STUMBILING UPON SOGMATAR ESKI SUMATAR HARABESI: ANCIENT CITY OF THE MOON GOD
You are driving along a pile of rubble across the bumpy but barren landscape. The taxi driver slows down allowing a herd of sheep to move out of the road and pass off to the right side of the vehicle. You take a quick photo from the window just before entering what appears to be a desolate Bedouin village.
The scorching winds carry light dust particles across your field of vision and the sun is preparing to set, but the day light is still sufficiently illuminating the sign near the village entrance which reads: SOGMATAR ANCIENT CITY.
Sogmatar? Ancient City? I thought we were headed for Karahan Tepe. What happened?
Where are we?
This was our experience as we stumbled upon one of the most important archaeological sites in the world – without even realizing it. Sogmatar (aka Eski Sumatar Harabesi) is a remnant of the ancient city of the Moon God, Sin.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
We were on a private research trip in Southeastern Turkey for Adept Expeditions. Our mission was to explore Gobekli Tepe which had recently re-opened for the public. Our day started early leaving us plenty of time to further explore Turkey’s ancient sacred sites in the Sanliurfa province. We decided our next destination would be Karahan Tepe, a lesser known site of equal If not more significance located about 23 miles to the south.
We began our quest by using the Google translate app to inform our non-English speaking taxi driver that we wanted to reach Karahan Tepe, which somehow got lost in translation yielding entirely different results. Our driver assured us he knew where the site was located even though he had to stop and ask for directions. The family that he asked appeared to be just as puzzled by Karahan Tepe’s whereabouts as we were.
Instead of our elected destination we ended up exploring the Bazda Cave, Suayb, Han-El Ba’Rur Caravanserai, Ayyubid Castle, Harran University, the Kizilkuyen Necropolis all in the same day, which took us into the wee hours of the night but not without first reaching Sogmatar at the decision of our taxi driver, who perhaps thought Sogmatar is what we meant by Karahan tepe. An easy mistake to make.
This entire region is all part of the ancient merchant trading post of Harran in South Eastern, Turkey. Some claim that the name “Harran” is as old as its history. In Greek accounts, it is mentioned as Karra, Kharran, and Karais and the word Tepe means hill, which is close to Karahan Tepe so this may explain the mix up.
We didn’t mind. In fact, we were excited that he introduced us to this ancient city of Sogmatar. I had never heard of it before. As we pulled up and parked, the local children looked puzzled but then warm smiles on their faces followed suggesting that they were happy to see foreigners.
Still today our experience with the local people paralleled what the famous Arabic geographer, traveller and poet from al-Andalus, Ibn Jubayr wrote about Harran’s hospitable culture and traditions over a thousand years ago lending the following description;
“Harran is full of kind and softhearted people, who love foreign travelers, and who defend and help the poor. Here the homeless do not feel the urge to beg- they get their food and other provisions from Harran’s citizens. Harran’s citizens are recognized as the most generous population…”
Its nice to see how some things remain the same. We love the people of Harran – especially those who invited us to drink tea with them.
HISTORY OF HARRAN AND THE ANCIENT CITY OF SOGMATAR
Long before the current inhabitants settled here, this region of Harran was the home of the Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Persians, the Alexandrian Empire, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, Ayyubids, and many other dynasties and empires. Toward the end of the Umayyad Dynasty, Harran served as the capital city of the Islamic Empire. Once, Harran was known as a religious center, a commercial and agricultural city, and it was famous for its measuring tools, honey, sweets and cotton. Our driver stopped and let us pick some along the way.
It was in this unsuspecting village of Sogmatar that the biblical Moses sought refuge and lived after escaping from Egypt. In fact, the historical well that can be visited today in Sogmatar is believed to have been the well of Moses.
Prior to the taxi driver’s decision to stop here, I wasnt even aware of this ancient city of Sogmatar. Upon arrival I did some quick research on my iPhone, but for the most part I approached the site with an uninformed experiential perspective – having planned to do my deeper research work after our exploration.
NOTEABLE FEATURES AT SOGMATAR
The first thing I noticed was a series of structures, then a monumental conical-shaped mound towering above the ruins. Just a week before we were at Saqqara in Egypt and looking around at the Heaps of desert sand covering some of the structures here in Sogmatar, I couldn’t help but get a similar feeling. It gave off that vibe you get before entering Saqqara where one can find the stepped pyramid of Djoser. Could this massive mound be the remnants of an enormous dilapidated pyramid?
The remains of stone masonry work scattered throughout site would later prove otherwise yet even though it’s not a traditional pyramid this structure is no less valid. The evidence clearly suggests that the mound is not the work of mother nature.
At Sogmatar seven temples are layed out in a semi-circle around the central mound. There are a number of subterranean entrances.
We also found what appears to look like rock cut tombs. It turns out that Sogmatar was not only an ancient temple complex consecrated to the planets but a vast necropolis.
