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Hattusa ivory ornament, dating back 2,800 years has been recently discovered and showcases depictions of sphinxes, lions, and trees of life on its ivory surface.    Source: Anadolu Agency

2,800-Year-Old ‘One of a Kind’ Ivory Object Unearthed At Hattusa


During excavations at Hattusa, capital of the Hittite kingdom during the late Bronze Age, archaeologists discovered a one-of-a-kind object crafted from Hattusa ivory, estimated to be around 2,800 years old. In the 117th year of excavations here, the northwest-facing slope of the Great Fortress area, revealed this significant piece of art, measuring nearly 30 centimeters (1 ft) in length and 10 centimeters in width, crafted from ivory with intricate etchings.

Lion: A Symbol of Power

The design includes a sphinx, a lion, and two trees of life, providing some understanding of the artistic motifs and symbolic elements prevalent from the era in which it was created. The lion, symbolizing power and royalty, has been a recurring motif in the iconography of ancient civilizations.

Evidence of this association can be traced back to prehistoric cave paintings, as well as artifacts from ancient Sumerian and Egyptian cultures dating back to 3000 BC. The regal significance of the lion is exemplified in various ancient monuments, such as the impressive lion gates found in Hattusa. While the exact purpose of the art or artifact remains speculative at this moment, it is plausible that it might have been a component of a wooden box.

The Lion Gate at Hattusa. (robnaw /Adobe Stock)

The Lion Gate at Hattusa. (robnaw /Adobe Stock)

Hattusa Ivory's Artistic Influence Beyond Borders

In a statement to Anadolu Agency, Andreas Schachner, who’s been leading the excavations since 2006 on behalf of the German Archaeological Institute, revealed that the recently discovered artifact was located within the Iron Age layer of the Hattusa archaeological site.

"Most likely, in its own period, it was added as a decoration to a wooden box or a piece of furniture made of wood. The work is broken on its right and left sides, but the upper and lower sides are intact. So, it can be inferred that it was actually longer. This work is a unique piece for Bogazkoy. For the first time, we are facing a work adorned with such an intense and beautifully crafted scene. Extensive excavations have been carried out in Bogazkoy for the Iron Age, but a work with such detail has not been encountered before," Schachner explained.

By examining both the stage of development and the iconography and style employed, a deeper understanding of the connections between Boğazköy and Southeastern Anatolia can be gauged, further explained Schachner.

This exploration extends to the artistic relationships that existed between Boğazköy and regions to the Southwest and Greece during its historical period, specifically in the first millennium BC. Such analysis allows us to unravel the intricate web of cultural and artistic interactions that shaped the artistic identity of Boğazköy during this significant era, reports Arkeonews.

Hattusa: A Center of Trade and Regality in the Ancient World

Hattusa was the political and administrative center of the Hittite Empire, which flourished from around 1600 to 1180 BC, strategically located at the center of the world’s ancient trade routes. Around 1180 BC, Hattusa, along with several other Hittite cities, was destroyed, possibly due to a combination of internal unrest and external invasions by the Sea Peoples. The reasons for the collapse of the Hittite Empire remain a subject of scholarly debate, much like the demise of Harappa or the Indus Valley Civilization.

The site of Hattusa was rediscovered in the early 20th century, and systematic archaeological excavations began in the 1930s. The excavations have unearthed a wealth of artifacts, cuneiform tablets, and insights into Hittite civilization. In 1986, Hattusa was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognizing its historical and cultural significance. The site attracts archaeologists, historians, and tourists interested in exploring the remnants of this ancient civilization.

Schachner further mentioned that once the necessary scientific studies are completed, the newly discovered artifact will be put on display at the Boğazköy Museum. This exhibition will provide an opportunity for the public to appreciate the historical and cultural significance of the find.

"We are very happy and excited to have found that artifact. This is the first time we have been faced with such an artifact that gives us information about the art of that period. It is a truly important object," the Professor concluded, speaking for the whole excited archaeology team.

Top image:  Hattusa ivory ornament, dating back 2,800 years has been recently discovered and showcases depictions of sphinxes, lions, and trees of life on its ivory surface.    Source: Anadolu Agency

By Sahir Pandey


Altuntas, L. 2023. A unique 2,800-year-old ivory-decorated piece was discovered in the Ancient City of Hattusa. Available at:

Bartek, J. 2023. Unique 2,800-Year-Old Ivory Object Unearthed At Hattusa. Available at:

Ceylan, K. 2023. 2,800-year-old ivory ornament unearthed in Hattusa archeological site in Türkiye. Available at:

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I am a graduate of History from the University of Delhi, and a graduate of Law, from Jindal University, Sonepat. During my study of history, I developed a great interest in post-colonial studies, with a focus on Latin America. I... Read More

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