Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2018.11.28 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2018.11.28

Engelbert Winter, Vom eisenzeitlichen Heiligtum zum christlichen Kloster: neue Forschungen auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi. Asia Minor Studien, 84.   Bonn:  Habelt-Verlag, 2017.  Pp. xiii, 302; 67 p. of plates.  ISBN 9783774940796.  €89,00.  


Reviewed by Catherine Steidl, Dartmouth College (csteidl@gmail.com)

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

As Engelbert Winter argues, Dülük Baba Tepesi is perhaps one of the most important sites in southeast Turkey for the new insight it offers into the religious and cultural history of the Near East from the 1st millennium BCE through the Byzantine period. He calls it a stroke of luck that long-term continuity of cult activity took place there (p. 12). While we are fortunate that such continuity is richly attested, the chapters collected in this volume illustrate that it is no fluke. The volume succeeds in making this point clear, and the reader who approaches the chapters as a full set will see that the continuous occupation of a sacred space on the hill resulted from several constants: the choice by individuals to maintain local religious practices alongside those of an expanding imperial cult; the preservation of strong economic, religious, and cultural ties to numerous far-flung locales, including the western Aegean, Iran, and Afghanistan, which emphasized its status in the broader landscape; and, it seems, the local memory of the space’s sacred character. With their latest publication, Winter and colleagues present the tail end of a 15-year program of excavation at Dülük Baba Tepesi. This rich volume provides a timely, detailed publication of the excavation results from the sanctuary site, offering a window into its history from a site for resource extraction in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB), to its development as a substantial Iron Age cult site, a local and supra-regional Roman sanctuary, and finally a Byzantine monastery. The work contained within will be of interest to readers concerned with Anatolian archaeology in the 1st millennia BCE/CE, or questions of continuity, cult practice, and long-term occupation, as well as to specialists seeking regional detail on specific materials (e.g., ceramic and bone products, architecture of the cult precinct or monastery, or local examples of hybridity and syncretism).

The book consists of 17 chapters. Winter’s overview of the project’s work and major finds from the seasons in question (2013-2015) serves as a helpful introduction to previous research at the site and the context for this latest work in the sanctuary. He also outlines the major contributions of the team’s research program—namely, finer-grained detail about Iron Age, Roman, and Medieval activity on Dülük Baba Tepesi than was previously available, and important new insights into various threads of continuity and change in cultural and religious practice, such as the collected votive offerings from the Iron Age and Roman Imperial period, and the architectural development of the sanctuary. Because the individual contributions function more or less independently and seldom interact with one another, Winter’s setting of the thematic stage ties together numerous strands of discourse and directs the reader’s attention to these common threads.

Subsequent chapters are organized roughly chronologically. Because of their focus and detail, the chapters work well as standalone pieces of scholarship that will be of interest to any specialist seeking high-resolution particulars or comparanda with other materials —Byzantine glazed ceramics or African Red Slip ware in the Commagene region, ultramarine pigment, or Neolithic blades, for example. In the case of both comparatively smaller bodies of material (e.g., lithics, bone artifacts, and locks) and larger (e.g., Roman and Byzantine ceramics), detailed catalogues and figures are provided in conjunction with the texts. This attention to detail—along with its prompt publication—is one of many commendable aspects of the book. The chapters can also be read in order as a full volume, however. Few readers are likely to undertake this, but doing so provides substantial insight into the breadth of evidence available for the sanctuary, from lithics and ceramics, to architectural structure and décor, and osteological remnants of sacrifice and daily consumption. The result is a book that fulfills two roles: it offers a valuable reference for one of Commagene’s major sites, which is able to speak to broader regional trends; and it illustrates what the site is already known for in intense detail—its rich and complex long-term history, simultaneously rooted in the local landscape and impressively connected to far-reaching, robust networks that brought with them ceramic imports from the Mediterranean, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, and myriad cultural influences that contributed to evolving local practice in all aspects of life.

The chapters work well together to illustrate the tensions between local and far-reaching connection and influence. Wolfgang Messerschmidt, for example, offers a vivid picture of an active Iron Age sanctuary; the hypaethral temenos (enclosed but not fortified) reflects its southeast Anatolian/north Syrian location, while a large cache of roll and stamp seals (640 in total) was sourced from the Levant, Mesopotamia, and Iran. A late Hittite relief bearing Luwian inscriptions expands the scope of connectivity to the north, and the evidence for animal sacrifice suggests practices with West Semitic and Levantine parallels.

Silke Haps’ discussion of the architectural development of the sanctuary and its walls in the Hellenistic and Roman periods provides similar context for the trajectory of the sanctuary and its continued importance for regional and supra-regional cult activity into the early 1st millennium CE. One of the clear themes that emerges from these collected chapters is the strength of the local influence maintained in the sanctuary through its physical character and the practices evidenced there, even as influence from supra-regional networks was clearly visible as well (e.g., in the prominence of Roman ceramic imports or the growth of the cult around Iuppiter Dolichenus). Haps presents evidence for the changing nature of wall construction, which is contrasted with the maintenance of techniques for stone preparation and foundation construction over the course of several phases of renovation. Her argument that the large, square temenos of the Hellenistic and Roman periods has parallels at other sacred sites in the Commagene (e.g., Köşk) is echoed by others, as well. The chapters, in fact, fall into two general groups: those presenting catalogued materials that generally reflect trends seen from other regional sites, and those detailing singular case-study finds that offer insight into the commingling of very local traditions and farther-flung contact and influence.

