Yazılıkaya is a site about 3,200 years old believed to have played a significant religious role in the ancient Hittite Empire. According to a new theory, the reliefs found at the site may have served as a calendar to mark days, synodic months, and solar years.

Yazılıkaya, which means carved rock in Turkish, is a large limestone site from the Bronze Age, as mysterious as its name. Although the reliefs at the site have been studied for decades, some experts now argue that key aspects have been overlooked.

Researchers believe that some deity reliefs represent the number of days in a lunar month. There are also markings beneath some of the representations that seem to indicate their function as a calendar.

Eberhard Zangger, president of Luwian Studies, an international foundation dedicated to the study of the Luwians, and Rita Gautschy from the University of Basel, believe that one relief containing 12 deities represents the months of a year, and another containing 30 represents the days of a month.

They think that the ancient Hittites would have marked the beginning of a month beneath the first of the 30 deities and then worked backward to keep a record of time. The importance of the full moon would also be represented in some of the carvings.

The number of figures in the relief does not correspond to the number of days in a year, but Zangger and Gautschy believe that the Hittites would have used this system to determine when additional months were needed to align lunar and solar years.

They also suggest that other Hittite structures were built to mark important astronomical events, such as the Summer Solstice. In this regard, the authors, who have published their study in the Journal of Skyscape Archaeology, note that numerous texts found in the Hittite capital Hattusa relate to solar deities and celestial divination, reminiscent of the astrological and astronomical practices of ancient Babylon.

The sanctuary of Yazılıkaya contains over 90 reliefs carved into the rock dating back to the second half of the 13th century BCE, depicting deities, humans, animals, and mythical figures.

It is located near the Turkish city of Bogazköy, just two kilometers from the Hittite capital Hattusa, of which it was a sanctuary, forming a single archaeological site.


Sources

Eberhard Zangger, Rita Gautschy, Celestial Aspects of Hittite Religion: An Investigation of the Rock Sanctuary Yazılıkaya. Journal of Skyscape Archaeology, DOI: 10.1558/jsa.37641 (Texto completo PDF).


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