Gaziantep is an ancient city adorned with cultural, religious, and gastronomic riches and 6000 years of history. Its location on trade routes and the crossing point of civilizations has made it popular and enriched in every period.
These lands, which hosted many important city-states, also welcomed numerous types of beliefs, from pagan cults to monotheistic religions. Each civilization added its own cultural heritage to the previous one, which resulted in a wonderful historical taste, just like the layers of phyllo that make up baklava. This amazing taste came to light through the mosaics, sculptures and reliefs of the craftsmen in the region.
Apart from the visible ones, the people of Antep also attached importance to the underground. They built the world's largest underground Temple of Mitras (Mitras Tapınağı), as well as the Kastels, an intelligently built underground water system, as a solution to regional problems.
If you are curious about the visible and invisible treasures of Antep, come and explore this mysterious city!
Zeugma Ancient City
Zeugma has become a center of attraction as one of the largest and most populous cities of the Romanperiod, with its houses overlooking the Euphrates River, river trade, and the mobility in social life. Merchants, commanders and wealthy people who settled in Zeugma built many villas on the scenic terraces; master artists used colored stones to adorn the floors of these villas with the mosaics of mythological scenes and geometric motifs of the ancient world.
Zeugma drew the attention of the world with its unique mosaics depicting mythological Greek gods on the floor of a pool or a dining hall, and frescoes on the walls of the houses, and with the bullas (about 100,000 bulla-seal imprints) found in all ancient cities around the world.
Excavations in most of the mosaic villas in the city were completed and the recovered artifacts were moved to the Zeugma Mosaic Museum (Zeugma Mozaik Müzesi). Those that could not be excavated were flooded by the Birecik Dam (Birecik Barajı). The villas located in the higher parts of the city were taken under protection and opened to visitors. Archaeological excavations in the city are still going on.
Zeugma Mosaic Museum
The Zeugma Mosaic Museum (Zeugma Mozaik Müzesi), which is one of the largest Mosaic Museums in the world, has a very rich mosaic collection in terms of subject and color variety. It attracts attention with the high number of tessera (name given to each mosaic stone) per square meter within the scope of approximately 3,000 m² of mosaic exhibited. The transfer of architecture, life style, plant and animal themes of the period with three-dimensional designs and high-level techniques made Zeugma one of the most important museums worldwide.
The artifacts in the museum have been placed according to their location in the ancient city of Zeugma, exactly in accordance with the beliefs, culture, and architecture of the environment in which people lived. In this way, while the mosaics at the closest position to the Euphrates River are located at the entrance, the mosaics rising towards the terraces of the city are placed in order. The mosaics from the elevations just below or above the current water level are exhibited in the second floor. The mosaics from the Roman Bath, which are exhibited in the basement floor, are the mosaics extracted from just below the dam body. At the lowest floor of the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, visitors will see the architecture and mosaics of the bath, located at the lowest grade of the Zeugma Ancient City (Zeugma Antik Kenti).
The statue of Mars (Ares), the God of War, made of bronze is one of the most striking artifacts exhibited in the Zeugma Mosaic Museum. In addition, the world-known"Gypsy Girl" Mosaic is exhibited here too.
The Gaziantep Archaeology Museum (Gaziantep Arkeoloji Müzesi), founded by Sebahat Göğüş, one of the first female archaeologists of the Republican period, has an interesting and rich collection. The museum literally takes visitors on a historical journey from the past to the present, with exhibition units from the Early Paleolithic Period to the present. In 106 showcases in the museum, the exhibition begins with fossils and rocks from the Geological period, and continues with artifacts from the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Ages, Hittite, Hurrian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Eastern Roman, Islamic, and Ottoman periods.
