Category Archives: Turkey

Göbekli Tepe excavator Klaus Schmidt dead at 61

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reports the death of Professor Klaus Schmidt.

Professor Klaus Schmidt, a pioneer of excavations in Göbekli Tepe, known as the “zero point in history” in the eastern Turkish province of Şanlıurfa, died of a heart attack while swimming in Germany at the age of 61.

Schmidt had been working at Göbekli Tepe for 20 years for the German Archaeology Institute. Through his works, he proved that the Neolithic-age ancient site was the world’s oldest temple.

When Leon Mauldin and I visited Göbekli Tepe in May of this year Schmidt was providing a personal tour for an educational tour group from the United States. He is wearing a light blue shirt and a cap (just right of center). We followed along for a while and listened to his explanations. I thought it might be Schmidt but wasn’t sure until I checked for photos on the Internet at the hotel that evening.

Professor Klaus Schmidt lecturing to an American group at Gobekli Tepe. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Professor Klaus Schmidt lecturing to a group at Gobekli Tepe. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Schmidt explains the site and significance of Göbekli Tepe.

Göbekli Tepe is one of the most fascinating Neolithic sites in the world. It is a tell, an artificial mound dating to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic. It was not used for habitation; it consists of several sanctuaries in the form of round megalithic enclosures. The site lies about 15km north-east of the Turkish city of Sanlıurfa, at the highest point of an extended mountain range that can be seen for many kilometres around. It is a landmark visible from far away…. Its enormous deposition of layers, up to fifteen metres high, have accumulated over several millennia over an area of about nine hectares. Even today, the place has lost nothing of its magic appeal. For example, a wishing tree which stands on top of the ridge is still sought out by the residents of the surrounding area.

Archaeologists found an important piece of the puzzle in the early history of humanity at the site, which contributes to a completely new understanding of the process of sedentism and the beginning of agriculture. The hill, which is strewn with countless stone implements and large-format, regular-shaped ashlars, revealed its secret as a result of the excavations carried out since 1995 by the German Archaeological Institute in cooperation with the Archaeological Museum in Sanlıurfa (Schmidt 1995). (DOI: 10.4312/dp.37-21)

The photo below shows the enclosure protecting the T-shaped monolithic pillars.

The enclosed area of Gobekli Tepe. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The enclosed area of Gobekli Tepe. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A Google search for Göbekli Tepe will produce numerous images of he site before the protective roof was built. A popular article in Actual Archaeology is available at Academia.edu here. It is now difficult to get photos of many of the pillars. See the article by Schmidt here. Some of the pillars are plain, but many of them contain reliefs of animals, birds, and a few humans. The art looks like what we might expect of children, but these pillars are definitely not the work of children.

Some of the T-shaped monolithic pillars. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some of the T-shaped monolithic pillars. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Göbekli Tepe is no more than 30 or 40 miles north of Harran (or Haran), the ancient home of Abraham (Genesis 11:21). Muslim belief says that Abraham was born at nearby Sanliurfa.

Schmidt explained to the American group that this site marked the change from the time of hunter-gatherers to a time of domestication of plants and animals.

There are many mysteries associated with Göbekli Tepe. The death of Schmidt is a blow to the continued work at the site, but perhaps others will be able to provide helpful information in the future.

Additional Photos (July 23, 2014). Carl Rasmussen has added several photos of Göbekli Tepe prior to the building of the roof over the excavated area. These photos allow you to see the arrangement of the stones. Go to his Holy Land Photos’ Blog here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

The Bosphorus − “a liquid line”

For years I have received Saudi Aramco World (Saudi was added to the name a few years ago). From time to time there are articles pertaining to some portion of the Bible World. The March/April 2014 issue has an article by Louis Werner entitled “Bosporus: Strait Between Two Worlds.” The leading paragraph sets the tone for the article.

Look at an atlas of the oceans, and one place always seems to catch the eye. The Bosporus, that narrow waterway connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, which cuts the city of Istanbul into two halves, stands out alone among the world’s other major straits and canals. Along with the wider twin, the Dardanelles, the Bosporus famously divided east and west, while the rest − the Suez and Panama Canals, the Malacca and Magellan Straits, to name but a few − link different regions.

Its function as a barrier between continents, a liquid line strung between Europe and Asia, has given the Bosporus such prominence in both history and legend: The ancient Greeks sailed up the strait to their Black Sea colonies, the Persian King Darius built a floating bridge across it in the fifth century BCE; in 1451 CE, Mehmet the Conqueror built a fort on its European bank to strangle Constantinople; during the Cold War, Joseph Stalin said that Turkish control over the Bosporus held the USSR “by the throat”; today it is an essential part of global shipping trade in petroleum.

