Celestial Aspects of Hittite Religion, Part 2

Cosmic Symbolism at Yazilikaya


  • Eberhard Zangger Luwian Studies
  • E.C. Krupp Griffith Observatory
  • Serkan Demirel Karadeniz Technical University
  • Rita Gautschy University of Basel




Evidence of systematic astronomical observation and the impact of celestial knowledge on culture is plentiful in the Bronze Age societies of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Europe. An interest in astral phenomena is also reflected in Hittite documents, architecture and art. The rock-cut reliefs of 64 deities in the main chamber of Yazilikaya, a Hittite rock sanctuary associated with Hattusa, the Hittite capital in central Anatolia, can be broken into groups marking days, synodic months and solar years. Here, we suggest that the sanctuary in its entirety represents a symbolic image of the cosmos, including its static levels (earth, sky, underworld) and the cyclical processes of renewal and rebirth (day/night, lunar phases, summer/winter). Static levels and celestial cyclicities are emphasised throughout the sanctuary – every single relief relates to this system. We interpret the central panel with the supreme deities, at the far north end of Chamber A, as a reference to the northern stars, the circumpolar realm and the world axis. Chamber B seems to symbolise the netherworld.


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Author Biographies

Eberhard Zangger, Luwian Studies

Eberhard Zangger, President, Luwian Studies, Zurich, Switzerland.

E.C. Krupp, Griffith Observatory

E.C. Krupp, Director, Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, USA.

Serkan Demirel, Karadeniz Technical University

Serkan Demirel, Department of Archaeology, Karadeniz Technical University, Trabzon, Turkey,

Rita Gautschy, University of Basel

Rita Gautschy. Department of Ancient Civilizations, University of Basel, Switzerland,


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How to Cite

Zangger, E., Krupp, E., Demirel, S., & Gautschy, R. (2021). Celestial Aspects of Hittite Religion, Part 2: Cosmic Symbolism at Yazilikaya. Journal of Skyscape Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsa.17829



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