In the ongoing excavations of Hasankeyf Mound, an ancient Neolithic settlement in Anatolia, southeastern Turkey, archaeologists have uncovered rare artifacts, including an 800-year-old talismanic healing bowl and two archery rings made of agate and bone.
Hasankeyf Mound, situated in the Batman province, has been a focus of rescue excavations initiated with the Ilısu Dam Project in 2008, led by Associate Professor Zekai Erdal from Mardin Artuklu University’s Department of Art History.
The healing bowl, a rare artifact made of bronze, is one of only 23 such bowls in the world. Erdal explained that the bowl, adorned with talismans, seals, and verses, has a unique connection to the local beliefs in Hasankeyf.
According to folklore, the bowl, engraved with motifs of a double-headed dragon, dog, snake, and scorpion, was believed to provide protection in two directions. Erdal elaborated, “It is believed that the person who drinks water from the healing bowl is protected against dog bites, snake, and scorpion stings.”
The intricate engravings on the healing bowl, including the double-headed dragon with apotropaic powers, were associated with warding off evil, reinforcing the local belief in protection against animal bites.
Erdal emphasized the cultural significance of such artifacts in Islamic practices, stating, “In Islamic culture, there are practices like magic, amulets, and talismans. Likewise, on the healing bowl, such practices were applied, aiming to protect against the harms of animals through these talismans and magic.”
Furthermore, the excavation unearthed two zihgir, archery rings, made of agate and bone, a discovery unprecedented in previous excavations. Erdal noted the importance of these rings in Turkish-Islamic arts, especially in the context of archery during the Middle Ages. “Zihgir is a ring-shaped device worn on the finger to prevent the bowstring from damaging the finger during archery,” he explained. One of the zihgirs was discovered in a tomb, suggesting the buried individual’s significance, though their identity remains undetermined.
Hasankeyf, built on the banks of the Tigris River, stands as one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements globally, with a history spanning 12,000 years. The artifacts, including the healing bowl and archery rings, have been transferred to the Hasankeyf Museum Directorate for preservation and public display.