2017 ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCAVATIONS AT SOGMATAR REVEALS 5,000 YEAR OLD ARTIFACTS
In 2012 archaeologists unearthed some 120 rock tombs at Sogmatar. Searches inside the mound and ceramic findings showed that Sogmatar was a settlement until recently. In fact, the tombs date back to the early Bronze Age, 5,000 years ago.
The archaeological excavations continued in May of 2017, with the participation of Harran University Archaeology Department staff member Assistant Professor Yusuf Albayrak. Further work carried out lead to the finding more tombs including several that were not even opened in the Roman era, resulting in the discovery of a four wheeled miniature horse carriage and a rattle, both thought to be toys for children 5,000 years ago. More than 100 artifacts were discovered in the tombs at Sogmatar. An interesting find considering Gobekli Tepe, the world’s oldest stone temple complex is less than 50 miles away.
THE COSMIC TEMPLES OF SOGMATAR
Sogmatar was not just a necropolis for the deceased but originally thought to have been a living center for ancestor worship in the Bronze Age. This is evidenced by its open air and subterranean temples where worship of the moon and planets through the Hellenistic Period were conducted. Human remains have also been found at Sogmatar and they pre-date the Hellenstic Period indicating a diversity of inhabitants over time.
THE SACRED HILL AT SOGMATAR
Among the ruins at Sogmatar we find the remains of walls and turrets on the main hill suggesting it was used as a castle dating back to the 2nd century AD.
The hill is known as the “Sacred Hill”, and it represents Mare-Late (Lord of the Gods), the chief god of this religion, and constituted the center of the settlement order of Sogmatar.
The seven circular structures which are located around the Sacred Hill and on hills themselves, represent the Sun god, Shamesh, the moon god, Sin, and the five planets Saturn (Anu), Jupiter (Enlil), Mars, Venus (Ianna/Ishtar) and Mercury.
It is thought that Pagans in Sogmatar who climbed up the Sacred Hill, meditated facing towards these temples.
There is also a large subterranean cave temple found about 800 feet northwest of the castle known as Pognon’s cave.
Let’s have a look inside…
Decorated on the walls are embossments with Syriac writing inscribed in them. The reliefs are depicting human figures, gods of 150-200 AD, thought to be personifications of planetary bodies.
The horned pillar found at the cave is a symbol of the Mesopotamian moon god, Sin who this entire temple complex is thought to be consecrated too.
SIN, THE MOON GOD
Here at Sogmatar, the Moon rises as a bowl-shaped crescent which looks like bulls horns and thus the Moon and the Bull were share a correspondence. One symbolized the other.
Because the Moon casts light in the night’s dark sky, the lunar deity, Sin was also believed to be able to reveal truth, seeing through lies and deception, similar to the sun god Sham-ash. Sin like the moon shines in darkness, personifying the character trait of wisdom. So we can liken Sin to the actual moon which helped travelers find their way in the dark.
Sin was associated with other symbolic attributes of the moon such as fertility (woman’s menstrual cycle) and divination and he was venerated at two main sites in Mesopotamia, Harran to the North and UR to the south. Some texts that refer to “Lord of the gods” are thought to be references to the moon god, Sin. The cult worship of Sin extends back to the beginning of the 1st millennium BCE, and continued until some time in the 4th century CE when solar worship began to predominate.
BREATHE TAKING EMBOSSMENTS
As I ascended toward the summit on the north side of the Sacred Hill two embossments in human shape, eloquently carved into the rock, came into view.
To the left we have the representation of the moon god, Sin.
The one on the right you will notice an oyster-like shaped image, reminiscent to what we’ve see in Egypt at the Dendera temple complex, symbolizing the sun, thus a personification of the sun God, Shamesh.
Take a look at the similarities below:
To the right side of the sun god embossment in Syriac language the script reads:
“The God commanded this statue for Ma’na on 13th of March, 476”
ANCIENT MYSTERIOUS WRITING CARVED INTO THE SACRED HILL AT SOGMATAR
At the peak of the hill we found Syriac writings carved on the surface of the living rocks of the Sacred Hill. Further research reveals that they are related to the monument pillars and altars that were built by important people on this hill on behalf of Marelahe. There is a writing on the west part of the hill as follows:
“I am Tridates, the son of Arab Governor Adona. I built this altar and pillar for Marelahe on February in 476, for the lives of my master King and his sons, for my father Adonna’s life, for my own life and for the lives of my siblings and my children.”
The date of 476 written in the scripture means around 164-165 A.D. according to Seleucid calendar.
ARCHEO ASTRONOMY AT SOGMATAR
According to historian Theodor Hary, Sogmatar is not just a necropolis or temple complex but an ancient observatory. He believes it was designed at some point in the 1st or early 2nd century AD to mirror the position of planets and constellations in the night sky of Harran.
