Karatepe Aslantaş National Park and Open Air Museum

/ By Josh

On the banks of Aslantaş Lake is a large tract of protected land. The land is rough and hilly and covered in pine forests with trails and picnic areas winding their way through the woods and along the lake shore. In the distance rise the magnificent Taurus Mountains (Toros Dağları) and just to top it off, two Hittite cities have been uncovered and turned into an open-air museum.

Osmaniye Karatepe Aslantaş Park
A section of restored wall in the forest.

Why Visit?

Karatepe Aslantaş National Park

(Karatepe Aslantaş Milli Parkı)

Cost: 14TL

This is a parking fee, not a per-person entrance fee

Osmaniye Karatepe Aslantaş Park
The lush landscape of Osmaniye’s Karatepe Aslantaş Park.

The name Karatepe Aslantaş refers to the nearby village of Karatepe which means “Black Hill” while Aslantaş, meaning “Stone Lion” undoubtably refers to the many stone lions, a popular motif in Hittite architecture, that have been found in the area. The park itself is mostly wooded with some trails running throughout. There are some picnic areas with gazebos, benches, and playgrounds near the beaches.

Hittite City at Karatepe

(Karatepe Hitit Şehri)

Cost: 6TL

Müze Card Accepted here

In the midst of the park are the ruins of the Hittite city of Karatepe. The city was founded by Asatiwatas, a Neo-Hittite king in Adana. While the city was not small and was built with impressive fortifications it didn’t last long. In 720 BC the city was razed by the Assyrians and abandoned.

Osmaniye Karatepe Aslantaş Park
Phoenecian inscription in one of the ancient gateways.

While interesting objects were found at the site, by far the most important find at Karatepe is the beautifully engraved orthostat stones in the gateways. These depict everyday life, lions, gods, and, most importantly, a bilingual inscription written in Phoenician and Hittite. As Phoenician had already been solved as a language, these inscriptions were the perfect tool for helping crack the still mysterious language of the Hittites.

The inscription, known as the Karatepe Bilingual, mostly consists of the king Asatiwatas boasting of his deeds, with many mentions to the duties he had performed for the various Hittite gods. The inscription ends with a call for the Hittite gods to punish the one that would destroy the city gate.

Osmaniye Karatepe Aslantaş Park
A strange orthostat portraying what is probably a monkey.
Osmaniye Karatepe Aslantaş Park
A Hittite gate sphinx and orthostat carving.

Today Karatepe consists of two parts: a small museum and the ruins of the Hittite city itself. The museum houses a small collection of goods found in the area. Most of these are Hittite Iron Age goods though there are also finds from Domuztepe where Hellenistic and Roman era goods have been found.

The main reason to visit the museum is to walk along the foundations of the ancient walls as they peek out from between the pine trees and see the remains of the city gates where the intricately carved stones sit in their original arrangement.

Osmaniye Karatepe Aslantaş Park
A dig hut full of excavation tools tucked between the pines within the open-air museum grounds.

Hittite City of Domuztepe

(Domuztepe Hiti Şehri)

Cost: 14TL

Accessed via the park - if you want to swim to it.

Originally an early Iron Age settlement belonging to the Hittites, Domuztepe also shows signs of inhabitation during the Roman era. Very little is left of the site which now is on a small island in the lake.

How To Get There

Car

From the Osmaniye city centre head north on the Iskender Turkmen road, turn right at the village of Cevditiye, and head north for 30 kms following the brown signs. Parking for the national park and the museum are separate.

Where To Stay

The nearby town of Kadirli and Düziçi have very little to offer for accommodation. Your best bet will be to stay in the Osmaniye city centre which is just 40 kms away across beautiful countryside.

Other Tips

Planning on visiting Karatepe Aslantaş National Park? Make sure to check out what other sights are in the area!

Have any tips or info to add? Spot any mistakes? We’d love to hear about it.

1s & 0s by knowler