Archaeologists from the University of Toronto have unearthed a startling find. While excavating a site at Tell Tayinat, a fortress built by the Iron Age Neo-Hittite Kingdom of Patina, researchers discovered a massive 3000-year-old statue. While ancient statues are found at archaeological sites all the time, this statue stands out for who it depicts: a woman.
The statue would have been massive at the time of its creation. The researchers have recovered the face and the bust of the statue, but it was vandalized and mostly destroyed at some point in the past. Based on the size of the bust, archaeologists believe the statue would have stood between 4 and 5 meters tall (13 -16 feet). Researchers have found many fragments believed to have once been part of the statue’s face and hope to be able to piece them back together after they go through a 3D scanner.
Timothy Harrison, professor of Near & Middle Eastern civilizations at the University of Toronto and head of the Tayinat Archaeological Project, says the statue challenges some long-standing beliefs about the civilizations at the time:
The discovery of this statue raises the possibility that women played a more prominent role in the political and religious lives of these early Iron Age communities than the existing historical record might suggest.
At the time of its creation, such monuments were usually reserved for men, most of of whom were rulers or in other positions of power. The fact that such a statue was created for a woman, coupled with its impressive size, suggests that she could have been an important figure at Tayinat.
Harrison says that based on other evidence discovered at Tayinat, there are a few likely candidates for whom the statue might depict:
It is possible that she is a representation of Kubaba, divine mother of the gods of ancient Anatolia. However, there are stylistic and iconographic hints that the statue represents a human figure, possibly the wife of King Suppiluliuma, or even more intriguingly, a woman named Kupapiyas, who was the wife – or possibly mother – of Taita, the dynastic founder of ancient Tayinat.
The statue was likely destroyed when power in the area changed hands to a society which did not value the contributions of women as the Neo-Hittites might have, such as the Assyrians who later moved into Tayinat. Controlling the past is a sure easy way to shape the present. Who knows what other hidden elements of our past have been destroyed in the name of controlling history?