Archeological Museum os Shanliurfa


Archeological Museum of Sanliurfa

The expedition report is prepared by Alexander Artemov the Researcher of ISIDA Project

The city of Shanliurfa is located in southeastern Anatolia. It is about 35 km from the Turkish-Syrian border and in 75 km to the east of the Euphrates River. The ancient city of Harran, mentioned in the Bible, is located not far from Shanliurfa. According to the local legends, the biblical Patriarch Abraham lived there a certain part of his life. The Harran city has many places, associated with Abraham (or Ibrahimi, according to the Islamic tradition): the cave where the Prophet was born, as well as the place, where the cruel ruler Nimrod ordered to throw Ibrahim into the fire. According to Islamic tradition, the fire turned into water, and coal - into fish. As a result, the Lake of Fish Balakly-Gol has appeared in this place, being full of carps even till the present time. Urfu is used to be called as the City of the Five Prophets. Among them are: Ibrahim (Abraham), Iyyov (Job) and Ilyas (Elijah) - all of them, according to the ancient legend, lived in this area.

Cave, where according to legend, Ibrahim was born. A place of pilgrimage for many of Muslims:


The environs of Shanlıurfa are well-known for their ancient settlements and structures of the early Neolithic period, such as: Göbekli Tepe, Nevali Cori, Tashik Tepe, Akarchay and others. It is in this region, where the first in the history of mankind traces of farming, animal husbandry (domestication of wild boars) and smelting of metals have been found. However, according to the results of the latest research ("Repealing the Çatalhöyük extractive metallurgy: The green, the fire and the ‘slag’" Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 86, October 2017, Pages 101-122), there is a hypothesis that copper was not smelt in Anatolia during the Neolithic period, and the found artifact was just a by-product of the mineral dyes manufacture.

Anyway, judging by historical finds, the Urfa region in the X-IX millennium BC was one of the main centers of the Neolithic Revolution - a unique place on Earth, where the culture, technology and agriculture were rapidly developed. Everything, that during the subsequent millennia, marked the milestones in the development of the Human Civilization.

Many of these historical finds can be seen in the Archaeological Museum of Shanlurfa. The museum territory covers an area of ​​~ 24,800 square meters, containing more than 73,000 archaeological exhibits, covering the period from the Paleolith up to the present time.

Source: Şanlıurfa Müze Kompleksi Arkeoloji Müzesi

Expositions of the Early Neolithic Age are of particular interest, since they are represented by the various finds from archaeological sites of the Anatolia region, which is world-famous area, first of all, due to Göbekli Tepe. In this report, we share the information, concerning only on the "prehistoric" part of the museum exposition, because the main aim of our visit was the studying of the Göbekli Tepe complex and the traces of human activity in this region of Anatolia during the Early Neolithic Period.

The size of the museum is impressive: for example, in one of the halls - there is an exact copy of the "Temple D" from Göbekli Tepe, represented in its full size:

Source: Şanlıurfa Arkeoloji Müzesi Ziyaretçilerini Büyülüyor

"The front slab of the dolmen" and the central stelae with bas-relief on it's side:


In another room, the original "Temple" from Nevali Cori of the IX millennium BC is exhibited. It was transported directly from the archaeological site, flooded during the construction of the water reservoir in the 1990s. The area of the "Temple" occupies more than 200 square meters:

Source: 11 Bin Yıllık Nevali Çori Müzelik Oldu

One of the central items of the exposition is the famous statue of "The Urfa Man", dated by the Xth Millennium BC, which is considered to be the first in the World history full-size human statue. The statue was found nearby, 500 meters from the museum, in the center of Shanliurfa.


It is believed that the statue belongs to the same culture that has built the first "Temples" of Göbekli Tepe. Thus, the central stelae of the "Temple D" (9500 years BC), resembling the human figures, are depicted with a triangular "necklace".

Source: Ancient Origins

Moreover, similar heads without mouth, were foung in Göbekli Tepe, as well as the torso with the triangular "necklace".

Source: The Tepe Telegrams

The exposition of Early Neolithic objects, found mainly in Göbekli Tepe, includes stone slabs with various images, miniature stone figures of animals and people, full-sized sculptural fragments of human heads and heads of animals, animal statuettes, utensils and ornaments of the pre-ceramic period A, B (XI-VIII BC).



Sculptural images of different creatures found in "Temples" of Göbekli Tepe: wild boar, bear, frog (?), birds and other animals. Sculptures made of limestone are made in a special manner with artistic image and expressiveness. These small sculptures are rather unusual, then primitive.


