Turkish Real Estate

Don't go in the basement. You might wake up the gods.

When builders started digging the foundation of a house in 2017 in Basbuk, a village in Turkey, they came across a curious opening in the limestone bedrock.

Soon, they unearthed a staircase descending more than 20 feet, or six meters. It led to a cool, damp chamber nearly 28 feet wide with a 16-foot ceiling.

Etched into one wall was a 13-foot long procession of deities, led by Hadad, a storm-god who was identified by his three-pronged lightning rod and headdress with a five-point star.

The goddess Atargatis, a fertility deity with a double - horned cylindrical crown inset with a star, followed. Six more beings trailed, in various stages of completion.

The discovery captures a moment some 2,800 years ago when the Neo-Assyrian Empire was the region's dominant power.

But the find also highlighted the fragility of archaeological treasures, which are vulnerable to trafficking before the knowledge that they preserve can be studied.

After discovering the chamber, ''the occupants tried to gain economic advantage,'' said Selim Adali, a historian and epigrapher at the Social Science University of Ankara and a co-author of the study.

The owners of the property constructed a two-story house atop the subterranean complex, and then cracked a 7-by-5-foot hole through a paved ground floor, giving themselves private access to the site.

Hoping to find a buyer, they circulated photos of the panel and its etchings, but someone tipped off the authorities, and instead they were arrested.

The property owners were briefly sent to prison, and the authorities conducted an excavation of the site. [Jennifer Pinkowski]


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