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5,000-Year-Old Throne in Turkey May Be First Evidence of Birth of Secular State System


The remaining fragments of what was believed to be a wooden throne in Turkey has archaeologists wondering if they’ve found the world’s first evidence of a secular state governance system.

The possible seat or throne, dating to 5,000 years ago, was situated on adobe clay platforms raised above the floor by three steps. Burnt wooden pieces were discovered on the top of the tallest base. This was all found within a room which opened into a courtyard.

Marcella Frangipane of La Sapienza University in Rome is excavation director at Aslantepe in Malyata Province, Turkey, an archaeological site which is dated to the fourth millennium BC. Digs have recently revealed the ruins of a complex featuring two temples, storage rooms, and corridors. Some of the walls were found decorated with black and red designs and geometrical patterns.

Frangipane told Discovery News , “This reception courtyard and building were not a temple complex, they rather appear as the heart of the palace. We do not have religious rites here, but a ceremony showing the power of the ‘king’ and the state.”

This find may indicate the early origins of secular power, and first evidence of the birth of a state governance system.

The archaeological site at Arslantepe, Turkey

The archaeological site at Arslantepe, Turkey (Sarah Murray/ CC BY-SA 2.0 )

Researchers believe a king or chief may have held audience in the throne room as the public gathered in the large courtyard outside. Before the raised dais two smaller and lower adobe platforms were uncovered, which archaeologists believe were likely for people to stand on when they were before the king.

According to Nano News , Fragipane notes these remains may be the first evidence of a shift in how power was exercised. Instead of being administered in the religious temples, the power seemingly resided in the throne room. This demonstrates a non-religious power structure.

“The state governing system was already in progress here,” Frangipane said.

This heavily-fortified, ancient Hittite town was once called Milid, but was later dubbed Aslantepe (or Arslantepe), meaning Lion Hill, after 19 th century travelers found a pair of stone lions marking and flanking the main entrance of the site.

Pottery and artifacts uncovered from Aslantepe, Turkey, now in the Archaeological Museum of Malatya

Pottery and artifacts uncovered from Aslantepe, Turkey, now in the Archaeological Museum of Malatya. On the top right a photograph of a stone lion can be seen. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

This important archaeological location was first investigated by a French expedition in the 1930s, and digs have continued to this day. It has been described as the oldest city-state in Anatolia, and researchers have uncovered textiles, tools, fabrics, art, and sprawling ruins. Along with the lions, a monumental stone statue of Melita King Tarhunza was also found.

Statue of Neo-Hittite King Tarhunza (Aslantepe)

Statue of Neo-Hittite King Tarhunza (Aslantepe).( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

It is believed the city fell into decline after the Cimmerians and Scythians invaded Anatolia (712 BC). Many of the finds from the ancient Hittite city can be found at the Archaeological Museum of Malatya.

Featured Image: Platforms and steps show where archaeologists believe once sat a throne, indicating early secular power. Credit: Marcella Frangipane

By Liz Leafloor      

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