Oldest palace in the Middle East?                                        Population: 13,000

arslan1Midway between Malatya and Battalgazi/Eski Malatya, Aslantepe, on the outskirts of the small settlement of Orduzu, was a Hittite town founded at the end of the second millennium BC when Phrygian invaders drove the Hittites out of their capital at Hattuşa.

A sub-group settled here, founding a city called Milid which survived until it was sacked by the Cimmerians in the seventh century BC.

It acquired its modern name, Aslantepe (Lion Hill), after 19th-century travellers reported seeing a pair of carved stone lions poking out of the top of what proved to be an artificial mound. These were later discovered to be the sort of lions that were often set up on either side of gateways in Hittite towns. 

On-going excavations have revealed the remains of what has been described as the oldest palace complex in the Middle East although by palace the archaeologists seem to be referring to an administrative centre rather than a royal home. 

As you approach the site you will be confronted by copies of the stone lions, one on either side of the gate, and by a copy of the statue of the god, Tarhunzas. Just inside the gate one of the adobe houses from the site has been reconstructed so you can take a look round.

The site is extremely well labelled and laid out with a clear path around the remains that passes along the shoulder-high remains of walls and corridors. In places it's even possible to see the remains of paintings made in red and black on the plaster of the walls. 

Most of the finds are on display in the museum in Malatya (closed Mondays), although to see the original twin lions and the giant standing statue of Tarhunzas you must visit the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.arslan2Male figure from walls of Aslantepe reproduced in Malatya Archaeological Museum

Orduzu itself is hunkered down amid extensive apricot orchards that make a glorious splash of green against the barren surrounding rocks. A few late Ottoman houses on the road down from the centre to the Aslantepe ruins have recently been restored. 

Transport info

Bus Nos 59 and 401 to Aslantepe can be picked up from the Orduzu bus stop on the Malatya Çevre Yolu (Ring Road). These buses actually pass the gate; others will skirt the road into Orduzu. 

Nearby areas

Battalgazi (Eski Malatya)


Read more: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-330896-the-three-ages-of-malatya.html

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