Online Review: Book

Karatepe-Aslantaş: Azatiwataya. Die Bildwerke

Stefania Mazzoni


By Halet Çambel and Asli Özyar. Pp. xx + 164, figs. 149, pls. 232, plans 3, maps 3. Philipp von Zabern, Mainz 2003. €102. ISBN 3-8053-3085-5 (cloth).

The citadel of Karatepe-Arslantaş, ancient Azitawataya, with its gateways richly decorated and inscribed in Luwian hieroglyphics and Phoenician, was one of the first astounding discoveries in the Near East after World War II. This publication has, therefore, been eagerly awaited, following the complex task of site restoration. Today this is a beautiful archaeological park; a path winds between the two gateways inside the citadel amid the luxuriant National Park forest and the lake created by the Arslantaş dam on the River Ceyhan (ancient Pyramos).

After its discovery in 1946 by H.T. Bossert and his assistant Çambel, after a sculpted lion (Arslantaş in Turkish) had been reported (1–6), excavations were carried out from 1947 to 1957 and were then extended with further work culminating in the excavation of a palace (1997–1998). The site is known by the name of the black mountain (Karatepe), with Arslantaş standing upon one of the hilltops on the west bank of the Ceyhan (9–11). This region of strategic importance for communication with the Amanus and Cilicia was frequented since prehistory, as attested by sites such as nearby Domuztepe. There are numerous basalt outcrops (13–14); sculptures showing the same fine grain as the basalt of Domuztepe were clearly worked there (though the basalt used for the large statue found in the S Gate is of a different origin).

The gateways (15–48), the tower, and city walls (49–56) were restored between 1952 and 1956, with the assistance of the Istituto Centrale del Restauro of Rome. Sculptures were reassembled after a detailed study of the construction technique by means of soundings on the underlying structures and foundations (e.g., fig. 29a). Even the more problematic reassembly of scattered fragments (e.g., the poorly preserved S Gate or its inscribed statue [see 47–8]) was never arbitrary; furthermore, all cases of uncertain attribution or unknown destination are clearly indicated.

The catalogue is the core of the book (57–115), with its analytical description (Çambel) and comparative commentary (Özyar) providing an interpretation and historical-artistic context for each sculpture. The decoration of the two gateways falls within a Hittite tradition, with precursors in the 14th-/13th-century sphinx gateway at Alaça Höyük and more fully developed examples at the Late Hittite citadels of the 12th to eighth centuries: the Lions Gate at Malatya; the Water Gate, Processional Entry, and Great Staircase at Karkemish; and the Outer City Gate and Citadel Gate at Zincirli. As in these citadels, the gateways at Karatepe are decorated with various scenes of the court: hunting, banquets, parades of gods and battles—the internal relationship among which is difficult to pin down. They offer a visual image of propaganda that betrays a quest for legitimization and protection of the gods and royal ancestors. The commentary, therefore, provides an exhaustive reading of each slab and its iconography, supported by literature and a rich collection of pictures showing comparisons and associations. It is clear that there is a special concern to trace the origin of many oriental themes and follow their continuation in archaic Greek art. For some of the images, such as the female figures with peplum, the krioforos/moskophoros, the battle of three soldiers with shields, and the hero fighting the lion, a direct line can be traced across central Anatolia, from Phrygia toward Lycia, Lydia, and Ionia, or else toward Crete and Greece.

The slabs and sculptures follow an order starting from the entrance of the doorways: NVr (Nordtor, Vorhof, rechte Seite = North Gate, entrance hall, right side) 1–13; NVl (Nordtor, Vorhof, linke Seite) 1–12; NKr (rechte Torkammer) 1–22; NKl (linke Torkammer) 1–12; SVr (Südtor, Vorhof, rechte Seite) 1–7; SVr 1–7; SKl (linke Torkammer) 1–22; SKr (rechte Torkammer) 1–20; and statue S STW with its base S Sts. It is easy to follow the topographic layout of the reliefs using the tables included in the port-folio, with sections, perspectives, and figures 145–50. The rich variety of subjects and figures is noteworthy and unparalleled elsewhere. The N Gate is guarded by two lions outside and two sphinxes inside; on both sides of the entrance and the inner chamber, figures and monsters appear, such as Bes, the griffin man, and the sphinx, or scenes such as heros and/or gods mastering animals, groups of soldiers or hunters, musicians, figures sacrificing a bull, and scenes of navigation and chariots. The S Gate, guarded by winged lions on the outside and a lion inside, offers similar variety: a figure on a throne, bull men, banquet scenes, musicians, hunting, fishing, navigation, and chariot scenes. Inside stood a statue with a Phoenician inscription dedicated to Baal, on a base with two bulls held by a male figure.