The Bosphorus (more common spelling) has fascinated me since I first saw it in 1968. I have enjoyed looking at the great vessels traveling one way or the other through the waterway. Tour groups enjoy a boat ride on the Bosporus. The photo below shows one of the more narrow areas. Cargo ships can be seen awaiting their turn to go through the strait.

Cargo and tourists making their way through the Bosporus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cargo and tourists making their way through the Bosporus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the past we have written about the delivery of Peter’s epistles with the suggestion that the messenger came through the Bosphorus into the Black Sea and along the coast of Bithynia and Pontus. If this is correct, and I think it is, the Bosphorus was an important waterway to those Christians addressed by Peter. See “The Delivery of Peter’s Epistles” here.

Hadrian’s Arch in Antalya (Attalia)

Many of the Roman ruins we see in the Bible World belong to the early second century. This illustrates the tremendous power of the Empire throughout the region at that time.

Hadrian ruled from A.D. 117-138. We know that one of the major persecutions against Christians came during his reign. Many arches were constructed to honor him. The most impressive Roman ruin in Antalya (Attalia of Acts 14:25) is Hadrian’s Arch. The three-arch gateway was extensively restored between 1960 and 1963.

Hadrian's Arch in Antalya, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hadrian’s Arch in Antalya, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The area around the arch bustles with tourists.

Archaeologist pushes for a park at Carchemish

The ancient site of Carchemish (modern Karkamiş in Turkey) was identified by George Smith in 1876, and later excavated by the British Museum beginning in 1911. The various directors included Hogarth, Thompson, Wooley, and Lawrence. Many remains of Assyrian and Neo-Hittite periods were uncovered.

Carchemish is mentioned only a few times in the Bible, but it was one of the most significant cities in the ancient Bible world.

  • Isaiah made a reference to Carchemish (Isaiah 10:9). The city had been sacked by Sargon II in 717 B.C.
  • Pharaoh Necho of Egypt went up to Carchemish on the Euphrates to assist the Assyrians against the Babylonians in 609 B.C. (2 Chronicles 35:20; Jeremiah 46:2). King Josiah of Judah tried to stop him, but was killed.

One of the Babylonian Chronicles says that Nebuchadnezzar “crossed the river to go against the Egyptian army which lay in Carchemish.”

The tell (mound) at Carchemish consists of a smaller high mound and a larger lower mound. Hazor, in Israel, would be a similar site. The first photo shows the higher mound which is immediately north of the Turkish border with Syria. The Turkish military is making use of the tell. On the left side of the tell, above the trees you will see a blue metal structure. That is the bridge crossing the Euphrates River. Part of the ancient city is now within Syria. On the right side of the photo above the lower trees you will see portions of ancient walls.

Carchemish is now used by the Turkish military. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Carchemish is now used by the Turkish military. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Professor Nicola Marchetti of Bologna University in Italy has been heading a new excavation on the lower tell. Last year Marchetti announced plans to build a new archaeological park at Karkamiş. Monday he made a new call for the opening of the park and a museum to display artifacts from the site.

He said establishing an archaeology park in the ancient city would draw many tourists to the region.

The most important areas in the excavations are a lower palace and a lower city, which they had unearthed two years ago, and there were two temples in this area, said Marchetti, adding the most important stage of the excavations would be finished this year.

See the article in Hurriyet Daily News here. (HT: Bible Places Blog).

A few weeks ago we were able to get close to the ancient site, but was not able to visit the excavation. In the photo below you will see a military tank on top of the lower tell near the recent excavations. The high tell is immediately to the left.

Lower tell of Carchemish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lower tell of Carchemish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Mark Wilson speaks to group in Antalya

Dr. Mark Wilson shared a meal with us at the hotel one evening in Antalya, Turkey. After dinner Mark spoke to the group about his work in Turkey. He is the founder and director of the Asia Minor Research Center, and spends most of each year working and doing research in Turkey. He has updated several of the works of Sir William M. Ramsay, and written several helpful books on the book of Revelation. You will find much helpful material by Dr. Wilson on the Seven Church Network web site.

Our tour group heard a brief preview of the presentation Dr. Wilson plans for one of the upcoming annual professional biblical studies meetings in San Diego, California. He has been working on discovering the projected route of Paul’s Second Journey in Anatolia based on the biblical text, known roads, milestones, etc. from the first century. This was ideal for our group who had just completed a tour visiting all of the sites associated with Paul’s First Journey in Anatolia (modern Turkey).

Dr. Mark Wilson speaks about the route of Paul's second journey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dr. Mark Wilson speaks about the route of Paul’s second journey in Anatolia to a tour group in Antalya, Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We were pleased to see Dr. Wilson’s book, Biblical Turkey: A Guide to Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor, available in many of the museum books stores including the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Many of our tour members who did not already have a copy of the book got one from Mark after the presentation. You may purchase a copy from Amazon by clicking on the title above.

