Mysterious Guardians on Mount Nemrut, Turkey

You would need a good reason to request a 1st Century burial on Mount Nemrut, South-Eastern Turkey. The World Heritage site is a harsh and arid place not far from the modern city of Adıyaman, and the two places could not be more different. Probably no one would have ever visited Mount Nemrut National Park were it not for a mysterious burial mound at the highest point.

Mount Nemrut National Park: The Tumulus of Mount Nemrut
The Tumulus of Mount Nemrut: Photo by Zhengan / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Tumulus of Mount Nemrut National Park

The Altar

Archaeologists believe that King Antiochus I, Theos of Commagene (86 BC – 38 BC) lies buried beneath the myriad of small stones. He built a tomb in a ‘high and holy place, remote from people but close to the gods’. There were to be two annual feast days, when the people and the priests would present sacrifices to eight metre high statues seated on thrones. After that, they were  to ‘eat, drink wine, and listen to music around a sacred altar’ so a good way to arrange a crowd.

Mount Nemrut National Park: The Altar
Mount Nemrut, The Altar: Photo Klaus-Peter Simon / CC BY-SA 3.0

Mount Nemrut’s ‘The Three Kings’

The statues lost their heads during an iconoclastic period when those responsible objected to any representation of a human form. The heads lie as a German road engineer found them in 1881 when surveying a route across the Mount Nemrut National Park mountains. Despite having had a hard life, the statues are remarkable for their Greek-style features, and crossover Armenian hair styling and clothes.

Mount Nemrut
Image Attribution: Mount Nemrut, The Three Kings: Photo Urszula Kia / CC BY-SA 3.0

Getting There

The closest town of Adıyaman benefits from an airport linked to Ankara and Istanbul-Atatürk. It is still deeply conservative although it is fairly easy to track down a cold beer. The traditional dishes are a raw meatball dish called çiğ köfte if you are brave, and a maraş-style ice-cream made from milk, sugar and powder from the tubers of wild orchids. There are several three-star hotels, and the inevitable assortment of tour guides waiting to lead you up the long a dusty road.

About Richard Farrell

Richard FarrellI tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time.My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast (30.7167° S, 30.4667° E). I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned.

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