AS ABOVE SO BELOW: THE SABINAS OF HARRAN AND THE MANDAEAN WATER RITUALS
In all of my research much emphasis is placed on the planets in the sky here at Sogmatar, however during the on-site investigation I sensed a strong connection with water.
The word Sogmatar comes from the “Matar” in Arabic that means rain.
Aside from the rumor that Moses is attributed to the ancient well, I noticed certain geological features in the bedrock of the holy hill, that look like cisterns which may have been used by the ancient people to collect water.
They reminded me of the Kukaniloko Birthstones in Hawaii, where ancient astronomers had no instruments but a vast knowledge of the stars which they observed through the reflection of water in the stones.
This lines up with the adage “As Above, So below” taken from the Hermetic tradition which is believed to have a place among the initiates of Harran’s occult University. Therefore it is worth mentioning that the Sabians, who once inhabited the border of modern day Turkey and Syria were notable astronomers.
They also practiced Neo-Pythagoreanism, Neo-Platonism, and alchemy in addition to adopting the Hermetic Corpus Hermeticum as their scriptures, and within Islam, successful identified Hermes Trismegistus with the Qu’ran’s Idris (Enoch). The Sabians are a controversial bunch and scholars engage in acrimonious debates over who they were though, an in-depth study will reveal that at least some of the Sabians were the Mandaeans, who placed importance on the reflection of stars in the water. They performed rhythmic incantations and uttered secret words into running water during ritual as part of their initiation rites.
This is the origin of the baptism ritual and John the Baptist was one of their prophets. It is also interesting to note that name ‘Mandaen’ is said to come from the Aramaic manda meaning “knowledge”, in the same vein as Greek gnosis.
This connection to Sabians, their reverence of water and using it in ritual as a means to reflect the universe may lend some credence to my theory about the deposits in the holy hill however there is a greater mystery that surrounds the ancient ruins of Sogmatar aka Eski Sumatar Harabesi.
THE ANCIENT LEGEND
There is a mystery that came to my attention through my researches on Sogmatar after our on-site investigation. The legend comes down to us from Al Mas’udi, (897-952 AD), an ancient Arab historian and geographer, who was one of the first to combine history and scientific geography in a comprehensive work, ‘The Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems”. He wrote a lot about Sogmatar in the section entitled “Sacred Buildings and Monuments of the Sabians of Harran” revealing something peculiar. The passage from this text reads:
“At the extreme boundaries of the Earth stands an ancient temple, which is round and has seven doors on each side and a lofty dome which has also seven sides and is famous throughout the land for its extraordinary height and admirable construction. On top of the dome is a kind precious stone or crystal as large as a bull’s head, dispelling darkness for a great distance…Many great kings of old have tried to get hold of this stone, but with no success: all those who tried, fell lifeless at a distance of 10 feet…even if one uses spears, arrows or other similar contrivances, these similarly stop and fall mid-air at a distance of 10 feet…to this date, there is no means for a man could get hold of this stone. Those so daring or foolish to think they could demolish the temple would be struck by instant death. Certain sages explained this phenomenon as caused by certain magnetic stones placed at a regular distance all around the temple”
The text is referring to a time before the Mongol invasion, which ultimately lead to the destruction of the temples at Sogmatar, but this mention of a magnetic stones created a curious notion that recently caught the attention of a group of researchers from Italy who specializes in investigating archaeoacustics and physical phenomena in ancient temples and sites considered sacred from ancient times. The results were astonishing.
ARCHAEOACOUSTIC RESEARCH AT SOGMATAR
They SBresearch group was able to establish the importance of understanding the relationship between ancient sites and the people who built them, suggesting archaeoacoustics should not only consider analyzing the acoustic properties of the site, but also all the associated physical phenomena not perceived by the ears which could potentially influence a population and their perception of a particular site as being sacred.
Through the use of their sophisticated instruments and with the assistance of a male voice using harmonic chant they were able to observe and interesting resonance inside a niche found inside the only temple that preserved it’s original aspect and was not burned and destroyed like the others. This temple is called “Pognon’s Cave”
Their conclusion reveals that one of the temples at the site of Sogmatar provided evidence that the infrasound and magnetic fields perceived by the original builders are important, perhaps understood as a gift from their gods, and the group’s preliminary analysis suggests that the phenomena described by Al Mas’udi, could be the result of local physical phenomena.
But the question remains, how did the ancient people of Sogmatar, without sophisticated equipment know about such phenomena?
The Archaeoacoustic SBresearch group ask us to take into consideration that It is possible to perceive a magnetic field by empirical observation and in the same way to pursue a higher state of consciousness during meditation or rituals, in the presence of strong infrasounds. If one were to extend this research to the ruins of the other six temples it may provide further insight.
Maybe you would like to join us for our next tour of Ancient Turkey? Check out our Expeditions page for updates.