©The Archaeological Settlements of Turkey - TAY Project

Kef Kalesi

For site maps and drawings please click on the picture...


For photographs please click on the photo...

Kef Kalesi
Eastern Anatolia
Investigation Method:
Middle Iron Age


Location: It is located on the western shore of the Lake Van near the Adilcevaz District of Bitlis. The fortress is also known as "the city of Haldi".
Geography and Environment: The fortified city as an Urartian fortress called "Kef Kalesi" was founded on a volcanic hill, lying 6 km north of Adilcevaz. The natural hill is very steep and abrupt on three sides; east, south and west, which are almost inaccessible. The fortress can only be reached from the north.The highest point of the fortress is a rocky promontory on the west-south end, which is 2270 m high above the sea level. Based on this, the Kef Kalesi is approximately 550 m higher than Adilcevaz. The northern section of the hill rising from east to west looks like a mound.
Research and Excavation: The excavations of Adilcevaz Kef Kalesi were initiated in 1964 by Emin Bilgiç and Baki Ögün of the "Commission of Van" under the auspices of the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums of the Ministry of National Education, Faculty of Science and Literature of the Atatürk University, and the Turkish Historical Society. The excavation initiated in the pit A on July 3, 1964 by Baki Ögün was continued in the pit B, 20 m to the north of the first pit following recovery of a basalt block in relief and some pithoi with cuneiform inscriptions. The excavations conducted in 1965 were supported by the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums of the Ministry of National Education, Faculty of Science and Literature of the Atatürk University and the Department of Ancient Languages and Cultures of the Faculty of Letters of the Ankara University.
Stratigraphy: Finds and architectural remains of the Kef Kalesi suggest that the site had been inhabited during the Middle Iron Age (Urartian Period).
Small Finds: Mimari: The pit started with an excavation of an area measuring 5x10 m on the southern slope of the western section of the mound on the northern part of the fortress yielded a massive fire block at a depth of 50-70 cm from the surface as well as large pithoi arranged in two rows. The area where this block and pithoi were found was called Room No. 1. Upon enlargement of the pit, five more pithoi larger than the ones in Room no.1 were uncovered in a single row in an area to the north of this room. Based on the size and arrangement of these pithoi, and the inscriptions on them, it appears that these rooms were used as stores for palatial or similar large structures such as the ones found at Karmir-Blur. The mudbricks of the wall found at the pit, being roasted and turning into bricks due to the fire had been well-preserved. Among them, there are some with a dimension of 53x35x14 cm similar to the mudbricks found at Toprakkale and Tesebaini. Also found are ones measuring 53x53x14 cm in dimensions. Pottery: Some of the pithoi uncovered at the Room No.I had partially preserved rims, while broken fragments were collected for some others. Eight of them have short cuneiform inscriptions on their neck. Under the inscriptions of these pithoi there are "rope decorations" on the shoulders as already observed on previously uncovered Urartian pithoi. The large block uncovered on the eastern section of the Room no.I at Pit A is of basalt, hard and durable, very difficult to engrave, in a mixed colour of grey- violet. It measures 140x140x110 m in dimensions. On the western side of the stone there is a depiction of two lions facing each other. Foot of a human being is observed above the belly of the one depicted as if moving toward the right. On the upper part of the block, there is depiction of another lion from the back, and another human foot above it, and a piece of dress. They represent feet and skirts of the deities, who were depicted as winged human beings above the lions. Furthermore, eastern façade of the basalt was found dismantled on the block itself and next to it. These fragments also bear depictions. There are superimposed and adjacent thick T-like window depictions on the surface with lions facing each other. Again, some fragments with reliefs and cuneiform inscriptions were uncovered in the Room no. II, mainly on the eastern and western sections of the room almost in parallel to the blocks found at the Room no. I. The fragments uncovered at Room no. I and II bear depictions of lions and various parts of winged deities standing on their back, and depictions of spearheads and life trees on the panel behind them.
Interpretation and Dating: If the reliefs are considered belonging to the fortress, then these reliefs should have been dated to the reign of Rusa II (685-645 BC), who built the fortress. The relief which has been exhibited in the garden of the Museum of Van and referred as the Relief of Adilcevaz in related publications bears depiction of the God Teisheba standing on a bull's back. And, the winged god standing on the lion is presumably a representation of the God Haldi.

To List