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What is Mount Nemrut?

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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 July 2014
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Mount Nemrut is a mountain in Turkey. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has been since 1987. The site is famous for the enormous statues that stand at its peak, flanking a mighty tomb.

The tomb at the peak of Mount Nemrut was most likely built at the bidding of the Roman-Persian king Antiochus Theos of Kommagene in the 1st century BCE. He had it built not only as a tomb for when he would pass, but as a religious sanctuary as well. He believed himself to be the descendent of the god Apollo.

The site of Mount Nemrut itself consists of the enormous tomb hill, or tumulus, which stands 165 feet (50m) high, and the statues. The tomb has not yet been excavated, and does not appear to have been pillaged, leading many to believe that it will be as filled with treasures as many tombs in Egypt.

There are two terraces surrounding the tomb on Mount Nemrut, on both the east and the west sides, which were most likely used for religious devotions. The west terrace has a beautiful bas-relief that features a lion and the three visible planets, Mars, Jupiter, and Mercury as they would have appeared in the sky on the presumed date of construction, July the 7th, 62 BCE.

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The statues of Mount Nemrut themselves stand approximately 25 feet (8m) high, carved from stone. They depict various Greek gods, such as Zeus, heroes such as Hercules, Persian gods, lions, eagles, and of course King Antiochus himself. Over the centuries the heads were knocked from the tops of the statues, and many of the statues themselves broke up. In recent years the heads have been returned to their assumed original locations, even if the bodies have since been destroyed, to illustrate their alignment with the sunrise and the sunsets.

Restoration of the statues at Mount Nemrut has begun, and is planned to continue until well into 2010. A number of the pieces are also set aside to be transferred to museums.

Most visitors to Mount Nemrut try to make it to the site at either sunrise or sunset, to see the amazing view. The sunrise is by far the most popular, but because of the fairly difficult trek to the summit of Mount Nemrut, it does involve setting off by 2:30 am or so. Nonetheless, for those with the fortitude, it is well worth it. The colors at sunrise cast a strange orange over the heads, giving the entire site an otherworldly, mystical feel.

Lake Ataturk, near Mount Nemrut, is also a popular tourist destination, and a trip to the UNESCO site should feature a visit to the beautiful scenic lake as well. Getting to Mount Nemrut is not particularly easy, as it is well off the beaten path, near the tiny town of Kahta, in rural Turkey. Nonetheless, with a bit of perseverance, the site is accessible, and is far enough off the beaten path that it is relatively untrammeled by visitors, and can offer one of the most tranquil sun rises in the world.

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