Monday, June 22, 2009

The Karatepe of Azatiwatas by Kirstie Hudson

After a long ride in the car with many stops at sites along the way we finally reached the site I’d read so much about but had done such poor justice to when I’d given my presentation Thursday. The road wound along beside the lake created by the damming of the Ceyhan River. I watched the forest go by listening to awesome dance music courtesy of our driver Mehmet. As we drove farther off the main road a castle appeared on the mountaintop a few miles from the road. The country grew more ruggedly beautiful as the journey went on and soon we reached a sign for the museum. We hurried because they were keeping it open for us and so we piled out and headed off along the trail.

There is nothing more amazing than seeing a site you’ve read about in person. There was no longer any question in my mind about whether or not I was going to be an archaeologist. Seeing what Professor, Doctor Halet Çambel had accomplished here was inspiring. The fortifications of the southern gate came into view and I thought if I breathed it would disappear. I felt a tingle run up my spine upon seeing the ancient words carved into the Orthostats that had been painstakingly reconstructed from scattered, badly damaged fragments. I reached out and traced one of the hieroglyphs. I had never been able to put the pictures from books into perspective, but being able to trace the words of a human being that had lived and worked nearly 2700 years before my time left me with many questions that have yet to be answered.

Moving on I saw my first Phoenician inscription carved into the statue of the Storm God. The thoughts racing through my mind were and still are difficult to express. The Phoenician was more human that the Luwian hieroglyphs and so clearly made for efficiency that I was left with a sensation of pride. Pride in the knowledge that these primarily commercial seafarers had, with these elegant carvings, helped breath life into the writing system I use today.

Progressing quickly we rushed on to the Northern Gate. There was deep sadness in me because I knew we had to hurry and I would likely miss some of the most amazing parts of the site. Walking down a steep path that wound down toward the Northern Gate I began attempting to reconstruct the fortress in my mind. Trying to picture people and buildings, ancient streets and livelihoods gone with only their foundations, pottery and inscriptions to mark their existence. This footprint of humanity had lain untouched for nearly 2500 years and now, I could see it in my mind as the Northern Gate came into view.

Here were the best preserved orthostats with the sphinxes and lions that guarded them. Carvings of Egyptian Bes and obvious Persian symbols mingled with traditional Hittite art to create a beautiful fusion. I stood gazing at them for a time, camera held limply in one hand, forgotten in my racing thoughts. I jolted back to reality as I remembered how little time we had here. I had friends take pictures of me with some of the orthostats and the lions that guarded the entrance. I marveled at the nearly perfect carvings and finally at the maybe 2 meter high walls that were the remains of what had been fortifications. Restored by the excavators they stood as tribute to what men could do when they used their minds to better their lives.
We headed down the trail back toward the museum and I paused to look back at the gate standing serenely in the forest as it had for countless centuries. Light slanted through the trees casting even light across the gate allowing me a glimpse of history I’d never experienced before. In that moment I realized how different reality was from what you read in a book. Reality was so much better.
Hurrying down the trail I caught up with the group and asked them to take a picture of me walking down the forest trail alone.

“and even in those places which were formerly feared,
where a man fears to walk the road,
so in my days a woman walks alone with her spindles.”
- from the Inscription of Azatiwatas at Karatepe

Info on me
Name: Kirstie Hudson
Major: Classics and Ancient Mediterranean studies, potential double with Information Science and Technology
Year: Rising Sophomore
Age: 19 on July 6th.

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