Tour members were delighted to have their book autographed by the author.

Dr. Wilson autographs a copy of Biblical Turkey for Stacy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dr. Wilson autographs a copy of Biblical Turkey for Stacy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Traveling in Turkey

“Turkey? Why would you want to go to Turkey?” That is a question I have been asked a number of times over the years since my first visit in 1968. My response usually goes something like this. If you are interested in Bible history, Turkey is very important both for the Old Testament and the New Testament. Of course, the land was not called Turkey at the time of the Bible, but had various names depending on the historical period and the geographical region.

Think of the Old Testament history.

  • It is possible that the Garden of Eden was located somewhere in the mountains of eastern Turkey near the source of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (Genesis 2:10-14).
  • For sure, Noah’s Ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat (ancient Urartu) (Genesis 8:4).
  • Haran, and the region known as Padan-aram in Mesopotamia, became the ancestral home of Abraham and his family before he went to the land of Canaan (Genesis 28:2; et al.).
  • Bible kings were involved in battles with world powers at the town of Carchemish (Jeremiah 46:2).
  • The Hittites lived in central and eastern Turkey (1 Kings 10:28-29; 2 Kings 7:6). Kue designates Cilicia in Turkey.
  • Both the Assyrians and Babylonians, enemies of Israel, were active in this region (Isaiah 10:9; Jeremiah 46:1-2).
  • The Euphrates and the Tigris, great rivers of Turkey, were important in Bible times (Isaiah 27:12; Genesis 2:14; Daniel 10:4). The Euphrates is often designated simply as the River (Isaiah 11:16).

Think of New Testament history.

  • Paul was a native of Tarsus in Cilicia (Acts 21:39). Timothy was a native of Lystra (Acts 16:1).
  • From Acts 11 onward throughout the New Testament, most of the events take place in Roman Asia Minor.
  • The town we know as Antioch in (the Roman province of) Syria is now located in the Hatay province of Turkey (Acts 11; Galatians 2:11).
  • Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark sailed from Seleucia to begin the first missionary journey (Acts 13:4).
  • With the exception of Salamis and Paphos in Cyprus, all of the places associated with the first journey are in Turkey (Acts 13-14).
  • Many of the towns visited on the second and third journey are in Turkey (Acts 15-16).
  • Paul made stops at the coastal town of Myra on the voyage to Rome (Acts 27:5).
  • Paul’s letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon were address to churches or persons in Asia Minor.
  • Peter’s two letters were addressed to Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, now in Turkey (1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 3:1). Peter also visited Antioch in Syria (Galatians 2:11).
  • The apostle John spent some of his latter years in Ephesus, and addressed the book of Revelation to seven churches in Asia (Revelation 1:4, 11).
Hot air balloons are moved by the wind over the lunar-like landscape of Cappadocia while the pilots control their altitude. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hot air balloons are moved by the wind over the lunar-like landscape of Cappadocia while the pilots control their altitude. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Post New Testament church history.

  • The Book of Revelation describes events that would affect the saints of Asia (Revelation 1:4). The information we have about the Roman Emperors and the temples erected to their honor throughout Turkey fit perfectly with what we read in Revelation.
  • The Ecumenical Councils met in the place we now call Turkey in the following cities: Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon.
  • Some of the better known early church fathers are associated with places in Turkey.

Good enough reasons to visit Turkey, I’d say.

Note: This is intended only as a suggestive list; not a complete one.

 

The Zeugma Mosaic Museum

This morning we made a short visit to the Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep. This museum contains many of the mosaics and some statues from the Roman city of Zeugma. Much of Zeugma has been covered by the waters of the Euphrates River due to one of the dams built by the Turkish government to provide hydro-electric power and water for irrigation for southeastern Turkey. Archaeologists worked diligently over a period of years to preserve as much of the material as possible. The small mosaic below has been called Gypsy Girl. When I first saw it in 2007 I thought it would rival the Mona Lisa. That was in the old museum. Today the small mosaic is  displayed in a dark room, perhaps to create more mystique. In my judgment it is not as attractive as before. My photo below was made in 2007.

The Gypsy Girl from Zeugma. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins..

The Gypsy Girl from Zeugma. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Otherwise the display of the mosaics is beautifully done. Perhaps at another time I will be able to post some of those photos.

This afternoon we are utilizing our time in the Gaziantep airport. Our flight for the day was cancelled and we were not notified before coming to the airport. Such is travel.

Yesterday we had a few sprinkles, but this afternoon it is pouring rain at the Gaziantep airport.

 

 

A visit to Harran – home of Abraham

This morning we flew from Istanbul to Gaziantep in eastern Turkey, picked up our rental car and headed east to Zugma. This is a Roman period town that has been mostly flooded as a result of a dam built on the Euphrates River.

