Eflatun Pinar: The Hittite Spring Sanctuary

Date of Submission: 15/04/2014
Criteria: (iii)(iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Province of Konya, District of Beyşehir
Coordinates: N37 49 31.88 E31 40 28.57
Ref.: 5912


The Hittite spring sanctuary of Eflatun Pınar lies about 100 kilometres west of Konya close to the lake of Beyşehir in a hilly, quite arid landscape. At the top of a little river valley, that flows in the further progress into the lake, the “lilac coloured spring” (translation of Eflatun Pınar) produces an astonishing quantity of ice cold, clear water. Directly next to the spring, a relief-covered wall of huge boulders was erected more than three thousand years ago.

The investigations about the monument uncovered that there is a hierarchical image of the Hittite Pantheon represented on it. Pantheon represented on it. The main monument has been shown to be part of an extensive 34 meters by 31 meters large basin structure, whose northern wall it faces. Now fully excavated it reaches up to the impressive height of over 6 meters and was original part of a closed fountain house made of huge ashlar masonry. The main monument possesses an equivalent on the south side of the basin in form of a flanging terrace.

The walls of the basin erected from carefully joined large ashlars of andesite. Up to four courses of the rectangular squared and frequently rusticated stones are preserved. The eastern section of the north wall and the east side of the basin are accompanied by a canal, through which most of the water springing to the northeast is led around the basin.

The exterior walls of the canal are erected of coarsely prepared limestone sheets from local provenance. Directly beside the main monument, a large inlet provided the basin with water.

The picture program of Eflatun Pınar was considerably expanded by the new findings. Primarily, five mountain gods with the characteristic skirts with scales forming the bottom row of the fully excavated main monument should be named. The half figures are carrying the typical attributes of Hittite mountain goddesses, apart from the skirt with scales the high, towards the top rejuvenating tip hat, almond-shaped large eyes, strongly emphasized ears and the frontal bearing folding their arms before the breast. In spite of individual differences, the figures were produced obvious in the effort toward a homogeneous, serial image. While both external figures were carved from the stone block standing behind them, the three middle mountain gods had been put obviously as prefabricated units into prepared openings. The skirts with scales of the middle figures have several drill holes of about 35 millimetres diameter, regularly between the scales through which obviously water should flow.

At the centre of the monument a divine couple were represented. The male figure is seated on a throne on the left side and his female counterpart is seated on the right. The male figure probably represents a Stormgod although no clear attributes are visible on the relief. Similarly, the seated goddess who wears a typical Hittite polos most probably depicts the Sun goddess of the earth that is most commonly known female partner of the Stormgod in the Hittite Imperial official pantheon. The divine couple is accompanied by two mythological atlantes: Bull-men on the lower row and lion-men above them. The lion-men are themselves carrying winged sun-disks, reinforcing the Sun Goddess above. On each side of the main scene, two separate reliefs were found on the northern wall of the basin, which represent female spring goddesses each wearing a polos.

On the southern wall of the basin, a relief of a seated female goddess is accompanied by a block at her feet, supposedly used as an altar. It is probable that a second relief depicting a Stormgod was also standing beside her. In front of the altar, a fragmentary statue was uncovered, representing a human torso.

On the eastern wall of the basin, there are two figures in relief that are probably to be identified with the same divine couple. They are represented as if walking toward the north.

In the south-western corner of the basin, there is a gap in the wall that might once have been filled with a trachyte block which was found nearby. This block’s weight is over 22 tones with three bull protomes serving as a gargoyle. The block has two holes that finish under the shape of bull protomes.

Several sculptures of reclined animals were found in the filler of the basin, it concerned probably the execution of lions, deers and bulls. This rich supply of sculptures adds to already more long well known remainder of a twin animals group.

Votive miniature ceramic vessels very similar to those found in Bogazkoy Hattusa ponds were also uncovered inside the basin together with one bronze pin.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Eflatun Pınar is a distinguish example of ensuring implementation of profitable water regime through collecting water in a central system and using it in case of necessity.

Eflatun Pınar constitutes a major cult monument with an extensive theological iconography that was built in the late phase of the Hitttite Empire. Great significance of the monument derives from its construction when the application of all technical means and knowledge available at that time is considered together with cost and effort which is used for the construction.

The monument is unique not only in its form, layout and iconography but also the technology and craftsmanship used in its construction.

Built and natural sanctuaries at Eflatun Pınar are combined in such a remarkable way that the relief wall fashioned like a rock wall and incorporated natural element of water accorded a creative role in the designs. The display and manipulation of water as a manifestation of divine presence is an outstanding cultural achievement.

The technical expertise utilized is unique. Large-format ashlar masonry of this degree of perfection is hardly known from Hattusa, the capital city of the Hittite Empire, at best it may be observed in the large temple complexes.

The meaning of the monument is underlined by the reinforcement of technical innovations. Metal tools were used here for the first time on a big scale to cut and dress the stone blocks. Especially, the bronze chisel was favoured over the stone hammer as preferred stone dressing instrument. Furthermore, technologies for shifting and hoisting heavy loads were employed in an innovative and ground-breaking way. Much preserved are the ancones or bosses as an aid for lifting and placing of the stones.

