Assyrian seal unearthed in Turkey’s southeast
Archaeologists have unearthed an engraved stone seal some 3,000 years old in southeastern Turkey. The seal was discovered around Zerzevan Castle, also known as Samachi Castle, a once important military base for the Byzantine Empire now in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.
Excavations have been continuing for five years in Zerzevan Castle, which is close to Demirölçek neighborhood, 13 kilometers away from the district.
The castle covers an area of 60,000 square meters and includes 12- to 15-meter-high and 200-meter-long wall remains, a 21-meter-high watch tower, an administration building, residences, granary and weapon storage areas, an underground sanctuary, shelters, rock tombs, water canals and 54 aqueducts.
This year’s works unearthed the 3,000-year-old seal about four meters deep in a field close to the 1,700-year-old underground sanctuary, which was used for a secret Roman cult that worshipped the pagan deity, Mithras.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Aytaç Coşkun, head of the excavation team, said that the castle is a tourism destination and drew about 340,000 visitors in the first nine months of the year. He said that the castle had been known as 800-year-old military base, but recent excavations showed that its history dates back much farther.
“We unearthed a very important group of things this year. The most important of these was a 3,000-year-old Assyrian seal. The castle dates back to the Roman period, but the findings from the Assyrian period took the history of Zerzevan Castle back 1,200 years,” he said.
The seal has a unique inscribed godlike figure as well as a tree of life, a bird, and holy water in a vessel to nourish the tree of life, showing the importance of the seal, he added.
Seals were often used in the ancient world to authenticate the source or authority of an object or document.
“Perhaps the castle was here during the Assyrian era. Perhaps the highest ruler and general of this place used this seal during the Assyrian era. Along with the seal, many bronze artifacts were unearthed,” said Coşkun. “These works showed that there was a 3,000-year-old Assyrian settlement at Zerzevan Castle,” he added.
The military settlement in the castle is located on a 124-meter-high rocky hill on an ancient route in the strategic point between Amida (modern-day Diyarbakır) and Dara (near modern-day Mardin). Due to its location, Zerzevan Castle dominated the whole valley, and thus was a key Roman garrison and a scene of great military confrontations between the Romans and the Sassanians. It was called “Samachi” in the Roman era.
The walls and buildings in the settlement reached their final form through restoration and reconstruction during the reigns of Anastasios I (491-518) and Justinianos I (527-565).