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Fortified Settlements Containing Ancient Open-Air Temples Found in Turkey

Masumu-Pak Fortress Open Air Temple, one of the newly discovered fortified settlements
A new archaeological discovery in Turkey reveals fortified settlements housing ancient open-air temples in the Eastern Anatolia Region. Credit: Pamukkale University Social Sciences Institute Journal

In Tunceli province, in the Eastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, researchers found two forts and two 7th century BC new open-air temples.

This discovery is part of the Iron Age and Hellenistic (Greek) Age Tunceli Survey project. Experts have been exploring Tunceli since 2016.

Recent archaeological efforts have led to the discovery of a new site, the Masumu-Pak Fortress, alongside a detailed examination of certain aspects of the already-known Aşağı Doluca Fortress.

The findings, including the two fortress settlements and two open-air temples, got published in the 61st issue of the Pamukkale University Social Sciences Institute Journal.

A new type of temple not known before

Associate Professor Serkan Erdoğan pointed out that one of the newly found fortress settlements sits in the far east of present-day Tunceli province, while the other lies almost at its western edge.

He mentioned that the two fortress settlements called Lower Harik (Doluca) in the southeast Anatolian region contained a new type of temple that they hadn’t seen previously.

“The two fortress settlements, one named Masumu-Pak fortress located in the Hozat-Çemişgezek -Ovacık triangle and the other named Aşağı Harik (Doluca), located on the banks of the Peri Çayı (Peri stream) east of Nazımiye in the southeastern Anatolian region host a new type of temple that we have not known before,” he stated.

Researchers observed that while the Lower Doluca Fortress shows strong signs of the Iron Age, both the Iron Age and Medieval structures are present in the Masumu-Pak Fortress.

They discovered that the open-air temples in Lower Doluca Fortress and Masumu-Pak Fortress have similar shapes and construction styles.

The key similarity between these outdoor prayer areas in both settlements is the architectural feature resembling an altar carved into the rocks, accompanied by a platform in front of it, as reported by Arkeonews.

Open-Air temples date back to the 7th century BC

The researchers revealed that the temples date back to around the 7th century BC, a time when the Urartians had control over the region.

It’s still uncertain whether these temples, with their unique features, were constructed for local deities or for the worship of well-known gods of that era.

Serkan Erdoğan mentioned that the Lower Harik Castle and Temple, situated in the current castle hamlet settlement, is also recognized as a sacred site called Moro Sur (Red Snake). Today, those seeking healing still invoke ‘Ya Moro Sur, Tu esta (You exist, Moro Sur),’ as a tradition.

Erdoğan highlighted that the snake symbol is deeply rooted in the region’s geography. He noted that the Moresur myth possesses a unique and genuine structure, with the area’s history as a sacred site tracing back to ancient times.

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