Decoration suggests a fairly homogenous artistic and building project. Stylistic differences can, however, be noted between the reliefs of the two gates as well as within the two gates themselves. For example, differences between the lions on the entrance of the N Gate and those in the two inner chambers suggest different hands at work. The two adjacent slabs SVl 2 and 3, which show, on two rows, attendants with drink and food and musicians (2) and a banquet scene with figures carrying a goat and a bull for the sacrifice (3), differ in size and style; they make clear how difficult it is to interpret the layout. Çambel, in outlining the history of their attribution (117–22), confirms her initial identification of two masters (Meister A and B), or hands, at work on the gates. They are characterized by different stylistic traits (A is naturalistic and shows greater modeling of the pieces, B is flatter and more schematic), composition (A shows a more balanced composition and division into registers with friezes), and figurative conventions or physiognomic traits. Two stylistically different groups have long been accepted. Orthmann, in his seminal work on Late Hittite sculpture (Untersuchungen zur Späthethitischen Kunst [Bonn 1971]), identified two Stilgruppe (I–II). Matthiae (Studi sui rilievi di Karatepe [Rome 1963]) also notes two distinct but contemporaneous workshops and different masters, stylistically homogenous in terms of decoration but one employing more archaic (N Gate), the other more recent, traits (S Gate). For other scholars, the differences between the two groups show that they were not contemporary, and that N Gate was earlier than S Gate. Along these lines, Winter (AnatSt 29 [1979] 115–51) argued cogently that the works of N Gate came from a dismantled ninth-century frieze from nearby Domuztepe. This latter hypothesis is rejected on the basis of the architectural evidence, which confirms that both gates were built and decorated as part of the same plan as well as the fact that at Domuztepe, only stelae, not orthostats, were found (see below). In conclusion, construction data document an essentially unified undertaking, with internal building phases explicable in terms of overall project development. Both style and architecture indicate (121–22) that workshop A began with N Gate—crafting the entrance, the left chamber (a relief from which, NK1 5, was finished by B), and part of the right chamber (NKr 1–2; NKr 19, 21)—continuing then to S Gate with a group of reliefs (SVl 1, 5; SVr 1–2; Skl 21; SKr 19). The rest was carried out by Workshop B, probably working together with, and then overlapping, Workshop A. Further building activity on the S Gate is indicated by the nonlocal basalt of the statue and fragments of an inscription that differ from those inserted into the gates.

Özyar (123–40) deals with the sculptures: reliefs on orthostats, gate sculptures, and the statue. The orthostats are presented in the order in which they were placed and found, with excellent general drawings. The study provides a balanced examination of their internal organization and thematic unity. I also find convincing the hypothesis of a symbolic context that groups the world of mortals and their ritual and cultic acts (rendered smaller and often portrayed on two registers) with that of the gods and their myths, mostly rendered on a larger scale.

