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Achaemenid Stone Tablets Could Shed Light on Surtepe Excavations in Anatolia


05 June 2006




LONDON, (CAIS) -- Ancient Old-Persian stone tablets and seals unearthed during archaeological excavations at the Surtepe tumulus, seven kilometers north of Birecik in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa in modern Turkey, could shed light on other ancient structures discovered in the area.

 A team of experts headed by project director Jesus Gil Fuensanta of Spain who have been working in the area as part of the Tilbes salvage project, discovered a monumental building -- believed to belong to the Achaemenid dynastic period prior to the conquest by Alexander the Macedonian warlord -- at the Surtepe mound during excavations in 2005.

Surtepe is a large site covering 50 hectares and is believed to have been an area of settlement even during the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze ages (fourth and third millennia B.C.E).

Fuensanta explained in a statement issued on Monday that the ancient Iranian building "was found in a place formerly uncovered by villagers.”

"It had an official use until the early fourth century B.C.E. Up to three meters of its massive mud-brick walls were preserved, and it has traces of a paved court. During the 2005 excavations, different rooms of the building were also excavated. On the inside, which was partly burnt, were typical Achaemenid pots and fragments and administrative artifacts."

Among the finds in the site are a royal glass seal in the Achaemenid style that had been disfigured by fire and depicts a fertility scene with a leader praying, said Fuensanta.

Another impression on a jar shows a typical Zoroastrian iconograph (Fravahar) of royal worship. Experts say the excavations provided evidence of ostraca (ceramic fragments with inscriptions). According to Herbert Sauren, a German specialist in ancient languages, one of the seals has administrative writing and refers to the capacity of a vessel.

Fuensanta believes that an enigmatic finding from the same archaeological season, a stone tablet with an inscription, could be associated with the ancient Iranian building. According to a preliminary study by Sauren the inscription on the find was made in Aramaic (the administrative language of the Achaemenids), in use around the middle of first millennium B.C.E. The language has the main elements of usual big groups of Semitic languages. After Sauren's translation and interpretation, it was discovered that the stone document was issued by the Persian governor of this city (Surtepe, the ancient name of which is not yet clear) to thank a deity for his assumption of power.

Separately, assistant team leader Eduardo Crivelli noticed that the few animal bones found at the site mostly belonged to horses, the statement said. The horse was a regular theme in ancient Iranian iconography of the period, it added.

The results of the studies are being presented this week at the 28th International Congress on Excavations, Surveys and Research in Turkey, which started on Monday in Çanakkale, a western province.

Some 274 presentations were scheduled for the five-day congress, held at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University's Terzioğlu campus with the participation of numerous Turkish and foreign archaeologists who have been working in different ancient sites throughout Anatolia.







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Source/Extracted From: Turkish Daily News



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