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THE HIDDEN LANGUAGE OF ANATOLIA
2001 / SEPTEMBER

In their attempts to understand the natural world and make themselves understood, human beings developed systems of signs and symbols as one form of communication. Symbols come in countless forms in many cultures, and today are still widely used as shortcuts for expressing concepts of many kinds, as in the case of company emblems and logos. Many symbols were originally inspired by the creative and destructive aspects of nature, and came to embody complex religious, magical and spiritual ideas. The ancient settlement of Çatalhöyük near Çumra in the central Turkish province of Konya was the most sophisticated town in the world when it was built in the Neolithic period, and marks the beginning of civilisation. The people of Çatalhöyük who dwelt here around 7000-6000 BC vividly depicted man's struggle with nature and beliefs in wall decorations , and made figurines showing the mother goddess giving birth. The eagle which came to carry people into the heavens appears in these wall decorations as a symbolic reflection of their religious beliefs.

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THE HIDDEN LANGUAGE OF ANATOLIA
2001 / SEPTEMBER

A two-head eagle perched on a tree of life guarded by a pair of lions is carved in relief on the façade of Yakutiye Medrese, a monumental Seljuk building in the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum. The symbolic meaning of this relief can be traced back to shamanist beliefs of Central Asia, representing the journey into the sky up the tree of life made by the shaman, and the eagle which guides him.The Ivriz relief carved on rock near the town of Eregli near Konya date from 700 BC and depict the Luwian king Varpalavas worshipping Tarhun, the god of the skies and fertility. In his left hand the god holds ears of wheat, and in his right a vine branch with bunches of grapes. Multiple grain fruits such as wheat, grapes and pomegranates symbolised fertility and abundance for almost all the civilisations of Anatolia over the ages.From the Neolithic age onwards, all the civilisations of Anatolia, as in Egypt, Mesopotamia and the rest of the Near East, have left behind symbols and signs, including the Hittites, Trojans, Urartians and Galatians (who established a state close to modern Ankara). With the development of sea trade in the

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THE HIDDEN LANGUAGE OF ANATOLIA
2001 / SEPTEMBER

Mediterranean, the use of symbols to indicate origin became widespread among the peoples of the region.One of the objects on which symbols are most commonly found are coins, which were first invented by the Lydians who inhabited an inland region of western Turkey around 600 BC. The symbol of the Lydian kings was a lion. The statues of lions found at the Lion Gate of the Hittite capital city of Hattusas (Bogazköy) were guardians of the city and symbols of power. Statues of lions and eagles are found on the eastern terrace of the burial sanctuary of the Commagene king Antiochus I on Mount Nemrut in southeastern Turkey. The role of both animals was as protector. In mediaeval times, Anatolian Seljuk reliefs featuring lion figures representing absolute power were carved on kervansarays (caravanserais), castles, palaces and other buildings.Following the Lydians, Anatolian city states minted coins bearing symbols or devices representing the city, which appeared on inscriptions, pottery and metal ware, weights, and even as tattoos on the bodies of slaves. The symbol might be

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THE HIDDEN LANGUAGE OF ANATOLIA
2001 / SEPTEMBER

the deity who protected the city, or a temple dedicated to this deity. In some cases the symbol became the city's name, as in the case of Side, an ancient Mediterranean city whose name, pronounced 'seeday', means pomegranate; and Aigai, meaning goat, an animal whose horn had mythological associations with the cornucopia or horn of plenty.The lion was the symbol of Miletus, the deer and bee of Ephesus, the seal of Foça, the eagle of Abydos, the cockerel of the Dardanelles, the sphinx of Chios, a winged horse of Lampsakos, the goddess Athena of Priene, and the eagle of Byzantium and Rome.With the spread of Christianity in Anatolia, new symbols appeared. The lily represented the Virgin Mary, a fish and a lamb Jesus Christ, and a triangle the Holy Trinity. These symbols appear frequently in the early rock churches of Cappadocia. During the Crusades, the Latins and other westerners were influenced by the more highly developed Byzantine symbolism, and the use of the cross was adopted by the West. In 1096, the

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THE HIDDEN LANGUAGE OF ANATOLIA
2001 / SEPTEMBER

Byzantine empress Anna Comnenos noted that the shields of the Crusaders bore no symbols at all. The symbols on the shields of the Seljuk armies who fought against the Crusaders in Anatolia were the crescent, symbol of Islam, the sword, the name of Allah in kufi script, the eagle and lion, symbols of sovereignty, and vertical bands. Most of these symbols came to be widely used in Europe on shields and standards following the Crusades. Latin armorial devices seen at Enez, Amasra, Bodrum Castle and in Izmir Archaeological Museum, and French armorial devices on Saint Pierre Han on Eski Bankalar Caddesi in Istanbul can all be traced back to the middle ages. The colourful patterns of Turkish carpets and kilims are also rich in symbols which have their roots in the ancient cultures of Anatolia, and are kept alive today by weavers. Interpretation of these motifs reveals the fascinating stories of symbols deriving from past ages.

* Kemal Özdemir is a researcher and author.

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