International team of researchers have concluded that the ancient temple of three thousand years, located in modern Turkey, is a model of the cosmos as it was represented by the Hittites. The conclusions, which other specialists recognize as controversial, are cited in the article.
Yazılıkaya is a rock sanctuary of the Hittites, an Indo-European Bronze Age people who lived in modern Turkey between 1700 and 1100 B.C. It is located near the ruins of the ancient Hittite capital Hattus, which are located near the modern Turkish village of Bogazkale. Yazylikaya consists of two rooms in the open air, decorated with relief images of Hittite deities. It is believed that the place was last used for its intended purpose in 1230 BC.
Scholars have suggested that the images of 64 rock-carved deities in the main hall of the sanctuary symbolize the synodic months and the solar year. This interpretation of the reliefs was met with skepticism because it would have meant that such a calendar carved in rock was centuries ahead of its time. In the new work, archaeologists provide evidence that the sanctuary as a whole is a symbolic model of the cosmos, and the images illustrate levels of the universe (the underworld, earth and sky) as well as cyclical processes (the change of day and night, phases of the moon and seasons).
The reliefs in room A can be divided into three groups. The first group includes 12 images, which show the synodic months (i.e. the time interval between two identical phases of the moon). Then, in the second group, the depicted deities (13 to 41) mark the days of the month. Another 19 form the Meton cycle, a period of time equal to 19 years or 235 synodic months. According to scholars, the Hittites marked the date by attaching markers to images. The supreme gods of the Hittite pantheon which are not part of the calendar (42 to 46) are located on the central panel of chamber A and symbolize the stationary pole of the world and the circumpolar constellations.
In general, Room A serves as a symbol of everything on Earth and in the sky, including the Sun, the Moon, the five visible planets, some constellations and stars, the north celestial pole and the north circumpolar realm. Another room, room B, contains images of the 12 gods of the underworld. Thus, Yazylikaya is a model of the universe covering three kingdoms: the underworld, the earthly and the heavenly.
The article also draws parallels between the pantheon of Hittite deities and belief systems of other ancient civilizations, which created monuments linking life on Earth with the universe. However, according to other scholars, the authors often refer to texts from Mesopotamia, which had a cultural influence on the Hittites, but the Hittite texts themselves pay little attention to astronomy. The evidence would be compelling if other Hittite monuments demonstrated a similar connection between the gods and astronomy.