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Yesemek is a village in the province of Gaziantep in southwest Turkey, 113 kilometres west of the city of Gaziantep. The ancient Yesemek sculpture workshop and stone quarry cover an area of 300 x 400 metres. The first systematic excavations here were carried out between 1958 and 1961 by Professor Dr. Bahadir Alkim, and the findings showed that both quarry and workshop were originally established at a time when the region was under Hittite rule, probably during the reign of Suppilluma I (1375-1335 BC). The volcanic basalt quarried here is mauvish grey in colour. Over 300 finished and unfinished statues have been discovered. As the Phrygians advanced eastwards through Anatolia in the 8th century BC, conquering the Hittite cities one by one, the Hittites established feudal kingdoms in southeast Anatolia, and under one of these, the Sam'al kingdom, the quarry and workshop went into production again. However, when this kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians, the sound of hammers and chisels fell silent once again. Some historians believe that the stone masons were probably carried off by the Assyrians to work on their own monuments, perhaps as slaves. What a tragic fate for these craftsmen! As you wander through the grassy site you come across sphinxes and lions made to stand at the gates of Hittite cities, as they did in Alacahoyuk and Hattusas, reliefs depicting the mountain god, and carved stones for buildings. The sphinxes have women's heads and lion bodies. Just one completed sphinx has so far been discovered at Yesemek. The most remarkable of the lions are winged, a feature rarely encountered in the art of the ancient Near East. Even rarer is the fact that the wings are depicted frontally. Another statue belongs to the strange bear man called Lu Hartagga, whose bea'sg head and human body derives from the custom of Hittite temple officials wearing masks representing various animals at religious ceremonies. Archaeologists think that this statue may have been commissioned.Examination of the Yesemek sculptures reveals three stages in their production. In the first the forms were roughly shaped, in the second detailed carving and polishing of some parts was carried out, and in the third fine polishing made the sculptures ready for delivery. As you look at each unfinished piece of sculpture, it is interesting to see at which stage they were abandoned.
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