Into this first category fall chapters from, for example, Werner Oenbrink and Eva Strothenke, who detail aspects of the ceramic repertoires from the 5th c. BCE, Late Roman, and Medieval periods, further developing the overall narrative of Dülük Baba Tepesi’s place within the landscape of southern Anatolia. Oenbrink’s Attic imports reflect the northernmost discovery of their kind in southwest Anatolia, underscoring the particular importance and status of the sanctuary before the middle of the 1st millennium BCE. Strothenke’s profiles of Late Roman and Medieval wares, on the other hand, emphasize the high degree of connectivity and preference for specific materials found at other nearby settlements.

Chapters in the latter category act as unusual case studies for the exploration of syncretism, continuity, and change both on the site and in the surrounding region, and the character of the site in different periods. Michael Blömer’s vivid discussion of the ‘god in the leaf chalice’ delivers a convincing argument for a tentative identification of the relief not as Iuppiter Dolichenus himself, but as one of his attendants, the Castores Dolicheni. Similarly, Blömer and Margherita Facella present a small altar of the local god Turmasgade, an enigmatic discovery that they use to pose a series of stimulating questions around the issue of syncretism between Roman and local Near Eastern gods and the origins of Turmasgade’s cult. Together, these chapters exemplify the provocative nature of the questions that remain unanswered about the sanctuary and religious practice there, but also highlight the complex interplay between local and non-local traditions that together engendered new forms of local practice.

The theme of local anomaly is carried into the Medieval period by Nadja Plöllath and Joris Peters’ insightful discussion of faunal remains, especially fish bones, in the Byzantine monastery. They consider the effect of personal preference on the adherence of the local monks to proscribed dietary restrictions. Extensive connectivity, on the other hand, is clearly demonstrated by work from Constanze Höpken and Frank Mucha, who argue for the presence of ultramarine blue pigment in two vessels found at the Byzantine monastery of Mar Salomon, illustrating the import of lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and the likely production of high quality manuscripts.

Given the size and quality of the body of material coming from the 2013-2015 seasons, the temptation to offer equally rich interpretation is strong. The individual authors, however, strike a measured balance between straightforward reporting and compelling extrapolation. Readers new to the site will gain a clear sense of the state of its current understanding, but also appreciate the chance to engage critically with the ongoing incorporation of new materials into understandings of the site.

The volume lacks a concluding discussion. Stronger linking of the themes noted here would have been a welcome addition to round out the compilation. At times, this reviewer would have also wanted the maps and plans, which are added separately at the end, to include more detailed captions or contextual information. Phased plans of the sanctuary (Plans 2-4), for example, are not labeled by period, and so one is required to flip between the chapter at the start of the book and the images at the back to properly understand the architectural development. Captions would also have been helpful for a number of images only presented as numbered objects (e.g., bone artifacts, pieces of marble, locks and keys, etc.). The tables (in color and black and white) offer a number of very helpful line drawings, however, and the merits of the large selection of accompanying images and plans far outweigh the small inconveniences described here.

Readers following the excavations at Dülük Baba Tepesi, or interested in cultural interaction, continuity, and the interplay between global and local tradition and influence, will find an extremely useful presentation of final excavation at the sanctuary in this volume. The authors’ clarity and thoroughness, as well as thoughtful discussion will appeal equally to readers interested in the aforementioned overarching themes, and specialists concerned with individual types of material. The tentative (although nonetheless, at times, provocative) interpretations offered here leave little to quibble with, and will no doubt be further illuminated by planned work in the monastery, as well as at the ancient settlement on nearby Keber Tepe.

Table of Contents

Engelbert Winter, Das Heiligtum auf dem Düluk Baba Tepesi bei Doliche. Die Grabungen der Jahre 2013-2015
Dirk Leder, The Lithic Finds from Dülük Baba Tepesi and their Place in the PPNB of the Western Euphrates Region
Wolfgang Messerschmidt, Das Heiligtum auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi in der vorhellenistischen Eisenziet – Versuch einer kulturgeschichtlichen Einordnung
Werner Oenbrink, Neufunde attischer Keramik vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Silke Haps, Überlegungen zu den Mauerzügen des (hellenistisch-)römischen Heiligtums auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi bei Doliche. Ergebnisse der Kampagnen 2013-2015
Michael Blömer, Der Gott im Blätterkelch. Ein neues Relief vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Margherita Facella, A New Altar for the God Turmasgade from Dülük Baba Tepesi
Werner Oenbrink, Gorgo Medusa? – Beidseitig reliefierte Fragmente aus dem Heiligtum des Iuppiter Dolichenus auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi
Jan Pieter Löbbing, Kaiserzeitlicher Marmor vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Torben Schreiber, Ein Feldherr, Bonus Eventus und eine Ziege. Drei Gemmen vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Daria Olbrycht, Beinartefakte vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Constanze Höpken, Schlüssel und Schlösser vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Eva Strothenke, Die African Red Slip-Ware und Late Roman C-Ware vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Nadja Plöllath and Joris Peters, Fish and Fasting – Insight into the Diet of Late Antique-Byzantine Dülük Baba Tepesi

Constanze Höpken, Ultramarinblau-Pigment aus dem Kloster des Mar Salomon auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi
Frank Mucha, Analysen der Blaupigmente vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Eva Strothenke, Ausgewählte Funde glasierter Keramik vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
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