BMCR 2012.02.24

Tatarlı: renklerin dönüşü / The return of colours / Rückkehr der Farben

, , Tatarlı: renklerin dönüşü / The return of colours / Rückkehr der Farben. Istanbul: T.C. Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı; Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2010. 367. ISBN 9789750818196.

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

The story begins in 1969 with the looting of a painted wooden tomb chamber of the 5 th century BCE, in a tumulus in Tatarlı (in Afyon, Turkey). After a brief rescue excavation in 1970, the remaining painted walls of the tomb were brought to Afyon Museum. The fate of the Tatarlı Tomb has changed, however, with Lâtife Summerer’s discovery of the looted timbers in Munich in 2004. This superbly illustrated exhibition catalogue is the result of a long project that involved the return of the Tatarlı timbers from the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection in Munich to Turkey and the reconstruction of the whole tomb in an exhibition sponsored both by the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Two major aspects of the Tatarlı project underlie the significance of this volume. First, the collaborative work of German-Turkish authorities and scholars set an invaluable example for the further development of the protection of cultural heritage in Turkey. Second, the project recovers the largest known wood painting still preserved from the ancient Mediterranean. The catalogue involves 20 short essays, each with English, German, and Turkish translations, grouped under four themes. The first section presents essays on the legal and cultural issues surrounding the looted antiquities. The second section concerns the archaeological examination of the Tatarlı Tomb. The third section groups essays on wooden tomb architecture in antiquity, and the final section is about other painted tombs from ancient Anatolia and Etruria. In the first essay Turan presents a short review of the legal problems in the protection of world heritage. The next essay by İrkin examines the history of collaboration between Germany and Turkey in regards to the protection of cultural heritage and asks for the return of the Boğazköy Sphinx from Berlin to Turkey. (Indeed, the Tatarlı project seems to have served as a good example for future dealings since shortly after the publication of this volume German officials returned the sphinx to Turkey). Schönenberger then discusses the problems in the restitution of illegally traded cultural assets to their country of origins. The author stresses that the recent advances in the international law enforcement are not enough and that one needs to focus on socioeconomic problems that lead to the initial illegal activity. One minor problem in this essay is that the images and text do not match. Next, Acar addresses the illicit excavations in Uşak and the Afyonkarahisar region between 1959 and 1969. All of the cases involve uneducated locals in search of fortune. Building on Schönenberger’s analysis in the previous essay, Acar reveals through these cases the socioeconomic problems in Turkey and the need for a new educational system for locals.

Section two, the core of the book, contains nine essays on the Tatarlı Tomb. Summerer, Uçankuş, and Üyümez in the first essay describe the six-day rescue excavations after the looting. Initial scholarly examination reveals that the Tatarlı Tomb was reused in antiquity and that it is an example of Lydio-Phrygian funerary architecture, with its wooden chamber reached through a dromos. In the following article, Gebhard and Schulze detailed the conservation and restoration of the two looted Tatarlı beams. The academic care given to the beams in Munich seems far different than the handling of their counterparts in the space-challenged Afyon Museum. Kuniholm, Newton, and Griggs’ essay on the dendrochronological analysis of the tomb chamber scientifically verifies the origin of the timbers in Munich as Tatarlı, because some of the timbers in Munich and Afyon are cut from the same tree. Due to the lack of comparable data, the authors are unable to give an exact date for the construction of the tomb, but approximate cutting dates are provided: 480 for cedar beams and 478 for juniper beams. Next, an excellent study on the Tatarlı Tomb’s architecture by Kienlin traces the origins of log construction in Central and Eastern Europe in the Bronze Age and argues that the technique is brought into Anatolia in the 9 th century by Phrygians. Kienlin further discusses the unique technical details in Tatarlı Tomb’s construction such as the traces of a ritual hole on the ceiling, the use of a counting system in the placement of the timbers, the use of a new joint technique and tools. Despite the reference list at the back, specific footnotes are needed for some of the information he provides.

