A Monumental Surprise in Turkey

Posted in: ASOR, Iron Age, March Fellowship Madness, Scholarships
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Johnson_DylanBy: Dylan Johnson, 2012 Heritage Fellow

ASOR’s Heritage Fellowship afforded me, along with many other students with an interest in Near Eastern archaeology, the opportunity to participate in archaeological excavations throughout the Near East. This past summer, I worked at Tell Taʾyinat, a small site in the southwestern province of Hatay, Turkey, close to the Syrian border. The Heritage fellowship provided me with the much needed financial support towards airfare, which is often the greatest cost to students hoping to work in the Near East. Funding opportunities like these are a lifeline for undergraduate and graduate students looking to finance educational opportunities through excavation, and are often competitive and scarce to be found. ASOR’s generous grant aided my participation in an extraordinary season of discovery at Tell Taʾyinat. Under the direction of Professor Timothy Harrison of the University of Toronto and Elif Denel of the American Research Institute in Turkey, our team unearthed two monumental basalt statues; one, a column base depicting a sphinx and winged-bull; the other, which caused quite a stir both within and outside Near Eastern academic circles, was the upper-half of a statue of a king named Suppiluliuma, ruler of the Neo-Hittite state of Patina/Unqi—which we learned from a lengthy Luwian inscription carved on its reverse. Having excavated several seasons at sites throughout Israel with modest to small finds as the norm, this kind of monumental architecture was all new to me.

The historical landscape of Syro-Anatolia during the Iron Age remains an obscure period of research, making a discovery such as the one made at Tell Taʾyinat this past summer a critical step towards filling the gaps in our collective knowledge.  The site represents two major phases of occupation; the first phase was its foundation in the Early Bronze Age and the second phase, Iron Ages I and II, represented the emergence of an independent political polity—apparently centered on a city named Kunalua, which many identify with Tell Taʾyinat. The polity, alternatively referred to in Assyrian sources as Patina/Unqi, emerged alongside many other political states in the early first millennium, polities collectively termed “Neo-Hittite states,” which refers to the collapse of the Late Bronze Age Hittite Empire in the 12th century BCE. However, these states represented rather divergent cultures from the previous Anatolian Hittite state, sharing many close ties with Syrian traditions as well as the expression of indigenous cultural traditions.

Read Dylan’s previous post here.


As you know, ASOR’s mission is to support archaeology in the Near East, and now we have an exciting opportunity for you to support students of archaeology directly! Every year ASOR gives out around 30 Platt and Heritage Fellowships to deserving students to defray the costs of excavating in the Near East. Thanks to last year’s March Fellowship Madness drive we gave out a total of 42 scholarships and we are trying to beat that number this year.

Our goal is to raise $10,000, and if we succeed, two generous donors will give funding for four additional fellowships, meaning a total of 14 additional students will get funding this year!  Help us seize this opportunity to send more students into the field! Donate now!



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