June 2017

bta 2017 06 kerkenes plaque

This small and finely carved antler plaque was discovered in 2016 at the site of Kerkenes in central Anatolia (modern Turkey, Yozgat Province). Dating from the end of the 7th to the mid-6th centuries BC, the site is the location of the largest pre-Hellenistic city in Anatolia and was the seat of power of a region governed by people culturally linked to Phrygian speaking peoples known better from Gordion and the Phrygian Highlands of western Anatolia. The city was built as a new foundation on the mountain of Kerkenes Dağı, complete with a circuit of 7 km of granite city walls, and it was destroyed within a period of just a few generations. Recent archaeological research directed by Scott Branting (University of Central Florida) focuses on the social organization of the city, including geophysical prospection and excavations of urban compounds and houses. For further information on the site see Branting et al. (in prep.), Dusinberre (2002), Marston & Branting (2016) and Summers & Summers (2010).

The plaque was found within the mudbrick collapse directly against the interior face of the antechamber wall inside of a large room of a two roomed building in Urban Block 8. Carved in raised relief on antler possibly from a Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), the central figure is an animal with canine features, including a finely detailed rear-facing head with stylized eyes, upright ears, and sharp teeth. The plaque has few if any known parallels and is an example of the many finds from Kerkenes that are truly unique.

The object is currently archived and curated at the Yozgat Museum, directed by Hasan Şenyurt. Research at Kerkenes is conducted under a permit issued by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism and is funded primarily by the Merops Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the University of Central Florida, and private donors. Zooarchaeological analysis has been undertaken by Evangelia Piskin (Middle East Technical University Ankara) and the Groningen Institute for Archaeology.

Joseph W. Lehner, Scott Branting, Hans Christian Küchelmann

• Branting, Scott A. / Özarslan, Yasemin / Lehner, Joseph W.  / Marston, John M. / Graff, Sarah R. (in prep.): Kerkenes and Phrygia: Old and New Directions of Research. in: Tsetskhladze, Gocha R.  &  Mahmut Bilge (eds.): Phrygian Lands over Time: From Prehistory to the Middle of the First Millennium AD, Leuven
Dusinberre, Elspeth (2002): An Excavated Ivory from Kerkenes Dağ, Turkey: Transcultural Fluidities, Significations of Collective Identity and the Problem of Median Art. – Ars Orientalis 32, 17-54
• Marston, John M. & Branting, Scott A. (2016): Agricultural Adaptation to Highland Climate in Iron Age Anatolia. – Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 9, 25-32
• Summers, Geoffrey D. & Summers, Françoise (2010): From Picks to Pixels: Eighty Years of Development in the Tools of Archaeological Exploration and Interpretation, 1927-2007, at Kerkenes Dağ in Central Turkey. in: Proceedings of the 6th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient near East May, 5th-10th 2008, “Sapienza” - Università Di Roma Volume 2 Excavations, Surveys and Restorations: Reports on Recent Field Archaeology in the near East, 669-83, Wiesbaden