of the Greek mythology.
Limestone orthostat with a relief of Herald's Wall in Carchemish (900-700 BCE). It depicts protective hybrid creatures. The lion-headed men (called Ugallu) stand to the left and right. The two bull-men (Kusarikku) in the centre carry spears.
Ugallu, the Big Weather-Beast, was a lion-headed storm-demon and had the feet of a bird. It was featured on protective amulets and apotropaic figurines of the first millennium BCE, but had its origins in the early second millennium. The iconography changed over time, with the human feet morphing into an eagle's talons and dressing him in a short skirt. He was one of the class of day-demons, personifying moments of divine intervention in human life.
Kusarikku, Bull-Man, was an ancient Mesopotamian mythological demon shown in artistic representation from the earliest (late Uruk period) times with the arms, torso and head of a human and the ears, horns and hindquarters of a bull. He was portrayed as walking upright and characterized as a doorkeeper to protect the inhabitants from malevolent intruders. He was also one of the demons which represented mountains.
Orthostat with limestone relief of Herald's Wall in Carchemish. This might be a scene from the mythological story of Gilgamesh, where Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the Guardian of the Cedar Forest named Humbaba. The figures standing on both sides hold, with one, arm, the arms of the figure located between them while they stab the daggers into the head of the figure. The relief is 1.22 m in height and dates from the period of 950-850 BCE.
Orthostat with limestone relief of Herald's Wall in Carchemish. It depicts a pair of kneeling bulls on either side of the tree of life. Each of the animals supports one of its front legs on the tree, while the other front leg is bent towards the abdomen. The relief dates to the period of 950-850 BCE.
Orthostat with limestone relief of Herald's Wall in Carchemish (950-850 BCE). Only the head part of a figure inside a caged horse-drawn carriage can be seen. Behind the carriage, the lion, standing on its hind legs, attacks the figure.
How to properly conduct a medical examination of a cat? This basalt relief from Carchemish seems to explain the whole process visually. On the right, a bearded human figure is stabbing a lion with the dagger while holding the lion's tail with his other hand. On the left, a bearded god figure grasps the lion's hind leg while getting ready to hit the animal with the axe. The orthostat with the relief is from 900-700 BCE (Neo-Hittite period) from the Herald's Wall in Carchemish (Karkemish).
Finds from the Royal Buttress in Carchemish
This is an orthostat relief from the Royal Buttress at Carchemish. The hieroglyphic Luwian inscription on the relief of the building dedicated to Kamani at Carchemish. Located at the front face of the Royal Buttress, this basalt relief is about 110 cm in height and, given the historical circumstances, it is dated to the early 8th century BCE. In the relief, regent Yariri is depicted presenting Kamani. The inscription on the left reads, "I am Yariri, the Ruler," and continues with a dedicatory text of the building (Royal Buttress) for young prince Kamani. The inscription above the carved figures: "This is Kamani and these are his young brothers. I took him by hand and I set him over the temple, though he was a child."
Yariri was the known ruler of the House of Astiruwa. He bore the titles of ruler and prince and reigned in the early to mid 8th century BCE, probably around 790 BCE. Appointed as a regent for the underage children of his deceased lord Astiruwa, Yariri had apparently also held an earlier important position, possibly as the king's vizier or at least as close confidant and advisor to the king. To be able to fulfil his obligations in these positions, Yariri got an excellent education from the king. He spoke twelve languages and was able to write four different scripts.
During Yariri's regency, the situation of Carchemish was peaceful, stable and prosperous, Carchemish likely standing in good and close contact with Assyria. Art reached high levels of cultural sophistication, and Yariri was responsible for several building projects and irrigation works.
Successor of Yariri was Kamani, a son of Astiruwa. He bore the titles of ruler and country-lord, ruling in the early to mid 8th century BCE, likely around 760 BCE. During his reign, Carchemish continued to be peaceful and stable. Kamani had several building projects, undertook a military conquest and resettled devastated areas.
The basalt relief from the early 8th century BCE is one of the front panels of the Royal Buttress at Carchemish. The children are the brothers of King Kamani. The labels identify each with a name. Top left to right: Malitispa, Astitarhunza, Tarnitispa, Isikaritispa; bottom left to right: Sikara, Halpawari, Yahilatispa. Basalt.
