Şanlıurfa Archaeology

Şanlıurfa Archaeology

Since the outcome of the ice Age, Şanlıurfa has always been populated by humans: this is explained by the availability of fertile lands rich of water, wild animals and plant species as well as the Euphrates river, forming a natural border between Anatolia and Mesopotamia.

At the Neolithic Age, the region became the centre for the first human settlements and cult (faith) plces. During the same period, Şanlıurfa location along the important trade routes between Anatolia and Mesopotamia, enriched its trading and cultural life and paved the way for the establishment of glorious empires in the region.

The first Archaeological excavations campaign began, in Birecik, in 1894: a two-sided tool unearthed in the alluvium of the Euphrates river is the earliest evidence of the Palaeolithic human presence in Anatolia. As a result of the researches led by Prof. Kılıç Kökten in the Siverek region in 1946, a large number of human settlements were uncovered: the settlemens date back to the ancient Palaeolithic Age (8000 BC and earlier), Neolithic Age (8000-5000 BC), Copper Age (5000-3000 BC), Bronze Age (3000 – 1200 BC) and Iron Age (1200-330 BC). The first archaeological excavations at Sultan Tepe and at Harran in the 1950’s, were strongly increased after the 1970’s, due to the construction works for the Atatürk Dam.

A number of archaeological sites along the Euphrates river that would otherwise be floded by the water, were uncovered and excavated.

The findings are now displayed at the Şanlıurfa Archaeological Museum which is part of the largest museum complex across Turkey, opened in 2015. With its exceptionally rich collection, from the Palaeolithic Age to the modern days, this is a unique museum, where thousands of archaeological findings excavated in Şanlıurfa and its immediate vicinity are displayed.

Among the most interesting pieces of the Museum collection, it is worth to mention the “Urfa Man” , the first known statue in the world, the exact original recontruction of the Nevali Çori cult area, removed from its site before it was flooded, and reconstructed with its own stones in the Museum. the model of Temple D of Göbeklitepe.

Next to the museum, it is possible to visit the archaeopark: it aims to offer archaeological insights for children and young people.

The Haleplibahçe Mosaic Museum, which is also part of the Complex, was built in-situ of an Ancient Roman Villa. It is world renewed for the mosaics depicting the Amazon hunting women, frequently mentioned as mythological characters, and for the Mosaic of god Orpheus. A number of other mosaics uncovered around Urfa are also displayed in this museum.

Two other places rich in archaeological remains are Kızılkoyun Rock Tombs and the plains of the Urfa Castle: many rock tombs, mosaic floors and inscriptions in Syriac language, associated with Oshroene (Abgar) Kingdom (132 BC-244 AD) and Byzantine periods, were recently, found in these caves. These areas are now opened for tourism. Archaeology enthusiast also visit the Balıklı Lake area, where the Urfa Man statue was discovered during road maintenance works, and the Urfa Castle.

Outside Şanlıurfa city centre, there are important archaeological sites to visit being Göbeklitepe the most important.; Karahan Tepe, Sultan Tepe, Deyr-i Yakup Monastery, Harran, Bazda Caves, City of Suayb, Ancient City of Soğmatar, Senemığar are all within 1/1.5 hours driving from Şanlıurfa city center while Rumkale (Roman Castle), the Norhut Church and Deyr Şebek (Keloşk) ruins are located near Halfeti and Birecik, and the Tella Martyrion remains are close to Viranşehir.

The findings, documentation and information obtained from Nevali Cori and Lidar Mound, critical in prehistory but submerged by the Atatürk Dam Lake, are displayed in the Şanlurfa Archaeology Museum.