A few interpretations, discussed and analyzed first in the catalogue and here reappraised, remain hypotheses. We may ask whether all the male figures with helmets shown performing various actions are in fact gods, as the author believes. He is right, however, in pointing out that the horned tiara never appears (not even on the monumental statue of Baal). Moreover, the tutelary god bearing a rabbit at Zincirli has no horned crown either (Orthmann 1971, 259, B/33), and it is intriguing that these gods, like Greek divinities, are no longer distinguished from men. Only their size identifies them as divine figures (131), their maces and various weapons being the same as those of the local lords. Doubts remain, however. The figure carrying a kid on his shoulders (kriophoros/moskophoro [NVr 11]) is based on the iconography of the worshipper, possibly of high rank, while gods are never portrayed with this pose in Late Hittite art. Instead, the proposal that the large figure with lance, sword, and mace (NVl 8) could be a deified lord is plausible, given the size of the figure. The triad at the center of the right chamber with the son embracing his parents (NKr 11), rightly interpreted as the pivotal point of the composition in terms of visual effect and significance, reproduces the structure of funerary scenes at Marash. NKr 11 might then show the couple (dynastic ancestors) with their son (usually the patron) and not a divine triad. Its celebratory nature is clear and is also related to the navigation scene. The left chamber might mirror this composition, with the scene of a chariot with three figures in the same position (more probably humans than gods), as comparison with a terracotta from Aja Irini (fig. 118; 90–1) indicates. The right side of the entrance to S Gate also appears to have a cultic context, with an ancestor at center (on the attendant with whisk evoking the spirit, see D. Bonatz, Das syro-hethitische Grabdenkmal [Mainz am Rhein 2000] 103–5). On the left side, there is a banquet celebration and the sacrifice of a bull before the adjacent master of animals, as well as a fighting scene in the same position as the analogous slab in the N Gate left entrance. In brief, despite stylistic variations, the many links and internal joins and associations point to a single work.

It is worth noting that the celebrative context of legitimization and protection, including local lords, living and dead, and their tutelary gods, belongs entirely to the Late Hittite sculptural tradition of decorating gateways. However, when compared with other Late Hittite friezes (138–40), innovative and individual elements are notable. The author explains them as Cilician regional traits (cf. Winter 1979, 123) at a time of increasing Greek influence (the Hiyawa cited in the inscriptions).

The presence of elements mirroring different traditions is an important trait of Karatepe, paralleling the bilingual inscriptions. We have Phoenician elements in N Gate (Bes, sphinxes, the goddess breast-feeding) and, in S Gate, Late Hittite characteristics that can be found also at Zincirli, Sakçagözü, and Marash (reiterated in the conclusions on p. 144), although the "pronounced Neo-Hittite" physiognomy of workshop A (N Gate) is compared in the ninth-century reliefs (I. Winter 1979, 116–17, quoting Çambel). Akurgal (Spaethethitische Bildkunst [Ankara 1949] 147; Orient und Okzident [Baden-Baden 1966] 138–43) considered Group A to be Phoenician and B to be Aramaicising/Hittite. Winter (1979, 136–39), instead, investigating the Phoenician component, argued for "an increase in the degree of absorption of Phoenician elements from group (A) to group (B), which could correspond to an increase in the intensity of Phoenician relations with Cilicia" supported by the diffusion of seals and pottery; this increase would confirm her attribution of group (A) to a ninth-century Domuztepe workshop.

Of importance in identifying the artistic origin and for determining chronology are the numerous comparisons with Cypriot and Cypriot-Phoenician materials. To those mentioned in the volume, I add the significant comparison between the face of Bes and that dating to the seventh century on the pillar from Paleokastro (Cyprus) in the Louvre (A. Hermary, Les Antiquités de Chypre [Paris 1989] no. 593). It was precisely in the Cypriot-Phoenician sphere that the cult of Bes was most widespread (cf. M. Yon in La Méditerranée des Phéniciens de Tyr à Carthage [Paris 2007] 120, cat. no. 80).