In the following essay, Summerer presents an exceptional study on the iconography, the thematic program, and the style of the painted Tatarlı timbers. From top to bottom, the described friezes display heraldic felines, an armed dance, a chariot convoy, the fight between Heracles and Geryon, and a symposium on the north wall; a large convoy and a battle on the east wall (these are the beams brought from Munich); a sacrifice and a possible cultic scene on the poorly preserved west wall, and a pair of heraldic animals on the lintel of the entrance on the south wall. The well preserved Munich beams with the convoy and battle scenes, both the largest known examples of their respective motifs in Anatolia, are of special interest. The author summarizes the different views on the meaning of the convoy scenes unique to the 5 th century Anatolian iconography. The carts in these convoy scenes either identified as funerary carriages for the deceased in ekphorai, or simply as aristocratic carriages that signify the high status for the owner. Summerer, tracing the roots of the motif in Hittite iconography, reasserts the funerary meaning for the Tatarlı cortege. The military overtones of the Tatarlı friezes, however, bring to mind the possible iconographic use of these carts as symbols of the military prestige of the tomb owner, as argued by Draycott elsewhere.1 Summerer interprets the Tatarlı battle between Scythians and Persians as a modified excerpt from an earlier original painting, used in Tatarlı as a generic motif to glorify Persian victory. She convincingly argues against previous scholarship that reads the battle as a specific historical representation .Yet the detailed articulation of such a complex account on the beam (with 33 warriors, 15 horses, and 1 chariot) suggest that, if not historic, the Tatarlı battle might refer to an epic event rather than being a mere generic pattern.

Tuplin calls for further investigation at Celaenea, a satrapal center 30 km southwest of the Tatarlı Tomb. He then discusses the significance of the tomb as the only example of a painted wooden chamber that reflects “cultural interpenetration” of Phrygian, Lydian, Greek, and Achaemenid traditions. As for the cultural identity of the tomb owner Tuplin proposes two options, an aristocratic Persian diaspora or more likely a local imitator of one. Like Summerer, Tuplin also thinks of the battle scene as “a symbolic expression of Persian superiority, not one of any immediate relevance to historical events.” The next essay by Bresson is an overview of the later history of Tatarlı, where the Roman city of Metropolis is located. A scientific analysis of the painting technique and the pigments on the Munich beams by Emmerling, Adelfinger, and Reischl follows Bresson’s essay, and reveals that the pigments were applied directly on the flattened surfaces of the logs, figures were arbitrarily incised and outlined in black or red and then filled in with colors with a quill, and no binding material is used. Next, Emmerling, Demeter, and Knidlberger present a report on the restoration and the reconstruction of the tomb chamber. This essay shows the painstaking teamwork and use of new scientific methods for the tomb’s restoration such as the putty filling.

The third section on wooden tomb architecture starts with Liebhart’s study on Tumulus MM of Gordion, the oldest standing wooden building in the world. The author describes the construction technique in detail with superb diagrams, but he does not mention any relation between Tatarlı and the Gordion tumulus. Parzinger’s following essay argues that one can not find a common root between the timber constructed graves known from the Central Eurasian Hallstatt culture, Northern Eurasian steppes of the 7 th and 6 th centuries, and Western Anatolia (Tatarlı); “their similarity is simply due to the use of a sophisticated wood working technology that inevitably leads to very similar results.” Next, Henry argues that the architectural details such as the doors and the purely decorative ceiling beams on Karian stone tombs are imitations of wooden architecture of the time. The author further links the geographical and chronological distribution of these petrified tombs to the variable effects of Lydian culture. No relation between Tatarlı Tomb and Karian tombs is provided.

The final section of the book is devoted to the painted tombs from Anatolia and Etruria that are roughly contemporary with Tatarlı. First, Miller describes the two painted tombs from Elmalı in Lycia: Kızılbel Tomb dating from 525 and Karaburun Tomb from 475. After their excavation in early 1970s, Mellink had published initial descriptions of these tombs in AJA articles and a detailed monograph on Kızılbel in 1998. Scholars long awaited a detailed publication on Karaburun. This short article provides not a detailed study, but some colored pictures of the Karaburun Tomb for the first time. An upsetting update here is that months after the publication of this volume, Karaburun Tomb was plundered and its frescoes were stolen. Ironically, this short essay remains the latest publication celebrating the Karaburun Tomb in a book devoted to the “protection of cultural heritage in Turkey.” In the next essay, Tüfekçi Sivas describes a newly found (again looted before its scholarly discovery) tomb in the Tumulus Taşlık. The architectural and iconographic features of the tomb such as the stone imitation of architectural woodwork in paint, use of dromos, and depictions of cocks reflect the hybridization of Lydian, Phrygian, and Achaemenid traditions in the region. Accordingly, the author dates the tomb to the later half of the 6 th century. Roosevelt and Luke in the following essay discuss the decorative types, technical characteristics, and iconographical significance of several Lydian tombs known from Central Anatolia. The second part of this short article is devoted to the current conditions of the three best known tombs in Aktepe, Harta, and Lale Tepe. After the salvage excavations, these tombs were left unprotected leading to further destruction. The distressing details in the authors’ reports, such as the illegal use of Harta Tomb’s mound as a quarry and traces of people burning tires inside the Lale Tepe Tomb in 2008, call for immediate action to protect this cultural heritage. The final essay by Steingraber provides general information on the famed painted Etruscan tombs created between 540 and 470, mostly in Tarquinia. He notes iconographic and stylistic similarities such as the stylistic profile of heads, use of heraldic animals, warrior dance scenes, banquets, horse carts, processions, and some Greek myths between the painted tombs of Anatolia and the Etruria. The author links this similarity to the presence of immigrant Greek artists from western Anatolia especially from Phocaea.

