Cuneiform Inscriptions Made Visible on Bronze Plates from the Upper Anzaf Fortress, Turkey

Article excerpt

X-ray study of bronze plates from a fortress of the 1st millennium BC reveals cuneiform inscriptions on metal surfaces that are now wholly hidden by corrosion.

The Anzaf fortresses and the bronze hoard

The two Anzaf fortresses of the Urartu period are located in east Anatolia, near the Van lake. The older is the Lower Anzaf Fortress, constructed by King Ispuini (830-810 BC); the younger and larger Upper Anzaf Fortress was constructed on a higher hill 600 m to the south.

The Upper Anzaf Fortress is 11 km northwest of the Urartu capital Tuspa (today Van) in eastern Anatolia, near the modern highway and railway from Van to Iran; with its magnificent appearance, the Upper Fortress is considered to have been constructed for economic and military aims.

The excavation of the Upper Fortress by Belli's team is the only official excavation of the Urartu period in Turkey (Belli 1992). The temple in the Fortress is the oldest of the Urartu period in eastern Anatolia.

During the 1991 excavation, a big bronze hoard was found in the vicinity of the west gate of the temple precinct. It consists of various bronze fragments, parts, plates and weapons, separated by fire into hundreds of pieces (Tugrul & Belli 1992).

Cleaning and conservation have revealed that some fragments are ornamented. On some fragments, the figures are easily perceived; on others, more affected by the fire, they have to be traced closely. In this study, some of the bronze plates are investigated by radiography.

The study and the inscriptions

As usual, radiography was used to determine the inner structure of the matter by penetrating radiation (Halmshaw 1971; Mix 1987); for this study X-rays were used. …