Egyptian scarab sheds light on ancient city Comana Pontica in northern Turkey


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A scarab, an Egyptian seal in the shape of a scarab beetle, has been discovered in the ancient city of Comana Pontica, located in northern Turkey’s Tokat province. The seal could be up to 3,000 years old, according to initial observations, and it may shed light on the history of the region during the Hellenistic period.

Egyptian scarab sheds light on ancient city Comana Pontica in northern Turkey
The Egyptian scarab discovered in the ancient city of Comana Pontica,
Tokat, northern Turkey [Credit: AA]

Archaeological work in the ancient city has been ongoing since 2004. The current excavation team is under the leadership of Burcu Erciyas, a professor at Middle East Technical University (METU). Erciyas believes that the recent discovery can reveal the international importance that the city of Comana held during the Hellenistic period.

“We have discovered many new findings in 2020 with extensive excavation work. Maybe the most interesting one of these has been the scarab from Egypt, which is a beetle-shaped seal or amulet adorned with hieroglyphic inscriptions. This is an important finding regarding Comana’s international relations,” Erciyas told Anadolu Agency (AA).

She also provided details on the age of the seal. “We studied the hieroglyphs on the seal and the inscribed name belonged to Thutmose III, the sixth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt, who ruled between the years of 1479 BC and 1429 BC,” Erciyas said. “There have been other scarabs of Thutmose III discovered in archaeological sites, some even in Anatolia, which show that these amulets were used up until the fourth or fifth century BC.”

It is believed that the ancient city of Comana Pontica was founded under the Kingdom of Pontus during the reign of Mithridates I in the Hellenistic period, the time between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire as signified by the Battle of Actium in 31 BC.

Egyptian scarab sheds light on ancient city Comana Pontica in northern Turkey
The ancient city of Comana Pontica, Tokat, northern Turkey [Credit: AA]

Comana Pontica was originally a sacred ground with a Hittite temple in its center dedicated to the goddess Ma, a local Anatolian goddess meaning “mother” who also bore the epithets “Invincible” and “Bringer of Victory.” Large tracts of land around Mabed (site of the temple) was ceded to the temple by the King of Pontus. The land was cultivated and the temple claimed all profits for its maintenance. The temple was tended by 6,000 serfs (vassals/servants/slaves), many of whom were Persian. 

Governing Comana Pontica was by the Chief Priest who was second in line behind the King of Pontus. Mithridates VI claimed to be a direct descendant of Alexander the Great and had fought against the Roman Generals: Sulla, Lucullus, and Pompey.

After the death of Mithridates VI, the region came under Roman and Byzantine control. With the defeat of the Byzantines and the fall of Constantinople, the Empire of Trebizond was formed under the Komnenos dynasty until the Ottoman Empire seized it.

Titled the Comana Pontica Archaeological Research Project, the site has been under the archaeological lens of METU and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK). The work is still ongoing and excavations to further unearth the ancient city’s rich historical texture are underway.

Source: Daily Sabah & Wikipedia [January 07, 2021]

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