North from the town of Malatya is the majestic Mount Nemrut, standing a massive 2000 meters high. While this natural landmark of rural Southeast Turkey is impressive within itself, it is the man-made artefacts at the top that interest most people. 2-meter heads of giant stone gods lay scattered across the ground and at sunset or sunrise, a light hue drops across the statues providing an almost surreal appearance of the statues that to this day still baffle historians and appear in most travel brochures of the country. What the historians do know is that the statues are part of a royal tomb-sanctuary that belonged to Antiochus, a respected king of the ancient kingdom of Commagene. Their estimated date of construction of the 1st century BC has ensured their inclusion to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, a compilation of landmarks around the world classed as being of special cultural or physical significance.
Antiochus was half Armenian and half Greek, and within his royal tomb, left many ancient stone carvings that have withstood the test of time and natural elements such as harsh weather. The statues and carvings feature various figures including a lion, eagles, and ancient gods of Armenia, Iran and Greece. Originally seated with their bodies intact, the decapitated statues, following excavations that started in 1881 now lay in an orderly fashion at a place where ritual sacrifices also took place. Severe weather conditions between November to March make a visit hard to endure so most people go between April to October, aiming to see the statues at sunrise or sunset although a visit during the day is equally spectacular. Approaching the site, north from Malatya is easily done but a visit from the south is even better because other ruins exist in the area including an old Roman bridge and fortress. Historians have never discovered the statue of Antiochus himself and are still eager to know more about the construction of the sanctuary but never the less, this does not distract from its glory as one of the most iconic historical landmarks of Turkey. Note: Find out more details here.