Great for: Archaeology, Unesco World Heritage Site, Ancient Life, Early Art, Lovers of Mud Bricks
Set just outside of the city of Malatya is the archeological site of Arslantepe. Known as Milid during the Bronze Age, the name would only evolve slightly over more than 4,000 years, passed down from Hittites, to Romans, to Sassanids, and finally the Turks to become the modern city of Malatya.
Excavations started in the 1930s under French archeologists who uncovered Hittite gate-lions and other large works. These are now in Ankara and replicas have been placed at the entrance to the site.
At this early stage the primary focus was on the Hittite city, however, as this city mound, like many others across Turkey, is made up of many layers of ruined cities the focus shifted from the Hittite era to the ruins that lay below.
Today, the focus of the now primarily Italian teams is the pre-Hittite, early Bronze age ruins, and what they can tell us about the development of civilization and governance. Signs full of these theories and interpretations are all over the site allowing the casual viewer to connect the ruins they see with the experts’ attempts to piece together what life was like at the time. In some cases archaeology seems to drown in some rather heavy interpretive sociology and the signage becomes borderline preachy.
As with any dig site like this many of the finds are quite fragile and eventually find their homes in museums. As such there is little to see beyond the excavated rooms, walls, and built-in mud brick or stone furniture (you can see a good number of items in Ankara’s Museum of Anatolian Civilizations). The great exception to this and one of the key draws to Arslantepe are the surviving wall paintings and geometrical patterns set into the plastered walls.
For more information and up-to-date news check out the official website of the dig:
How To Get There
As Arslantepe is just outside of the city of Malatya (5 kms from the city centre) a taxi is a great option for getting to the site.
Simply take the Battalgazi road north-east out of Malatya then follow the brown signs down the winding country lanes to Arslantepe.
For more about car rental and driving in Turkey make sure to read our full drivers guide.
Unfortunately we don’t have any specifics regarding public transit to Arslantepe. However, buses running to Battalgazi will get you close if you get off about halfway between the town and the city. Other buses will likely run into the general vicinity of Arslantepe but unfortunately we can’t confirm that yet.
Where To Stay
While the city centre of Malatya is quite close, the suburb of Battalgazi will have some more interesting options. Battalgazi is historic Malatya where you will find old city walls, mosques, mausoleums, ruins, and restored Ottoman neighborhoods with a handful of boutique hotels and pensions scattered in between.
While the summer can get unpleasantly hot, it is dig season in the archeological world and so if you want to see the experts in action the summer is the best time for this.
If you see closed curtains hanging in the covered part of the dig, try asking the guard to show you what’s behind them. These are the wall paintings and one of the most noteworthy things on display at the dig itself.
Thinking of visiting Malatya? Make sure to check out what other sights are in the region!
Have any tips or info to add? Spot any mistakes? We’d love to hear about it.