From “Archeologists Unearth Extraordinary Human Sculpture in Turkey” (ScienceDaily, July 30, 2012), we learn
A beautiful and colossal human sculpture is one of the latest cultural treasures unearthed by an international team at the Tayinat Archaeological Project (TAP) excavation site in southeastern Turkey. A large semi-circular column base, ornately decorated on one side, was also discovered. Both pieces are from a monumental gate complex that provided access to the upper citadel of Kunulua, capital of the Neo-Hittite Kingdom of Patina (ca. 1000-738 BC).
The head and torso of the human figure, intact to just above its waist, stands approximately 1.5 metres in height, suggesting a total body length of 3.5 to four metres. The figure’s face is bearded, with beautifully preserved inlaid eyes made of white and black stone, and its hair has been coiffed in an elaborate series of curls aligned in linear rows. Both arms are extended forward from the elbow, each with two arm bracelets decorated with lion heads. The figure’s right hand holds a spear, and in its left is a shaft of wheat. A crescent-shaped pectoral adorns its chest. A lengthy Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription, carved in raised relief across its back, records the campaigns and accomplishments of Suppiluliuma, likely the same Patinean king who faced a Neo-Assyrian onslaught of Shalmaneser III as part of a Syrian-Hittite coalition in 858 BC.
But people in what is now Turkey were doing this sort of thing 10,000 years earlier as well. In other news, chimpanzees were – and still are – screeching in the trees.
But, according to some sources, we are supposed to learn major psychological and cultural facts from them, not from this.
The sculpture, photo courtesy Jennifer Jackson, is curious because it does not seem to convey any sense of a warrior king, at least to a modern observer. That could signal artistic incompetence, but we need to be cautious: Sometimes, artists were working within cultural restrictions. They could do more but sensed they had better not. The guy comes off as a lovable nerd; and maybe that’s what they intended. Not that it was likely true or could have been.
Cultures can be opaque to each other because we see what we are permitted to see but don’t “see” the underlying constraints. The things no one would tell you or would need to, if you lived there.