Relief orthostat (stone slab at base of wall) depicting two bird-headed, winged figures and human body called "Winged Griffin Demons", from Carchemish (Turkey), Basalt; Late Hittite period, 9-7th cent BC, Museum of Anatolian Civilization
Karkamış / Karkamiš
Karkamış (Carchemish) was an important settlement even before the 2nd millemium BCE. The first Hittite occupation of the city may have taken place for a short period during Mursili I (16th century BCE). Karkamış remained under Mitanni (Hurri) rule during 15th and 14th centuries and then came into full Hittite control during Suppiluliuma I (c. 1330 BCE). Suppiluliuma made it into a vassal kingdom ruled by his son Piyasili, who is also known by his Hurrian name Šarri-Kušuh. Located on the west bank of Euprates river (today right at the border of Turkey and Syria), Karkamış became the administrative capital of the Syrian territories of the Hittites during the Late Bronze Age. After the collapse of the Hittite Empire around 1180 BCE, Karkamış survived as the strongest of the several smaller Neo-Hittite kingdoms established in southeast Anatolia and northern Syria. It was an important trade center and reached its apogee around the 9th century BCE. The patron deity of Karkamış was Kubaba, a goddess of Hurrian origin. In her depictions, she was presented as a dignified woman wearing a long robe, standing or seated, and holding a mirror. In the 9th century BCE, the city was under pressure by the Assyrians and it is known that tribute was paid at least in two occasions to the Assyrian Kings Ashurnasirpal II and Shalmaneser III. The city was finally conquered by Sargon II in 717 BCE, during the reign of king Pisiri.
In the first millennium BCE, Karkamış consisted of a high citadel mound by the Euphrates, with a walled inner town and an outer town. Excavations revealed a processional way which led to the temple of the Storm-God and to a monumental stairway to the citadel. The whole complex was decorated with basalt and limestone sculptures.
Location of the city ruins was identified in 1876 by George Smith. The site was excavated initially by British Museum, mainly between 1911 and 1914, under D. G. Hogarth, R. C. Thompson, C. L. Wooley and T. E. Lawrence. These expeditions uncovered substantial remains of the Neo-Hittite and Assyrian periods, including defensive structures, temples, palaces, and numerous basalt statues, reliefs, and inscriptions. A good portion of the orthostats are currently in Anatolian Civilizations Museum in Ankara. Several other artifacts are in British Museum.
The site is located on the Turkish side of the Turkish-Syrian border and remained under a mine field since 1950s. In 2011 Turkish government cleaned up the mines and new excavations in Karkamış started the same year under the supervision of Prof. Marchetti of Bologna University.