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Intricate carvings at Hittite sanctuary claimed to depict lunar calendar


Yazılıkaya is a 3,200-year-old building that is thought to have played an important religious role in the capital city of the ancient Hittite Empire. According to a new theory the carvings may have functioned as a calendar that was way ahead of its time.

Intricate carvings at Hittite sanctuary claimed to depict lunar calendar
This carving at Yazılıkaya is said to depict 12 gods of the underworld
[Credit: WikiCommons]


Yazılıkaya in Turkish simply means inscribed rock and the large Bronze Age limestone site is just as mysterious as its name. Although the carvings at the site have been studied for decades, now some experts are arguing that key aspects have been overlooked.

Intricate carvings at Hittite sanctuary claimed to depict lunar calendar
The site is a large limestone sanctuary [Credit: WikiCommons]

The researchers argue that some faded deity carvings would make one of the depictions add up to the number of days in a lunar month. There are also marks underneath some of the depictions that look like an attempt to keep track of something.

Intricate carvings at Hittite sanctuary claimed to depict lunar calendar
Credit: Getty Images

Eberhard Zangger, president of Luwian Studies, an international non-profit foundation and his colleague Rita Gautschy from the University of Basel think that one carving containing 12 deities depicts the months in a year and another containing 30 depicts the days in a month.

Intricate carvings at Hittite sanctuary claimed to depict lunar calendar
Credit: WikiCommons

They think that the ancient people would have marked underneath the first of the 30 deities at the start of a month and then worked backward to keep track of time. The importance of the full moon is also depicted in some of the carvings.

Intricate carvings at Hittite sanctuary claimed to depict lunar calendar
3D-visualization of Building II and III (gatehouse) at Yazılıkaya showing how the object on the pedestal in
the courtyard may have been illuminated during a religious service on the day of the summer solstice
[Credit: © Oliver Bruderer/Luwian Studies]

The amount of deity carvings doesn’t quite correspond with the number of days in a year but Zangger and Gautschy think the Hittite people would have accounted for this by adding some additional months over a 19-year cycle.

Intricate carvings at Hittite sanctuary claimed to depict lunar calendar
Chamber 1 in the upper city of Ḫattuša was built to catch the light of the Sun as it sets during the winter solstice.
Photo taken on 21st December, 2018 [Credit: © Luwian Studies]

It has also been suggested that other Hittite structures were built to mark importance astronomical events, like the Summer Solstice. However, critics argue that the number of deities alone corresponding to a calendar is not enough conclusive evidence to confirm it was on.


“Celestial Aspects of Hittite Religion: An Investigation of the Rock Sanctuary Yazılıkaya” is written in English and is open access and may be freely downloaded here.

Author: Charlotte Edwards | Source: The Sun [June 27, 2019]

TANN

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