3,000 year-old sculpture of Hittite King Suppiluliuma discovered in Hatay, Turkey

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A colossal two-tonne 3,000 year-old sculpture of Hittite King Suppiluliuma is one of the latest cultural treasures to be unearthed by an international team in Tell Tayinat, an ancient site in Hatay, southeastern Turkey. Alongside the statue, archaeologists found another carving, a semicircular column base bearing the images of a sphinx and a winged bull. Tayinat, a large low-lying mound, is located 35 kilometres east of Antakya (ancient Antioch).

Announcing the finds, which form part of a monumental gate complex from the upper citadel of Kunulua, capital of the Neo-Hittite Kingdom of Patina (ca. 1000-738 BC), Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism Ertugrul Gunay, said that the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism aims for these key pieces, which shed light on life in ancient Anatolia, to be exhibited at the Hatay Archaeological Museum within a year following careful restoration by a professional team.

Front view of the Suppiluliuma Statue (credit: Jennifer Jackson)

Commenting on the newly discovered Tayinat sculptures, Timothy Harrison, professor of near eastern archaeology at the University of Toronto and director of the Tayinat Archaeological Project, which has been ongoing since 2004, said that there was a “very well-preserved Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription on the back” identifying him as Hittite King Suppiluliuma. He went on to say that the pieces “provide a vivid glimpse into the innovative character and sophistication of the Iron Age cultures that emerged in the eastern Mediterranean following the collapse of the great imperial powers of the Bronze Age at the end of the second millennium BC.”

The sculpture of King Suppiluliuma, a regal figure who ruled over the Neo-Hittite kingdom of Patina in the ninth century B.C., is preserved from the waist up and measures almost 1.5 meters tall, suggesting a total body length of 3.5 to four metres.

Bull and Sphinx Carved Column Base (credit: Jennifer Jackson)

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