World’s Oldest Known Customs Seal from Arslantepe Mound in Malatya/Turkey

The Archaeological Site of Arslantepe is located in the Malatya plain, approximately 5 km from the city centre, and 15 km away from the right bank of the Euphrates. Arslantepe is a 4 hectares and 30 m. high archaeological mound dominating the plain and formed by human settlements traced back to many millennia, from at least the 6th millennium BCE to the late Roman period. The mound is surrounded by the Orduzu village.

The long history of the site, located at the crossroads of the main civilizations of the Near East, unveils crucial events and processes of change in connection with the contemporary developments in Mesopotamia, Anatolia and the South Caucasus.

The extensive excavations carried out for more than 50 years by the Italian Archaeological Expedition of the Sapienza University of Rome brought to light rich material remains of the many civilizations connected to the site, from their earliest formations to their ultimate collapse. This research has enlightened the millenarian history of the Upper Euphrates region and makes Arslantepe an exceptional witness to crucial stages in human history: the birth of hierarchical societies, that of the first centralized political and economic systems, the origin of bureaucracy and its first working system, the rise of a systematic control on human labour, in other words, the origin of power and the State. The site also testifies to the fact that these crucial changes in human history took place for the first time over a large area including, besides Mesopotamia, the Euphrates region in Eastern Anatolia.

In particular, the excavations have brought to light a large and monumental mud-brick architectural interconnected complex of public buildings over about 2000 square meters, in an exceptional state of preservation, which constitute the first example of a public “palace”, dated to the second half of the 4th millennium BCE.

A large number of materials found in situ on the floors of the palace rooms and subsequently analysed are testimony to the process of State formation in this area. More than 4000 archaeological objects have been restored and many of them are exhibited in the nearby Malatya Museum.

The logo chosen for the PICARD Conference displays one of the most impressive remnants excavated in Arslantepe mound since it is thought to be the world’s oldest known Customs seal.