Celebrating a unique example of an ancient painted wooden tomb, this volume is an excellent contribution to the scholarship on the art and archaeology of Achaemenid Anatolia. It not only provides a glimpse into the rich hybrid culture in the region, but offers a rare first hand evidence for the scholars interested in ancient painting and ancient wooden architecture and sets an ideal example for the further development of museology and cultural heritage protection in Turkey. The hard work of the editors is evident in every detail of the book.

Table of Contents

Ertuğrul Günay, Foreword, 8
Wolfgang Heubisch, Greeting, 10
Şekib Avdagiç, Historical Meeting in Tatarlı, 12
Lâtife Summerer- Alexander von Kienlin, Editors’ Note, 18
Lost and Recovered Cultural Heritage
F. Nurhan Turan, World Heritage- Our Cultural Properties, 28
Özgür Mehmet İrkin, From the Restoration of the Tomb Chamber of the tumulus in Tatarlı to the Sphnix from Boğazköy- A Retrospective of the German-Turkish Cooperation in Cultural Heritage Protection, 32
l>Beat Schönenberger, The Illegal Trade in Antiquities and the Law, 34
Özgen Acar, The Looting of History in Uşak and Afyonkarahisar between 1959 and 1969, 46
Tatarlı- A Tumulus Grave in Phrygia
Lâtife Summerer, Hasan Tahsin Uçankuş, Mevlüt Üyümez, The Rescue Excavation in 1970, 64
l>Rupert Gebhard, Harald Schulze, Storage and Preservation of the frieze parts from Tatarlı in the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection in Münich (1989-2010), 72
Peter Ian Kuniholm, Maryanne W. Newton, Carol B. Griggs, Dendrochronological Analysis of the Tatarlı Wooden Chamber, 80
Alexander von Kienlin, The Tomb Architecture, 88
Lâtife Summerer, Wall Paintings, 120
l>Christopher Tuplin, Historical Significance of the Tatarlı Tomb, 186
l>Alain Bresson, Tatarlı- Metropolis in Phrygia, 196
l>Erwin Emmerling, Kathrin Adelfinger, Julia Reischl, On the Painting Technique of the Tomb Chamber, 204
Erwin Emmerling, Stefan Demeter, Maximilian Knidlberger, The Restoration and Reconstruction of the Tomb Chamber, 234
Wooden Tomb ArchitectureRichard F. Liebhart, The Tomb Chamber Complex in Tumulus MM in Gordion, 268
l>Hermann Parzinger, Tatarlı and the Eurasian Steppe, 280
l>Oliver Henry, Wooden Reflections on Stone Tombs in Southwest Asia Minor, 296
l>Painted Tomb ChambersStella G. Miller, Two Painted Chamber Tombs of Northern Lycia at Kızılbel and Karaburun, 318Taciser Tüfekçi Sivas, A New Phrygian Painted Tomb; The Tumulus Taşlık, 330
Christopher H. Roosevelt, Christina Luke, Painted Tomb Chambers in Lycia, 342
Stephan Steingraeber, Etruscan Tomb Paintings of the Archaic Period and Its Relationship to the Painting in Ionian Asia Minor, 354


1. Draycott, C.M., 2011. “Funerary or Military Convoy? Thoughts on the Tatarlı convoy painting and the meaning of the ‘Greco-Persian’ convoy.” In Kelainai – Apameia Kibotos: Stadtentwicklung im anatolischen Kontext/Kélainai – Apamée Kibôtos: Développement urbain dans le contexte anatolien. Akten des Kolloquiums, München, edited by L. Summerer, A. von Kienlin and A. Ivantchik, 55-61. Bordeaux: Editiones Ausinus.