Sphinx of Hattusa

According to an online news article, Turkey’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ertuğrul Günay, is pressuring Germany to return a gate sphinx found at Hattusa, even threatening to revoke the German Archaeological Institute’s permit to excavate Hattusa. The Germans have been directing excavations at Hattusa, the ancient capital of the Hittite Empire, since 1906.

The sphinx in question is presently on display in the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin. It belongs to a pair of sphinxes from the Sphinx Gate of the Yerkapi rampart at Hattusa. The complementary sphinx is on display in the Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul, Turkey.

Berlin Pergamonmuseum.
This is a copy of the sphinx shown below. The sphinx which is being disputed is not in the photo; it is displayed on the opposite wall behind where the photographer stood. (The photographer is now kicking himself.)

Istanbul Museum of Ancient Orient.
Sphinx from Yerkapi rampart Sphinx Gate at Hattusa. This sphinx complements the one in Berlin.

Turkey has given Germany until the end of July to return the sphinx. Germany has apparently rejected previous requests. The sphinx was taken to Berlin in 1915 to be restored.

Hattusa is an enormous and complex site just on the outskirts of the modern village of Boğazkale (more commonly known by its former name Boğazköy). Hattusa had dozens of temples and a citadel.

The fortifications included various gates with parabolic arches, a massive rampart on the southern end, and casemate walls. The German excavations are currently directed by Andreas Schachner. From 1994-2005, Jürgen Seeher directed the excavations. Seeher is the author of the best guidebook on Hattusa, Hattusa Guide: A Day in the Hittite Capital, 3rd rev. ed. (Istanbul: Ege Yayınları, 2006). It is chock full of photos, plans, and descriptions, and has a fold-out map.

Much of the guide is available online here. If you have the opportunity to visit the site, allow yourself at least one complete day and make sure you have a car and Seeher’s guidebook.

Yerkapi rampart at the south end of Hattusa.
Below center is a postern gate and tunnel and directly above is the Sphinx Gate.

Buyukkale, the Royal Citadel at Hattusa.

HT: Jack Sasson

UPDATE (5/20): Germany has agreed to give the Sphinx to Turkey.  Details are here.


2 thoughts on “Sphinx of Hattusa

  1. It drives me completely nuts to see something in a museum that I was recently at and completely ignored. I was in Berlin last Feb and Istanbul in Oct. Didn't know the story of these pieces. Thanks!

  2. Hi Todd
    I am just in Berlin and had today guiding a tour "with the Bible in the Pergamon Museum" I took a pcture for you from the Sphiny which will be send back so you can post it. Greetings from Leipzig wheren I have tonight a lecture about the Codex Sinaticus and the discoverer Konstantin Tischendorf. I am working on his material for a big book about these amazing scholar of the 19th century. See the sepecial exhibition of the Codex Sinaiticus please here:

    All the best
    Alexander Schick

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