3,000-year-old carvings from ancient calendar show an ‘underworld’ beneath Earth

Strange stone carvings first discovered almost 200 years ago have been revealed as an ancient calendar and a map of the cosmos.

The drawings, believed to be around 3,200 years old, include details of an 'underworld' that sits below the Earth.

The Yazılıkaya rock sanctuary in central Turkey, around 100 miles from Ankara, was stumbled upon by archaeologist and French historian Charles Texier back in 1834.

The carvings depict more than 90 figures, including animals, monsters, and gods, and were found on the limestone bedrock in two chambers with a temple erected in front of them.

It's said they date back to the 13th century BC but it's taken almost two centuries for experts to decipher what the markings really mean.

Researchers have determined the representations are of the cosmos, including the Earth, heavens, and underworld, and show Hittites' essential creation myth.

On one wall, drawings of the sun-goddess Hebat and storm-god Teshub, the supreme deities can be seen.

Whereas on the east and west walls of the chamber, lesser deities march towards the couple.

The sanctuary baffled boffins, and even as recently as 2011 were archaeologists unsure of why it was there.

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But a new study in the Journal of Skyscrap Acraehology claims the sanctuary was a symbolic representation of the cosmos and Hittites views on them.

However, they also show dad and night, phases of the moon and seasons, as well as the "cyclical processes of renewal and rebirth", writes lead author Eberhard Zangger.

It's said each of the 90 figures found inside adhere to the system.

Zangger, president of the Luwian Studies Foundation in Zurich, Switzerland, worked with Rita Gautschy, Basel archaeologist to analyse the sanctuary.

They determined many of the figures indicated various moon phases and times of the solar year.

They theorise there were two more deities than the 17 now seen on the eastern wall, making the number of the gods – 30, 12, and 19 – corresponding with the lunar cycle and months.

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Then markings under each line of gods would have been used to track the lunar days, and every 19 years an extra month would be added in the 'Metonic cycle' to keep pace with the solar year.

It was previously believed calendars using the Metonic cycle were not invented for another 700 years.

Chamber B at the sanctuary was a stand-in for the underworld, with evidence of the sword god Nergal.

Researchers said the reliefs "can be broken into groups marking days, synodic months and solar years".

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They added: "We suggest that the sanctuary in its entirety represents a symbolic image of the cosmos, including its static levels (earth, sky, underworld) and the cyclical processes of renewal and rebirth, (day/night, lunar phases, summer/winter)."

Hittite culture believed the astronomical information was displayed so the shrine's entirety conformed' to the cosmic order.

The Hittites lived in what is now modern-day Turkey and established their empire in the late 17th century BC, believed to be around 1680 and 1650 BC.

They ruled over much of the country in the mid-1300s BC and the Middle East and Upper Mesopotamia.

They were eventually defeated by the Assyrians by 1180 BC and split into smaller groups and believed to have stayed on until the eighth century BC.

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