This is an orthostat relief from the Royal Buttress at Carchemish, now in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. This basalt relief, dating to the early 8th century BCE, shows a nanny (or a wife) carrying an infant. The hieroglyphs located above read: "and this is Tuwarsais; the prince desired by the ruler, whose exclusiveness has been exposed". While the woman carries the infant in her lap, she holds the rope of the colt coming behind with her other hand. The muscles of the colt are schematic.
Finds from the Long Wall in Carchemish
Inscription of King Suhi II from the Long Wall in Carchemish. The long inscription consists of six lines and narrates first Suhi II's military achievements and then his construction of commemorative structures in Carchemish. The inscription is around 2.65 meters in width, 1.35 meters in height, and dates back to the 10th century BCE. Some text is missing to the right and left of the orthostat. The last row of the relief shows severed hands and heads of enemy soldiers.
The limestone orthostat from the Long Wall in Carchemish. There is a seated female figure on the left and a winged goddess holding (offering) her breasts on the right. The four-line inscription in the background of the seated figure identifies her as the wife of Suhi II.
The House of Suhi was a dynasty of rulers of Carchemish. Suhi II, son of Astuwalamanza, was a probably late 10th century BCE ruler of Carchemish bearing the titles ruler and country-lord. He was married to a woman named BONUS-ti, and he was the father of his successor Katuwa. He married his daughter to a king named Tudhaliya, who was not identical with Tudhaliya, great king of Carchemish who was thought to have reigned in the late 11th or early 10th century BCE. It is known that Suhi II made military operations. He destroyed a city named Alatahana and made reference to a city named Hazauna.
Relief of a Goddess - Queen Kubaba with wheat - from Carchemish. The basalt relief fragment dates from about 850-750 BCE. She is holding a pomegranate in her right hand, and ears of wheat in her left. The upper part of the relief is a reconstruction based on similar reliefs.
Kubaba is one of very few women to have ever ruled in their own right in Mesopotamian history. She ascended to the throne of Sumer around 2400 BCE. Most versions of the king list place her alone in her own dynasty, the 3rd Dynasty of Kish. Her epithet reads "the woman tavern-keeper, who made firm the foundations of Kish.” Her epithet is longer than most, which suggests that ancient scribes found her especially noteworthy. Alongside her name it reads, “the woman tavern-keeper, who made firm the foundations of Kish."
Over time, Queen Kubaba faded from memory and the divine associations took precedence. Possibly, she was deified in the next millennium, during the Hittite period, as the protector of the city of Carchemish. However, the relationship between the deity and the historical person is unclear, especially because Baba was the name of a Sumerian god, and the prefix "ku" meant "holy". Thus, a connection between her and a goddess known from Hurro-Hittite and later Luwian sources cannot be established on the account of spatial and temporal differences.
Relief of Goddess Kubaba with a pomegranate, from the Long Wall in Carchemish. This relief fragment is about 80 cm high. It dates to around 850-750 BCE. It is most probably a relief depicting the chief goddess of the city, Kubaba. The goddess is depicted from the profile. She is holding a pomegranate in her right hand, and in her missing left hand, there was likely a mirror. In this relief, the goddess is wearing a one-horned headdress called polos which is a symbol of divinity. Her braided hair hangs down to her shoulders. A single line inscription is partially preserved above the head but has not been translated. The part above the chest of the relief was broken and The missing upper part has been reconstructed on the basis of similar reliefs.
There are four almost identical chariots in battle scenes from the orthostats of Long Wall in Carchemish, 900-700 BCE, now in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. One of the two figures in the chariot holds the reins while the other shoots arrows. There is a naked enemy with an arrow in his hip, lying under the horse's hooves. It is thought that this figure is depicted smaller than the other figures, since it is an enemy soldier. The lower part of the orthostats are decorated with braiding motifs.
Other finds from Carchemish
The basalt double bull statue base was found in situ at Carchemish, at the eastern side of the great staircase, on the terrace located right behind the so-called Great Lion Slab. It is about 1.4 meters wide and 1.2 meters long and it was executed in a style very similar to the double bull base found by the temple entrance. In their original condition, the bulls probably had inlaid eyes and perhaps also horns. It is also likely that once a statue of a king stood on top of the base. Cup marks on the base suggest that ritual performances were conducted by the statue. Stylistically, it has been dated to the 9th century BCE. Although found intact, the heads of the bulls were broken in subsequent years and eventually both of them ended up in the British Museum. The base itself is in the Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Ankara.