Monday, August 6, 2012

Turkey Digs Ancient Statues, Syria Destroys Recent History

[Via Slate]

Two major archaeological discoveries were made in Turkey this past week.

One team found a giant statue of a Neo-Hittite warrior at a Tayinat Archaeological Project site in the southeast:
Archeologists in the southeast region unearthed the colossal head and torso sculpture at the site of a Neo-Hittite city, dating the piece to sometime around 1000 B.C. Standing about 5 feet in height, the bearded, curly-haired man holds a spear in one hand and a shaft of wheat in the other.
Halfway across the country in Central Anatolia, another team found several giant lion statues:
A search of the surrounding area revealed no evidence of a Hittite settlement dating back to the time of the statues. Also, the sheer size of the sculptures meant that the sculptors likely did not intend to move them very far.

Summers hypothesizes that, rather than being meant for a palace or a great city, the lions were being created for a monument to mark something else – water.

"I think it's highly likely that that monument was going to be associated with one of the very copious springs that are quite close," he said in the interview. "There are good parallels for associations of Hittite sculptural traditions with water sources."
The Hittites (and their heirs) are long-gone, and the region has changed quite a bit since the Bronze and Iron Ages.

But given the recent conflict in Syria, there's no guarantee that some artifacts from the region's varied past will survive the present warfare:
Krak des Chevaliers has been shelled after rebels sought sanctuary in this most glorious of Crusader castles, Syrian troops have taken over the castle at Palmyra and bombarded the Citadel of al-Mudiq, looters have used bulldozers to carry away the great Roman mosaics of Apamea. But the treasures of Damascus remain intact.

Salafists among the armed opponents of the Assad regime would presumably have no qualms about destroying the tomb of Saladin and the green silk cover bestowed upon it by Kaiser Wilhelm, nor what is said to be the headless corpse of John the Baptist beside the "built-on-air" Omayad Mosque in the Old City of Damascus. But the problem for all autocracies in the Middle East – and let us not forget the undemocratic gentlemen of the Gulf – is that they must sew their own presence into their country's history.
So goes another cycle of destruction in the region. And with that comes a new layer of cultural fragments for future archaeologists to rediscover...along with a new layer of cultural fragments for future world powers to ignore.

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