Archaeological excavations, ongoing since 2016 within the bounds of Tunceli province in central-eastern Türkiye, aim to identify new Iron Age and Antiquity settlements in the region and examine archaeological remains lacking sufficient information.

Recent work uncovered a new archaeological site, Masumu-Pak Fortress, while also examining in detail some features of the already-known Aşağı Doluca Fortress.

Masumu-Pak Fortress sits atop an oval hill at 1608 meters above sea level, near the village of Sarısaltık, northwest of the Hozat district. Covering an area of less than a hectare, the fortress occupies a strategic point, with medieval mortar walls visible to the south and southeast. Within the settlement, a 46-step rock staircase and rock cisterns/wells in the citadel were identified.

On a rocky platform on the southwest slope of the fortress lies a worship area resembling an outdoor temple. Here, four rectangular altars carved into the rock were found, with slots for blood flow from sacrifices or liquids in libation rituals.

Furthermore, traces of the Iron Age and Middle Ages are visible in various parts of the fortress. This newly discovered fortress gives the impression of a strong settlement inhabited from the Iron Age to the Middle Ages.

Aşağı Doluca settlement (Kale Mezrası) lies 18 km southeast of the Nazmiye district, on the banks of the Peri River. Occupying an area of approximately 3 hectares, the fortress was built on a rocky hill extending north-south. Access to the fortress is from the southeast and southwest via rock stairs.

Similarly, on a rocky platform in the fortress citadel, five rectangular hollows carved into the rock were found, resembling an outdoor temple or altar.

In front of these are slots akin to those in Masumu-Pak Fortress, for draining sacrifice blood or offering liquids. Additionally, wall foundations and cisterns can be seen in sections near the citadel.

In both settlements, local characteristics stand out more than Urartian culture. This situation may reflect the influence of local powers affiliated with the Kingdom of Urartu in the region.

Ceramic findings also suggest that the fortresses may have been built before the 7th century BCE, during a period when Urartian sovereignty was not yet fully established.

It’s significant that there are outdoor worship areas with similar features in both fortresses. The altars with slots carved into the rock and the flattened platforms in front of them share architectural similarities between these two worship structures.

Stone work done with flat-mouthed tools reflects Urartian period characteristics, yet altar forms with slots exhibit a specific local typology of the region, suggesting these outdoor temples may have been built in relation to local worship.

Research in Tunceli continues to shed light on the history of settlements in the region during the Iron Age and Antiquity.

New discoveries in Masumu-Pak Fortress and Aşağı Doluca Fortress reveal the presence and influence of local cultures alongside the Urartians in the region.

Future studies will provide more information on the functions and cultural connections of these fortresses and outdoor temples.


Sources

Serkan Erdogan, Düzgün Çakirca, Tunceli̇ bölgesi̇nde yeni̇ keşfedi̇len i̇ki̇ kale yerleşi̇mi̇ ve yeni̇ bi̇r açik hava tapinak ti̇pi̇. Journal of Social Sciences Institute (Pamukkale University), doi.org/10.30794/pausbed.1291475


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