The problem of dating the complex (141–44) is crucial. Scholars vary between a date in the ninth century for the entire complex (D. Ussishkin, Anatolian Studies 19 [1969] 121–37), based on elements of material culture and a number of similarities with the older Zincirli reliefs; separate dates for the two gates—the north in the ninth century and the south in the late eighth century (Winter 1979); and a third hypothesis that dates both groups to between the end of the eighth and start of the seventh centuries. Analysis of material culture, objects, dress, and beards has been ambiguous. An example is furnished by the Phrygian spouted pitcher with fluted body, whose comparisons have been traced (98–99 [see also Winter 1979, 119–20 n. 19]) in a relief of the 10th century from the Water Gate from Karkemish, in a ninth-century ivory pyxis from Nimrud, and in a vessel found in a tomb at Tell Halaf ("Ältere Gruft") dated to the ninth century (cf. W. Orthmann, Die Aramäisch-Assyrische Stadt Guzana [Saarbrücken 2002] 49, fig. 27; for a later eighth-century date for the Tell Halaf compund, cf. M. Pucci, Functional Analysis of Space in Syro-Hittite Architecture [Oxford 2007] 122–23). One may agree with the authors that, as far as chronology is concerned, given the great variety in Late Hittite art resulting from regionalization, political fragmentation, and the persistence and coexistence of local traditions, it is difficult to rely merely on stylistic criteria; more instructive are the inscriptions and paleography. In the Luwian-Phoenician bilingual text (cf. J.D. Hawkins, Corpus of Hieroglyphic Luwian Inscriptions. Vol. 1, Inscriptions of the Iron Age [Berlin and New York 2000] 41–5), Azatiwatas/'ZTWD, servant of Tarhunzas/Baal, speaks in the first person, promoted by Awarikus/'WRK, king Adanawean; he celebrates the construction of Azatiwataya/'ZTWDY by the grace of Tarhunzas/Baal and Runzas/Reshep sprm (Reshep-of-the-goats) to protect the plain of ‘DN and the house of MPŠ for Tarhunzas and Baal KRNTRYŠ to dwell in, extending the Adanawean frontiers, building fortresses, and ensuring prosperity and peace. Three other fragmentary Luwian inscriptions refer in the third person to Azatiwatas and a River Lord, son of Mukatalas, and might indicate some later change of power. To these documents we can now add the Phoenician/Luwian inscription on the statue of the Storm-God with a base representing a chariot drawn by two bulls from Cineköy, which presents Urikki, king of Adanaweans, of the line of MPŠ, celebrating the building of fortresses and an agreement with the Assyrians. Awarikus was most probably the Urikki quoted as a king of Que, tributary of the Assyrian King Tiglath-pileser III for the years 738 and 732, as well as the Urik (cited in a letter from Sargon II to a governor of Que, dating to 710–709) who had sent an embassy to Urartu that was intercepted by Midas, king of Phrygia, and handed over to the Assyrians.

The paleography of both the Luwian and Phoenician scripts indicates a late eighth-century date. That said, a later date for Azatiwatas with his fortress, inscriptions, and sculptures in the period immediately after Sargon II might fit the historical scenario. More hypothetical, but also plausible, is the identification of Azatiwatas with Sanduarri, king of Kundi and Sissu, executed by Asarhaddon in 676 B.C.E. To use Hawkins' (2000, 45) concluding words: "It would not perhaps be surprising if Cilicia, sheltered perhaps from the worst ravages of both the Assyrians and the Cimmerians, should have transmitted to us this latest of the Hieroglyphic Monuments, the idiosyncratic character of which may well reflect its comparative lateness."

To sum up, the building and decoration of the two gates must have been carried out over a relatively brief period of time, between the end of the eighth and the very beginning of the seventh centuries. Workshop A started working on the N Gate with its entrance and left chamber and the Phoenician inscription on the left. The Luwian inscription, instead, was added to the reliefs already in position on the right (lion and sphinx). Workshop A then continued to operate on the S Gate, on the entrance to the left, where the Phoenician inscription also stood. The rest was finished by Workshop B, which mostly imitated the work of Workshop A. This work probably only lasted a few years before it was interrupted by the conquest of the citadel after the death of Azitawatas during the reign of his lesser-known successor.

The volume is complemented by 220 plates and by Çambel's appendix on the scattered sculptures from Domuztepe (149–56, pls. 221–32), a site inhabited from the Neolithic to the Late Byzantine periods. The sculptures come from the terrace and the mound and consist of a slab with genii on either side of a palm below a winged sun, various stelae (Kubaba, a goddess [?] on a sphinx, the Weather God with the Luwian inscription "I am," fragments of funerary [?] slabs), gate lions, and a base with bulls, and can best be dated to the ninth century.

The volume is published with the usual care in the distinguished series of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut. The archaeologists of Karatepe and authors of this volume are to be congratulated on their detailed report and analysis. They have provided scholars of oriental and classical studies with important documentation that expands our knowledge of Late Hittite culture and arts in a phase of increasing interaction with western societies.

Stefania Mazzoni
Department of Ancient Studies
University of Florence
Piazza Brunelleschi 4
50121 Florence


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