A mere 10km from Gaziantep is the town of Doliche. Here, over an area of around 4 sq. km., can be found the remains of ancient life, death and the worship of gods.
Up high on the hill overlooking the town is the ancient home of the Hittite storm god Tesub-Hadad, the god otherwise known in antiquity as Baal, now as Dülük Baba Tepesi and, for the Romanists in the house, Jupiter Dolichenus.
Despite its proximity to Gaziantep, this area is really VERY rural. There are few public amenities and public transport is extremely limited. Finding a way to visit the site wasn’t that easy, although I got lucky in the end. The staff at my hotel weren’t really any help , just telling me to get a cab. When I tried to get a cab in town, I ended up in the middle of a horribly familiar Taxi-Driver ‘discussion’, with a group of about six drivers disagreeing on the location and route. This didn’t fill me with any confidence at all. Finally, and with a very unclear idea in my head, I got the bus to the otogar (the main bus station) and asked a taxi driver there. Good move. By sheer good luck I’d stumbled across one of those ‘no problem’ drivers.
As we drove out from Gaziantep otogar, the landscape very quickly turned rural and, I confess, I began to feel slightly concerned that I was going to end up stuck in the middle of nowhere. I needn’t have worried because my driver, Namik, had no intention of leaving me anywhere. I fact, he turned tour guide 😀 .
In the slopes around the modern town (actually, I’d say village), there are numerous rock-cut tombs, some ornate but many very simple.
Lots of these tombs are being using by the local people for storage and for keeping animals in. One was even pressed into service as a dog kennel.
Over in the opposite hill there’s an irresistible looking cave. So, off we go.
It turns out to be a large cave containing a mithraeum, which has been made accessible by the installation of walkways and lighting.
Interestingly, the image of the god has a cross inscribed over the head. Perhaps this is an indication of a ritual site being taken over on behalf of the new god.
At the mithraeum we meet some other people, one of whom is, I think, the farmer of this plot of land. All around there are apricot trees and that most Gaziantep-ine of crops, pistachos (fistik).
Namik and the farmer, whose name I didn’t get I afraid, set about harvesting some of the delicious apricots. A welcome burst of fresh fruit on a hot hot day.
We then visited a few more tombs, all set together in a dedicated area higher up on the hillside opposite the mithraeum.
We then set off back to Gaziantep. I’m sure that it must have been time for Namik’s lunch. Once we reached the otogar again, I made sure to thank Namik for acting as tour guide well above and beyond the call of duty and, especially in view of the pretty modest cab fare, I included a nice fat tip.
Excavations have been going on on top of the hill since 2001, carried out by the University of Münster, and although the site is not yet generally open for visitors, there are plans afoot to improve access and promote this area to visitors. I didn’t get to see even half of the overall site. There’s the hill top area, plus a quarry and many more rock-cut tombs, but after such a fantastic morning, who could complain?
My intrepid taxi driver in action.