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Yesemek Quarry and Statue Workshop

Yesemek Outdoor Museum is located on a hillside facing the southeast by the village of Yesemek, which is about 23 km to Islahiye, Gaziantep. The hillside is covered with many grey and violet basalt rocks known as dolerite. Yesemek site was first spotted by Felix Von Luschan while he was excavating at Zincirli in the 1890s. The initial research and excavations were done by Prof. Bahadır Alkım in 1958–1961, during which about 200 rough statues were uncovered. Yesemek is the largest known sculpture workshop in the ancient Near East. Near the top of the hill, one can find the remnants of the quarry where the rocks were cut out. With excavations in 1988-1991 by İlhan Temizsoy, the number of statues exceeded 300 and more are believed to be still underground. regarding the sate of the site differing opinions have been expressed. However, upon extended surveys conducted by Atilla Engin since 2019, a date towards the end of the Hittite Empire period has been more securely established. One of the unique and important finds of the site is an inscribed human statue.

In 2005 the site was organized into an outdoor museum by the commissioning of the Gaziantep Museum. Incredibly, despite the fact that the Yesemek was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in 2017 a dam construction project was allowed to take place right next the hill, visibly causing damage to the archeological site (see last image below).


Click on the pictures for larger images.

T. Bilgin, 2009 T. Bilgin, 2009
Sphinxes
T. Bilgin, 2009 T. Bilgin, 2009 T. Bilgin, 2009 T. Bilgin, 2009
Gate Lions
T. Bilgin, 2009
Mountain Gods
T. Bilgin, 2009 T. Bilgin, 2009
Others
T. Bilgin, 2009 T. Bilgin, 2009 T. Bilgin, 2009 Relief of a battle chariot, 8-9th century BCE Column base - R. Duru, 2004
Inscribed Statue
Inscribed statue fragment - R. Duru, 2004 Inscribed statue fragment - R. Duru, 2012 Inscribed statue - A. Engin, 2020
The Quarry
T. Bilgin, 2009 T. Bilgin, 2009 T. Bilgin, 2009 T. Bilgin, 2009 T. Bilgin, 2009 Dam construction next to the site



Literature:
Alkım, B. Yesemek Taşocağı ve Heykel Atölyesinde Yapılan Kazı ve Araştırmalar, Ankara: TTK, 1974.
Duru, R. Eski Önasya Dünyasının En Büyük Heykel Atölyesi Yesemek, İstanbul: Tursab, 2004.
Temizsoy, İ. “1991 Yılı Yesemek Açıkhava Müzesi Kazı Raporu,” III. Müze Kurtarma Seminerleri 27-30 Nisan, 1992: 87- 101.

Image sources:
Ataman Hotel Photo Gallery, Abbas Ataman.
Tayfun Bilgin, Bora Bilgin, Ertuğrul Anıl, 2009.
Refik Duru, 2004.