Mount Nemrut, also called Mount Nemrud, is a 2,134-metre-high (7,001 ft) mountain located in southeastern Turkey famous for the giant head statues scattered on the summit.
It is the site of extensive ruins of the tomb of Antiochus I (69-36 BC) of the Commagene Kingdom (163 BC – 72 AD).
This spectacular structure is made of large slabs of rock forming a pyramid-like configuration. The stone sculptures once stood nearly 10 meters high and depicted lions, eagles, various ancient gods.
Antiochus I himself is represented here as well. Sixty-two years before the birth of Christ, King Antiochus I ordered a huge tomb come sanctuary to be built for himself.
What was particularly notable about this king was his pride and his over-extended ego. Antiochus I claimed he had a special relationship with the gods and instituted a royal cult in the Greek form of the religion Zoroastrianism with the clear intention of being worshiped as a god after his death.
He wanted his sanctuary to be in a high and holy place, close to the gods in order to be in rank with them, and high enough that the whole kingdom could see it and remember him.
King Antiochus’ burial complex, now known as Mount Nemrut Archaeological Site, was first rediscovered in 1881 by Karl Sester, a German Archaeologist, but archaeological activity only began in 1953.
In 1984, German archaeologists, under the direction of Friedrich Karl Dörner of the University of Münster, began to survey and restore the monuments. Since the start of excavation, most of the heads have been found, in addition to temples, bas-reliefs, and inscriptions.
A Greek inscription reveals that King Antiochus was buried here at the roof of his world as a sign of his parity with the gods.
The burial chamber of Antiochus has not yet been found, but is nevertheless still believed to be the site of his burial.
A highly developed technology was used to build the colossal statues and orthostats (stelae), the equal of which has not been found anywhere else for this period.
The statues, all of them “beheaded”, have not been restored to their original condition, but the remains give some idea of the size and grandeur of Antiochus’ magnificent structure.
Now only miniature sculptures provide the idea of the original statues.
The sculpture, temples, inscriptions, and reliefs at Antiochus’ sacred mortuary complex are highly significant to archaeologists and scholars of Roman, Persian, Hellenistic, and Anatolian history.