Following fifty years of meticulous excavations by Italian archeologists, the 16,000-square-metre settlement mound at Aslantepe, dating back to the fourth millennium BC, has recently opened as an open-air museum. At the entrance stand newly carved copies of some of the monumental neo-Hittite statuary found here, including the god Tarhunzas and a couple of fine grinning lions – after which the site was named when the originals were discovered in the nineteenth century. There’s also the reconstruction of a typical mud-brick Bronze Age house.

A signed walkway leads visitors through the various layers of this complex but fascinating site, which has seen occupation in the Chalcolithic era (fourth millennium BC), the Bronze Age, the Hittite era, and finally the Roman and medieval periods. You can walk through the mud-brick remains of a palace dating from 3000 BC and a temple built circa 3500 BC. In the latter, archeologists found over a thousand pottery bowls – evidence of very early mass production. Everything is well explained by a series of informative display boards.

The top of the mound offers fine views, across a veritable sea of apricot trees, to the distant mountains.

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