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The Lion at Tayinat

10 August 2011

At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110809104309.htm … we are back to the ongoing excavations at Tell Tayinat and the discovery of a monumental city gate that incorporated, among other things, a crouching lion sculpture. Tayinat is thought to be the citadel of Kunulua, the capital of the neo-Hittite kingdom of Patina, and securely dated to the Iron Age (and thrived between 950-725BC). However, the city citadel gateway is remarkably reminiscent of a similar gateway excavated by Woolley at the Hittite city of Carchemish, dating from the Late Bronze Age. It continues, the fact that the Iron Age neo-Hittite kingdom continued in a Bronze Age tradition, as far as art and architecture are concerned, is simply down to the vibrancy of that tradition – and it appears to have continued into the Assyrian domination too. It was destroyed by the Assyrians in 738, it is claimed and afterwards the gate complex was levelled and paved over and converted into a courtyard within a religious precinct. Now, the interpretation of Tell Tayinat raises a number of questions for revisionists – to what extent did the Late Bronze spill over into the first millennium BC? and does the Assyrian presence cause problems for those who favour dating the Hittites later still?

The quandary for revisionists raised by Tell Tayinat is further exacerbated by the recent C14 anomalies that came to light at Nineveh. The samples were taken from the destruction layer and presumably date to its demise in the late 7th century – at the hands of the Medes and their allies, the Babylonians. However, the dates produced were between 150 and 200 years too early suggesting there might be something wrong with the calibration. There is a C14 plateau between roughly 800 and 400BCD, which is where the calibration curve begins. If, shall we say, 150 years were shorn from the plateau, the calibration curve less enhanced, and then the Late Bronze period would date somewhat nearer to 950BC (assuming 950 is entirely reliable), this would have the benefit of reducting the Dark Age (most pronounced in Anatolia and the Aegean and therefore impacting on Tell Tayinat). The problem of dendrochronology may not actually be insurmountable as C14 dates were used to hang the initial tree rings on the passage of time – as without C14 dates they would have been completely rudderless. Most dendrochronologies had problems in finding continuous interlinking tree trunks and in some occasions timber from elsewhere was substituted for a lack of local trees to fill what are essentially gaps in the sequence. People might like to argue against this, and perhaps dendrochronology has no gaps and it is conjecture on my behalf but if the C14 record is anomalous it stands to reason the tree ring chronology must likewise be in error (if only through wiggle matching of individual clumps of tree rings). 

PS – the lion sculpture is in itself interesting as it represents the forces of chaos. The lion is in the act of roaring and the idea is to show that the king, in his role as the representative of the deity, was capable of controlling chaos (in nature). On that basis this is a statement that suggests catastrophe contained, at some stage within the past, as well as the chronological conundrum.

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