Yesemek Open Air Museum
Yesemek is known as the largest stone quarry and sculpture workshop in the Middle East between the 14th century BCE and the 7th century BCE. The workshop, where the local people of Hurrians worked, was put into operation in the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE, when the region came under Hittite rule during the time of the Hittite King Shuppiluma I. The workshop, which suspended its activities during the migration of the Sea Peoples in 1,200 BCE, started to work again during the Late Hittite Kingdoms from the 9th century BCE. In the new period, especially Hittite, Syrian, Aramaic and Assyrian art elements have gained importance. This style, known as Orientalism, formed the core of Greek art by influencing the Aegean Cultures that started to develop in the West.
Towards the end of the 7th century BCE, Assyrians stopped the activities of the workshop and took the masters to Assyria. Having lost its masters, everything remained as it was in the workshop, and from that moment on, for the Yesemek time was literally frozen.
The Yesemek Quarry and Sculpture Workshop (Yesemek Taş Ocağı ve Heykel Müzesi), which was established on an area of 110 decares and apparently operated with a great organization, reveals all steps one by one, from quarrying to the completion of the sculpture drafts. The quarry and workshop were active for about 500 years. They are important, as they are the only example that has survived until today. Hittite cities such as Zincirli and Sakçagözü, ordered the works from here.
Today, in the Open-Air Museum, where nearly 500 sculptures and orthostat drafts are extracted from underground and displayed in a certain order, the gate lions, the guardians of the gates of Hittite cities constitute the vast majority of the drafts. Monumental sphinxes (female-headed winged lion), bear man, chariot, mountain men, hunting scenes are other important artifacts in the workshop.
Karkamış Ancient City
The most powerful of the Late Hittite Kingdoms, established in 300 years following the fall of the Hittite Empire towards the beginning of the 12th century BCE, was the Kingdom of Carchemish. Carchemish came under the influence of the Hittites, who captured the city Aleppo and most of Syria in the second half of the 17th century BCE. After the fall of the Hittite Empire around 1,195 BCE, Carchemish became one of the strongest independent kingdoms of the region. The city was destroyed by the Assyrian Sargon II in 717 BCE. As a result of the excavations, many new hieroglyph Luwian inscriptions, clay tablets, graceful walking lion, winged bull and winged goat-bull reliefs, mosaic floors, were unearthed. Most of the Karkamış reliefs are exhibited in the Ankara Anatolian Civilizations Museum (Ankara Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi) and the Gaziantep Archaeology Museum (Gaziantep Arkeoloji Müzesi) today. Karkamış Ancient City (Karkamış Antik Kenti) will soon be opened to visitors as an "Archeopark".
Dülük Ancient City and Temple of Mitras
Dülük is located on two separate areas as "Ancient City" and "Sanctuary". Its first known settlement dates back to 6000 years. The sanctuary is located on Dülük Baba Hill (Dülük Baba Tepesi), approximately 3 kilometers north of Dülük Village.
In the scientific excavations carried out on Keber Hill (Keber Tepesi) in Dülük, flint tools belonging to the Early Paleolithic Period with the workshops where these tools were made, have been discovered. As a result of these findings, Dülük is thought to be one of the oldest settlements in the world.
Dülük has an important place not only for the history of the city but also for the history of religions. Indeed, Dülük was the cult center of Tesup, Zeus and Jupiter Dolichenus beliefs. As the homeland of the Roman god Jupiter Dolichenus, Dülük had a reputation beyond the borders of Commagene, where also the cult of Mithra was present.
The Temple of Mitras (Mitras Tapınağı) in Dülük is the first of the Underground Temples of Mitras in Anatolia.
The ancient city of Dülük and today's village of Dülük offer visitors an enjoyable tour opportunity where they can see both architectural and natural beauty while digging into the depths of history with its traditional limestone houses, historical mosque, rock tombs and churches.
As a result of excavations carried out since 2003 in Tilmen, one of the most magnificent Hittite cities after Hattusa in Anatolia, this place has been turned into an Archeopark. The finds from the moundshow the bond and mutual relationship between ancient Mesopotamian and Syrian cultures and ancient Anatolian cultures. As a result of the excavations, it was understood that this place dated to 4,000 BCE, and that it was a big city in the late of the 3rd millennium BCE. In the northeast of the mound, there are 8 m high round towers that can be reached by 17-step stairs and a ramp. The walls of the castle, which is protected by two rows of walls, rise with stones of incredible size and tons of weight - The main entrance gate of the city is in the east; and both sides are protected by gate lions.