We continued east to Sanliurfa, and then south to Harran (some English Bible versions use Haran). Harran is located in biblical Padan-Aram (Genesis 25:29, et al.). Abraham and his family lived in the area (Genesis 11:21). The city has a long history which I will not go into now.

For the past two hundred years the people who live here have built mud brick conical, beehive-shaped houses. I have also seen some of these houses in northern Syria.

At the present time very few people still live in the beehive-shaped houses. For touristic and educational purposes some of the houses have been reconstructed to show how people used them for dwellings.

If you have seen the houses at Haran over the past few decades, you may think that these in my photo look entirely too good.

Having been here twice before, I must admit that I was a bit letdown when I saw the condition of the town today. On the north side of town a large number of new houses have been built. Some apartment buildings now stand on the west side. One young man told us that very few of the residents keep sheep. Most, he said, are involved in raising cotton on the plains about Harran.

Beehive-shaped houses at Harran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Beehive-shaped houses at Harran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

A visit to Nicaea in Bithynia.

Today  my friend Leon and I made a 10 hour trip from Istanbul to Iznik, Turkey. Iznik is the name of ancient Nicaea (Nicea) in Bithynia. This is a region of Asia Minor into which Paul was not allowed by the Spirit to travel. Instead, he was directed to go down to Troas where he received the call to come over into Macedonia.

And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. (Acts 16:7-8 ESV

Bithynia is across from Istanbul on the south side of the Sea of Marmara. It is a beautiful mountainous region with valleys filled with olive trees and fruit orchards.

The Epistles of Peter are addressed to saints living in Bithynia, but no specific towns are mentioned (1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 3:1).

The Roman province of Bithynia. BibleAtlas.org.

The Roman province of Bithynia. BibleAtlas.org.

The modern town of Iznik utilizes the layout of ancient Nicaea. Nicaea was the site of the first and seventh of the ecumenical councils held between 325 and 787 A.D. Hopefully I will be able to write more about these councils and their importance in the history of Christianity at a later time.

For today I wanted to share a photo I made of a little lighthouse in the fresh water Lake Iznik.

Lighthouse in Lake Iznik. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lighthouse in Lake Iznik. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some Museums in Turkey

My Ancient Crossroads Tour of Biblical and Historical Turkey is compete. Yesterday most of the tour members returned home. A few had other plans of travel before returning.

There are some wonderful museums in Turkey, but many of them are undergoing restoration at this time.

We missed seeing the main section of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara due to restoration. A nice,  small section containing mostly classical materials was open, but the great collection of Hittite materials (our reason for going there) was closed. According to an article in the Harriyet Daily News it reopened last Friday.

The Archaeological Museum in Antakya (Antioch of Syria, Acts 11, 13) was almost bare. Only a few of the lesser quality mosaics were on the walls. A new museum will open soon. I had told the group that we would see some good Hittite materials there, but they had already been moved. Incidentally, the Church of St. Peter and the Simon Stylites Monastery were also closed for renovation.

We did better at the fabulous museum in Antalya (Attalia of Acts 14:25). The Roman period statuary from Perga in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13-14; 14:25) is housed there.

In Istanbul we were able to visit the Ancient Orient section of the Archaeological Museum. The museum containing material from the classical world was closed. An excellent selection of materials was housed in a small area of the Museum.  The third floor, where artifacts from Palestine are housed was closed. Our appeal for entry failed.  There is where some very famous pieces are housed − the Siloam Tunnel inscription, the Gezer Calendar, the Herodian Temple inscription forbidding gentiles from entering the Temple, et al.

The Ancient Orient building houses a large number of bulls, dragons, and oxen from the procession street of ancient Babylon. I think it is second only to the Pergamum Museum in Berlin. There are excellent Hittite materials, including the oldest treaty between nations. It is the treaty between the Hittites and Pharaoh Ramses of Egypt after the battle of Kadesh on the Orontes. There are several pieces from the Assyrians, and a clay cylinder from the time of Nebuchadnezzar.

Here is a picture of one of the basalt Hittite column bases from Sinjerli. It is a double sphinx, dating to the 8th century B.C., that came from the entrance to Palace III.

Hittite Column Base from Sinjerli. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Front view of Hittite column base from Sinjerli. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Below is the side view of this column base. Note that the figure of a lion shows a human head and wings of a bird. This provides a good illustration for the apocalyptic imagery in Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Revelation.

Side view of Hittite Column Base from Sinjerli. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Side view of Hittite Column Base from Sinjerli. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

These are the Hittites with whom the ancient Israelites had dealings. Solomon imported horses and chariots from Egypt and Kue and exported them to the Hittites (1 Kings 10:29). See 2 Kings 7:6 for another reference to these people in the days of the prophet Elisha.

All things considered, maybe it didn’t turn out so bad after all.