The image on one of the plates from Göbekli Tepe is considered to be the one of the most recent, made shortly before the burying of the "Temples". Perhaps this is a "mother-frog" - a symbol, found in many cultures. An interesting collection is presented here.

Dishes and utensils of the pre-ceramic period:


Some of the exhibits from Göbekli Tepe (X-VIII BC) are not interpretated and are called as "idols" or simply "stone objects".

"Throwing stones", "stone balls", "beads":

A lot of different ornaments - beads, pendants ( some are of a rather fine work), "playing stones" - are also dated by the Neolithic:


The bone plate from Kemik Plaka (on the picture below to the left) is the subject of heated discussions: some researchers regard it as an image of the T-shaped stele from Göbekli Tepe, with an opening hole as in the "Temple D", and a contour of a person (soul?), directing to the area of the motionless Northern Stars []. Another bone plate (on the right) has an ornament in the form of triangles:

Similar triangular ornaments are found on the stone pottery of the pre-ceramic period (earlier 6.5-6 thousand years BC), found in nearby settlements:

Fragments of stone dishes from the settlements of Tash Cap.

Similar fragments of stone utensils (pots, cups) with paintings were found in Göbekli Tepe.

The totem pole from Göbekli Tepe and the sculptural composition from Nevali Cori are rather massive stone sculptures, whose original height was 1.2-1.8 m. The totem pole consists of a figure of a bear (?), who holds a person in his paws. Below is another human figure, surrounded by snakes on its both sides.


The sculpture from Nevali Cori, was apparently originally consisted of two human figures and a vulture above them.


Both sculptures are found in rectangular "Temples", so that they can be related approximately to the same period 8.5-7 thousand years BC. At the same time, archaeologists believe that the totem poles were repeatedly transferred from place to place, perhaps from older round "Temples" or "Sanctuaries".

As was already mentioned, the temple from Nevali Cori was completely transferred and restored in its original form in the Archeological Museum of Shanlurfa. The architecture of the temple is similar to the structures from Göbekli Tepe: two central stelae (apparently, T-shaped) with carved "hand", surrounded by T-shaped pillars of a smaller size. The rectangular shape of the Temple is similar to the late structures of Göbekli Tepe.


A sculpture of "human head with a snake" was found in Nevali Cori, as welll as a fragment of a large vessel with an unusual relief, depicting a dancing human figures with a "tortoise" between them.


The vessels, with a capacity of up to 160 litres, found in Göbekli Tepe has the traces of fermented grapes and cereals, which make it possible to suggest that during the Neolithic time festivals (ritual, religious or funeral events) they were used for storing of wine and beer. [Oliver Dietrich, Manfred Heun, Jens Notroff, Klaus Schmidt, Martin Zarnkow, The Role of Cult and feasting in the Emergence of Neolithic Communities. New Evidence from Göbekli Tepe, South-eastern Turkey, Antiquity 86, 2012].

Museum also stores items and artifacts from the periods of the late pre-ceramic and ceramic Neolithic (VII-V BC): the model of the house, fragments of abstract geometric "paintings", iconic figures and, of course, various types of early ceramics.


Ceramics and figurines of the Eneolithic period (IV-III BC) and Early Bronze.

Among the exhibits are the heads of bulls and a clay head with characteristic bird's fitures.


Traditional Upper Mesopotamia "idols with eyes":


Regarding the "idols with eyes" there are many different theories and hypotheses: perhaps they were used for psychedelic contact with the World of the dead, or as some kind of protective amulets. Some scientists believe that such stone "idols" could serve as weights (standard of weight). However, there are many other versions. For example, one of the cylindrical seals is depicting a similar object, which, presumably, was used as a tool for weaving a "double twine rope" from different threads. [Louvre Museum Eye Idol].

Corks and seals with various symbols of the Eneolithic and Early Bronze Age:


The museum also exhibits an interesting collection of toy chariots of the Early Bronze Age, as well as various figures (toys, amulets). Toy chariots are dated back to the III BC, were found in 2017 during the excavations in Sogmatar, in 60 km from Urfa, during the excavation of tomb, which probably belonged to the children of the ruler of the city (5,000 year old toy chariot discovered in ancient city of Soğmatar).


Female figures with horns and a bird's face, symbolize Astoreth (Astarte).


As was already noted, many of the exhibits of the later epochs, from the Sumerian-Akkadian to the modern Muslim period, were not included in this report, since our main goal was the complex of Göbekli Tepe and the traces of local cultures of the prehistoric periods.

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