As reported by Randy Boswell of Postmedia News, August 2, 2012:
Canadian archeologists have unearthed an extraordinary human sculpture at a globally significant, 3,000-year-old dig site in Turkey that had already yielded a host of discoveries in recent years for a University of Toronto-led team of researchers.Mr. Boswell reported the earlier discovery on April 17, 2009:
The latest find — the exquisitely preserved head and torso of a figure that would have stood four metres tall in the historical Neo-Hittite city of Kunulua — exemplifies a monumental sculptural tradition referenced in the Bible, including passages that describe the “graven images” created in the “kingdoms of the idols” north of ancient Israel.
The colossal figure — bearded, wide-eyed and curly-haired — appears to have been ritually buried and covered with stone slabs after the Assyrian conquest of Kunulua in 738 B.C. The sculpture, the back of which had been inscribed with a hieroglyphic chronology of its people’s military triumphs, is thought to have stood at the gates of a citadel within Kunulua, capital of the Neo-Hittite kingdom of Patina, which lasted about 260 years before its destruction by the Assyrian invaders.
The researchers, headed by University of Toronto archeologist Tim Harrison, believe that it may represent “the physical manifestation” of the Old Testament account of the fall of “Calno” and the destruction of its monuments.
The destruction of Calno-Kunulua was invoked by the prophet Isaiah as a warning to the Israelites that they should follow the will of God or face a similar eclipse of their civilization.
Along with the human figure, the Canadian-led dig at present-day Tayinat, located in southeastern Turkey near its border with Syria, also revealed an elaborately carved column base featuring a winged bull and sphinx.
The latest excavation was led by University of Toronto PhD student Darren Joblonkay. Last year, the same site produced a monumental sculpture of a lion that drew attention around the world. Earlier finds reported in 2009 first led Harrison and his team to link the location, about 35 kilometres east of Antakya (site of the ancient city of Antioch), to Isaiah’s oracle about the Assyrian attack on Calno.
The statue of the human figure was unveiled this past weekend at a ceremony attended by Turkey’s culture minister.
“It took a couple of weeks to fully excavate and then remove it from the site — it is about two tonnes in weight — to the nearby regional museum in Antakya,” Harrison told Postmedia News on Wednesday in an email from the region.
He also observed that the evidence of Kunulua’s destruction being unearthed by the university team offers an ancient parallel to the political upheaval unfolding today in nearby Syria and elsewhere in the region.
“In many ways,” he said, “the process of political fragmentation we are witnessing in the region today mirrors the socio-political transformation that coincided with this epochal transition three thousand years ago.”
Canadian archeologists working in southern Turkey have unearthed the remains of a biblical-era temple, the religious centre of an ancient kingdom whose destruction nearly 3,000 years ago is recorded in the Old Testament.
The excavation at Tell Tayinat, near the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea about 300 kilometres north of the Syrian capital of Damascus, has exposed "ornately carved" columns, "monumental" staircases and other remnants of a "powerful kingdom" destroyed by Assyrian invaders in 738 BC.
The discoveries at the site of the ancient city of Kunulua are believed to be evidence of the destruction of Calno -- invoked in the Bible by the prophet Isaiah as a warning to Israelites to follow the will of God or face a similar fate, says University of Toronto archeologist Tim Harrison, director of the project.
The ruins, located near another temple found by University of Chicago archeologists in the 1930s, appear to prove the existence of a "sacred precinct" that existed at the time of the Assyrian onslaught, he added.
"What we've encountered may be traces of that destruction," Harrison saidThursday. "We think that place is our site."
Harrison said that "we haven't put the jigsaw puzzle together, but we've got the pieces," noting the "nice convergence" between the dig site and the references in Chapter 10 of the Book of Isaiah and other texts from the pre-Christian era.
Describing the Assyrians as a tool of God's anger, Isaiah reminds his people of the awesome power that can "destroy and cut off nations" and direct invasion forces to "take the spoil" of conquered cities.
"Is not Calno as Carchemish?" begins Isaiah's litany of smashed kingdoms, cautioning that a faithless Jerusalem could fall next. "Is not Hamath as Arpad? Is not Samaria as Damascus?"
Harrison described Isaiah's warning about Calno and the other destroyed cities as having "an iconic representation in the ancient mind" -- something akin to the fall of Rome much later in human history.
Among the artifacts uncovered by researchers -- including University of Toronto students and various international scholars participating in the dig -- are fragments of decorative stone inscribed with hieroglyphics from an extinct Middle Eastern language.
Harrison suspects that the temple, located at a crossroads for various religious and linguistic tribes of the ancient world, may have once been a "melding" site where disparate peoples gathered.
Harrison said the temple was unearthed last summerAfter word of the find circulated among biblical-era scholars, pressure grew in recent months for the team to reveal some details.