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Tavşantepe Steles

A large stele broken into two pieces was found during a survey by archeologist Aykut Çınaroğlu in early 1980s lying on the ground in the valley west of Mt. Melendiz about just a few kilometers north of the location of Keşlik. The stele is carved from local andesite rock. Measuring about 2.1 meters in height and almost 1 meter in width, it is one of the largest Neo-Hittite steles found in the region. Original location of the stele is thought to be at the top of the nearby hill named Tavşantepe on which have been found two bases, one rectangular and another round shaped, carved into the rock. The rectangular shaped base fits the size of the tapered bottom of the stele. The low relief on the front side of the stele depicts a seated figure, likely a goddess, on top of a crouching lion. Weathered condition of the stele makes it difficult to identify the elongated objects she is holding. Under the seat of the deity is a bird-headed and winged being with raised hands, a commonly known representation from Hittite art (see Zincirli and Karkamış). A smaller male figure is shown at the top facing the deity in a pose of worship or making offering. It is unclear whether the abraded shapes between the male figure and the head of the deity are remains of hieroglyphic signs.

In 1980s during a road construction a second stele fragment was found 6 km downstream from Tavşantepe. Also made of same andesite stone, it bears a relief with similar stylistic features to the first stele, depicting a deity above a lion. Only the lower legs of the deity is visible but its position above the crouching lion suggests that it is in a standing pose and not seated. In front of the deity is a partially visible leaning figure, possibly a worshipper like in the first stele, although rendered somewhat larger in this one. The animal in front of this figure has the features of an equine. Preserved section of the stele is about 1.25 meters in width and 0.8 meters in width, which suggests that the complete stele must have been at least as large as the first one.

Varying opinions have been expressed for the date of the steles from 10th to 7th centuries BCE. Near the bases on Tavşantepe, a third stele shaped stone was found which bears draft drawings for a relief (see last image below). All three steles are currently in Niğde Museum.

Click on pictures for larger images.

Tavşantepe 1 - A. Çınaroğlu, 1986 Tavşantepe 1 - A. Lanaro, 2015 Possibly base of Tavşantepe 1 - A. Lanaro, 2015 Tavşantepe 2 - A. Lanaro, 2015 Draft stele - A. Çınaroğlu, 1986


Literature:
Berges, D., J. Nollé. Tyana - Archäologisch-historische Untersuchungen zum südwestlichen Kappadokien, Bonn: Hebelt, 2000: 104.
Çınaroğlu, A. "M.Ö. I. Binde Keşlik Yaylası ve Civarı," IX. Türk Tarih Kongresi, v.1, 1986: 323–332 and plts. 127–39.
Çınaroğlu, A. New Iron Age Discoveries around Niğde, Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesini Koruma ve Yaşatma Derneği Yayını 2, 1989.
D’Alfonso, L., C. Mora, "Archaeological Survey in Northern Tyanitis," , ICAANE 6 v.2, 2010: 123–38 (128–29).
Lanaro, A. "A goddess among Storm-gods. The stele of Tavsantepe and the landscape monuments of southern Cappadocia," AnSt 65, 2015: 79–96.

Image sources:
Aykut Çınaroğlu, 1986.
Anna Lanaro, 2015.