By Rauf Maltas
SANLIURFA, Turkey (AA) - The main gate of the 9-century-old Harran Palace in Turkey’s southeastern archaeological site, one of the world's oldest settlements on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List, has been unearthed.
The excavation work continues for six years at the site located in the Harran district of Sanliurfa province, Mehmet Onal the excavation leader and head of the Archeology Department at Harran University, told Anadolu Agency.
Harran, located 44 km (27 miles) southeast of Sanliurfa province near the Syrian border, was an important Mesopotamian trade center on a road running south to Nineveh in modern Iraq, while the site was constantly inhabited from 6,000 B.C. to the present, and also served as the capital of the Assyrians and Umayyads.
The excavation team worked hard for two years to reveal the main gate of the historical palace, Onal said.
"We completely unearthed one of the two known gates of the historical Harran Palace. The gate, about 7 meters [around 23 feet] high, is made of basalt stones. Star motifs were also unearthed in our excavations near the ground," he said.
Onal underlined that the team also unearthed other inscriptions written in Arabic on a basalt stone, adding that these inscriptions will also contribute to the exact dating of the historic construction.
He said that the inscriptions and symbols on the stamp seals, rings and arrowheads found in the excavations in the palace were also being analyzed by archaeologists.
Noting that a three-domed bathhouse in the Harran Palace has been discovered during the previous excavations, Onal said the bath with cooling, warming and heating rooms was built in the 12th and 13th century, and belonged to the Zengid dynasty and the Ayyubids period.
He also pointed out that the Harran Palace is one of the rare examples of palaces that have survived since the Middle Ages in the Middle Eastern countries, adding that the palace dating back 900 years has hundreds of rooms.
Onal said that the extension of the excavation period throughout the year by the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry is one of the biggest indicators of the importance given to the historical area.
If the excavations continue throughout the year, more historical artifacts will be revealed, he added.
The first excavations in Harran began in 1950.
The site has been on UNESCO’s tentative list since 2000.
Harran is an important ancient city where trade routes from Iskenderun to Antakya (ancient Antioch) and Kargam were located, according to UNESCO’s website.
“The city is mentioned in the Holy Bible,” says the website.
“It is important not only for hosting early civilizations but it is the place where the first Islamic university was founded. The traditional civil architecture, mudbrick houses with conic roofs, are unique.”
*Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev from Ankara