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Anatolian-Persian grave stelae from Bozüyük in Phrygia: a contribution to understanding Persian presence and organisation in the region

Published: 8 June 2021

Abstract: This paper provides an assessment of four grave stelae that were found recently in the area surrounding Bozüyük, on the Anatolian plateau in the south of the Bilecik province. The plateau was part of the core of the kingdom of Phrygia during the Early and Middle Iron Ages, and part of the satrapy of Phrygia during the Achaemenid period of the Late Iron Age in Anatolia. The main focus is to examine the place of such stelae among Anatolian-Persian examples and to explore elements of Persian presence and organisation in the region. The precise archaeological contexts of these stelae are unknown, but are likely to have been tumuli. They are examples of an Anatolian-Persian style from the Achaemenid period, but can also be considered to be part of a somewhat rustic 'rural' sub-style, compared with more elaborate stelae that have been found around Dascylium, the satrapal capital of Hellespontine Phrygia. The Bozüyük stelae feature banquet, hunting and ritual scenes, and also battle scenes that distinguish them from other Anatolian-Persian stelae. Despite similarities, particularly with the Vezirhan stele, there are also discrepancies that make precise analogies with reliefs on other stelae difficult, though not impossible. It is likely that they were created by a connected group of sculptors, and might therefore be evidence of a workshop that sculpted local materials in a unique rural style.
Keywords: Phrygia / Bozüyük stelae / Anatolian Persian / Iron / plateau / grave

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