- Collection: The hinterland of Edessa
Bazda Maǧaralari is named for the white rocks quarried at the site. It is located east of Harran and was extensively quarried in antiquity, providing the stone for Harran, Shuayb and a number of other local towns.
Dayr Yakub is a C5th monastery on the edge of the suburbs to the south of Urfa. The monastery is built on the top of a hill above an ancient quarry and clearly appropriated the site of a former pagan sanctuary. The earlier cult complex was also used as a necropolis as well as a place of sacrifice as a Palmyrene-style tomb tower, complete with a Syriac inscription, was incorporated into the later monastery buildings.
Harran is a ruined city in south-eastern Turkey not far from the Syrian border. It dates back many millennia and is believed to be by many people to be the Harran mentioned in Genesis where Abraham and Sarah (then still named Abram and Sarai) settled when they left Ur of the Chaldees. The city remained resolutely pagan throughout the late antique period and was dedicated to the moon god, Sin. Perhaps this was to mark its difference from the nearby Christian city of Edessa, but Harran was later swift to embrace Islam. Today its most significant monument is the extensive ruin of Harran's vast C8th congregational mosque, the minaret of which is still extant.
Shuayb is the name given to a ruined late antique town east of Harran. The name comes from the local association of the site with the Prophet Jethro, who is venerated in a small cave shrine (a Roman/late antique funerary chamber) in the ruins. The architectural style is close to that of the Syrian Limestone Massif to the south, but is very simple and lacks the decorative relief carvings often found further south. It is un-excavated so little is known about the site, but the remains still above ground do not include any buildings that are clearly linked to religious practice and there are no unusual monuments or distinguishing features that enable scholars to identify the ancient name of this settlement.
Soǧmatar (also referred to as Sumatar Harabesi) was the centre of an ancient shrine to a deity known as Marilaha (Lord God). This is known from a number of C2nd AD Syriac inscriptions cut into the summit of a high rock outcrop. The approach to this ritual high place also had reliefs of the sun and moon gods cut into the rock. Nearby is a cave, referred to as the Pognon cave after the first European to record the site, with carved images of gods and a number of Syriac inscriptions that was obviously used for some kind of funerary or cult practice, A large circular building that shows some affinities with Zoroastrian 'towers of silence' completes the grouping of monuments, but the exact function of the last mentioned element has yet to be fully understood. What is clear is that this was not a permanently occupied town, but rather a holy place of pilgrimage where the faithful would gather for key festivals. These would be officiated at by priests, but whether these religious personages lived at Soǧmatar all the time or not is unclear.