The rich iconographical programme of the whole site shows a hierarchically ordered, divine cosmos extending over all parts with various representations and culminating in the large relief wall with the winged sun disk. A unique feature is the incorporation of water in the architectural and religious concept. Equipping the mountain gods with the other source outlets represented the reification of an essential drive attribute as a concrete thing and thus was a manifestation of the divine existence. The ensemble is considered to be an awesome sight for contemporary spectators. The discharge of water from the mountain gods and reflective surface of the wide basin invest the artistic depictions of divine activity with life.

The spring sanctuary of Eflatun Pınar, thus possesses the qualities of a historical monument in a number of respects. In terms of cultural history and architectural design it stands alone in late Bronze Age architecture.

As a natural monument, it is an elaborately contrived installation at the crop-out of spring with unusually high discharge. It is a milestone in Hittite dressed stone architecture and scarcely equalled by any other example of early monumental architecture in Anatolia.

Criterion (iii): Eflatun Pınar bears unique testimony to a major cult monument of the Hittite Empire. The Hittites secured the political unity in Anatolia, existed in these lands roughly between 1620 BC and 1200 BC and acquired a very different and significant place in the Anatolian history. The Hittites built their temples nearby sources of water as they thought water was elixir of life. The spring sanctuary of Eflatun Pınar has a great importance within the water cult having a significant role in the Hititte religion. Integration of water in the architectural and religious concept is a unique feature of the site.

Criterion (iv): In its civil engineering peculiarities, the spring sanctuary of Eflatun Pınar must have been erected a time of transition, in which older Hittite means of stone dressing and masonry were replaced by new techniques. Rectangular ashlar masonry had hardly been observed and therefore this kind of masonry technique generally was excluded from Hittite architecture. The meaning of the monument is underlined by the reinforcement of technical innovations. The claim to power that stands behind such a building task is expressed in the provision of all technical possibilities of the time. This concerns especially the costly water structural arrangements that should suggest divine presence in a way similar to baroque architectural staging.

Criterion (vi): The display and manipulation of water as a manifestation of divine presence of Eflatun Pınar is an outstanding cultural achievement. The interconnection between religion and state was revealed by the Hittite water cult practises. These practises were observed in ceremonies which incorporated communication with the gods of underground, testimony of the water god, cult or the dead, cult of the ancestors and the cycle of the seasons. Evidences of a practise serving more than one purpose were revealed as the essential elements constituting ideas such as, wishing for a productive year, the prosperity of the society and empire, sanctification of the deeds of the king with the approval and testimony of the Water Goddess, propaganda of the divine rights of the kings, consolidation of the imperial power and privilege of the rulers to reach water by becoming god after death. According to cultural history and architectural design the spring sanctuary of Eflatun Pınar stands alone in late Bronze Age architecture.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Hittite spring sanctuary of Eflatun Pınar is under protection by the Turkish Legislation for Preservation of Cultural and Natural Property, Law No: 2863. Eflatun Pınar Monument and the mound, which is placed on southwest of the monument, were firstly registered as an archaeological conservation site by the decision of Superior Council of Immovable Cultural and Natural Properties, dated 07.03.1986, numbered 2004. The surrounding of the Eflatun Pınar Monument and Mound was also registered as the 2nd grade natural conservation site by the decision dated 16.12.1994 and numbered 2166.

After the approval of Konya Regional Council for Conservation of Cultural and Natural Heritage dated 10.04.1996 and numbered 2514, experts of Konya Museum carried out the works of surface cleaning in order for uncovering the original ground of the basin including cutting out the grass in front of the monument.

The rescue excavation and works for surface cleaning were carried out between 1996 and 2002 by Konya Museum. In addition, landscaping project and restoration works took place in 2011 with the approval of Konya Regional Council for Conservation of Cultural and Natural Heritage dated 15.10.2010. After completing the landscaping project and restoration works on the Eflatun Pınar monument, it is fenced. Some expropriation works of civil buildings, which are placed on west and northwest of the basin, have been continued in order to increase the visual perception of the Eflatun Pınar.

Comparison with other similar properties

As the Hittites had a theocratic understanding of religion they often established their cities and erected their temples nearby the sources of water which is elixir of life. These sources of water and rivers were sanctified and good deal of importance that attached to the cult of water by performing a lot of rituals. In lots of places of the Hittite Empire territory, foremost Hattusa, basins, dams, weirs, especially rock monuments were built nearby water were unearthed.

For usually Hittite spring sanctuaries had been carved everywhere in Anatolia in the natural rock, but in this case obviously Eflatun Pınar was erected artificially in order to be able to mount the relief. Thousands tons of stones had to be transported from an andesite quarry about five kilometres away from the construction site that is an impressive logistical achievement.

No inscriptions were found at the site, but based on its proximity to Yalburt and Köylütolu Monuments this monument may be dated to the 2nd half of 13th century BC. A Hittite cult basin is also preserved in Yalburt, a place that is only 60 kilometres away from Eflatun Pınar. Yet the water structural arrangements of this monument are very simple and cannot be compared to those in Eflatun Pınar. In one point, the two structures are nevertheless similar the basin of Yalburt is erected of large ashlars, that are stacked up in several courses. There is no relief existed on the monument of Yalburt and as a result of its drain spring, it has lost its original function currently.