The Gaziantep Castle (Gaziantep Kalesi) is one of the most beautiful examples of castles that could survive in Türkiye, and is located on a hill in the city center. It is known that it was founded on a mound dating back 6,000 years from the present to the Chalcolithic period, and that there was a small city named "Theban" in and around the castle in the 2nd - 3rd century CE. During this period, it was understood by archaeological excavations that the castle was built as a Roman watchtower and expanded over time. It took its current form in the 6th century CE during the Byzantine Emperor Justinian.
As a result of the archaeological excavations carried out by the Gaziantep Archeology Museum, a bath and a mosque belonging to the Ottoman period were unearthed. A gallery of the castle is now used as the Gaziantep Defense and Heroic Panorama Museum. (Gaziantep Savunması ve Kahramanlık Panaroması Müzesi)
It was designed by the Ottoman Palace Architect Sarkis Balyan, and built by the stonemason Sarkis Taşçıyan in 1892. The building, which was built as an Armenian Gregorian Church, successfully integrated the stone architecture of the Antep-Aleppo region with the polygonal cupola system of the Armenian church architecture.
Being used as a prison for a while, this building serves as one of the biggest mosques in Gazianteptoday. The old bell tower was redesigned to a minaret, and an additional minaret was added to the building. The three-ton custom-made church bell is under protection in the Gaziantep Museum (Gaziantep Müzesi) today.
Saint Bedros Church
The church, estimated to have been built in 1723, appeared in 2005 during the road construction works of the municipality. The church was built of limestone during the period of 8th Patriarch Bedros Krikor Catholicos, and decorated with pink marble and basalt stones. The well-preserved building serves as the Ömer Ersoy Cultural Center (Ömer Ersoy Kültür Evi) today.
The construction of the church started in 1860, and was completed with the financial support of French King Napoleon III, French missionaries and the Catholic community due to the financial difficulties of the Gaziantep Catholic Armenians during its construction. The old church was demolished and the construction of the current church started in 1898, lasted two years and was opened with a great ceremony in 1900. The plan of the church is designed after the Saint Francis Church in Rome. The church plan was sent from the Papal office in Vatican. It will serve as the Anatolian-Turkish Archeology Institute (Anadolu Türk Arkeoloji Enstitüsü) in our days.
The synagogue, which was built in 1886 for the worship of Jews living in Gaziantep during the Ottoman period, remained idle for a time after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and the migration of the Jews in this region to the newly established state. The synagogue was revived as a result of the restoration works and now serves as a Cultural Center.
The inhabitants of Gaziantep, with temperatures up to 40 ° C in the summer months, collected the water to a certain center (Suburcu) over the channels called “Livas”. The Livas were opened under the ground to prevent the evaporation of the precious water resource available which was then distributed to the city from this center. Houses have been built on livas in order to provide for the water needs; and wells have been drilled from these houses to the livas. These wells not only served to provide for the water needs, but also to prevent foodstuff from spoiling due to the heat. For this, the food was hanged into the well during summer.
Additionally, large cavernous spaces were made at certain levels of the Livas passing under the mosques, which were called "Kastel". These Kastels could be reached by 30-40-step stairs from the surface, and contained toilets, bathing places, resting and ablution places, laundry and wool washing places, and some even had smaller praying rooms (masjid). Kastels have preserved their importance until the date when houses gained access to potable water in a modern sense, and until fountains were built. Since these structures are partially or completely underground, they did not attract much attention and did not take place in art history terminology.
During your visit to Antep, you can visit the Pişirici Kasteli, which has been built by the Mamluks in the 13th century. It is the oldest Kastel of Gaziantep. You can closely examine these worldwide unique architectural structures, that are on the UNESCO's World Heritage Tentative List.